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6493aa68
Member

Why am I being charged for 10 minutes when my freelancer only had one minute of work?

The freelancer spent ~1 minute creating a blank Google doc, and I got charged 10 minutes for it. Is this normal behavior here on Upwork when the pay is by the hour?! My freelancer has completed a little over a dozen projects and have over $20,000 earned; however, she doesn't know how the work diary functions (or maybe she does!). 8:10, 8:20, 8:30, 8:40, 8:50, 9:00, 9:10, 9:20, etc. From what I can understand, ANY work done between these time ranges are automatically put into their respected 10-minutes time slots. No matter how small the time spent working on the freelancer's side, the client is still being charged for the full 10-minutes? If I'm wrong, then my freelancer started at 6:30 and just waited until 6:39 to create a blank Google doc.

 

I am planning on spending one grand for the freelancer to work on my resume and LinkedIn profile, but I feel like the freelancer is slacking. Her rate is $80 per hour, and she also charges me for answering her questions while she stays idle. After I finished answering her questions, there was no response from her. 5 hours and 20 minutes later, she used the Upwork Desktop App to capture our old chat messages for one whole hour. We weren't even chatting at that point.

 

What sort of options do I have here? I am comtemplating terminating the contract and going on another freelancer platform to hire a resume/Linked profile writer.

ACCEPTED SOLUTION


Gue Y wrote:

 

 

I'm assuming the Upwork tracker keep a list of all key strokes and mouse functions even if said events have nothing to do with the project. I am making an assumption here which may very well be a misunderstanding.


Yes, so far as we know it captures keyboard and mouse activity as long as it's turned on. In a ten-minute interval, It will take one random screenshot of the monitor that is active at this very moment.

 

Now, when I'm writing, I often stare stupidly at my screen before I know what I'm gonna to write. So you could catch me with a blank document very easy, doing not much with my hands 🙂

 

 

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

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21 REPLIES 21
vladag
Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Gue,

 

I'm sorry about the issue that arose on your contract. Please communicate these concerns to your freelancer and try to come to a mutual agreement on the best way for them to bill you for tasks like these and possibly agree on the number of hours certain project stages should take. You can discuss adjusting the weekly limit as well and making an additional Fixed-Price contract/bonus payments (not covered by Payment Protection) to cover tasks like the one you mentioned and any communication, if that's part of the terms you discussed. You can also consider discussing closing the Hourly contract and creating a Fixed-Price one if you don't come to an agreement on proceeding with your Hourly contract, and agreeing on creating Milestones to cover certain stages of the project.

It's always best to share your expectations with the other party and communicate in detail any concern you have, in order to avoid confusion and a bad outcome on what might end up to be a misunderstanding as well as avoid getting billed for insufficient or unrelated tasks. Please reach out to us if you need further advice or assistance and we'll be more than happy to take a look and communicate with you directly. If you can't come to an agreement, you can also pause the contract and take additional steps as described in this Help article.

~ Vladimir
Upwork

Hey Vladimir,

 

Thank you for replying. I didn't expect so many replies so quickly. I also didn't expect I would learn so much about how Upwork tracks time. I can say for certain that I am not a fan of the hourly system, especially when hiring complete strangers whom work ethic is entirely unknown to me. Judging a freelancer by the amount of money earned can also be misleading as to whether the freelancer is a good fit for the project. 8 years of experience is probably not enough when it's not exclusive to just one skill. 8 years of x, y, and z could certainly be cumulative (e.g. 1 year of z, 2 years of y, and 5 years of x). This is not to say that the freelancer I picked on first glance has no experience, but my first impression of her is not in a good light after what has happened. I really think you guys ought to fix your hourly pay system, or this would be the trend going forward.

 

As for the options that you have suggested, fixed-price appeal to me more since I know how much I want to pay. Reading another poster's reply here also made me realize that fixed-price is the way to go. I know how much I am paying (probably a bit too much for what it's worth), but the special sauce is in the contract, right? I just need to be very specific on what I want. The only downsides to fixed-priced projects are scammers, and it seems the only way to prevent myself from being scammed is to set several milestones along the way.

 

Anyway, thanks again! I am not sure if I'd like to continue working with this particular freelancer, but I would keep your advice to heart.


Gue Y wrote:

Hey Vladimir,

 

Thank you for replying. I didn't expect so many replies so quickly. I also didn't expect I would learn so much about how Upwork tracks time. I can say for certain that I am not a fan of the hourly system, especially when hiring complete strangers whom work ethic is entirely unknown to me. Judging a freelancer by the amount of money earned can also be misleading as to whether the freelancer is a good fit for the project. 8 years of experience is probably not enough when it's not exclusive to just one skill. 8 years of x, y, and z could certainly be cumulative (e.g. 1 year of z, 2 years of y, and 5 years of x). This is not to say that the freelancer I picked on first glance has no experience, but my first impression of her is not in a good light after what has happened. I really think you guys ought to fix your hourly pay system, or this would be the trend going forward.

 

As for the options that you have suggested, fixed-price appeal to me more since I know how much I want to pay. Reading another poster's reply here also made me realize that fixed-price is the way to go. I know how much I am paying (probably a bit too much for what it's worth), but the special sauce is in the contract, right? I just need to be very specific on what I want. "The only downsides to fixed-priced projects are scammers ..."


You've received great advice and feedback concerning hourly projects. I'd just like to state that there are many freelancers who choose to work only flat rate jobs, and we are mostly certainly not scamming our clients. There are good and bad freelancers on both sides of the equasion. Do your due diligence and choose your freelancers carefully; you'll get what you need without being scammed.

versailles
Member


Gue Y wrote:

Her rate is $80 per hour, and she also charges me for answering her questions while she stays idle.


Once a contract has started, charging for client communications is not something unusual when you're discussing the project with them. The 10-minute increment of the Upwork tracker, I agree, is not optimal. I hate it personally.

 

Concerning the time your freelancer takes to answer, you may discuss it with her, but before you do that, compare her timezone with yours!

 

Also you can terminate a contract at any time, obviously, if things aren't going the way you expected.

 

 

 

 

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

Hey Rene,

 

I agree with you that freelancers must be compensated for their time when they are discussing the project with their client. I just don't like it when they start charging for time that they haven't worked on or be a part of. I have a freelancer account of my own. If I don't work, I don't get paid. That is my mind set.

 

Earlier in the day, I had a phone interview with my freelancer. She wanted to ask me a few questions. The total time of this call is 8 minutes and 42 seconds. I already know what she was going to ask me, because she wrote those questions while clocked into Upwork's screen capture software. The questions were redundant. 9 minutes before the arranged phone interview, she typed a message on Upwork asking me if I would like to send examples of the job listings that I am interested in to her. Why ask me this 9 minutes before the phone interview?! You can guess what I did after the phone interview. I looked for three job postings and sent it to her, and she wants to charge me for my time. What she should have done is to ask this of me last night when she accepted the offer, so we can talk about it during the interview. Following the phone interview, she asked me the same questions again along with two additional questions but this time in Upwork chat. I answered all her questions, having to repeat and elaborate what I have said during the phone interview. After 15 minutes, she just left and and disappeared without saying any word. I continued to send my messages until I have finished answering all her questions. ~5 hours later, she uses Upwork's capture software to capture our previous chat "discussion." for 60 total minutes. Now, I am being charged for an additional 40+ minutes. I really don't know what to say here... it's just... unbelievable.

 

Edit: My freelancer and I are both on the same time zone.

Okay, I guess you can either talk with her about this and express your dissatisfaction and see what happens, or close the contract thank her and hire someone else.

 

 

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless
louisaj
Member

An alternative option, and what I prefer with the larger projects when you already know how much you are willing to spend, $1000, is to say "I'll pay you $1000 to do this and this and this and it also includes any question time." This is the fixed-price option, it can be split into milestones too. 

 

 

 

Thank you for this, Louisa! Your reply made me realize that fixed-price is the way to go with these types of projects. "I'll pay you $1000 to write me a resume and LinkedIn profile based on my old resume, work experience, skills, career goals, and dreams."  All split into several milestones along the way. More work on my end, but beats having to work with a freelancer who just wants to charge you extra by the minutes.

 

It's called hourly for a reason!

 

I really shouldn't had gone with hourly if I had known how it truly work. Thank you for enlightening me.

web_dezine
Member

Hello Gue,

 

First of all, the time slot is not fixed of 10 minuters, the Upwork tracker captures screenshot in any 5-10 minutes.

 

Second and most important for you is to check the "Activity level" for each time slot, literally each mouse click and keyboard clicks are tracked and this tells if the Freelancer has worked in that time slot or just kept the tracker running while doing little to no activity.

 

Here you can see the "Activity Level" bar in green after each slot's time:

 

Hope this helps.

 

Thanks,

Sunny

Hey Sunny,

 

Your reply was eye-opening. So the Upwork tracker captures screenshot in any 5-10 minutes. Hmm, every 5 minutes then. So, a blank Google doc after 5 minutes, and it was captured by the Upwork tracker. That explains a lot of things. Thank you for making my brain bigger!

 

The Activity Level for this 10-minute slot is 1.

28 Keyboard strokes and 4 Mouse.

 

I'm assuming the Upwork tracker keep a list of all key strokes and mouse functions even if said events have nothing to do with the project. I am making an assumption here which may very well be a misunderstanding.

 

Edit: It's not every 5 minutes but every 5-10 minutes.


Gue Y wrote:

 

 

I'm assuming the Upwork tracker keep a list of all key strokes and mouse functions even if said events have nothing to do with the project. I am making an assumption here which may very well be a misunderstanding.


Yes, so far as we know it captures keyboard and mouse activity as long as it's turned on. In a ten-minute interval, It will take one random screenshot of the monitor that is active at this very moment.

 

Now, when I'm writing, I often stare stupidly at my screen before I know what I'm gonna to write. So you could catch me with a blank document very easy, doing not much with my hands 🙂

 

 

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless

That is a possibility, and my freelancer is just very unlucky and got caught at a very bad time. It's certainly not a good first impression and would definitely cause a misunderstanding. I will talk with my freelancer with this in mind and try to sort something out. Thank you for your insight!

From the freelancer side, I have to say the ten minute minimum seems fair to me.

 

I work very quickly, and often when a client asks for corrections it might only take a few minutes. But it takes me away from what I WAS working on, and breaks that momentum/concentration. I don't charge for chatting or replying to emails though.

 

If I'm working on something more meaty, like a book, I tend to work in 30-60 minute intervals without a break. You can see by our keyboard activity and mouse clicks how actively we're working.

The thing that throws many new Upwork users is that the Upwork desktop time-tracker tool IS NOT DESIGNED for precise tracking of work that takes only a minute or two.

 

It is really designed for tracking larger blocks of time... ideally at least 30 minutes.

 

This is not the freelancer's fault. And this is not the client's fault.

 

I think the original poster is a fair-minded person and I suspect the freelancer involved is a conscientious freelancer... but there is some lack of experience and lack of familiarity with exactly how the time-tracker works.

Hi Kelly,


Thank you for giving me another perspective going into this. I agree with you that opportunity costs are not free. Freelancers should be compensated for it.


As for charging for chatting and/or replying to emails, I'd compare it to lawyers whom don't offer free consultation. Many firms do offer free consultation, but the freelancer world is kind of like the wild west. The quality of the work and/or service here can be polarizing.

 

When a freelancer charge for chatting or replying via emails, I go into a mode where I'm inclined to be as concise as possible and limit my interaction with said freelancer unless it's absolutely necessary for the project's success (i.e. no more small talk, business as usual, strictly business, etc). It breeds a different kind of client-freelancer relationship which would not foster repeat customer.

 

Unless I'm loaded and doesn't care where my money go, I would want to be more critical of my spending. If I'm already going to spend a grand, I would like to spend it on someone whom I would like to continue working with in the future. Some people will call me shallow for this, but I think it is a smart move.


And also, thank you for pointing out the keyboard and mouse click activity level. Would you happen to know if the key and mouse activities shown in the diary are the total for that respective time slot, or is it the total leading up to the time the screen was captured?


Gue Y wrote:

Hi Kelly,


Thank you for giving me another perspective going into this. I agree with you that opportunity costs are not free. Freelancers should be compensated for it.


As for charging for chatting and/or replying to emails, I'd compare it to lawyers whom don't offer free consultation. Many firms do offer free consultation, but the freelancer world is kind of like the wild west. The quality of the work and/or service here can be polarizing.

 

When a freelancer charge for chatting or replying via emails, I go into a mode where I'm inclined to be as concise as possible and limit my interaction with said freelancer unless it's absolutely necessary for the project's success (i.e. no more small talk, business as usual, strictly business, etc). It breeds a different kind of client-freelancer relationship which would not foster repeat customer.

 

As a freelancer, who like Kelly works very quickly, I have to find a balancing act between ensuring I'm reasonably compenstated for my time and that the client doesn't feel nickel and dimed.

 

Typically, I don't charge for emails to set up a call or appointment. However if I complete a draft and write an email to send to the client, that time is tracked.

 

In reading this thread the most important thing is to build some trust b/t the freelancer and client, and right now it doesn't sound like you trust the freelancer. For myself, I prefer hourly projects because it's not always clear at the onset how much work the project will entail. Alternatively, I set up fixed price milestones that are small pieces of the project and typically correspond to a few hours of work.

 

The reality is, you aren't just paying for the FL's time, you are paying for their expertise and experience.  It's something to keep in mind as you navigate this process.

 

Finally, as others have noted the time tracker tool isn't perfect. However, as a FL, it's one of things that helps protect me from clients who may try to claim I haven't worked, etc. So I am diligent when working on an hourly project. 

Upwork does not dictate communication styles. We have discussed different styles in other threads. For examples, some freelancers charge for time spent in "small talk," while others do not. Some freelancers bill for time spent answering messages via email, while others do not. Some freelancers favor the use of fixed-price contracts and do not charge clients for any communication time. Other freelancers will either use hourly contracts in order to bill for all communication time, or not be available for communications while doing fixed-price contracts. Some freelancers are available through phone, chat, texting, Skype, email, Slack, etc. Other freelancers communicate only through the Upwork Messages too.

 

As a client, you have the right to require pretty much any sort of communication you want, especially if you specify what you want in the job description.

 

Also, if you have certain preferences that you don't specify in a job posting... you could potentially hire multiple freelancers and continue working only with the ones you prefer, which preferences can be based on communication styles, or any other factors.

 

If you hired two freelancers and one charges for all email time, while the other never charges for email time... you could close the contract on the one who never charges. On the other hand, if you looked at the work done by both, you might find that you pay the "always charging" less each week than the other one, even though the "always charging" freelancer is more productive.

 

Sometimes a client has to give up on analyzing work diaries because they don't tell the whole story, and just continue working with the freelancers they prefer. 

There are actually many clients who never look at work diaries. But I know some clients look at every memo, every time segment, and every screenshot.

 

I have hired over 100 freelancers on Upwork. Sometimes I end a contract and think: "Wow, he was kind of pricey." And sometimes I close a contract, think about how much the freelancer did for me, and think about what a crazy good deal I ended up with.

 

But I nearly always use hourly contracts, paid at the freelancer's posted hourly rate. So I usually don't feel too guilty after hiring a freelancer who was really awesome but didn't cost very much.


Kelly B wrote:

From the freelancer side, I have to say the ten minute minimum seems fair to me.


The tracker doesn't enforce a 10 minute minimum. (Perhaps you mean that you've adopted a 10 minute minimum policy by always keeping the tracker on until you get a snapshot.) If you switch the tracker on and off again within the same 10-minute clock segment, you may not get a snapshot at all. However, because of the error in the tracker's algorithm, you are disproportionately likely to get a snapshot.

 

If it wasn't for the error, the tracker would charge for the correct amount of time on average. On average the recorded segments with less than 10 minutes worked would be balanced by unrecorded segments with less than 10 minutes worked.


Richard W wrote:

Kelly B wrote:

From the freelancer side, I have to say the ten minute minimum seems fair to me.


The tracker doesn't enforce a 10 minute minimum. (Perhaps you mean that you've adopted a 10 minute minimum policy by always keeping the tracker on until you get a snapshot.) If you switch the tracker on and off again within the same 10-minute clock segment, you may not get a snapshot at all. However, because of the error in the tracker's algorithm, you are disproportionately likely to get a snapshot.

 

If it wasn't for the error, the tracker would charge for the correct amount of time on average. On average the recorded segments with less than 10 minutes worked would be balanced by unrecorded segments with less than 10 minutes worked.


I don't consciously keep the tracker on until I get a snapshot, but as a designer I am usually fluctuating between programs which usually seems to trigger a snapshot. I always assumed this was because if a freelancer switches from, say, MS Word to Instagram, UW wants to make sure clients are not getting charged for freelancers to peruse social media etc. The ironic part is that I design social media images for clients but when I want to preview them, I do it on my phone because I *do* think some clients would be put off by a bunch of social media snapshots in my work diary.

I also charge a fairly steep rate. If I were only charging $5 an hour, perhaps it might make more sense to charge for replying to messages and email.

alphazomgy
Member

Hi Gue,

 

I just want to say, what you're paying is above average on Upwork.

 

That means you're paying for premium service, and you should really voice your concerns to the freelancer you're working with. You deserve to get what you're paying for! (I'm not suggesting you make rude demands, but really, you should set clear expectations and make sure the person you hired sets them too.)

 

I never track my time and clients never ask me when I bill them for 4 hours between midnight and 4am, lol. I set expectations by telling clients exactly how much time I will take to complete a project. (For example, I say a project will take me between 5 to 10 hours.)