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Client soliciting proposals without intent to complete project

demtron
Ace Contributor

I recently sent a proposal for a job posting for received 10 proposals.  The client interviewed 9 people and closed the job without completion.  Now, the client has posted a new job with more comprehensive requirements for the same project.

 

The client did a poor job of specifying the work to be performed, and I'm sure everyone that responded had the same types of questions that I had seeking clarification and details.  So, the result was:

 

  • The client made freelancers pay money for the opportunity to discuss the project.
  • The client never intended to complete the initial project posted.  Instead, the goal was to get free scope definition from experts.
  • The client posted a new project with a more detailed scope with a higher budget, but it's obvious that it's the same application that needs updating.

I think this is deceptive.  Anyone like me who sent a proposal now feels duped and blatantly used.  Why couldn't the client negotiate and pick from the 9 freelancers they interviewed the first time instead of resubmitting a whole new project that we freelancers have to pay for to submit proposals again?

 

At minimum, I think that a) the original proposal fees should be refunded and b) the client should be penalized for gaming the system this way.

 

If clients are allowed to do this, it undermines the good faith expectations upon which the Upwork platform's success is built. 

12 REPLIES 12
11f7a755
Ace Contributor

Hi John,

 

I will let the experienced posters reply to you. But from my understanding, and as mentioned by Preston elsewhere, unless you are hired, he or she is not your client per se.  A client can conduct interviews after you send proposals utilizing your connects and may hire anyone he or she feels like, as well as submit or resubmit more postings. By 'fee',  if you mean connects, well  "Connects may be returned under the following circumstances: If a project is canceled by the client without making a hire, the Connects used on that proposal will be returned to you for reuse. This does not apply to expired job posts."

 

 


  • The client made freelancers pay money for the opportunity to discuss the project.

I don't understand what you mean by 'pay money' because a client will never charge fees to discuss a project. By fees, if you mean 'connects', well that is the price you pay.

 

 

florydev
Community Guru

There is no real way to discern the intent of a client in this scenario.  I will say that it smells like a missed oppurtunity to me and if you understood what the client wanted (in the general sense) then you should have guided them to what the next steps are.

 

I am funny, I don't like comprehensive requirements.  I want to sell the client on them paying me to get to comprehensive requirements and I find that most of the time when I do that they then are sold on me building the application for them.

 

So, my approach, which I admit might not have worked would to be to tell them how they are far from where they want to be but I can help them get there like no other.

 

Overall, my recommendation is to consider spent connects spent and not spend a moment thinking about it.  You found a project you liked you paid a 30-90 cents to take your shot at it, now walk away and go find another one.  Do that enough times you will likely find a hit.

wickedlnl
Ace Contributor

To avoid these emotions in the future, best advice you will get on Upwork is: send a proposla and forget about it no matter how good you think you fit and might be selected over the others. Theres a million reasons why clients dont respond, repost etc we cant do anything about that. 

 

Just submit a proposal and go on with your day. No need to worry yourself, just keep searching for the next client.

mtngigi
Community Guru

John D wrote:

I recently sent a proposal for a job posting for received 10 proposals.  The client interviewed 9 people and closed the job without completion.  Now, the client has posted a new job with more comprehensive requirements for the same project.

 

The client did a poor job of specifying the work to be performed, and I'm sure everyone that responded had the same types of questions that I had seeking clarification and details.  So, the result was:

 

  • The client made freelancers pay money for the opportunity to discuss the project.
  • The client never intended to complete the initial project posted.  Instead, the goal was to get free scope definition from experts.
  • The client posted a new project with a more detailed scope with a higher budget, but it's obvious that it's the same application that needs updating.

I think this is deceptive.  Anyone like me who sent a proposal now feels duped and blatantly used.  Why couldn't the client negotiate and pick from the 9 freelancers they interviewed the first time instead of resubmitting a whole new project that we freelancers have to pay for to submit proposals again?

 

At minimum, I think that a) the original proposal fees should be refunded and b) the client should be penalized for gaming the system this way.

 

If clients are allowed to do this, it undermines the good faith expectations upon which the Upwork platform's success is built. 


Everyone's advice is spot on, especially learning how to submit your bid and then moving on. If you don't, you'll make yourself crazy trying to figure out why clients do what they do.  And I'll add this: Upwork will never, ever "penalize" clients. They're a precious commodity we can't afford to punish (or lose).

Thank you to everyone who has posted advice.  It seems like I have to adjust my expectations.

 

The prospecting process here is nothing like my prior experience in the 20+ years I've been freelancing full-time.  I've acquired most of my clients through online engagement, so I have a pretty good handle on what works and why.

 

Just like everybody else, I have limited time available to send proposals.  I agree that it's important to not get stuck looking at the past and ruminating over problems.  At the same time, I need to evaulate my effectiveness to make the best use of my resources, which means I need meaningful data about my past efforts.

 

This data seem difficult to come by here.  For example:

  • DId the job poster even open my proposal? (Other platforms show this.)
  • For those jobs resulting in a hire, was the freelancer a Rising Talent, Top Rated or an Agency?  What other data may have contributed to their success in being hired?  (Other platforms like Guru.com show this.)
  • If the customer's scope definition is weak, there's no way for freelancers to publicly ask questions or seek clarification. (Other platforms offer this.)

 

Fewer than 10% of jobs to which I've sent proposals have resulted in hires.  Even jobs with descriptions stating "hiring urgency" or a "long-term opportunity for the right candidate" are never closed or never hired for.

 

I write individually-crafted proposals that ask specific clarifying questions and provide ideas and examples of how I can make the project a success.  I'm using the same presentation and consultative ingredients that have been successful in aquiring clients elsewhere.  But, I have no idea whether any of this is worthwhile without meaningful feedback.

 

I only average sending about one proposal per day and maybe see 4-5 jobs per day.  I pass up projects that seem to be low quality, seeking lowball bids or don't directly fit into my skillset.  Other freelancers may have greater opportunities to "play the numbers" by sending out tons of proposals in skills areas that have more requests.  I prefer to value quality over quantity.  But, if I have to send 200 proposals before I'm hired, that's ALOT of effort and waiting a long time for little return.

 

Ultimately, I'm asking the same question as everybody else... why is there no interest in my proposals?  Without meaningful data about what's working for other freelancers and only a trickle of quality postings, I may never get that answer.  I understand that I should be persistent, creative and patient - I wouldn't have gotten this far in freelancing without that.  Not knowing what to change and having little statistical data about successful engagements seems like a huge rabbit hole.

 

Regarding the comment about clients being a precious commodity, what does Upwork do to cultivate new clients to ensure that they get the best experience out of their freelancer search?  From my perspective, if 90+% of what I deem high quality projects are resulting in no hires, that seems to indicate that clients' expectations aren't getting met, either.

 

I admit that my suggestion to penalize the client was strong.  In the case of the job posting I mentioned, it seemed like the client was using the platform in an inappropriate way.  The client laid out a project with poor scope definition, interviewed 10 freelancers to get a bunch of ideas, then reposted the project with much better scope to make 10 direct invitations to other freelancers.  What was wrong with the original group of candidates?  If they gave such great ideas and clarification, surely at least one in that group was worthy of being hired!

 

The client has no skin in the game.  This instance seems like the old game wherein a client gets a great proposal containing precise specs then shops those specs around to other bidders.  What does Upwork do to prevent that?

 

I apologize if this seems like a rant.  I'm trying to understand how to make this platform work to create great client relationships.  So far, my experience has been poor.

I don't personally spend a lot of time crafting a proposal.  I would guess that I at most spend about 10 minutes.  When I am looking for work I typically sift through my feed which I have tailored down by having several queries.  For example, I have one query that takes what is the category search and then neg-terms things I don't  do, like wordpress.  

 

So then I sift through that and I thumbs down probably 99% of what I see.  I just say not interested, I don't know if that feedback ever gets to anyone.  I have specific things I am looking for and like you most jobs are not my thing.

 

When I see something I like I will save it.  If it is something I really think is a good fit I will probably propose immediately but mostly I go back and look at them towards the end of the day and then re-read them and probably at least half of those I remove without proposing.  Then I go through one by one and think what do I want to say to this person.

 

I typically jump straight to the point, I never introduce myself, and start answering their problem.  I typically say something that I think is clever in the first two lines that will make them want to read the rest of my proposal.  Mostly what I am trying to communicate is I understand their problem and have dealt with something like it before and we need to talk to flesh it out.  I usually only have a couple of paragraphs at most.  My personal belief is the longer your "proposal" (which is at best a cover letter), the less likely the client is to read it.

 

I know thing you might think of as a problem is that on fixed priced projects you have to put a number and without detailed requirements how can you put that number.  That is not something I concern myself with as I just put a number sufficently high to scare away anyone who is not serious.  A good, understanding client will realize the number will shift based on their details and hopefully a cheap one will run away.  

 

When I fish I don't chum.  I have a specific bait for a specific type of fish I am going to catch.  A;most all of the fish who come up to my bait are not interested and they don't even give it a nibble.  This is good because nibbles are a waste of my time.  I want someone who decides to talk to me to come with a very serious mindset.

 

I understand why you want the things you want but I can't see what good it would do me.  I don't want other freelancers asking a bunch of bad questions and if there are good questions I want them to come up with them on their own.  I also don't care if they hired someone else because they didn't hire me. I don't want to know why, I can assume I just didn't jell and, as I said, that is just perfect with me.  Same with if they ever saw my proposal, they did and did nothing with it, I can assume the same thing without knowing they looked at it.

 

What I think is concerning is you are pitching out into the darkness and don't know if anyone is every going to catch and that part is the suck.  I can't tell you that answer.  I can say right now is a pretty chaotic time and there are a TON of new people here.  I can also tell you in my general experience most of them are not that great at this.  Most people who are, just keep sending out the bait and wait for a catch.



John D wrote:

 

I apologize if this seems like a rant.  I'm trying to understand how to make this platform work to create great client relationships.  So far, my experience has been poor.


You're free to rant, obviously, but what it really boils down to is: You win some, you lose some. It sounds like you're doing all the right things, so I'm sure that it'll eventually pay off.

 

This forum is filled with freelancers complaining that Upwork should "make" clients do this or "force" them to do that or "punish" them for whatever, but giving clients any extra hoops to jump through and/or extra fees to pay would simply result in fewer clients. I'd rather waste the occasional 30-90 cents and have access to more clients, than keep my pennies and have access to fewer clients. But if you want to work on a website where freelancers are carefully vetted and clients pay to post projects, then go for it (they do exist - but they have fewer jobs available and it's not necessarily any easier to get hired).

 

tlbp
Community Guru

John D wrote:

Thank you to everyone who has posted advice.  It seems like I have to adjust my expectations.

 

The prospecting process here is nothing like my prior experience in the 20+ years I've been freelancing full-time.  I've acquired most of my clients through online engagement, so I have a pretty good handle on what works and why.

 

Just like everybody else, I have limited time available to send proposals.  I agree that it's important to not get stuck looking at the past and ruminating over problems.  At the same time, I need to evaulate my effectiveness to make the best use of my resources, which means I need meaningful data about my past efforts.

 

This data seem difficult to come by here.  For example:

  • DId the job poster even open my proposal? (Other platforms show this.)
  • For those jobs resulting in a hire, was the freelancer a Rising Talent, Top Rated or an Agency?  What other data may have contributed to their success in being hired?  (Other platforms like Guru.com show this.)
  • If the customer's scope definition is weak, there's no way for freelancers to publicly ask questions or seek clarification. (Other platforms offer this.)

 

Here on Upwork, with limited exceptions, clients do not pay to post a gig nor do they have an obligation to hire. Every freelancer must use connects to send a proposal to a client unless they are responding to a client or Upwork talent invitation. You pay to play so that you have skin in the game.  

 

Also, you'll be reviewed by each client and receive a score based on their public and private rating of your performance. If you end a contract without receiving payment, your rating will decline. Your client suffers no penalty for ending a contract without paying you (unless they've been suspended by Upwork.) So, be careful whom you work for and what you spend your connects bidding on.  

 

 

tlsanders
Community Guru

I think the conclusion you've drawn is very strange. 

 

Why would you assume that a client who posted a job description that was insufficient, learned in the process of speaking with applicants that he/she hadn't provided enough specifics to draw appropriate candidates and tried again was "gaming the system" or had no intention of hiring? 

 

If one of those 9 people had impressed the client as a great candidate for the job, then presumably he/she would have gone ahead with one of them. That obviously didn't happen. I'm sure the client wasn't thrilled to have to start from scratch, either. But, the bottom line is that if the client had found the right freelancer in round one, the process would have ended there.

I suspect that there are clients who go on fishing expeditions to gain free advice, just like there are employers who interview people to get free ideas. If OP suspects that happens here frequently, then the solution is to not give free advice. Ask questions, assure the client of your expertise, and then invite them to send an offer. 

Armed with a better scope definition obtained through their initial request, that client now can re-post the and shop the job around to attract the invited candidates that didn't respond the first time because of the poor initial specs.  I understand that perhaps the client didn't realize that their initial specs were lacking.  It seems suspicious that 9 out of 15 candidates were interviewed (compared to ratio that I see on other jobs) with none chosen.

 

Somehow, they came up with better technical specs for their project.  I really doubt that came about without a lot of assistance from the community of initial bidders that are now not awarded with the job.

tlbp
Community Guru

John D wrote:

Armed with a better scope definition obtained through their initial request, that client now can re-post the and shop the job around to attract the invited candidates that didn't respond the first time because of the poor initial specs.  I understand that perhaps the client didn't realize that their initial specs were lacking.  It seems suspicious that 9 out of 15 candidates were interviewed (compared to ratio that I see on other jobs) with none chosen.

 

Somehow, they came up with better technical specs for their project.  I really doubt that came about without a lot of assistance from the community of initial bidders that are now not awarded with the job.


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