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Dispute leading to Arbitration

Hi there everyone,


I would love to hear from your past experiances with disuputs leading to Arbitration and what would be my chances here of winning it.


The story is, I agreed with a client for a fixed price of $4400, to build him a website with key features like, content automation from the sources and topics he wants, a front page that will present the offering of the website, then user interface with account creation and login to access to the private area of the news section. The news section got a number of features by it self, and pages etc.. and all that in a design that I will follow based on his preferences and our first agreement.


So I've been working with the client on this project for around 2 months, we never had a fixed time deadline on the contract, it was me saying this will be ready within 3 weeks, then I show him and I keep going with things and changes he require.. untill he sudenly closed the contract without further notice and asked for a refund, and his reason was that he don't like the design, we agreed first to have an A design, then when I showed that to the client he said no lets make something similiar to this and that.. and then I changed the design to something within that and told the client we can still improve.. So he insisted on asking for a refund. I asked the client to provide a 100% design sketch to follow and I will code it on the website, as all agreed key features are done and design is just part of the deal here.. but still the client insist on getting his refund ignoring all the hard work done on other main key features, and keeps bringing the design on the table.


It was a red flag to me when the client started to ask for some unreasonable features that we never agreed to have, and he was changing his mind all time.. This client came to me after he had an issue with a previous dev here on the same project, saying that what he delivered was not what he want and he asked for a refund and had that dev walking away without any payment, and so looks like he wants to do the same thing again with me here..


I've been in upwork/odesk for over 10 years.. but never got to arbitrage, I got a Top Rated profile here and 99.99% of my feedbacks are perfect 5 stars within hundreds of done projects. The client is new here.. I know that taking fixed price contracts is risky.. and I should have went for hourly.. and the issue here, the client only did put 50% of the agreed amount on escrow, I accepted as act of kindness and trust from me.. and here I'am, providing 80% to 90% of agreed project work, and only dusputing 50% of the amount in escrow!


What would be my chances if I go to arbitration here, am I going to get paid of the hard work done all this time.. I appreciate any information.


Cheers Guys.



Community Member

re: "What would be my chances if I go to arbitration here, am I going to get paid of the hard work done all this time."


Your chances are excellent.

Sounds good, thanks!

Community Member



The road to the poor house is paved with good intentions. Here in cyberspace, the time for concessions and accomodations is after you've been paid most of the total value of the project.


Stick to your guns and go for arbitration (assuming Upwork will allow it) if mediation doesn't satisfy you.


If you are willing to pay an indepenent arbitrator $291 and Upwork agrees to arbitration and the client does not agree to pay for arbitration, you automatically get paid the amount in escrow. Getting paid the difference between escrow and the total agreed value of the project might be a bit trickier. 


It sounds like this client has repeatedly acted outside the spirit of professionism and Upwork; don't be tempted to take an offer of much less than 100% of what you are owed. I hope you were honest in your feedback for the client, so other freelancers know what they're getting into working for him.


The independent arbitrator assigned to your case will be a trained professional whose only interest is a fair resolution. (S)he may or may not give great weight to any particular Upwork rules or instructions. That may or may not be deciding you should receive 100% of the money the client owes you, but it sounds like you have a great chance of coming out of this with at least a good deal of what's in escrow.


Be sure to follow all of the arbitrator's requests or instructions to the letter and as quickly as you can.


Good luck!

Community Member

Thanks Will, I appreciate all the information you shared.


We are in the phase of paying the arbitration fees, so we are heading there, I'm gonna pay my share.


Most of my conversation with client where we agreed about the project details and features were on zoom calls, so there is a chance that he might deny a number of things and says that his requirments were not met. Also he might complain about dealines.. beside the design of course.


Another thing I have here, the last version of my work which include all the features were not uploaded to the client server, I just showed him a live demo link from my server with that..  I was afraid he might take a copy of that and run away with it while asking for a refund, do I need to put everything I worked for here on his server to stay good with Arbitration?



re: "Another thing I have here, the last version of my work which include all the features were not uploaded to the client server, I just showed him a live demo link from my server with that.. I was afraid he might take a copy of that and run away with it while asking for a refund"


That is definitely not how I work.


When I am hired for any contract - whether hourly or fixed-price - I create shared server where I do all my work, and I immediately provide the client with complete access.


So the client has access to ALL of the work ALL of the time.


Even with fixed-price contracts, I never truly "submit" anything to the client because the client already has everything.


If a client wants to file a dispute or start up any monkey business in order to avoid paying, then the client simply loses access to my services. I don't have time for that.

Community Member

Hi, Ayoub.


I don't usually do fixed price projects, so I give my clients access to my work as it progresses. Your work is of a very different type, so you just have to find a balance between keeping your clients in the loop on your progress and not allowing them access that allows them to disappear with your work before you are fully paid.


Risk management is important for long-term success on Upwork. This starts before a contract is even agreed to. If you discuss  a project with a potential client, put in writing on the Upwork message board the important points of agreement with clear questions about elements that need to be answered before the project begins. And don't agree to a contract until all of your important questions have been answered or the potential client states in writing that they don't yet know those answers but will get them. 


During the contract, nothing important should be agreed to verbally without then being confirmed in writing on the message board.


Assume any project might go to mediation or abritration. It is difficult for a mediator or arbitrator to make an informed decision if key information about a project is unwritten "He said, she said."


My standard cover letter text outlines how I expect a project will progress, the work product I'll provide the client and specific potentially important items I will not provide unless they tell me otherwise, so that probably screens out many potential clients who hope to play games with what the project entails and how much they'll eventually pay me.


I can imagine there are many types of projects where it is important for the freelancer and client to agree what will and what WILL NOT be elements of the finished product.

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