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3ab83e37
Community Member

Freelancer wants to charge a high upfront fee?

Hi there,

I am looking to hire a freelancer for a development job, but he said his company policy was to pay 50% of the money upfront (deposit into milestone and release immediately) before starting any work. I can understand this in $20, $100, or $500 jobs, but my job is $3200, and 50% ($1600) is more than the total value of most of the jobs out there.
Though he has high Upwork job success, this feels risky for me as a client. I have to take out a loan, and in my financial situation, every dollar hurts.

What do you think about this?
And if an upfront payment occurs, what protection do I get?

Thanks so much in advance!

19 REPLIES 19
csjarmitage
Community Member

I can only speak for myself, but I wouldn't be comfortable with this arrangement.  While this developer is likely fine, it just doesn't make sense to pay that amount out with nothing to show for it.  Do you have a well developed project plan?  Are you managing the process yourself or do you have help with that?

 

I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with a good faith upfront payment but certainly not 50% of the project budget.

 

Hopefully some developers will pop in and give you advice from their perspective.

mtngigi
Community Member

What Christy said ... and personally, I would report this freelancer's behavior to Upwork. It's unprofessional.


@Virginia F wrote:

What Christy said ... and personally, I would report this freelancer's behavior to Upwork. It's unprofessional.


 How is asking for an upfront payment unprofessional?

 

I do it all the time for non-Upwork clients. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is very professional to ask for an upfront payment--you are looking out for your business interests.

 

The only reason not to ask for an upfront payment on Upwork is because you can insist on escrow being funded but it is in no way unprofessional to ask for an upfront payment.

 

It seems a bit strange to me to report someone for doing something like this.

"I do it all the time for non-Upwork clients"

 

So do I - but we're not talking about non-Upwork clients, are we? I may have been wrong about reporting this, if so, my apologies.

david_gregory
Community Member

I'm not a developer but I regularly as for 50% upfront for off-Upwork jobs. On Upwork, there is not as much need for this because you have escrow.

 

That is the point of escrow--to protect both freelancer and client. If you fund the milestone and set out the terms for its release, that should be good enough. The freelancer will know that the funds are there although the freelancer might want the whole amount funded.

prestonhunter
Community Member

re: "And if an upfront payment occurs, what protection do I get?"

 

Absolutely none.

 

You should feel free to pay an upfront fee.

 

Just understand that Upwork provides no protection or guarantee at all with such a payment.

 

It is the choice of the freelancer alone to provide you with any work, or not, after receiving such a fee.

 

I advise all clients to NOT pay upfront fees. I personally do not accept upfront fees as a freelancer.

 

However, you CAN NOT report a freelancer for asking for an upfront fee, because doing so violates no Upwork rules.

 

There are excellent freelancers who ask for upfront fees and will indeed deliver the desired work. There are also scammers posing as freelancers who will ask for upfront fees and will never deliver anything, leaving you with nothing for your money, and no recourse.

 

Before any client pays an upfront fee, she needs to ask herself if she is absolutely certain she knows which kind of freelancer this one is.

I'm unfamiliar with expectations on Upwork, but outside of Upwork, I know that as a web developer, we filter out bad and for lack of a better term, cheap potential clients. That is if you're any good. He's confident in his work and willing to risk your rejection. I agree that 50% is high for Upwork, especially because we have escrow technology here, but elsewhere, you're considered low-ticket.

There may be several reasons why they charge the upfront fee. One of them could be that he's a scammer. My question to you is, why him? There are thousands of freelancers here. If you don't want to pay an upfront fee, you don't have to. You can easily find someone else who perhaps may be an even better developer without any upfront fee. 

VladimirG
Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi J F,

 

Please note that upfront and bonus payments are not covered by Upwork Payment Protection. Fixed- Price contracts on Upwork do use a Milestone and Escrow system, which you as a client can use to create a Milestone and deposit an agreed amount, and later release it to the freelancer once they deliver the agreed work as per your requirements. You can find more information about Upwork's Fixed-Price Payment Protection for clients in this Help article.

~ Vladimir
Upwork
lomen_jan
Community Member

his shop - his rules. I understand your logic and fears, but the same applies to frelancer's side too. I guess it is fixed price contract as on hourly based ones - freelancers do not need to ask for upfront payment. Asking for upfront payment weeds out flakes and scammers. if you are not sold by his qualities you can drop it all off and there would surely be no offence given/taken. I think I am going to ask for upfront payment first from now on as I won just 20% of total contract sum in dispute (after upwork fee).  

I mean, sounds fair: I ask for upfront half of the fee, if client doest like it, he can close the contract and give me bad feedback (I realised that I should not be scared of bad feedback cause I bounce back easily). 

Did you found a back up freelancer for the same job?

lysis10
Community Member

I don't think I'd do it unless I knew the guy. I did it once on Elance a really long time ago with a designer that I knew from the forums. He asked for 50% down but it was only $400 total, so $200 upfront.

 

He was in Mexico, which breaks my own rule that I would also not do it with someone outside of the US, but again I knew him from the forum and he delivered as promised. Also had a really great long history, so there were several factors at play.

 

I would also ask myself what is a "lot" of money to someone. If $1600 is like a year salary for the provider, eh I'd be more hesitant. If it's barely enough to get away with a week's rent and the guy has a long good history, then maybe I'd do it because obviously the loss of the Upwork account is far greater than the reward of taking off with a measly $1600.

gnakeur
Community Member

If you ask me upfront payment on upwork makes no sense. With the funded milestones both client and freelancer are safe. Lets say freelancer is afraid that his client will somehow dispute the work even if the actual work done by freelancer is good. He wants to filter out bad clients. But if you think from the client side it is much more risky for them to pay freelancer immediately. Freelancer wants some guaranty, but what guaranty gets a client?

 

By the way there are a lot of great alternatives here who will not ask for upfront payments, so I would jusy say bye bye to such a freelancer...

The use of upfront fees are dependent on the situation and no blanket statement covers all the scenarios.

 

@ the Original Poster - Preston is a respected IT provider and has often stated that most, if not all, IT / web development jobs should be hourly.  Hourly precludes any discussion about upfront fees. 

 

I suggest you convert the job to hourly and go from there.

I'm a bit late to chime in here, but as a client I would be wary of a freelancer requesting that large an upfront payment. In fact, I would hesitate to give any upfront payment to a freelancer I hadn't hired previously.  Even if the freelancer actually delivers something, it may turn out that the actual work was done by lower paid freelancers, meaning the freelancer in question is a 'farmer' in forum terminology, which would explain why he needs the payment, so he can pay his subcontractors.

 

The logical way to manage a largish fixed price project is to break it down into a number of separately funded milestones, with approval given when the developer completes the subtask(s) assigned to a milestone. If a developer is unwilling to do this, find another developer.

__________________________________________________
"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
58967181
Community Member

Upwork is merely a platform and there will always be a certain element of luck when you hire a freelancer. You have to manage your expectations as you are after all working with people from all over the world with different cultures. However, it is a huge irony a web agency with the word integrity in their name is so unethical. Whenever there are differences, it one-man opinion against another. So it can be very hard for you to evaluate these experiences.

But I'll let you decide the following for yourself. I wanted a website that is horizontal instead of vertical. they gave me an HTML sample that could not be resized properly and the user will have problems moving smoothly on to the next page. After a few feedback which they were very polite but took no effort to fully rectify it, they began asking for screenshots when they could have just taken the effort to view it for themselves on different monitors size. There were many things not to satisfaction and each time you point out to them, they will come back only to change a fraction of the things they agreed to change with gap time in between, despite numerous reminders - they agreed politely to amend but again did not or only a fraction each time- They later tried to shift blame that it was due to my preference of using agile instead of waterfall philosophy (i.e breaking up the modules so one delay will not affect another). As if that is not enough they then finally amended it to scroll properly while still not amending the other things only to ask that we consider paying up and close the project and use another developer.

It then dawn on me then when I first asked them to do the company logo, when I asked them to change, for example, the font, font size and colour, they too came back changing say the 1st two but not the 3rd and each time coming back with lesser and lesser samples and minimal editing. it could be a tactic to wear the customer out which I pointed out but they remained very polite inducing me to overlook when finally it dawned on me just how Dangerous they could be.

I was referred to them by a friend that discovered Upwork and this agency. She wanted to observe my work with them as she was not in a hurry to start. When she noticed the conversation amiss, a 3rd party that was an initial advocate of them, jumped in to point them out and they then begun to post things like Hi Ms xxx seems like you are not willing to come to a closure as well, when I'm the one paying the agency when they already asked me to overpay and along with posting things like "Hello Upwork, We are ignoring all communication from xxx till further update from your end." while prior to that threatening us that any dispute will result in delays in our work clearly signalling they couldn't amend the html to continue the work properly but will do it to use something against you.

Back to the development, they asked me to accept that I have already paid deposit and close the project as they cannot work with agile when html has nothing to do with agile while constantly accusing us of not willing to settle it amicably. It also clearly shows they have the ability to amend but chose not to and instead of just asking for a close earlier if they cannot perform, they only did so after going beyond the deadline, delaying your project further, all the while remaining still very polite only to then pressure for a project closet. It could be a scheme to earn high deposit and have the most to lose in comparison to the total sum and after a long time to pressure you to come to a project close. I later consulted other developers it is not an uncommon tactic and they could be cleverly fulfiling some of the requests costing just 1/10th the price just to ensure they have something to bite on. They also think they can give me a html sample in a 2-3 days instead of a month. Think about the manhours it cost to for a few developers to actually do one module after another vs the manhours required only to just maintain the communication while dragging it out. It is so much profitable to have 10 projects incompleted and earn on the deposit than to complete one 3 months project. So I just lost a huge sum

so while upwork provide escrow, they can be clearer on whether upfront payment is allowed. because seems like this thread along with many such thread on similar topic generally even freelancer agree that escrow works and new users like myself that by just talking to the freelancer may think that a upfront payment is the norm and end up having no protection with freelancer effectively bypassing upwork protection mechanism. 

cupidmedia
Community Member

I agree with the general sentiment of the others in this thread. As a client I've never paid anything upfront to any freelancer (although I am a client in a different field). If you release a payment for nothing, and get nothing in return, Upwork can't help you because you approved the release.

 

If you really must work with this freelancer, you could try to negotiate the upfront payment, or you could trust your judgment of their past work history. Personally, I'd tell them "I'm happy to deposit the full amount (or 50% or whatever) in to escrow and use Upwork's escrow system for protection for both of us, but I don't pay upfront with nothing delivered, sorry. If you require upfront payment then unfortunately I'll need to select another freelancer. Thanks for your time." and walk. It's not like the choice is limited here.

No platform can be foolproof but this could be a clever way and obvious way to circumvent/defeat the escrow mechanism if not kept in check, will be learned by more and more freelancers that they can enjoy the benefit of UpWork without having to abide by the assurance it supposedly offers. 
 
I had to learn it the hard way when a simple google search  revealed hundreds of such threads from clients from Upwork

You cannot tout safety and yet it becomes optional or dependent on clients being educated enough to know how to protect themselves and which if they are, then whatโ€™s the attractiveness of upWork?
cykins4good
Community Member

Although this thread is old but just want to comment. Asking for an upfront payment from client's is not unprofessional nor unethical as some people might make us believe. But it should not be up to 50% of the total fee. Reason being that some development project like an Ecommerce website design & development are capital intensive and requires you as a developer to pay some fees upfront like domain name registration, web hosting set up, installation of plugins etc.to third party organizations in order to have these set up.

How does a clients expects me to use my money to do all these before commencing the project? It does not make any sense at all.

But in other design jobs like flyers designs, Banner Ad designs, birthday card designs, a freelancer do not need to charge any upfront payment at all because all the softwares  for the job are expected to be in place and he/she is not paying any third party before commencing the job.

I do not work for Upwork or represent Upwork officially. Below is my personal opinion:

 

It's about context.

 

There is nothing wrong with carrying the ball... if you are playing American football.

 

But if you are playing soccer, you can't use your hands to throw the ball into the net!

 

Cypriano is correct when he says that it is "not unprofessional or unethical" if a freelancer asks for an upfront payment.

 

That is something that freelancers do IN MANY OTHER CONTEXTS.

 

For any client using Upwork, my strong recommendation is this:

Do NOT pay upfront payments.

That is NOT what Upwork intends for you to do.

 

Upwork has an ESCROW system in place for use with fixed-price contracts. That means you FUND a milestone payment, and you DO NOT RELEASE the money until AFTER you have received the full, functional, unrestricted, non-watermarked files that you paid for.

 

That is how the system works.

 

Do not pay upfront payments to freelancers.

 

If you DO make an upfront payment to a freelancer, you need to understand that the money is gone forever.

Example:
John hired a freelancer to design a brochure.
John paid the freelancer $200 as an upfront payment, as part of a fixed-price contract.

The freelancer never did any work. The freelancer just disappeared and never communicated with John again.

John was disappointed, but he was never able to get that $200 back. It was gone. By the time John realized what was going on, the freelancer had already withdrawn the money from his Upwork account. Upwork Customer Support was unable to help him.

 

re: "Reason being that some development project like an Ecommerce website design & development are capital intensive and requires you as a developer to pay some fees upfront like domain name registration, web hosting set up, installation of plugins etc.to third party organizations in order to have these set up. How does a clients expects me to use my money to do all these before commencing the project? It does not make any sense at all."

 

The freelancer doesn't need to pay any of that money, ever.


The freelancer provides the information to the client so that the client pays for these things directly.


Cypriano A wrote:

 Asking for an upfront payment from client's is not unprofessional nor unethical as some people might make us believe.


On Upwork, with escrow being in place to protect both parties, it is at best unnecessary and dangerous.

 


Cypriano A wrote: Reason being that some development project like an Ecommerce website design & development are capital intensive and requires you as a developer to pay some fees upfront like domain name registration, web hosting set up, installation of plugins etc.to third party organizations in order to have these set up.

The professional way to handle such costs is to let the client buy their own domain and web hosting etc.

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