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jeremiah-brown
Community Member

Client bait and switch

I have a client that I am dealing with that has decided to pull the ol bait and switch on me.

We started out with an initial zoom consult, the client laid out their vision and ideas for the project, we spoke about the different options and things that I can provide.  Overall, it was about a 1 hour meeting to get everything figured out.

Near the end of the meeting, and I saw it coming, the client said that they were interviewing other clients and wanted to be sure I could do the work.  The client then asked for a sample.  I already know how the sample game works so I very politely informed the client that I would be happy to provide a sample but would need to charge a 1-hour minimum for this.  If hired, I would simply roll this into the project.

After the meeting, I was given photos of the objects I needed to make a design of (using elements from both objects to create one).  I created the sample, included the appropriate features, and spent about 1-1/4 hours putting it together, along with the words "sample" embossed on it.  The client messaged me, asking if I had started on it and when they would get it...  second red flag since we just got off the meeting and we had no agreed upon time frame.

I submitted screenshots and didn't hear back.

Today, I find messages where the client is telling me that the sample is not what was talked about and that it was missing certain features, dimensions were not correct, and there was a part missing.  All items that were never agreed to.  Basically, the client is prodding me to make the entire object under the 1-hour sample rate rather than paying for the full desing process.  Sad thing is that its a business.  Dimensions and measurements were never provided, I never received the item to ensure the various features were correct - these were all things to be done once hired for the full project.

So I reminded the client that this was a sample and that I never agreed to provide the full item for a 1-hour charge.  I would have needed to be on full hourly contract for that.

Rather than fight with the client, I simply stated that I would like for him to honor the 1-hour sample fee and that I would be discontinuing our business relationship - because I can already see that anything going forward will be worse than it is now.

Question is, I would like to have someone look into this.  I have a feeling this client is going to leave negative reviews because they aren't getting the free work that they are trying to obtain.  I also believe that it was their intention to be deceptive from the start - asking for a sample, then attempting to get the partially or fully finished item by making it seem like they would leave a bad review (the switch).  At this point, I dont care if I get paid at all, I am only out 1 hour rather than many hours.  I would rather sever this relationship and walk away.  Any advice on this?  

ACCEPTED SOLUTION
wlyonsatl
Community Member

Everybody runs their Upwork business in the way that suits them best. Upwork's business model sometimes requires compromises in how things can be done, creating imperfect situations and contributing to client abuse of those situations.

 

Considering that this is only an hour's worth of feedback compared to what I assume is a history you have of substantial Upwork earnings, proportionally any negative feedback from this client will have little to no effect on your Job Success Score.

 

And you can leave accurate and professional feedback for this client when the project is closed, so other freelancers will know what they're in for with this clown and potential future clients for you will understand why he was a problem. No good potential future client will hold it against you for trusting such a client; you have no choice but to take such chances on Upwork and we've all dealt with this type of person in our lives.

 

Good luck!

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35 REPLIES 35
prestonhunter
Community Member

re: "I have a feeling this client is going to leave negative reviews"

 

A client received an hour of consultation from a knowledgeable professional.

 

There is no reason why the client should leave a negative review.

 

If this client leaves a negative review, then it means he doesn't understand what consultation is. Or he does not understand how to use Upwork properly.

It wasn't originally meant to be an hour.  It was a 30 minute consult.  I'm not too worried about getting paid for this.  Everyone is different on this.  For me, my rate of closing the deal and getting the contract is such that I don't worry too much about the few meetings that don't work out.

Now, I do have a 1-meeting limit (without being on contract).  This is something that has burned me in the past - multiple meetings with clients who wind up ghosting me.  Time I wont get back.

Jeremiah:

Setting aside what you as an individual freelancer are willing to do...

 

The following is not about Jeremiah's situation, because I believe that he WAS hired officially before providing consultation. But if Jeremiah's client hired him using a fixed-price contract, then Jeremiah's client made a MISTAKE. The contrat should have been HOURLY.

 

My advice for clients is this:
You are a client.

Your time is valuable.

Do not waste your time doing lengthy unpaid "interviews" that are really consultations.

 

HIRE freelancers and PAY them for their consultation time.

 

Don't do this to "help" them or to "respect" them.

Do this for yourself.

 

When you HIRE a freelancer in order to talk to them about your project, then EVERYTHING YOU DISCUSS belongs to YOU.

 

You OWN the discussion. You OWN the ideas.
And the freelancer is not going to be balancing what he can tell you as part of an "interview" versus what he can tell you that would constitute "consultation."

As a client, you do NOT WANT TO WASTE an hour of your time talking to a freelancer who you have not hired.

Remember:
According to Upwork rules:
If you don't pay a freelancer for his time, then the work he does belongs to HIM, not you.

So if you contact a freelancer and talk to him for two hours about your project, without hiring him, then that discussion belongs to him, not you.

That's fine, but its a 2-way street.  The reason for my post is because I was asked to make a sample.  Recognizing that this is frequently abused, I offered to provide a sample for a minimum charge.

The client agreed to receiving a sample.  Upon receiving the sample, the client now wants the "sample" to be the fully finished item.  For a 1-hour fee.


re: "The reason for my post is because I was asked to make a sample. Recognizing that this is frequently abused, I offered to provide a sample for a minimum charge. The client agreed to receiving a sample. Upon receiving the sample, the client now wants the "sample" to be the fully finished item. For a 1-hour fee."

 

You're describing a client who is simply preposterous.

Sorry you experienced this.

Yes, I am sorry too.  That's why I am terminating the business relationship.  If its this bad, this early, going through the entire project is going to be a significant loss of time, money, and sanity.

martina_plaschka
Community Member

You told the client, I'm not going to work with you, now pay me. 

Maybe not in these words, but this is what the client heard. 

He is not going to be happy.

If you haven't been hired, just forget it and move on. 

I have been hired on contract to make/provide a sample.

The agreement was for a sample, not a fully fit and finished product.  Especially not at 1-hour of work (minimum for sample).

Imagine discussing with a builder that you would like to have your kitchen remodeled.  You also ask for a sample of the flooring and countertops that will be installed.  The builder brings a few small samples with them, spending the time, money, energy to come out.  

You see the samples of the flooring and countertops, then suddenly become offended, asking why the builder has not replaced the flooring, installed new cupboards, relocated the fridge, installed the sink and garbage disposal, nor has he painted the walls.  To rememdy this, you suggest that the builder do all of these things so that you can review the sample.

Imagine doing that, then withholding payment and writing a bad review when the builder decides to discontinue the business relationship going forward.

When I bought my latest kitchen, I had some really good ideas. The designer shot them all down and created a kitchen with clean direction and perspective. It is a thing of beauty that makes me happy every day. The guy is pure genius. Sometimes I regret that I don't need more kitchens. I would love to hear his ideas again.  

I would have never asked him for a free sample. I respect him too much. 

petra_r
Community Member

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I never, ever do any test contracts.

 

I would close the contract myself in the nicest, sweetest "Dear John, it's not you, it's me" way possible because that way the client may not leave feedback at all.

 

For future reference: When red flags go up during the interview process, pay attention.

 

 

 

There's no such thing as a "test consultation" contract.

 

If I hire a freelancer and talk to him for just 10 minutes, to provide me with consulting services about a topic he has expertise in... This is not a "sample consultation."

 

It is a 10-minute consultation.

I regularly give prospective clients up to an hour or so (usually less, sometimes more) to try to ensure that they are the type of business people I want to work with and give the permanent ability to leave feedback for me on Upwork.

 

I recently gave a potential client an assignment to put together some information for her project before we had a contract in place, which took her a few days. She failed that assignment and was not happy when I eventually told her I thought another freelancer would likely be a better fit for her. Freelancers can say 'No," too.

 

Even after an hour or more of discussions, I still can't be certain how a project with a new client will eventually progress, but over 360+ Upwork projects I've only had a handful of disappointments.

 

I never let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough, especially when I am Top Rated and have feedback removal in my back pocket.


Petra R wrote:

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I never, ever do any test contracts.


 Nor me. The client might call it a test or a sample, but if they're hiring multiple people with the idea of picking a "winner" then they'll expect you to put in way more time than they're paying for and jump through hoops to impress them, and the other freelancers (ones who are desperate to land a job) will comply. 

Right, that is what I am familiar with - the "clients" who post a job and ask 10 freelancers to provide a sample, collect up everybody's work, then use it as a finished product without paying anything at all.

In my situation, I asked that I be paid a 1-hour fee to provide a sample.  The client and I spoke about what the sample will have and the client wrote what the sample should have.  I created the sample, submitted it for payment, and now the client wants the sample to have all of the items that you would find on the finished item after several hours of work (for the same 1-hour fee).

Yep - been there, done that. As soon as a client asks for a revision on a test job, you know that it's time to bow out. 

Honestly, in the future, just say no to test jobs. You won't regret it.

I think you are right.


Jeremiah B wrote:

Right, that is what I am familiar with - the "clients" who post a job and ask 10 freelancers to provide a sample, collect up everybody's work, then use it as a finished product without paying anything at all.

In my situation, I asked that I be paid a 1-hour fee to provide a sample.  The client and I spoke about what the sample will have and the client wrote what the sample should have.  I created the sample, submitted it for payment, and now the client wants the sample to have all of the items that you would find on the finished item after several hours of work (for the same 1-hour fee).


The thing is, once you click that accept offer button you hand the client who made the offer power. Even if you don't earn a dime on the contract, the client gets to leave private feedback when the contract closes. If that feedback is negative, it will impact your JSS. 

 

So, most of us either avoid entering into a contract until we are sure the person is someone we want to work with. If we find ourselves in a contract we wish to exit, we do so in a way that minimizes the chances of negative feelings. 

 

You don't have to like a system to learn how it works and use it strategically. Some freelancers rail against the system, others learn to navigate around its greatest flaws.

 

That's why you are seeing several people say they don't do test work. Agreeing to test contracts gives away too much power for too little benefit. 

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Everybody runs their Upwork business in the way that suits them best. Upwork's business model sometimes requires compromises in how things can be done, creating imperfect situations and contributing to client abuse of those situations.

 

Considering that this is only an hour's worth of feedback compared to what I assume is a history you have of substantial Upwork earnings, proportionally any negative feedback from this client will have little to no effect on your Job Success Score.

 

And you can leave accurate and professional feedback for this client when the project is closed, so other freelancers will know what they're in for with this clown and potential future clients for you will understand why he was a problem. No good potential future client will hold it against you for trusting such a client; you have no choice but to take such chances on Upwork and we've all dealt with this type of person in our lives.

 

Good luck!

I am kind of shocked that you arent here to belittle me and run me into the ground for not being perfect.

jeremiah-brown
Community Member

For other freelancers that may come upon this thread-

1. Client spelled out what the desired sample should be. This is written in the contract offer.  Contract was for a sample, listing certain features to be included.
2. I accepted the contract, reiterated in writing what the contract covered (a sample as discussed in client outline).
3. I submitted the sample and requested payment.
4. From here, the client can ask for certain changes or revisions.  In this case, the client pointed out features that were never agreed on to be included in the sample.  The client then asked for the entire project to be completed, so he could submit the sample to his team for review, "to see if they wanted to hire" me.
5. I politely reminded the client that all of those items take time and labor, were not part of the sample agreement, and that I would gladly have made them if they would have hired me.
6. Becuase the client is very obviously manpulating the sample contract, I chose to terminate all business with the client.  Better now than later.
7. Client has the audacity to attempt a refund for things typed out in black and white in the messaging app.
8. File dispute, contact upwork, let process work.

pgiambalvo
Community Member

Upwork should ban her.

jeremiah-brown
Community Member

Upwork is going to issue me what they call a "courtesy payment" and issue a refund to the client.  

I am grateful to receive the payment that I am rightfully owed.  However, the fact that Upwork seems to be siding with the client is very telling.  The client has the work spelled out in writing, has several photo examples of what the item should resemble, and goes on to state further detail will be added after the basic sample job is complete.

I fulfilled these obligations and then some.

Looks like the client will get away with it and go on to scam another freelancer.  I already see a new job posting where the clients name has been removed and any name/business identifiers are no longer present.    

They aren't siding with the client - you're getting your money too, right? - they just don't think it's worth having both sides go to arbitration to settle a $100 payment. 


Jeremiah B wrote:

Looks like the client will get away with it and go on to scam another freelancer.  I already see a new job posting where the clients name has been removed and any name/business identifiers are no longer present.    


I hope that you left an honest review for this client? That will make it more difficult for them to scam another freelancer.

 

It sure seems like they are siding with the client.  When it is written as "client will be issued a refund from escrow" and freelancer "will be issued a courtesy payment from Upwork" it tells me that the client sees the determination in his favor (his money refunded from escrow).  Then the freelancer is being given a pittance for speaking up.  


Jeremiah B wrote:

It sure seems like they are siding with the client.  When it is written as "client will be issued a refund from escrow" and freelancer "will be issued a courtesy payment from Upwork" it tells me that the client sees the determination in his favor (his money refunded from escrow).  Then the freelancer is being given a pittance for speaking up.  


Oh, for crying out loud. It's written that way because the money in escrow is being returned to the client and the funds disbursed to you are coming from UW. Would it make you feel better if they gave you the money from escrow and gave the client different money?

 

Yes.  Yes it would.  Very much so!

 

Because it sends the message that "we are paying the freelancer what they rightfully earned".  

 

You're being paid in full.

Take it and move on.

 

Would you rather have paid $291 to go to arbitration? (that being the only alternative)!

Sorry, I have a little more self-respect than to be a pushover.  

Going to arbitration is the biggest joke out there.  Arbitration for what?  

Client asked for an item, I provided exactly what was asked.  Client got upset because he couldn't take it for his own use to be modified and manipulated.  So, client makes a false claim that I didn't include the list of items that he, himself, admits are not included in the initial item.  So he asks for a refund on the basis that I didn't provide what he wanted.  Even though, he literally says in writing that all of those other things are to be addressed on a separate contract.

But the process is such that Upwork as the escrow agent don't make a binding decision one way or the other,

 

The outcome you had means you were paid in full. Take it and move on.

 

The only alternative (bar the client giving in) would have been paying for arbitration.


That's the way it is.

Ok, but it still sends the message to the client that they are being awarded a refund.  That the decision is to award the client a refund and reinforce the act of attempting to acquire material through baiting a freelancer to do one thing that is clearly spelled out, then switching their story and claiming all of these other things were never done and they refuse to pay.  Even though they admit those other things were requested on a separate contract after the initial request was completed.

 

They're upset that I provided screenshots instead of a source file.  


Jeremiah B wrote:

Upwork is going to issue me what they call a "courtesy payment" and issue a refund to the client.  

I am grateful to receive the payment that I am rightfully owed.  However, the fact that Upwork seems to be siding with the client is very telling.  The client has the work spelled out in writing, has several photo examples of what the item should resemble, and goes on to state further detail will be added after the basic sample job is complete.

I fulfilled these obligations and then some.

Looks like the client will get away with it and go on to scam another freelancer.  I already see a new job posting where the clients name has been removed and any name/business identifiers are no longer present.    


Didn't get the outcome I believed was fair and proper =/= Upwork sided with the client

You're free to believe whatever suits you.  

 

In case you've ever wondered why Upwork continues to have problems with scammers, it's because they consistently enable them.

deborah-ponzio
Community Member

Once a client with budget issues (that she would deny but were there) at the end of the interview required me to provide "at least 3 names of buyers as a sample" while she was interviewing several others and I set the cost at 100$ (that she regarded as $1000). She sounded outraged, I explained that it's my minimum for any commitment, nothing personal, just a work model, and then she decided to give up the "sample" idea and to proceed with a full contract. Another client convinced me to accept a 1-hour test contract, I accepted as he is a common sense, professional and nice person, he gave me a fair feedback at the end, but I remained anxious for all the time and decided that I won't accept any test contract anymore. Definitely not worth the effort. 

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Jeremiah,

 

I don’t think you should see Upwork’s solution as siding with the client.

 

It’s a business decision that Upwork hopes will keep both parties using the platform and, if this was a fixed price contract, this solution allows Upwork to avoid paying $291 for arbitration.

 

You get paid in full – for your work product, if not the time, effort and worry this client has caused you.

 

The client gets money back for the work they actually contracted for. (Free or very cheap is a very nice price to pay, but few businesses can make it a regular habit.)

 

Upwork says that the feedback from consistently difficult-to-work-with clients is not counted toward those clients’ freelancers’ Job Success Score calculations, so this client may already be among those clients who already are in or who are working their way toward that status. We’ll never know.

 

But this is the sort of situation that should be part of a client’s public profile. Without such information, we freelancers are left to having to decide whether less-than-stellar feedback from a potential client’s previous freelancers gives us pause in deciding to work with that client. I hope you have left clear feedback for this client, and responded to any inaccuracies in their feedback for you.

Thank you for the well-reasoned and thoughtful response.  

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