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Re: oDesk nightmare. Need admin help.

Active Member
Alexander A Member Since: Dec 18, 2014
1 of 27

After the first interaction with the freelancer here, my partners and I are stuck. I'd like to think that I am at least a tad smarter than a pet rock, but at this point our project is in tatters, we are financially "in the hole," the project is weeks behind schedule, my partners came within a hair's breadth of firing me (and I can't blame them)... I don't remember the last time I was so frustrated and embittered. I feel absolutely awful, as coming to for help was my idea, thus on our  - client - side of the equation this whole mess is my responsibility.


I would greatly appreciate if one of the site admins could point out where things have gone wrong as we need to move on with our project and, if any errors occurred on my part (and I am sure there have), I need to make certain that nothing of the sort happens again.


Please let me know if this is the correct forum. Thank you.

Community Guru
Garnor M Member Since: Oct 29, 2014
2 of 27

Hi Alexander,

I'll ask someone from our team to follow up with you directly.

Active Member
Alexander A Member Since: Dec 18, 2014
3 of 27

Thank yo, Garnor.

What should I expect? Where should I go? Stay here? eMail? Cell phone? Skype?


(Can you tell I am new at this?)



Active Member
Alexander A Member Since: Dec 18, 2014
4 of 27

OK... another day spent blankly staring at the screen while waiting for someone to respond...

I am not sure about the etiquette, but I am getting desperate here. I think a fish out of the water would get more support that I do now...

Does anyone have experience with other frelacnce agencies? TopTal? eLance? What does one do to take a project started on oDesk to an outside source?

Community Guru
Krisztina U Member Since: Aug 7, 2009
5 of 27

Alexander, if you care to go into a bit more detail, perhaps the forum regulars can give you some tips/advice, but there's not enough information in your post to get a sense for just what exactly the issue is.


If you need help, you should contact support directly and not hope that someone will get back to you in a timely fashion. You can find them here:


You asked: "What does one do to take a project started on oDesk to an outside source?"

As long as you don't take any freelancers you identified on this site with you, you're free to take your project where ever. If you want to take a freelancer with you, you'll have to pay an opt-out fee (see clause 7 of the user agreement (here)). That said, please don't paint all freelancers of this site with the same brush. Just because whoever you hired didn't work out for you, doesn't mean that there aren't other skilled freelancers. Plus many of us have profiles on various platforms so you would be largely running into the same folks anyway. If you followed some of the basic guidelines/best practices, there's a decent chance you can recover some or all of your funds. Contact support, mark your ticket high priority and request a call back. Good luck!

Active Member
Alexander A Member Since: Dec 18, 2014
6 of 27

Thank you, Krisztina


This is our first time on, so maybe we did something wrong or expected too much. Either way I would appreciate any constructive advice.


We are trying to design a non-commercial interactive site and, since our developer had to take a personal break (maternity leave), figured we shall look to oDesk for talent.


The reason why we contracted with this freelancer is because, not only was she listed at the top of the “suggested” screen on the, but her profile also stated that she is “local” for us – we are in Southern California. Unfortunately we got neither a competent web designer nor the ability to communicate with the freelancer, who passed the job to a subcontractor 13 time zones away (!)


Initially, there appeared no way of communicating with the freelancer except oDesk messaging system. After four days, I managed to talk to someone who was supposedly reassigned our job. The reason I say "supposedly 'reassigned' " is because, at the end of it all, the person we were dealing with turned out to be someone who impersonated the real contractor. Seriously. Eventually the actual contractor reached out to me and informed me that for health reasons (surgery) she was unable to work since the beginning of the whole interaction, and that someone else from her agency "took it upon himself" to "sign her name" and carry out the work.

Things went bad from the start, but just as it seemed that it could not get any worse, it did... If you want details, please feel free to look through the "Messages" documentation, but by the end, we had to terminate the contract and ask for refund. Meanwhile, this has turned out to be a digital nightmare and I can't seem to wake up from it.


The most minor assignments (e.g. please change font color on a particular part of a particular webpage of our site) would take at least 3 tries to get done. After the initial 10 hours on the project, virtually all of the time spent was on correcting errors.

On many occasions, when a task got done, another part of the site would get damaged. As soon as the damaged part would get fixed, it would turn out that another aspect of the site would malfunction.


By the end of the contract I counted no less than 20 IPs that accessed our site (only two were from the US, but I had no idea who they were and could not phone them to find out what is it that they were doing?!) This in itself is not a problem, but most of the time the man "assigned" to work with us had no way of knowing what these other people did as well!


When I finally pulled the contract, I received the strangest messages that later turned out to be from the person impersonating the real contractor. He, for instance, insisted that the reason why there were so many errors and malfunctions was because " ... [m]y team has started working on your site by repairing the bad code and fixing errors and bugs." (I found this strange, because the reason why we needed help in the first place was because all our site had consisted of was (WordPress platform) + (unadulterated plugins) + (some static content). Even if one or two of the plugins had "bad code," it would have been a stretch to say that it was all bad. Besides, in our job offer we specifically indicated that "tweaking plugins" is exactly what we are hiring you for. But things got even... um-mmmm... curioser and curioser... The same person accused me of "cheating" people, who ended up damaging our site, out of their money; I was informed that "God is watching" me and threatened that we must "pay" or "else." I am not exactly on first-name-basis with God, but I seriously doubted divine involvement in messing up CSS stylesheets for the entire site. I also doubt that it was God who, when I ignored the insane message, came back to our website deleted 5 pages outright and did... I don't know exactly what they did to our site, but the end result is that now: we cannot register new users (even those I would like to hire to fix the damage) as the registration function itself is out of order; I cannot change font color or use images from Media Library as both of these functions are damaged as well (both of these preclude me from working on static content while we are trying to figure out what to do next.)


This has all been going on since Wed-Thursday, Dec. 17-18. The situation is made more difficult by the fact that it is holiday season, many are on vacation and relatively few people are willing to work. On Saturday the 27th the real contractor finally got in touch with me via oDesk messaging. The next day we spoke on the phone. She sounded... well... normal. Sincere actually. She said she was upset about what happened with our project. She informed me that she had oDesk suspend her own account until she can internally figure out what is going on (I have no way of knowing if this is true or not; she sounds honest and genuine and I hope she is). She apologized and offered to get one of her local programmers to help restore the most important damaged portions of the site. I was so happy that (1) I finally got to talk to someone on that team who understood the extent of the problem and (2) was willing to do something positive about it.... until... nothing happened.


Our conversation took place on Sunday, the 28th. It is Five days later now. I ended up posting an URGENT job request and another freelancer managed to some of the damage. I guess the damage was done at the level of global CSS stylesheets...

Now what?


I did request a refund for the main sum billed. (The guy sneaked a small 1 hour billing period at the very end -- although the Work diary reflects 50 min -- and I do not intend to bicker over 1 hour worth of non-work...)

I was thinking of posting this all (or partially) as the first freelancer's feedback but, I really do not wish to start the whole retaliation cycle going again...


The reason why I asked for admins' help is because I have no idea where I went wrong... I just don't wish to find myself in a similar situation again.

Community Guru
Dianne M Member Since: Jul 25, 2013
7 of 27

Hi Alexander,


I realise it is too late for you but just in case you still want to hire via oDesk in the future, here are some tips to get your project done for real.


What you have to do is find a really good freelancer first (NO AGENCY - they will often give you the run-around) and then hire on a fixed rate with specific milestones for the changes and additions you want before releasing any payment so you won't get scammed out of time and money. Hourly contracts tend to get dragged by bad freelancers and some of those working in agencies who only care to log in more time without producing work or good quality work.


Personally I would do the following:


STEP 1: Find a great freelancer.

- avoid agencies, make sure to get someone with extensive experience, great reviews and established history. I like hiring individual freelancers because I like communicating with the person doing the job for me, not some middleman. 


STEP 2: Make sure to discuss what needs to be done with the freelancer, including budget, deliverables, and timetable including what the milestones of the project will be.


STEP 3: Choose a Fixed Rate Contract and hire the freelancer with milestones (hourly tends to get dragged around by bad freelancers). A fixed rate contract protects you because if things do not work out or if the deliverables do not turn up by the agreed upon time, you can choose not to release payment. Take note that unpaid work means you don't own the work and if you choose not to pay, the freelancer retains the rights to any updates he/she made.


STEP 4: Work with your freelancer and communicate lots. Good feedback and communication from both sides is key.


STEP 5: Test things for each milestone before releasing payment


STEP 6: Test final product.


STEP 7: Pay whatever else needs to be paid and end the contract once things are all tested and are A-okay. Don't forget to share your thoughts with the freelancer, especially if they did a great job.


STEP 8: Don't forget to leave an honest feedback and perhaps a bonus if the freelancer went above and beyond the scope of the project.


STEP 9: Spread the word that some good freelancers exists on oDesk Smiley Happy


If you do the steps above, the chances of you being ripped off by a bad freelancer is next to none. Why? Because if things don't work at whatever step, you simply do not release payment for the milestone in question and don't set up the next milestones. More so, leaving the feedback and the ending of the contract as the last steps means if the freelancer tries to pull some trick and a vanishing act, he/she will get a reputation killer feedback which will be seen by everyone on his/her profile, thus killing his/her oDesk career. Of course all of this will not be a problem if you do step 1 right since a professional freelancer would follow the same steps (I also freelance sometimes).


Make sure you leave a fair feedback, don't let them bully you into giving them 5 stars.


Also, file a dispute so you can recover some of your money. 


All the best!

❄❄❄ Just A Forum Contributor --- This isn't against forum guidelines ❄❄❄
Ace Contributor
Igor L Member Since: Dec 23, 2014
8 of 27

Dianne, you left a great guide about finding freelancers with that I agree but not completely. Thing with that I don't agree is your opinion on hourly jobs. I personally used to take fixed price ones only on start of my carreer here. Problem with fixed price jobs in programming area is that it is very hard to estimate real time that your work will take. You have to either ask for additional payment that you have to justify and explain losing time and endangering your final feedback or just shut up and do the job to the end. 

Hourly jobs are great for your initial hires through when you don't have much oDesk hiring experience. Overall quality of applying freelancers would be less astonishing for sure but you have chance to post several jobs of even several copies of same job and it'll work as a sieve whitch will filter bad ones and hopefully leave you une or more good ones. Then just work with them hourly if you feel like you have some respect for them. If not, repeating a sieve thing may be necessary but I hope first try will work. 



Community Guru
Dianne M Member Since: Jul 25, 2013
9 of 27

Hello Igor,


I only meant to do the fixed price job as a trial contract for finding a good freelancer (since the client is new so he can avoid clock-padders).


Also, for CSS and programming, a fixed price job doesn't automatically mean the freelancer will get less pay due to unforeseen things which can come up like something taking more time. Projects can be divided into milestones and the next milestone can be defined by both the client and freelancer based on the last one. Example, after something is done, the next milestone can go as previously planned or redefined to reflect whatever changes was brought on by a recent tweak. So it is not written in stone and can be okay if you know what you are doing and can communicate well.


I'm mostly a ghostwriter here (books, autobiographies, blogs, newsletters, etc) and sometimes what the client and I initially discussed can change A LOT but having a fixed rate contract or an hourly one are both okay with me. With fixed rate contracts, I ask for per chapter payment or per milestone if the client wants to add more chapters or more content, I would still get paid adequately. I also get paid milestone payments for requested changes (which was not a part of the initial scope). This is all discussed as part of the contract.


I have nothing bad against hourly payments. I only meant to be wary of them until a client is sure that they have a trustworthy freelancer. Most of my clients hired me on short fixed rate jobs but ended up hiring me on no-cap hourly contracts because I have proven that I can be trusted and will not abuse the clock.


With all the above said, I still firmly advocate that clients do a trial project (fixed rate or capped hourly ones) with a new freelancer. I've seen too many clients hire people on jobs and get shocked to be billed 80 hours a week by a bad freelancer or bad agency for something so simple which only takes 10 or so hours. As much as possible, no-cap hourly contracts should be reserved for freelancers which a client has worked with and can surely be trusted.


I don't see why asking a client for additional payment is a problem Igor. If you also do your part in picking professional clients or let the client know exactly why you need additional payment, I don't see a reason why they would give you bad feedback (unless they are crazy or bad people to begin with).


I've asked to be paid more for certain projects after some changes and the client(s) did not only pay me in full, they also gave me bonuses and hired me again. It really is all about communication and how you can justify being paid more. This is just the same as convincing a client why your time is worth an X amount of dollars per hour compared to someone who's hourly rate is a lot less. It all boils down to the product you can deliver.


Btw, I also have a client account and my company have one as well. We've hired programmers and the one we have with us don't have a cap on his weekly limit. Why? We trust him and we don't care if he charges upwards of $50-$70/hr because we know his time is worth every cent, he's practically a bargain! 

❄❄❄ Just A Forum Contributor --- This isn't against forum guidelines ❄❄❄
Community Guru
Krisztina U Member Since: Aug 7, 2009
10 of 27

Hi Alexander, thank you for going into more detail. Quick clarification because I know the titles assigned to us are confusing: I do NOT work for oDesk, but am a freelancer and client on this site (which means I can't check your message history Smiley Happy). The people on this forum who actually work for oDesk have a "Moderator" or "Community Manager" title.

With that out the way, I don't think expecting you would get your project completed professionally and successfully was expecting too much. Clearly, you hired a bad agency. (Unfortunately, like everywhere in life, there are some bad apples on this site.)


The main difference between an agency and an independent freelancer is that under the agency model, a team of folks will be working on your project and it can be challenging to track just who exactly did what. Independent freelancers are single human beings so you know at all times who's working on your project. I personally never hire agencies but understand that for certain projects, an agency might make sense.

Impersonating another freelancer is against the site's TOS and a big red flag. The agency will get into trouble for this. The same is true for random (and lunatic) accusations and threats. The most important thing you did right was to use the oDesk messaging system so there's a trail of what took place and will be easy for oDesk staff to read. This will help you in hopefully recovering your money.

Your freelancer saying she suspended her own account might be true, but I am not sure on how one would even go about it so I wouldn't hold my breath. It's also not going to help you so at the end of the day, it's just  rhetorics.

I specialize in an entirely different field and can't comment on the work itself but even if you decide to take your project elsewhere, don't ever give 3rd parties access to your live system without sufficient access and recovery control in place. (Other freelancers who specialize on dev work might have more tips.) If a contract goes south, the 1st thing you should do is lock them out of your environment to avoid potential irrational behaviour. (There's some crazy people out there!)

If you're working with a new freelancer, try to break down your project into smaller chunks. That way you can both build trust, see if things work out, and take it from there. If it doesn't work out, you can easily move on and just lost time on a small piece versus your entire project. It's too late for that now but based on everything you shared, and the fact that you seem very reasonable and level headed, there should be ways for the oDesk team to help you.

When you contact support, you'll first be put in touch with Tier 1 support. They're the initial team that weeds out and solves the easy and very basic problems. They won't be able to help you, so don't be disappointed but let them escalate the issue to Tier 2 or even Tier 3. Make sure you highlight that the agency freelancer was impersonating another freelancer and the threats you received.

If you want to hire another freelancer, make sure you don't get an agency again. Read the freelancers profile (and feedback section) carefully and trust your instincts. It's important to leave honest feedback and you should never feel obliged to leave a good rating for a crappy service just to be nice. Interview them over the phone or Skype and ask questions to get a sense for their skill set. Start with a smaller project and expand it out from there. The recommended freelancers window is right as often as it's wrong, so don't focus on it too much if possible. Some freelancers will have a money-back guarantee badge next to their name, which you might find comforting should you decide to hire another freelancer. oDesk also has a team that assist clients with their recruiting needs which you might find helpful, just ask support.


And lastly, make sure you familiarize yourself with the basics (if you haven't already done so), like review periods or time frames for disputes to make sure you're not waiting too long (you can find more info here and here and here).