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samuelwharvey
Community Member

Clients can successfully chargeback work periods

Clients can charge back work periods when the Freelancer is working on certain tasks that are key to the task. 

 

I frequently work -

1) developing mobile applications 

2) working with connected devices

 

When developing these I will be doing tasks like -

1) testing the mobile app on the phone

2) downloading/interacting with competitor/reference apps

3) interacting with the device - watch, fitness tracker etc.

 

Few keystrokes will be input in these periods and the Client can claim back thes periods for low activity. 

 

This leaves myself very exposed. A Client clyde charge back a large percentage of my week. 

 

I have spoken to Support on this but they are not interested in escalating this through and allowing an open direct conversation to resolve this issue so it does not continue.

55 REPLIES 55
prestonhunter
Community Member

I can assure you that this is not a matter for Upwork Customer Support. You should not ask them about this.

 

If you have questions about how Upwork Payment Protection works, you may ask your questions here.

 

If you would like to advocate for changes to these rules, you may do so here, in the Forum.

 

If you do work that doesn't qualify for Payment Protection, then you are correct in realizing that you are exposed.

 

But I suspect that the quality of the work you provide to clients is so high that the clients who hire you will not risk losing your good favor by disputing your work hours.

samuelwharvey
Community Member

The quality of my work is stellar. 

It's an open hole in the system which leaves Freelancers exposed. It's happened to me once now over a small amount but it's clear it could happen for a larger amount. 

 

This problem appears to have been baked into the system for years. 

The Freelancers are solid in their field. We know how to come up with solutions. 

Skype/Zoom calls etc fall foul of the keystroke problem. Why not have a tickbox that says video call. If the screenshot matches you are Upwork protected. 

It is not acceptable for the freelancer to be left exposed by any holes in the system. 

jeremiah-brown
Community Member

I agree, I am in the same situation.  I typically make an entry for everything that I do - for example, I will write something like  "off-screen work, prepare 3D printer for print", then " off-screen work, starting 3D print", and "off-screen work, assemble prototype device", and so on.  That way there is an entry denoting that off-screen work is being performed and it correlates to the drop in key strokes and mouse clicks.  This is about the best I could come up with.  I would like to see this addressed as well, since a large amount of my work deals with prototyping, testing, and adjusting inventions and products. 

tagrendy
Community Member

There are plenty of work types that is not trackable by the timetracker, for those fixed projects are more dependable than hourly.

If Upwork host jobs which have off screen time there should be a solution. Either that or they stop hosting such work. They will not stop hosting work such as mobile development as it's a large part of their business. As such onus is on Upwork to provide a solution. 


Samuel H wrote:

 As such onus is on Upwork to provide a solution. 


They ARE providing a solution: It's called "fixed rate contract".

Fixed rate contract provides no Upwork Protection. 

There are solutions that are relatively trivial a checkbox that confirms the contract will incur significant periods working with a mobile, device etc. 


Samuel H wrote:

Fixed rate contract provides no Upwork Protection. 

There are solutions that are relatively trivial a checkbox that confirms the contract will incur significant periods working with a mobile, device etc. 


The problem is that even if a client agrees to pay for an unspecified amount of untracked time (which is already the case by default when they don't disable manual time), Upwork can't force them to pay. Payment protection is offered by Upwork - not your client - and THEY require you to properly track your hours.

 

You're only looking at this from your own perspective as an honest and professional freelancer, but unfortunately there are plenty of unscrupulous freelancers who try to take advantage of clients (and of Upwork). I did an hourly project last week and properly tracked my time, but if I wasn't an honest person, what's to stop me from adding another 10 hours of manual time? Or 20 hours, or 30 hours? Should clients have no recourse to dispute this, and just be forced to pay? Should Upwork have to pay me even though I can offer no proof of how much time I spent? I don't think so.

 

If a project isn't suitable for using the time tracker, then it would be better to use fixed price contracts. There isn't the same degree of protection as with properly tracked hourly contracts, but it's better protection than using manual time.

 

I'd welcome a tracker that works on other devices, but I don't agree with 'either that or they stop hosting such work'. Majority of clients I worked with were trustworthy, there is no point in barring freelancers from working based on trust. Upwork protection is nice, but it shouldn't be requirement to be able to work.


Samuel H wrote:

If Upwork host jobs which have off screen time there should be a solution. Either that or they stop hosting such work. They will not stop hosting work such as mobile development as it's a large part of their business. As such onus is on Upwork to provide a solution. 


Simulator, emulator, phone casting/mirroring?

 

I respectfully disagree with this.  One of the jobs that I perform on a regular basis is design and prototyping.  I work with clients to take their ideas and bring them to life.  I have to be on the hourly tracker to be profitable.

 

Fixed rate jobs are horribly notorious for underpaying the freelancer (at least in my experience).  I understand it too - everybody wants the world, they just don't want to pay for it.  

Most of my work requires several hours on the computer, which is all tracked.  Then when it comes to the 10/15/20 minute blocks where I need to work off screen, I simply leave the tracker run and make detailed notes and notations that I am working off screen.  

As you mentioned, most of your work is trackable. For the rest of the work using the tracker the way you do is not in compliance with hourly protection, meaning - you are relying on the client to not dispute them. That risk can be acceptable when only part of your work can be disputed, but when none of the work can be tracked, which was more of what I was thinking about when writing the comment, fixed projects provide more protection. Making sure you get paid well for the work you do might be more challenging for fixed projects - agreed, but navigating that with protection is better than hoping the client won't dispute the offline tracked work ( again, for work that cannot be tracked at all ).


Jeremiah B wrote:

 

Fixed rate jobs are horribly notorious for underpaying the freelancer (at least in my experience).  I understand it too - everybody wants the world, they just don't want to pay for it.  

Fixed rates for jobs are not carved in stone and carried down from the mountain.

  • If a client can't afford my estimate for a fixed rate job, they can't afford me. Next. 
  • If I underestimate the true cost of a fixed rate job, I may eat it, and I'll also know to not do that next time.
fkupwork
Community Member

I understand your pain point. But the lesson to learn is: It's up to me what kind of clients I want to work with. What I have learned in the past 5 years is that it's more about learning whom to say no to.

I'm paying dire consequences of saying yes to every offer that comes my way.

 

I would respectfully disagree that there is a loophole in the system. Although there are areas of improvement, I find none but myself responsible for the situation that arose. 

I'm trying to fix it and find ways to overcome this. This will make me stronger. 

Sahan (Unofficial Nickname)
wlyonsatl
Community Member

Samuel,

 

This problem for hourly projects that do not require any significant amount of keyboard or mouse usage is a difficult one. I have previously suggested a solution that would be useful to clients, freelancers and Upwork itself - use a new payment protection mechanism that involves a client using a non-reversible method of payment (such as a bank wire transfer) to create a true escrow at Upwork, from which Upwork could make payments based on TimeTracker's entries (or for fixed rate projects).

 

It would be very difficult for a client, fraudulent and dishonest or not, to reverse payment under such an arrangement, so neither Upwork nor the freelancer would be at such significant risk of chargebacks or other client claims escrowed funds have been improperly obtained.

 

Due to its extra cost and additional action required by the client, this would likely not be a practical solution for some projects (especially small ones). But Upwork's reduction in chargeback and other payment dispute losses would help its own bottom-line profits.

 

And I have yet to hear any good reason TimeTracker is not integrated with the Upwork Zoom app to use the call time already tracked by Upwork as billable time without keyboard clicks and mouse usage. Only Upwork knows how much lost revenue it and freelancers incur by letting clients dispute hours billed while freelancers are in conversations wth their clients.


Will L wrote:

Only Upwork knows how much lost revenue it and freelancers incur by letting clients dispute hours billed while freelancers are in conversations wth their clients.


I don't think it's a matter of "letting" clients dispute hours; it's a case of Upwork trying to charge the client's credit card, but the payment doesn't go through. And if you want Upwork to cover your payments when your clients default, they are the ones who require proof that you're working. If they're paying us out of their own pockets, I don't think it's unreasonable for them to require some form of screen capture that shows work being done, and it's not possible to do this when two people are talking. My solution has always been to type notes during calls. It's not that difficult, and even has added benefits in that clients appreciate being sent a written summary of the discussion, and I have a record of everything we agreed to.

 


Will L wrote:

I have previously suggested a solution that would be useful to clients, freelancers and Upwork itself - use a new payment protection mechanism that involves a client using a non-reversible method of payment (such as a bank wire transfer) to create a true escrow at Upwork, from which Upwork could make payments based on TimeTracker's entries (or for fixed rate projects).


How would this be different from the existing fixed price contract model already in place? And foreign wire transfers cost more money and take longer to clear than using credit cards, so this wouldn't be a solution for anyone other than American clients and freelancers. (And couldn't a wire transfer also be reversed, in cases of fraud or one's bank account being hacked, for example?)

 

 

Christine,

 

It should be clear from my comments that I was referring to time already tracked by Upwork when Upwork Zoom calls take place. These shouldn't require keyboard or mouse use and this should have nothing to do with the freelancer counting this time as manual hours. Upwork already tracks the time. on these calls.

 

And I clearly said replacing payments on certain projects from credit card payments to more reliable, less subject to dispute other payment methods would only be useful on certain projects. This would be very different in terms of the client's ability to contest whether they actually legitimately provided the original funding or someone stole their credit card and misused it to pay for work done on Upwork.

Will,

 

Your comments were perfectly clear and I had no trouble understanding them. You shouldn't confuse a difference of opinion with a lack of intelligence.

 

Any comment on my workaround for enabling payment protection by taking notes? Since the system is what it is, why not implement simple solutions that are within your own control?

What I am saying, Christine, is that Upwork is already tracking the time I spend on Upwork using the Upwork Zoom app to talk to a client. I know this because that time, down to the second, is recorded in the project's message board after the call is over.

 

No call time = no time tracked.

 

In my opinion, it is redundant for me to have to use my keyboard and mouse during such a call, since I can't fake the time spent on a call. It is also my opinion that it is easier for a freelancer to fake time tracked using mouse and keyboard than it is using the duration of a call on which the freelancer is, by definition, working directly with the client. 

 

Is it your opinion that time automatically tracked by Upwork on the Upwork Zoom app is less reliable or less accurate than time tracked by Time Tracker reflecting mouse and keyboard usage?


Will L wrote:

Is it your opinion that time automatically tracked by Upwork on the Upwork Zoom app is less reliable or less accurate than time tracked by Time Tracker reflecting mouse and keyboard usage?


Yes, it is my opinion. We know for a fact that freelancers post fake projects to give themselves and their buddies fake reviews and/or free connects. Take it one step further - they could call each other, shoot the breeze for an hour, and collect money from Upwork. It's a lot easier to fake a consultation or a conversation than actual work.

It is interesting that you think there are not already fraudsters who try to set up hourly projects on Upwork and misuse TimeTracker with just enough mouse and keyboard activity to think they can get Upwork to honor hourly payment protection to cover the cost when the "client" fraudster turns out not to pay for the time tracked.

 

TimeTracker stops tracking when there is not activity for a certain amount of time. I expect the Upwork Zoom app does the same, but it's not something I'd spend time testing. Perhaps you'd like to do that and let us know what you find.

 

In my opinion, and it is just an opinion, that is already a problem Upwork, unfortunately, has to deal with. I hope they are close to being 100% successful in fighting such fraud, but that would be difficult.

 

Now, I'm going to leave you to your musings. Have a nice day.

Thank you for allowing me to continue my musings. Yes, I expect that some people do try to milk the time tracker (although they would have to do at least six bars' worth of activity and show progress in their screen caps, so it's not as easy as just having a chat), but I don't see how it will help Upwork's bottom line by making easier to similarly commit fraud in Zoom meetings.

 


Will L wrote:

TimeTracker stops tracking when there is not activity for a certain amount of time. I expect the Upwork Zoom app does the same, but it's not something I'd spend time testing. Perhaps you'd like to do that and let us know what your find.


Nah, I'm good - like I said, I take notes, so there's no incentive to solve a problem that I don't have.

 

You are definitely proposing an improvement of the existing system.

But the Era of Web 2.0 is over. The current generation and next generations will improve upon common empathy. To me, common empathy is Shared truths that create value.


I see leading companies and startups are thinking about Employee Wellbeing pretty seriously. They know it as a fact that they will get more value and better output when their employee is motivated. These next-generation clients will yield higher LTV for both UpWork and the Freelancers. 

There are plenty of educational resources out there that UpWork has created. I will do my best to educate these clients* because ultimately it will help them scale faster too. 

The problem that I identified here is that I as a Freelancer is collaborating with the wrong client which leads to this scenario. It's amazing that you complete a $27K project with a 5-star review and end up getting a 3 or 4 star on a couple of hundred dollars project to end up in a stats like less than 50% client satisfaction!

But the truth is I chose the wrong collaborations multiple times. It was destined when I made that decision.

What I'm trying to stress here is that if there is mistrust and shady intention of exploiting one another, no matter what measures we take, the end result is zero. In an ideal match, you and your client would like to use UpWork Team App to make invoice automation easier. Both parties will focus on getting things done instead of focusing on measuring how much time has gone by. 

Sahan (Unofficial Nickname)

ISMH, I really appreciate your call to personal accountability in vetting clients and understanding the risks we take on. Of course it's unfair and, honestly, a theft, when a client does a chargeback or refuses to pay for agreed upon work (and especially when there are messages proving how satisfied they were with it), but we cannot control the actions of other people, and sometimes life/work is unfair. All we can do is be careful about estimating our own risk and careful about selecting clients. You are very right on that count.


I S M H wrote:

In an ideal match, you and your client would like to use UpWork Team App to make invoice automation easier. Both parties will focus on getting things done instead of focusing on measuring how much time has gone by. 


So again, you can use a fixed price contract if you and your client want to focus on a specific deliverable and not on how much time is spent, and it doesn't make invoicing more difficult. Using the time tracker properly for hourly payments is required by Upwork for payment protection; if it's not important to you or your client, you don't have to use it.

 

Bottom line: If you want payment protection, use the tracker; if you don't want to use the tracker, then accept the risk. Pick one.

 


I S M H wrote:

There are plenty of educational resources out there that UpWork has created. I will do my best to educate these employees because ultimately it will help them scale faster too. 


What employees are you talking about?

Clients* (Edited)

And I was trying to stress that collaborating with the right type of client matters. Even if I get paid due to UpWork Payment Protection and a client reports it to UpWork, loses the case, and leaves a bad review, ultimately it's a poor experience for the freelancer even after getting that payment.

Manual intervention and qualitative assessment won't be a bad idea there.  

Sahan (Unofficial Nickname)

I S M H,

 

It will be small consolation to you, but Upwork weights feedback in calculating your Job Success Score according to the total value of each closed project.

 

So, feedbackon a $200 project will have little effect on your JSS compared to feedback on a $27,000 project. And don't avoid leaving feedback on the $200 project's clueless or dishonest client. Just make your response concise and professional.

 

Under the current procedures on Upwork, there's not much else you can do. But your honest feedback should allow future potential freelancers for that clienty to understand what they're getting themselves into.

fkupwork_3-1644428698588.pngfkupwork_4-1644428766660.pngfkupwork_5-1644428822751.png


Now, my most successful projects are more than 2 years old. Thus it isn't getting counted. Is it my fault? I also believe that receiving no feedback also hampers the JSS because I have a written statement from customer support who told me that.

I do not want to complain, sharing my point of view. 

Sahan (Unofficial Nickname)


I S M H wrote:
I also believe that receiving no feedback also hampers the JSS because I have a written statement from customer support who told me that.

No, it doesn't. The problem is that you've received poor feedback on at least three contracts within your calculation window (and that's just the public feedback, when it's actually private feedback that matters) and two of these were large contracts, not smaller ones as you stated earlier.

petra_r
Community Member


I S M H wrote:  I also believe that receiving no feedback also hampers the JSS 

It categorically doesn't. It used to if you had an absolutely insanely high percentage of such contracts, but it no longer does and hasn't since 2020. 


Will L wrote:

 

And I have yet to hear any good reason TimeTracker is not integrated with the Upwork Zoom app to use the call time already tracked by Upwork as billable time without keyboard clicks and mouse usage. Only Upwork knows how much lost revenue it and freelancers incur by letting clients dispute hours billed while freelancers are in conversations wth their clients.


Here's a possible reason: it would create opportunity for cheaters to set up bogus contracts, clock time on Zoom calls, refuse to pay and then "client" and "FL" split the proceeds when UW covers the tab. 

 


Will L wrote:

Samuel,

 

This problem for hourly projects that do not require any significant amount of keyboard or mouse usage is a difficult one. I have previously suggested a solution that would be useful to clients, freelancers and Upwork itself - use a new payment protection mechanism that involves a client using a non-reversible method of payment (such as a bank wire transfer) to create a true escrow at Upwork, from which Upwork could make payments based on TimeTracker's entries (or for fixed rate projects).

 

It would be very difficult for a client, fraudulent and dishonest or not, to reverse payment under such an arrangement, so neither Upwork nor the freelancer would be at such significant risk of chargebacks or other client claims escrowed funds have been improperly obtained.

 

Due to its extra cost and additional action required by the client, this would likely not be a practical solution for some projects (especially small ones). But Upwork's reduction in chargeback and other payment dispute losses would help its own bottom-line profits.

 

And I have yet to hear any good reason TimeTracker is not integrated with the Upwork Zoom app to use the call time already tracked by Upwork as billable time without keyboard clicks and mouse usage. Only Upwork knows how much lost revenue it and freelancers incur by letting clients dispute hours billed while freelancers are in conversations wth their clients.


Do we have reason to believe clients dispute a lot of time billed for conversations? I know we see a FL ask the forum community, from time to time, about the appropriateness/legitimacy of billing for consulting time. But it's a rookie question, it doesn't come from seasoned contractors who are making bank here. So I would be mighty surprised if this is an actual, measurable problem as opposed to a rounding error (and a convenient theoretical device for the purpose of debate). 

samuelwharvey
Community Member

Obviously poor Clients can cause problems and it's reasonable to be aware when working for them. 

It's not reasonable they can do a refund due to a broken system. 

It is theft and it's possible Clients can repeat their actions a number of times. 

I believe currently I would be vulnerable for 1 week of earnings. 

 

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Samuel H.,

 

If Upwork would make public more information about clients' history of refunds, cancellations, etc. on their previous Upwork projects, we could better access the risk of dealing with a certain type of client. (And I'd be happy to have the same information disclosed in my own Upwork profile.)

 

But I doubt that sort of information will ev er be available to freelancers.


Will L wrote:

Samuel H.,

 

If Upwork would make public more information about clients' history of refunds, cancellations, etc. on their previous Upwork projects, we could better access the risk of dealing with a certain type of client. (And I'd be happy to have the same information disclosed in my own Upwork profile.)

 

But I doubt that sort of information will ev er be available to freelancers.


A great deal of information can be gleaned from what is said, or not said, in clients' work histories. Since the tendency is to gloss over differences in the interest of future contracts—as is the case with virtually all visible star ratings—the slightest breach of decorum in the work history can be telling.

I would also join the chorus of those urging freelancers to call out deadbeats as dispassionately and objectively as possible when leaving their reviews.


Douglas Michael M wrote:

Since the tendency is to gloss over differences in the interest of future contracts—as is the case with virtually all visible star ratings—the slightest breach of decorum in the work history can be telling.

I would also join the chorus of those urging freelancers to call out deadbeats as dispassionately and objectively as possible when leaving their reviews.


I agree. I don't even need the freelancer to say anything. If they mark down a star or two on communication or another area, that lets me know there was a problem. I understand freelancers may not want to air grievances or problems in the text field, but certainly marking down a star here or there can tell other freelancers a lot.

wlyonsatl
Community Member

At the very least, Upwork could extend the Upwork Zoom app tracked time automatically be considered as properly tracked time for Top Rated freelancers. That would be a welcome perk that would likely expose Upwork to very little risk of misuse.

Of course they should. 

 

There's a lot on the thread about fraud. However it seems more acceptable to fraud a Freelancer than Upwork. 

 

Solutions can be worked out. Verified Zoom call = paid. How the logistics work for Upwork is their issue. 

There are many problems and limitations inherent with fixed-process contracts.

 

For freelancers who make fixed-price work for them, that's great.

 

But fixed-price is not the default solution for freelancers whose work can't be recorded using the desktop time-tracker.

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