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Deal With Scope Creep New Client Who Doesn't 'Get' How the Site Works

Community Guru
Dianne M Member Since: Jul 25, 2013
1 of 24

Hello everyone. First of all, about 80-90% of all my clients here are simply wonderful, but yes, there are some who are plain GRR. I may have mentioned this before here in the forum but here's the full story.


About a month ago, a new-to-oDesk client approached me and asked me to write one blog for her as a trial job. During our interview, she asked so many questions about marketing her new brand and basically being a scope creep.


I thought, well she is a new client so I indulged her a bit. She then sent me an offer for an hourly contract despite our agreement that the trial job for one blog be fixed price. I had to ask her to change it but when she did, she changed the job to a blog and a newsletter, again, basically being a scope creep.


As any experienced freelancer who's into writing knows, rates for a blog, a newsletter, and creating a brand are VERY different and the skills neede. I explained all these to her and she agreed that the trial job is only for 1 blog. I thought that she's okay after this. After a few days, I sent her the work and she loved it. She then said that she would end the contract. Being new, she sent me the feedback in the form of an email glowing with praises and left the job open and then sent me a new offer/invite. 


In oDesk, a client needs to create a new team or task in order to hire the same freelancer so since she doesn't even know how to end the contract despite my repeated attempts to tutor her with a step by step approach, I simply told her that the old contract has to be ended for me to be able to be hired for the new one. I sent her links to all the client support pages, all the client resources but no, she just doesn't get it.


The holidays came and I was prepared to let this be just another hanging contract (you know, a contract where there is no end in sight because the client is not oDesk-savvy or just went missing) then lo and behold, she sends me a milestone task on December 25. 


Now, this is just GRRR. First, as a professional, she should know that setting the milestone should come AFTER discussing the task with me, not simply sending it like a command and expecting it to be done without prior consultation. Second, who in her right mind sends a job on December 25? I don't care what her religion is and I'm not religious myself but c'mon; have some common sense please.


I ignored that email on that day because hello, I placed my oDesk profile on not available so she shouldn't expect a reply from me. She then sends an invite for another job (our old contract is still open) and sent me messages on Skype on the same day. Not just one PM, multiple ones as if this is a matter of life and death.


Now, I think this is very rude and unprofessional. In her email on December 25th, she said she needs the job on January 7, so I don't get why she's stalking me on social media and Skype to get me to reply asap to her. We did not communicate for a few days before she did this and on our last conversation, the earliest she said she would contact me is January 2015 so why the rush?


After my vacation, I replied to her and clarified what she wants done. She did not answer my questions and said now she wants a newsletter. She then sends me unrelated stuff from her other business and wants them to be in the newsletter. She also sent a doc template and said she wants her newsletter designed in html but looking like the template. I don't do html formatting guys. This person must think I'm superwoman.


She wants a brand name, a logo, an html format etc etc but never discussed this with me before setting the milestone. I don't even do these kinds of task.


She said she signed up in my website and likes my newsletter and my logo but hello, she's only hiring me to write, not do programming and graphic design plus creating a brand. 


Anyway, I know this sounds unprofessional but she's really a pain. I explained how all these things are different and gave her the corresponding rates for what I can do but she didn't change the milestone. She also (again) didn't address the concerns I raised and my queries. She simply replied that she wants the newsletter today (fully designed in PDF).


How am I gonna do that without a brand? The newsletter doesn't even have a name and she expects me to come up with it for FREE. More so, the milestone she set is not even half of my rate for writing a newsletter and she wants a brand name, graphic design, and html formatting.


I tried all I can to communicate with her but I don't know if she's simply not oDesk savvy or deliberately trying to game the system by asking for a lot of things to be done and pretending not to understand or not to know how oDesk works.


Right now I simply want to end the contract and never speak to her again EVER. She did find me via my website and joined oDesk just to hire me but's really GRRR.


I was so patient with her and spent hours teaching her about oDesk but she is either unwilling or is doing something else. Mind you, we agreed that after the short blog, she would hire me on an hourly contract but after that is all done, she now insists on fixed price only. 


I hate to say this and I've never done this before but I'm planning to simply ignore her because God knows how much I tried and how much this have stressed me since December 25 (actually a lot earlier than that). My instinct tells me to run, but I worry she'd suddenly know how to end the contract and leave a bad feedback despite loving my work.


Not sure what to do with her without hurting my oDesk profile. Have you guys encountered someone like this client before? If yes, how did you deal with the client?

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Community Guru
Stephen B Member Since: Dec 4, 2012
2 of 24

1) Open Notepad or something else to scribble on, and write her a message calmly but assertively telling her that you can proceed no further until the original contract is closed, and explain that if she hasn't done so within (?a week?) you'll close it yourself.


2) Leave it till the next day. Read it again. And when you're happy, send it.


3) If she mentions feedback in any way suggestive of extortion, flag her. If she closes, fine. Give honest feedback. If her feedback to you is damaging, decide whether to refund and be done with her, or reply to the feedback and take the hit.


4 If it's all lovey dovey, contact her again explaining in an asserrtive and professional manner on what terms you're happy to proceed


5) If, and only if, she seems to get this and makes a new acceptable offer, accept and start again.


6) Post on here and start a straw poll on how long people think the new contract will take before it goes sour again...


Your call  Smiley Indifferent

View solution in original post

Community Guru
Dianne M Member Since: Jul 25, 2013
3 of 24

Thanks Stephen,


However, I did already sent her the message about closing the old contract before we can continue 3 weeks ago. She then said yes and she told me that she did that and left feedback. Upon checking, I saw that she simply replied via the milestone email thread that the contract is now closed and she's also leaving feedback..which I later found was in another thread 😞


It is obvious she doesn't get it and btw, she's the same person I was talking about in another thread about clients not knowing how to leave feedback and how freelancers shouldn't be punished for that.


Anyway, I explained to her how to close the contract and even sent her links to the client resource centre and links to the specific step by step instructions but she simply doesn't get it.


She sent/set another milestone via that old contract...and also sent invites to new jobs. I'm afraid no amount of explanation may be able to help her 😞 I don't want to sound too demanding so I'm really prepared to just leave the contract hanging (because closing them myself can make the mad robots go after me) but now, I'm stuck with this milestone/task she sent on December 25 and the due date is today.


I'm not sure what missing a milestone due date will do to me. Remember, she never consulted with me before sending/setting this new task which I don't even know how to do. It's really just grrr.


I don't care how much she wants to pay but I don't see a future working with her. This is the hardest client relationship I've worked on, thinking that a new client who has a new website is a great opportunity as clients like that typically hire me for thousands upon thousands of dollars over a few months/years. This one only made me a few and is soooo scatterbrained that's it is so stressful trying to get a straight answer from her.


I feel that she is super intrusive (xmas day multiple messages etc on a job she never asked if I wanted to do in the first place) and just an overall bad experience. I wish there's a way to flag clients like this. She won't even bother to respect the site rules or learn them.


I guess seeing that she's from a very professional background, I can't wrap my head about her being disrespectful of boundaries and not observing common courtesy. I'm not sure if the clients here are deteriorating in quality or if I'm simply being more picky.


She did agree to my proposal that I will only do the newsletter but she did not change the milestone's scope and budget so I'm simply not sending anything or doing more explaining to her until she does. So far I've spent over 10 hours on her alone and got paid for only the equivalent of an hour.


I'm really concerned about how this would affect me...with the mad robots and suspensions and all that as I'm a rules type of person and I'm really trying to stick to the TOS to ensure that my A55 is covered in case something bad happens.


I might stop from working with new-to-oDesk clients completely. Simply not worth the effort in my experience.

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Community Guru
Garnor M Member Since: Oct 29, 2014
4 of 24

I like this advice Stephen, thanks for sharing.

Community Guru
Ronald T Member Since: Sep 14, 2009
5 of 24

Sorry, I only read the first half of the original post (aka OP). I agree that the client is causing "scope creep" albeit it does not seem to be intentionally just to get more work at a cheaper overall cost. Maybe it's just a symptom of "oDesk Newbie Syndrome" (ONS?).

I have had clients that attempted to obtain work far outside the original, mutually agreed to Scope of Work - SOW (aka an act of "scope creep"). In those cases, when it becomes excessive, I request of the client that the contract be re-negotiated.

The OP is a fine example of why I have recently reverted to my previously established and documented criteria for selecting the best jobs and the best clients here on oDesk -- the best jobs and clients for me as a freelancer. My most recent jobs where I did not adhere to that criteria resulted in jobs that I would have been better off if I had not accepted them in the first place.

I have also reverted to my previous practice of dropping problematic clients. Of course, as of this writing, on oDesk I am "client-less" Better to be "client-less" than putting forth too much time and effort hand-holding oDesk newbies noobs (big difference between newbies vs noobs).


PS: In cases like this, I am usually able to easily determine (or guess) if the client is indeed guilty of "scope creep" or just naive regarding the formulation of workable, mutually beneficial business agreements.




Ron aka LanWanMan
Community Guru
Dianne M Member Since: Jul 25, 2013
6 of 24

Thank you Ron,


I was really thinking it would work out. Plus this client only joined oDesk upon finding my oDesk link via my website, hence the hand-holding etc haha. Usually I am able to turn such clients into contracts which are worthwhile of my efforts (upwards of $500).


Regarding being a scope creep, I now see that the client is simply someone who has no respect for freelancers. The way she kept messaging me on xmas to attend to her needs and a do the milestone she set without asking me first if it's part of my just speaks of lack of professionalism. This is all too weird because from her website anf linkedin page, she seems very established and have a lot of experience (she's also in the service/freelancing/consulting industry btw). She was okay for the trial job/task until the holidays came and she turned into the Grinch.


What bothers me about this is the possible effect ditching her would have on my oDesk profile. Will I get suspended? Will I get booted out of the site? Etc Etc.


What if I simply end the contract because trying to communicate is futile? It seems all she knows is bark orders or say I want this, I want that etc. Won't even answer my questions so I can do what I can do it's just grr. 


I'm still on the fence regarding simply closing the contract and pray she won't find out how to give feedback. I have never done something like that but she's like a weed.


I just want to get rid of her. 


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Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
7 of 24
I don't think there is anything left for me to say about Dianne's particular situation. I don't know the mind of her client, but I can say that I believe in MOST cases (not all) clients who ask for work out of scope or don't close contracts when they should are simply ignorant of how oDesk works. If we have done many contracts I think it is easy to forget how bewildering things can be to a new person.

I have never had a client be offended when I provided detailed instructions about what they need to do. Stephen had the right advice and there is little I could add except to say that's not only what I would do, but what I have done. I respect my clients greatly, but I know they're not necessarily oDesk experts. And even if they are, it's still not up to them to decide when a fixed rate contract is done if they want me to do any more work for them.

I talk to them about what they want. Then I write a contract for them to submit as an oDesk job. When it is done I submit the job. If I say it the job is done, it is done. More work? Close the contract and the we can talk about what is next.

As for this particular client, regardless of what the original agreement was, it is clear that this is an hourly client. I pitch both hourly and fixed rate contracts for the same jobs to clients, but when somebody is like this, I don't mind telling clients there is work I can't do as a fixed rate contract, because it's definitions are not sufficiently defined. Many contractors would love to have a contract like this (like Dianne should turn this into): she pays by the hour and has a bunch of questions, requests, etc. Every email you answer, every instant message, every task all of it is billed, and she has to allow manual time as well in case she calls you and you don't have you time tracker running. That is what this client wants, although she may not realize it. I think if Dianne is not willing to be that, she should offer to find somebody who is (and be paid hourly to conduct the search). This is NOT a fixed rate client.
Community Guru
Dianne M Member Since: Jul 25, 2013
8 of 24
Actually Preston you are wrong. As I have stated in the OP, we have initially agreed on an hourly contract because what she wants are not clearly defined. The problem now is she says she will only do fixed price. It looks like she simply wants more work with less pay and is plain rude. As I have mentioned several times in this thread, I have provided her detailed explanations plus step by step instructions complete with links on how she can close the old contract and how to change a new contract. I have talked to her about closing the old contract because the job is done but she simply does not get what closing a contract is. If you've read what I typed above, I've mentioned this several times in the thread as well. Please quit saying that this is an hourly client. I've tried and tried. I gave details on how she doesn't want an hourly contact now and still have not changed the old milestone which is only a fraction of what I'm charging. That is despite my hours of effort teaching her how the site works and my detailed instructions plus my request to make it hourly. Please stop insinuating I'm unwilling Preston, This is not the first time you've labeled me and assumed things without trying to read the whole story..

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Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
9 of 24
Sorry if what I said came across that way. I wasn't trying to label you at all. To state my thoughts more clearly, I definitely feel that this client is unreasonable in her expectations of you and that you should be unwilling to work in the way she expects. I didn't think you did anything wrong here at all.

When I said this is an hourly client, I meant that this is a client who should only be worked for on an hourly basis, as that is the only way working for her will be profitable. It is clear that you have a fixed rate contract with client, which is something you regret. I don't think any contractor will have a good experience working for this client using fixed rate contracts, because this is an hourly rate client (who asks for fixed rate contracts).

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like there is any way you could have known this beforehand. I could just as easily have fallen into the same hole myself. I was trying (and failing) to commiserate, not cause you further distress.
Community Guru
Dianne M Member Since: Jul 25, 2013
10 of 24

Thank you for clarifying what you mean Preston. We certainly don't want other users/clients to read here and think such behaviour as exhibited by my client is okay.


I closed the contract and left an honest feedback. In case she finds out how to finally leave feedback and say negative stuff despite my hours and hours of effort and despite praising me for the trial job/blog, I won't refund her.


Perhaps it is better to have a not so perfect feedback/rating so that clients who take advantage of freelancers thinking the freelancer will do everything to please the client just to ensure a good rating will leave me alone. I'm just worried about what oDesk will do to my profile because I closed the contract when there is still a milestone on it (that milestone is very wrong in a lot of aspects and was set without consulting me first).


Thanks again.

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