I've been going back and forth with the Upwork Dispute Team for several weeks, and several messages now, and I'm at my wit's end. I've been on Upwork for a little over a year now and I've done a pretty incredible amount of development work. All in all, it's been a really great experience and I've had some really good clients and great projects to be involved with. 🙂
That being said, it seems that one bad client can really spoil the bunch. Here's the story, in a nutshell:
I brought a client to Upwork, which I like using because it potects them and myself. This person accepted my project scope and set up the project with a 40 hour per week cap and manual time was allowed. The wanted to see some progress on the project, while it was underway and well before a beta, and I had absolutely no problem with that. I estimated the entire project, which would've been around 60 hours total, would take several weeks. The client understood this, agreed and all was good to go. I planned on sending them screenshots about halfway through the project, just so we would be on the same page and I've found it a best practice as a developer.
The first week, I was able to do 16 hours worth of work on the project, sent them screenshots and explained what I had done in those 16 hours. The client was satisfied with the work and all was good until they up, around a week or so later, and paused the project. They were non-communicative during this time period, but I did try several times to reach out to them, via e-mail, asking why the project was paused and to let them know that I was not going to continue working on the project until it was unpaused. I got silence for about two weeks after this and then the client filed a dispute with Upwork with the work that I had done, a month previously and well beyond the review period. Work that they were happy with at that time.
It seems to me that when I didn't work on a paused contract, and let the client know this, they decided to retaliate by demanding a refund via a Dispute.
Now, according to Upwork's own policies, the client has a week to review the work being done and can:
(a) contact the freelancer during that time period to ask for a refund or,
(b) file a dispute.
Unless I'm misunderstanding this policy, why was the client allowed to file a dispute a month after work was submitted and paid for?
I'm now in a position where I have to defend the work that was done and billed for, even though I did nothing at all to reach the weekly time cap, or continue to bill the client beyond the work that was done.
I've tried explaining to the Upwork Dispute Team that the client seemed to turn negative when they paused the contract and I wouldn't continue working on a paused contract, so they then filed a dispute to be vindictive.
Bear in mind, the client has the work that was done and that they were happy with when they paid for it. Only after I didn't continue to work on a paused contract, did they file a dispute.
What the heck am I supposed to do?
Any/all insight is appreciated!
He'll probably lose if everything is documented. What is his claim? What reason does he give? Did he just start the dispute?
It's really weird but not entirely impossible that maybe he found someone cheaper or something like that and went with another freelancer? Did you check his profile to see? The pitfall of bringing people here is that the competitors are swarming.
The reason given was that he thought it did not take the time that I billed him. Yes, this just came out of left field. A complete change of direction that occured directly after he paused the project, sans any communication. He is right though, it didn't take the time that I billed him, it actually took longer and I cut him a bit of a break. No good deed goes unpunished, right?
The problem that I have is that everything was peachy when the work was submitted, which was heavily documented, and for several weeks after. It was only after the contract was paused and I stopped working on it, that this straw dog was raised. Logic dictates that this is probably done from a place of spite, presumably to get back at me for not working for free (i.e., when a contract is paused).
It has nothing to do with warrantying or guaranteeing work, as some others have mentioned; it has everything to do with Upwork stickng to their own policies, as they expect each one of us to abide by them.
If the "client review" is completely arbitrary, than why the need for one at all?
I do agree that if client's take issue with a project, they should be able to voice their concern. However, if it's obviously to spite someone or to "get something for nothing", than it should not be tolerated at all.
All that is going to do is run off ace developers that get tired of wasting time that could be better spent programming.
You mentione manual time. That is why he can dispute it. Manual time is not guaranteed. Only working with the tracker, and documenting while you are working what you are working on.
Manual time I believe is worse then Fixed price as manual time has not guarantees whatsoever.
"...why was the client allowed to file a dispute a month after work was submitted and paid for?"
Because there is a facility for the client to do so, and so there should be. Whether the client's concerns are warranted is a different matter, but I completely agree with the ability for clients to raise concerns about the work a month, two months or six months later.
Imagine if your iPhone 7 caused a small thermonuclear explosion causing severe injuries and the complete loss of your house... would you be fine with Apple saying that "it's been over a fortnight since you bought it... and you paid for it... so there's nothing we can do. Soz."
According to Upwork's own policies, the client has a week to review the work being done and can:
(a) contact the freelancer during that time period to ask for a refund or,
(b) file a dispute.
All products that I know of, have warranties. Some just a month, some several months. Even stores have a time set for returning merchandise. During that time, if something goes wrong you can return it to the store (at which time, you'll either get a refund, credit on your charge card or a store credit) or, you can return it for a refund or for repair to the company who manufactured the product.
BUT after the return/warranty period is up, you are stuck with the product.
Upwork's policy has 1 week in which to review and approve the work, After that period is over, just like after a warranty period is over, you're "stuck" with the product.
but I completely agree with the ability for clients to raise concerns about the work a month, two months or six months later
Sorry, but I disagree with that. When it's over, it's over. Otherwise, you should have been with me, several years ago when I bought a brand new Chevy Malibu and 2 months after the warrenty expired, I spend exactly $998.00 to fix a deterioated engine gasket because the Coolent fluid they used ate through that gasket. Even writing to the president of GM didn't get it take care of. Why? because the warranty expired and it was no longer covered.
From what I'm reading, Upwork caters to the client in many ways. This is one of them. They can write all the policies they want, but this is their site and they can do whatever they want to.
I agree with what you've said and It's just a touch lopsided, don't you think?
Anyone that presumes the client is always right, is going to be mighty disappointed the first time they deal with scope creep.
It's best to remember that if a client can do what you do, than they wouldn't need you. I do think that the best client/freelancer relationships are always a win/win, and with an awful lot of client's, it is this way. All it takes is one bad one to really rethink your methods as a contractor.
Why did you do manual hours?
You were given 40 hours of work a week so why do manual?
But, on the other hand he approved those hours when he had the chance to dispute them and did not, but bottom line ...never do manual hours.
Well I think the one week period is more about paying for the work rather than a warranty period. Like when you get a pizza delivered. When you hand over the money, you're essentially just reviewing the fact that the guy has arrived with a pizza box and there's a pizza in it. You're not certifying that the pizza is of an acceptable standard, otherwise the pizza dude or dudette would have to sit on your porch until you finish it. It may be full of glass and cigarette ends, but the fact you've 'reviewed' and paid for the pizza doesn't absolve the pizza company of any responsibility.
I agree that in most instances one week should be all you need to review the work and make sure it's fit for purpose. I'm just thinking of some extreme examples where the client should have every right to complain and ask for their money back after that week is up and/or the money has been paid.
They pay for a hand written set of parchments and the invisible ink kicks in on day eight, they pay $5000 for a fancy website that just stops working and never comes back after day eight, they have a robot created that goes on the rampage on day eight. Ok, those ones are all pretty extreme... maybe some more examples in the realms of possibility. The job is to design a billboard and get that design up on a billboard in a certain city. The billboard should be up for one month. The freelancer sends over and invoice once the billboard is designed and is posted, which seems fair. The client pays and then it turns out the freelancer only paid for the billboard to be up for seven days and it's taken down the day after the client pays.
Surely in that instance, the client should have every right to complain or file a dispute? I don't think it would be fair for the client to withhold payment for 30 days after the work is complete, just to make sure the billboard is still up until the end.
@Scott E wrote:
I'm just thinking of some extreme examples where the client should have every right to complain and ask for their money back after that week is up and/or the money has been paid....
Surely in that instance, the client should have every right to complain or file a dispute?
You just answered your own question. Policies aren't and shouldn't be made for extreme examples.
Although everyone is entitled to their opinion, I think you're 100% wrong in this case. Policies most definately should be made for extreme examples, to cover all eventualities. I mean, it's the reason why a lot of people have health insurance, life insurance, car insurance etc etc. There's probably a less than 0.1% chance that your car will get stolen on any given day... so having your car stolen would be an extreme example of what might happen to your car today.
Proactive not reactive and all that jazz.
Just to be clear, we're talking about administrative policies, not insurance policies, which are risk mitigation tools, not regulatory codes. Most crimes carry a statute of limitations, including some heinous ones like rape. This carries the risk that some perpetrators may escape scotfree but is balanced by the prevention of the abuse of the law.
Extreme cases aren't covered because there is usually a traedoff to be made. Imagine this customer request if credit cards could be reported stolen upto 3 months after the alleged theft: "hey, I just remembered my card was stolen in a mall 3 months ago. I received the statements in post but it just slipped my mind to report the theft. Please cancel the card and reverse all transactions since then. kthxbye."
The cost of an indefinite review period is the client holding a freelancer hostage as alleged in this thread.
You're right... the cost of an indefinite review period is the possibility of a client holding a freelancer hostage. But on the other side of the coin, the lack of an extended review period results in clients not being able to raise a dispute when one is warranted.
I'm more focused on what's the right thing to do overall, rather than this specific instance.
A month is a bit much. 2 weeks maybe but a month is too long.
I do manual hours but keep it small for each job. I think the most that I've billed for a client in a week is $250 (5 hours). At 16 hours, it's best to do the tracker.
Thank you for the discussion. Upwork team takes reports of poor quality or potential abuse very seriously, review the situation and encourage the freelancer and the client to come to an amicable resolution of the issue.
I encourage Benjamin to communicate with the team and with the client in order to resolve the situation.
I'm definitely communicating with the Dispute Team, but the client has been incommunicato for a while now.
All venting aside, I am the type of person, as many are, that will bend over backwards for someone to ensure that all expectations are exceeded. I am 100% like this until I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. At that point, I stand up for myself on princple alone.
I appreciate the Upwork platform, warts and all, as it has been good to me. On the flip side, it's taken years and many clients and experience to hone my "craft", like a lot of freelancers on here, and I don't want my time & effort invalidated because one rogue person decides to be vindictive, for whatever reason.
It isn't about the money; it's about the principle. There are a lot of checks & balances for freelancers. Client's need the same thing. Even then, this won't be a "remote" Utopia, but it will at least be a little better balanced.