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Client suddenly ending contract and asking for a refund

Hello everyone, Hope you are fine and healthy.


So I have been working with a client on Upwork, writing a video game script for him. He asked me to write 20 levels for the game. The deadline on the Upwork contract was for 1st september 2022, but before accepting the contract, He messaged me saying that the deadline he set was nothing serious, He said he isn't in a rush and asked me to take my time. I have been writing levels one by one for him, He seemed to like the first ones very much. I've edited the ones he asked me to. Although he was a little bit inactive, and sometimes It took him WEEKS to reply. Yesterday, and without any notice nor warnings, He ended the contract asked for a refund for the job after I've written 6 levels for him. I've spent a lot of effort and time into writing the script and now I find myself between, either refunding him the money and get nothing in despite of the work I've done, or I can file a dispute but then  very probably risk a negative outcome that'll affect my profile. 


So I am here asking for advice, What do you think is the best thing I might do for now?


P.S: I did contact him asking if anything is wrong and that I would love to find a mutual solution but He is inactive, and I only have 2 other days for the refund to be automatically issued by Upwork.


Thanks in advance!

Community Member

re: "Client suddenly ending contract and asking for a refund"


It does not matter if a client suddenly ends a contract.

Clients are allowed to end a contract at any time.

Clients do not need to notify a freelancer before they end a contract.

That's fine.


But a refund?


My opinion:

Clients should not be asking freelancers for refunds.

The purpose of a refund is for a FREELANCER to be able to refund money to a client if a fixed-price milestone has been funded but a freelancer ends up unable to do the task due to illness, injury, scheduling conflict, or other reason.


re: "So I am here asking for advice, What do you think is the best thing I might do for now?"


Don't give the client a refund.

The client is behaving in an unprofessional, unethical, immoral manner.

YOU should be polite. But that doesn't mean you should give the client a refund.


You don't even need to tell him that you aren't giving him a refund.

Him asking for a refund is a ridiculous request. Such a request does not really justify a conversation.

YOU need to respond to every question sent by Upwork.

You need to respond "no" if Upwork asks you if you want to issue a refund.


Keep in mind that the more time that passes, the less chance the client will have of getting any help from Upwork to take your money. So time is on your side. But when it comes to responding to Upwork or to any official form or queston, you want to respond promptly.


Was this an hourly or fixed-price contract?

Hello, Preston!

Thanks for your very valuable reply.


It is a pretty long fixed-price project. And according to the contract of the client, It was supposed to be paid when the job is finished. But as I stated, He just ended it mid-way asking for a refund, No warnings, Nothing. Straight out of the blue.

re: "It is a pretty long fixed-price project."


Don't do that.


Fixed-price contracts should be comprised of milestones that take no more than a day to complete. Or use an hourly contract.

Community Member

You absolutely should NOT give the client a refund, especially if they've provided no explanation why they think a refund is warranted.  If the client has been pretty much satisfied with your work so far, with you doing requested revisions when the client decided to be 'available', then there is no reason for the person to suddenly decide they deserve a 'refund'. 


This sounds like a situation where a client found themselves running low on money or in a financial "jam" and decided to close the contract and try to get money 'refunded' wherever they can, whether a refund is warranted or not.


If you already gave/showed him the code/script for the levels completed so far, then he already 'owns' them according to Upwork's rules.  He should not be allowed to 'own' your work AND not pay for it at the same time.


Truth be told, it's possible you may get a negative review regardless what you do, so there's no point in refunding hard earned money.


My advice: Keep your money and let the chips fall where they may.  If the client is acting this hostile, it's quite possible he would still leave negative feedback even if you did refund him.


Other advice: You should definitely AVOID "long term" fixed price contracts for these exact reasons in the future - and definitely avoid ones that don't have multiple milestones where you get paid PERIODICALLY.  Never do 'long term' fixed price projects where you get paid in one 'lump sum' at the end of the project because if the client simply 'disappears', you may never be able to complete the work and get paid. 


If a client simply 'disappears' randomly and then re-emerges it can easily halt progress on a project while you're awaiting feedback, and a project that could be wrapped up in weeks ends up dragging on for months/years.  Hourly contracts, on the other hand, have a way of encouraging clients to remain engaged, since they are invoiced weekly. Next time, insist on HOURLY only for that type of work because you have no idea how many 'revisions' might be needed with that type of work. Fixed price, too often, turns out to be a rip off for the freelancer with it basically taking 'forever' for the freelancer to get paid as the client simply allows the project to drag on and on when they keep 'disappearing'.  Fixed price is not a good structure (for the freelancer) for long term programming/scripting jobs/projects

Thanks for your reply CJ!

I did indeed realize ( although a bit late ) that It was a wrong move from me to accept a fixed-price for a pretty time-consuming project. I think it's a lesson for another day though. 


And yeah, I'll surely go with the dispute now. Thanks once again, both of you and Preston. Much appreciated.

Community Member

At the very least, you could have set each level as its own milestone. Then you would have received a quarter of the pay before the Client decided that they need their money out of escrow and in their wallet. And it would have been easier on the Client, financially, because they only need to fund one milestone at a time.

Community Member

I did set each five levels as a milestone, but the client himself edited the contract to make it a one-time payment. So I just accepted. 

Community Member

Yasser B wrote:

I did set each five levels as a milestone, but the client himself edited the contract to make it a one-time payment. So I just accepted. 

I hope you realize that you should not have done that.

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