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Bad Clients

Active Member
Joel L Member Since: Dec 19, 2017
1 of 11

Hey Folks, so I'm just looking for a bit of guidance. I don't have a major issue with this client yet, but I fear that it's going to boil into a disagreement that will require mediation. 

So here's what happened: I was hired by a client to write a total of 9 articles (5000 words) on a given topic. 


The client wanted me to use his content management system, which checks for plagiarism (understandable), as well as a range of other factors, such as the number of "water" of "fluff" words, the number of unique words per articles, and the number of unique words in the entire set of articles. 

At this point, I've written all 9 articles, met the required word count, and ensured that they're all 100% unique. But the client is saying that the number of unique words in the articles, as well as the unique words in the entire set of articles is too low and that he can't use my articles until these levels are brought up. 


Basically, this means that I've used some words multiple times in the same article, as well as multiple times across different articles. 

Now, I'm a writer. I understand not repeating the same words, but the client's application is causing me to completely destroy my work to meet these desired levels.

But still, the articles need to be coherent and interesting for his site visitors. But by following his application's rules, my articles no longer look like they're written by an English speaking person. 

The articles are all related to erectile dysfunction, so I'm being asked to write 5,000 about erectile dysfunction without repeating the term erectile dysfunction. 
There are synonyms, of course. But there are only so many synonyms that can be used without ruining the way the text reads. 


This application also asks me to remove words like 'the' or 'a', or 'you', which are, at least in my opinion, very important words when you're trying to write a text that makes sense and flows coherently. 

I'm still working with the client to address these issues, but he's barely responsive and not helping me figure out how to complete the task. The task is already over a week past deadline, which was OKed by the client. 

I'm almost ready to walk away from the project, but I've already put in probably 10 to 20 hours worth of time trying to fix this. I'm really not trying to screw the client over by not completing the task, but I feel like the client is going to try and not pay me because the work has been 100% completed as desired.  

I guess my main question is whether I can (or should I) try to mediate this via Upwork because I'm being asked to do something that goes against English grammar and the way we actually write in English. 


Like I said, I'm still trying to work things out with the client, but I'd just like a bit of advice or guidance on the situation. 


Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
2 of 11

Is it a bad client?

Or a client with whom you are not a good match as a freelancer?


Not every client-freelancer matching is meant to be.


You may have standards and values which render you unsuitable for certain types of writing projects.


re: "I guess my main question is whether I can (or should I) try to mediate this via Upwork because I'm being asked to do something that goes against English grammar and the way we actually write in English."


Short answer: No. You should not try to use Upwork mediation. Upwork is not the grammar police. There are no Upwork rules requiring clients to ask for proper English grammer. Going to Upwork mediation would be a waste of your time.

Active Member
Joel L Member Since: Dec 19, 2017
3 of 11

Thanks for your reply, Preston. 
I know (now) that we're not a good client/freelancer match, but honestly, I've worked with tons of clients, and this is the worst I've run into to. 

But aside from the quality of the client's behavior, I was more interested in what Upwork mediation would be like. I guess, I also just wanted to vent about it LOL. This job has been a nightmare and it seems to be one of those recurring ones lol.

But I figured as much. I know that I haven't completed the task to what the client expects, so I had a feeling that I'd be getting the short end of the stick on this one. I was just wondering if there was anything mediation could do like maybe getting me half of the escrow payment or something... 

I'm still going to keep working on it, but the client doesn't even seem to be responding anymore. Just UGHHH is all I can say 😄 

View solution in original post

Community Guru
Douglas Michael M Member Since: May 22, 2015
4 of 11

Upwork mediation is extremely limited (for valid legal reasons). There's no point in even thinking about it as any kind of resolution. Your client is not just unreasonable, but ridiculous. You have seemed to hit on someone who is locked into following, at the very least, an absurd formula for search engine optimization, and at worst the playbook for screwing freelancers.


In more general terms, you will probably want to avoid erectile dysfunction jobs in future. Not just on Upwork, but in general, it's a dirty business. You can't touch it without getting soiled.

Active Member
Joel L Member Since: Dec 19, 2017
5 of 11

Thanks for the reply Douglas! 

"An absurd formula for search engine optimization, and at worst the playbook for screwing freelancers." 

I don't think I could have worded that any better. This is exactly what's going on.

Actually, I've checked out other sites that have similar content on them, and yeh, they make no sense. It's just keyword stuffing, and it's shameful that people like this are even allowed to published content on the internet. 


I've heard that the mediation service wasn't that great for freelancers, but I just wanted some expert opinions on whether it'd be worth a shot or not. And like I said in my reply to Preston's answer, I think I just really needed to vent lol 🙂

And yes, trust me. I won't ever be taking on any jobs with this type of content again. 

Community Guru
william b Member Since: Jan 3, 2015
6 of 11




But I'm afraid your initial error was taking on such a thankless, hopeless, masochistic task.

Your secondary--but perhaps more central--error was to agree to using the client's "content management system".

I've had any number of client's request that I use grammarly/hemingway/etc., and I always shut that nonsense down immediately, which is what you could've/shoul've done in this unfortunate case. (to me it's the equivalent of hiring a mechanic but then insisting that they use only your tools to complete the job)

Of course if a client wants to employ these systems on their end, I encourage them to feel free but, as a writer, I will not work under those counterproductive conditions.


Moving forward, it looks like you may be heading into dispute.

I say if you delivered the work as you claimed then stick to your guns and take it all the way into arbitration. (most likely you can work out some payment compromise btw the two of you before it gets there, which UW will encourage you to do)

The good news is that your lesson may be expensive (in terms of time) but you'll ultimately be better off for it.

Best of luck.


Work smart, work safe!


Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
7 of 11

Are looking for insights and opinions on Upwork's free mediation services or taking a client to arbitration?


What is the amount of money you are concerned about being paid?

Active Member
Joel L Member Since: Dec 19, 2017
8 of 11
Hey, Will. It's a fixed price contract for $420. What's your opinion on the matter?

I'm not saying that I'm ready to take the client to arbitration, but depending on how responsive they are in the next few days, Im seriously considering it.

So far, Ive had two Gurus tell me it's not worth it.

And it's not just a matter of the grammar he needs me to use, there's another thing...

Before hiring me, clients send me a video explaining how to use his article checking tool, it explained that two of the required levels were 60%/40%.

Then after I worked and got the articles to these levels, he tells me that's those levels are still too high. Saying it was an old video and to not pay attention to thay.

Ps. The "levels" are kind of hard to explain, but the point is they gave me a requirement. I met that requirement. And then all of a sudden, it wasn't good enough
Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
9 of 11



Leaving aside what I can see are significant differences between the kind of work you and I do for our clients, if I felt I had fully delivered the work the client and I agreed I was to do I would not be in any mood to accept less than full payment for my work.


This client sounds like a time suck, so I'd call a halt on further work sooner rather than later.


And if that much money were at risk, I'd opt for arbitration if the client won't agree to a modest (0% - 10%?) discount to the total amount due. It really isn't your fault, and you shouldn't let it be your problem, if the client doesn'treally understand his own project.


Good luck!


P.S.  If you haven't already submitted the full amount of the work to the client using the "Submit" button on the project page, do so immediately. As you may know, if the client cancels the project before you have formally submitted your work on the project's milestone(s), your chances of getting paid will be close to zero.



Community Guru
Amanda L Member Since: Jan 23, 2018
10 of 11



You might consider offering the client a partial refund and tell him that you don't feel comfortable sacrificing the quality of your work any further, but would be happy to release the work to him, to further edit as he sees fit, with a partial payment. 


Just an idea.