Preston, I agree with a lot of what you say. I even started doing small paid trials on your advice, which has served me very well. But I completely disagree with you on a couple of points:
1) "Clients would be better of if they either DID NOT KNOW about the dispute process, or pretended that disputes do not exist."
You bring out arguments like this all the time and frequently advise clients not to bother trying to dispute stuff. I know you're a client (as well as a freelancer) yourself, so I really disagree with you constantly telling clients to not bother disputing. Yes, it is time-consuming. Yes, it's not fun. But the tool is there for a reason and sometimes (like in this case, where a freelancer has allegedly been billing time watching youtube or doing nothing at all) it is the exactly appropriate step to take. If you had framed your answer as "The VERY FIRST thing you should do is immediately pause or close the contract, to stop them billing you any more. Then you can start looking into if a dispute is appropriate for you" then I would agree you, but that's not how you're framing it.
2) "Do NOT expect all freelancers to be high-performing. You must PLAN to fire a certain percentage of freelancers due to low-quality work."
You say this a lot too, and frankly it makes me sad. Yes, of course not every freelancer on the site is a stellar performer who would never rip off a client. But taking this advice results in a client going in to a relationship with a freelancer expecting the worst, being suspicious of everything, doubting everything the freelancer says, and micromanaging everything. This is a terrible way to begin a relationship and will lead to frustration and unhappiness on both sides. It doesn't matter if you say afterwards "of course I don't mean ALL freelancers". The seed of suspicion has been planted.
In my opinion, it's far better for clients to understand the tools they have available, carefully pre-vet freelancers, do a small paid trial (if appropriate for the scale and value of the job), and confidently go into the contract trusting that they've made a good choice with their freelancer but knowing they have various ways to manage the relationship if they need to do so.
I think we agree on this, but I disagree with the way you frame the advice you're giving.
Preston H wrote:
If you don't like the advice that "a certain percentage of freelancers will need to be fired," that's fine. But I think you are uncomfortable with that advice. I don't think you actually have different beliefs about the underlying facts.
Preston, I know perfectly well what I think, and I know (as opposed to merely "thinking") that I disagree with you.
I've seen you extolling the virtues of a scattergun approach to hiring freelancers before, most notably the other day when you advised a client on a low budget that his best bet was to just randomly hire 10 cheap logo designers and see what happened. If you want to "hire now, ask questions later" then I'm not surprised if you end up having to fire people. Of course you can do whatever works best for you when you're the client, but for other clients (who may not have deep pockets and/or don't wish to deal with underperforming freelancers), a more considered approach might be preferable.