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hiram-kamau
Community Member

Client demanding changes after approving milestone

I have been experiencing issues with one of my clients where he has been continually changing requirements after he approved the milestone for that work yesterday (April 30, 2023).

 

Despite my best efforts to accommodate the client's requests even after the conclusion of the milestone I am finding it challenging to handle him because he's continually sneaking in extra requirements.

 

I would appreciate some guidance on how to handle this situation.

 

Additionally, the client is continually threatening to ask for a refund for the paid milestone. I would like to know if there is any recourse available to me to ensure that I am compensated for the additional work I have had to put in due to the client's changing requirements.

 

PS: The contract is still open so I'm trying my best to accomodate him so that he doesn't ultimately leave a bad review

ACCEPTED SOLUTION

re: "What should I do? How should I respond to the refund request?"

 

Always be polite.

 

But of course you should not give the client a refund.

 

This client's behavior is unprofessional, unethical and immoral.

View solution in original post

20 REPLIES 20
iwan-spillebeen
Community Member

If the client approved the milestone then there is no situation to request for a refund, approved is approved.

 

I usually offer clients free alterations to work produced but I also clearly specific that this doesn't include any new requirements or changes in requirements, just updates to the work produced; communicate this well up front to avoid issues later.

 

Having said that, this sounds like a bad client all around, I would simply stop the contract with them.  Take the bad review if needed, and leave an honest review with them, doing extra work for free is unethical to request and no guarantee that you will receive a good review.  Don't let a client hold you hostage for a review, simply deliver the best possible work you can in line with the agreed milestones (which I'm assuming you've already done).  Unless he starts a new milestone for revisions and new requirements, he is breaking UpWorks ToS.

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Hiram,

 

On future projects be sure to clearly define in writing for a new client what you will and will not provide to them. For too many clients, the scope of a project will creep to include potentially significant free work.

Very good advice from Will.

 

But also, you don't have to be a hostage to a client on ANY fixed-price contract. Even if you were not as thorough in your task description this last time. You do not need to wait for future contracts in order to NOT work for free.

 

Freelancers do not owe ANY client "revisions."

 

If you completed a task, then the client needs to release payment. It does not matter whether or not the written task description states you will not do revisions.

 

The client does not have a right to ask you to do anything beyond what was written in the task description. And it is the freelancer, not the client, who decides when the task is complete.

prestonhunter
Community Member

No.

Aabsolutely not.

 

Clients can not request changes or additional work outside of what was written in the original task description. To do so is asking for free work, which is a violation of Upwork TOS.

 

It is YOUR responsibility as the freelancer to NOT ALLOW THIS.

 

The very first time a client asks for something out of scope, you should STOP working on the project. Tell the client that he may RELEASE all money on escrow, and close the current contract, and create a new hourly contract, and THEN you will continue working on the project.

25005175
Community Member

Hiram, I had to deal with a terrible client who wanted a >$3000 complex physical prototype for free. He asked me to do things that were far beyond the scope of what I was capable of - and he knew it, because he didn't want to pay to develop the firmware that he should have started developing months prior. Ultimately, I had to go to arbitration (and won).

 

Ultimately, the entire episode was good, because I developed several skills and dramatically increased my knowledge base, even though the experience was painful - and I got the money in the end. One of the largest take-aways was the understanding that unscrupulous clients will NOT get better over time. Your best bet, especially for small value contracts, is to cut your losses and terminate the contract. If the Client requests a refund, dispute it and front the money to Upwork's mediator for arbitration. If the cost of arbitration is greater than what they already paid, no penny-pincher is going to agree to arbitration and will forfeit the dispute.

 

Expect a hit to your JSS - mine dropped 25 points to 70 from a contract that was at the time over 1/3 of my total earnings. That was October 2022. It was difficult to procure new work, but as the months passed, the effect on my JSS reduced. My JSS fully recovered over a month ago.

Jonathan, what was the sequence of events (after you received a refund request, I assume) for you and your client to get to arbitration?

That is all outlined - in detail - in the Terms of Service. The process was "by the book". Although I had to formally request arbitration twice, since the mediator seemingly ignored the first request.

hiram-kamau
Community Member

Today (May 2, 2023) the client actually asked for a refund after I pointed out that the multiple requirements he is introducing should be incorporated in a new milestone and not as free revisions to an already approved milestone.  What should I do? How should I respond to the refund request?

re: "What should I do? How should I respond to the refund request?"

 

Always be polite.

 

But of course you should not give the client a refund.

 

This client's behavior is unprofessional, unethical and immoral.

Did you receive a refund request notification through Upwork (not the Chat Room)?

Yes, through Upwork. It wasn't a chat message.

Reject the request. Be polite to the Upwork mediator. Remember that the mediator cannot make a binding decision on Fixed Price disputes. Don't spend time on presenting evidence and arguments to the mediator, because the effort will be wasted. Consider bluffing your Client by requesting arbitration and posting the arbitration fee. If the money is substantial enough to you that the costs of arbitration are worth it, then pursue arbitration if the Client doesn't fold under the pressure.

 

No matter what you choose, I strongly advise that you familiarize yourself with the details of the Fixed Price dispute process.


Hiram K wrote:

Today (May 2, 2023) the client actually asked for a refund after I pointed out that the multiple requirements he is introducing should be incorporated in a new milestone and not as free revisions to an already approved milestone.  What should I do? How should I respond to the refund request?


That's bully behavior as they know you are intimidated with a potential bad review. Don't forget you can also 1) leave a bad review about them, 2) provide reasoning and arguments behind your bad review both publicly and privately and 3) report the client to UW for bully and blackmailing behavior. Too many clients get away with threats and using the review system to keep a freelancer hostage.

 

I personally would stop working with them. Once a review is due, I would be completely honest (using arguments and facts) in my review about them. Whatever they write about you, there will be your review to counteract that. It's usually easy to neutral audience to see who did what in this case, and it's especially easy for UW, as they have access to all transcripts. What are they going to write in their reivew? "The freelancer refused to make endless free amendments".

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Be polite, but firm. No refund for work completed as agreed. 

 

Mo work must equal mo money.

It is unfortunate to hear that any client is doing something like this.

 

Partially at fault is the Upwork user interface, which presents buttons for clients to use to ask for refunds.

 

My suggestion is that these buttons be removed, or reduced in prominence. And Upwork's messaging surrounding these buttons should be changed to emphasize to help clients know that they should not be asking for refunds. (Except in extremely rare circumstances.)

 

Refund thinking hurts clients.

 

When clients think that they can get a refund if everything doesn't go their way, it undermines the client's ability to succeed in achieving his goals. Clients save time and money if they don't send money to freelancers and then ask for that money back, but instead monitor each freelancer's work (especially early on), and then STOP sending money to a freelancer if they don't love the freelancer's work.

 

If a client doesn't want a freelancer to continue working on the project, just fire the freelancer.

 

When clients send money to a freelancer and then ask for a refund, it usually does NOT work out for the client. It's just a big waste of everybody's time

True: that needs clarification - it sounds draconian

Under Upwork's rules, a freelancer should only issue a refund to a client through Upwork's system. So, no proof of payment is required because Upwork has processed the refund itself.

hiram-kamau
Community Member

UPDATE:

 

The case eventually moved to the dispute stage. Here, the client became frustrated with the entire proceedings and he displayed his true intentions to the third party (the mediator).

 

All his bad behaviors came out in full force:

- Threats

- Bullying

- Verbal aggression

- Attempts to bribe the mediator

- Conceit (e.g., insisting that the arbitration fee should be waived for him and I should be the one bearing the entire cost of the process)

- Unprofessional-ism (e.g., claiming that we don't know who we're dealing with and that he could inflict further damage to all involved parties using other undefined methods)

 

Ultimately, the client refused to proceed to arbitration. Yet I was ready to see out the entire process.

 

Take aways:

(1) Supply your best work.

(2) Charge sensible rates (don't undercharge for instance - it will come to bite you back - and, in a bad way)

(3) Never get emotional. A professional tone helps in more ways than you may realize.

(4) Document everything. Fashion your messages to the client so that they illustrate clearly what has been delivered at what time.

(5) Choose your clients very carefully. Be extremely careful.

(6) Take your time before clicking that 'Accept Offer' button. Let your mind relax. Take some time before you accept the offer so that you're fully convinced that the contract you want to start will be beneficial to you in the long run.

 

PS: I have an outstanding matter to handle: closing that unfortunate contract. Whereas the client went mute after the dispute didn't go as he planned, there's the issue of feedback. This would be his final chance to broadcast his tantrums to the entire platform. I'm feeling wary of engaging him again at the moment, you know?

Hiram: Thank you so much for returning and sharing the rest of the story!

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Well done, Hiram!

 

Upwork should not allow such a client to leave feedback after their experience with third-party arbitration utterly failed. At the very least Upwork should not allow such a client's public or private feedback to impact a freelancer's public profile or JSS score. Whether or not this is the case only Upwork knows for sure.

 

Nevertheless, please leave factual feedback for him so other freelancers will be warned off working with such a clown. Upwork provides no useful information that future potential freelancers can see, other than your feedback. (It would be nice to know each client's history of refunds requested, mediations required, arbitration, etc., but Upwork is afraid to make that information public.)

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