re: "I have several jobs I accepted the assignment for and never heard from the initiator again. Anyone else have this experience?"
It is not the norm. But it happens.
The important thing is that you were proactive and cautious about these jobs, so that every job you accepted resulted in you getting paid. You know that having a contract with zero pay hurts your Job Success Score. Which is why you did the following:
a) For every fixed-price job, you did not accept the contract until you had enough information and the proper input files necessary for you to complete the job. You did not accept the job until you saw that the milestone task was completely funded. Although you never heard from the client again, you completed the task, submitted it, and were paid automatically.
b) For every hourly contract job, you did not accept the job until you had enough information abou the job to do at least ten minutes of work. After accepting the contract, you did at least ten minutes of work on the project. You did not hear back from the client, but that is okay because you were paid something for the contract. If you need to close the job, after a prolonged period of time not hearing from the client, there will be no negative impact to your JSS due to having a zero-pay job.
re: "No payment was received."
Then it sounds like you made a mistake.
If I was accepting a job like that, I would have waited until I had the first topic before clicking the "Accept" button.
Then, after accepting the job, I would have taken ten minutes to write a report for that first topic. I would have set up the directory and file structure for the reports. I would have sent a message to the client, providing the path to the reports directory and an attached file with the initial report. I would have told him that this was the style I was planning to use for future reports, unless he wanted something changed, in which case please let me know how to do things differently.
There is no reason to accept a job if you can't do ANY work at all on it.
If you plan to work on a consultant basis, either require the client to make a small upfront payment to reserve your time. Or, tell them that you will work with them but will not accept their contract offer until the first round of work is required. Only after they contact you with something to do should you accept the offer and begin the contract.
You may find the guidance you need in the New to Upwork Community discussion. However, to some extent, I believe Upwork expects freelancers to make an independent business decision regarding whether or not the delivery model they are contemplating with a client will fit within the payment schemes available.
Perhaps you can browse the profiles of other freelancers who are hired as consultants to get a feel for how the offers they have accepted have been worded.
@Carl T wrote:
Then the Upwork system needs to provide better advice on how to handle open ended offers.
Your response makes no sense in relation to the posting I responded to and accepted.
How does it "make no sense?"
Either you have been hired and have contracts, or you were not. You can't be "a little bit hired."
Do you have contracts on your My Jobs > All Contracts page or do you not?
If you have contracts, are they fixed rate or hourly?
@Carl T wrote:
The jobs were to counsel the initiator upon request on topics or subjects they identified.
Were you actually properly hired and had contracts for those jobs, or did you just accept invites or discussed the projects?
In other words, are those listed as contracts on your My Work > All Contracts page?