As of today, half of all my contracts are either open due to clients failing to close them, or I've had to send them requests to close them. After some research and discussions with some of those clients, I’m convinced that there is a procedural flaw on Upwork. I understand that in some cases it is desirable to keep certain contracts open, but when you have half of your clients not ending their contracts appropriately when work is no longer expected, we can no longer lay blame on the client’s misunderstanding of the process.
As freelancers, we expect the client to end the contract themselves without having to ask them, so that we may (potentially) receive their feedback. Freelancers can end the contracts themselves, of course. However, this not preferrable because the chances of getting feedback from your client are reduced. This would have been problematic for JSS calculation up until it was announced that Upwork will no longer use lack of feedback as part of the calculation. While this announcement is good news in relationship to this problem, freelancers do not want to miss the opportunity for positive feedback.
So what is the flaw in the process? Based on discussions with clients, they did not intend to leave the contracts open nor did they anticipate further work to be done. Why aren’t they closing them? Well, at least one client could not figure out how to close it. Other clients did not understand the distinction between a contract and a milestone. I looked at some of Upwork’s help articles and discovered that ending a contract is an obscure part of the process. When a milestone is submitted or otherwise completed, the client has the option to approve and submit payment, but I suspect that they are not prompted the option to close the contract. To end a contract, the client must click the three dots (…) and manually end the contract in the drop down. If the client approves all milestones and makes the payments, why should we expect them to know that an additional step is needed? Why would they even bother?
I could see many solutions to eliminate or reduce this problem, like prompting the clients on whether further milestones/work are anticipated or whether the contract should be closed. Perhaps there could be a way for freelancers to inform their clients indirectly in a systematic way (as opposed to direct messaging). In any event, half of my contracts having this issue is too many. I would understand a smaller percentage. Freelancers should not have to keep contacting clients and asking them to perform work on their part no matter how politely it must be asked of them. It’s not like they are unwilling to do it. Let’s have them do it when the time is convenient, which is upon completion of the work. I hope there is a solution to this soon. If there are good reasons not to change the current process, or if I’m misunderstanding something, I would appreciate your opinions!
The time to encourage clients to close the contract is immediately after the work was done. That's when clients are still engaged
That said, you are free to close contracts yourself, just don't close too many at once. Start with the oldest, close it, wait until you have a few that have feedback, close the next and so on.
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