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atlanticzero
Community Member

Ending Zero-earning Contract - JSS impact?

We entered into a contract with a client who has not funded the first milestone, but who is already pushing for a massively expanded scope without increasing the contract amount. They've also threatened a negative review if we don't comply, and so we're in a position where it makes most sense for us to end the contract before we even really start.

If I've earned nothing on this contract (and the first milestone hasn't even been funded), am I at risk of a negative impact on my JSS? I have three other contracts ending soon (all of which went very well, and so will probably lead to positive reviews), but do not yet have Top Rated status.

I understand that the client cannot leave a public review because there are no earnings on the contract, but can a private review impact my JSS even if the earnings were zero?

14 REPLIES 14
a_lipsey
Community Member


Charles A wrote:

We entered into a contract with a client who has not funded the first milestone, but who is already pushing for a massively expanded scope without increasing the contract amount. They've also threatened a negative review if we don't comply, and so we're in a position where it makes most sense for us to end the contract before we even really start.

If I've earned nothing on this contract (and the first milestone hasn't even been funded), am I at risk of a negative impact on my JSS? I have three other contracts ending soon (all of which went very well, and so will probably lead to positive reviews), but do not yet have Top Rated status.

I understand that the client cannot leave a public review because there are no earnings on the contract, but can a private review impact my JSS even if the earnings were zero?


Hi Charles, great question to ask. Yes, the private feedback from a client on a "no earnings" contract can negatively impact your JSS. However, the JSS calculation weights contracts by their earnings size. Larger contracts weigh more in the calculation. Therefore, many of us speculate that a "no earnings" contract would have very little weight. That said, if you have only a few contracts, it can still have a large impact. 

 

I'm unclear how you can have a contract without a funded milestone. I thought it was impossible to create a contract without funding the first milestone with some amount in escrow, at the minimum. 

 

Regardless, you mentioned the client threatened you with a bad review if you do not provide free work. Do you have that in writing in the message center? I would report those messages and then discuss with CS about closing this contract. That client should be suspended for feedback manipulation, and in that event, feedback from a suspended client would not impact your JSS. 

 

I do not think you should be held hostage by a client regardless of anything. If you only have a few open contracts right now, you will likely need a couple more to get a JSS. So you may have time to land more contracts before this one would actually be able to impact your JSS, if other scenarios (i.e., client is not banned) play out. 

 

I will flag your message to get assistance from a moderator. Please keep us updated. 

Amanda, thanks for your reply. I was obviously wrong about the milestone funding - they have funded it, but have not released the payment as yet.

The threat was indirect and not in writing, unfortunately. During a video call they suggested that negative feedback would impact us materially, and in the context of the conversation the implication was clear. That's to say that we don't have any verifiable evidence of the threat, but were made well aware that they were using poor reviews as a bargaining tactic.

Assuming our other paid contracts end with positive feedback (and they've gone very well, there's no reason to imagine they won't), do you suspect that negative private feedback will impact my JSS significantly?

Thanks again for your response. It helps a lot.


Charles A wrote:

Amanda, thanks for your reply. I was obviously wrong about the milestone funding - they have funded it, but have not released the payment as yet.

The threat was indirect and not in writing, unfortunately. During a video call they suggested that negative feedback would impact us materially, and in the context of the conversation the implication was clear. That's to say that we don't have any verifiable evidence of the threat, but were made well aware that they were using poor reviews as a bargaining tactic.

Assuming our other paid contracts end with positive feedback (and they've gone very well, there's no reason to imagine they won't), do you suspect that negative private feedback will impact my JSS significantly?

Thanks again for your response. It helps a lot.


How large are the other contracts? 

 

ETA: You have 4 contracts, right? So without weighting them, you're looking at worst case a 75% JSS. BUT, they are weighted. And JSS doesn't update for another 2 weeks since it just updated. Could you take on a couple of shorter turn around jobs to negate the affect (you'd need to close them before the 2nd Sunday). Conversely, can you wait to close any of the 3 until after the next JSS, so you can take a few more jobs, get good feedback, and when you do get JSS in the next (second round from now) update it will be even less effect? 

 

Start thinking strategy. That's what I'd do. 

The contract in question here would end for $0. The others are $5,600, $2,500, and $10,000, respectively.


Charles A wrote:

The contract in question here would end for $0. The others are $5,600, $2,500, and $10,000, respectively.


Provided those 3 all close with 10 out of 10 private feedback, I think your worst case scenario would then be just under 90%. There is also the potential that if you close the contract and refund, they may not leave any feedback. The party who ends the contract is prompted to leave feedback to close it, but the other party isn't required to. They get a notification, but often clients don't come back to leave feedback if you are the one to close it. There are no guarantees though. 

 

You need 4-5 closed contracts with feedback to get a JSS. Next update is in 2 weeks, so by midnight UTC on Sunday you would need to have 4-5 closed contracts. If you don't, you wouldn't get a JSS yet. So take that all into account to strategize how to prevent a low score showing up on your profile. Better to wait longer for the JSS than to have a low one on your profile. Although people have survived a low JSS - I had an 88% for a brief time a few years ago. It happens. 

Thanks for your help! We'll see about closing this contract, and by the time we're in line for a JSS we should have much more positive reviews from other clients, and with real earnings attached.

It's a little disappointing that the system doesn't have any checks in place to protect us from clients like this, but at least it sounds as if there's some weighting in play that keeps the negative review on a zero-dollar contract minimally impactful.

ericaandrews
Community Member

If they threatened a negative review, the FIRST thing you need to do is contact Upwork support.   Your client just violated Upwork's terms of service, so you need to get them invovled BEFORE you close the contract,  possibly giving the client the  chance to leave a 'bad' private review.  Get Upwork involved to handle this TOS violation.   It's a violation of the TOS for a client to make 'threats' of this nature or to try to 'extort' additional work out of a freelancer.

 

(Please take pictures/screenshots of any conversations you had with the client where they made these threats and save them - because unscrupulous clients like to go 'delete' previously sent messages when they do something wrong.)

CJ, thanks for your reply. The threat was unfortunately not made in writing, and was just vague enough to allow them to deny that it was a direct threat. It was a comment to the effect that they understood that a negative review was a very bad thing for our earnings on Upwork, and that we should consider that when rejecting the suggested additions to scope.

Like CJ and Amanda said, Upwork considers threats of bad reviews to be extortion. See ToS. Even if you don't have material evidence, you can still report it so that they may investigate. Something you can consider is to wait to end the contract and engage the client strictly in the Upwork chat room. If you continue to discuss the request for additional work without additional pay, your client may slip and threaten you again (especially if they are hotheaded). Then you have evidence, problem solved - because violation of the ToS = suspension = zero impact on JSS

Charles:

" It was a comment to the effect that they understood that a negative review was a very bad thing for our earnings on Upwork, and that we should consider that when rejecting the suggested additions to scope."

 

That is still a threat.  That would be like me going over to my neighbor's house and saying "That's a REALLY nice car you have in the drive way. It would be a shame if something happened to it."   That's not how professional, well-meaning clients talk.  That's how people engaged in organized crime, racketeering, and illegal gambling talk.  This a professional platform, not an episode of the Sopranos.  Completely unacceptable and unprofessional.

I totally agree that it's a threat. The issue is that without a way to substantiate it, it doesn't count for much. If they'd said as much in text form I'd have evidence to present, but a comment in a video call (which we were not able to record due to the platform restrictions) is essentially hearsay.

In any event, it looks as if we'll be able to resolve this without having to issue any reports. For whatever reason the client has begun to act more reasonably in the past few hours, and I suspect we'll be able to resolve things within a week without too much fuss.


Charles A wrote:

I totally agree that it's a threat. The issue is that without a way to substantiate it, it doesn't count for much. If they'd said as much in text form I'd have evidence to present, but a comment in a video call (which we were not able to record due to the platform restrictions) is essentially hearsay.

In any event, it looks as if we'll be able to resolve this without having to issue any reports. For whatever reason the client has begun to act more reasonably in the past few hours, and I suspect we'll be able to resolve things within a week without too much fuss.


That's good to hear. Also, sometimes just knowing the options and how we can pivot if we need to, can give us more confidence in how we resolve the conflict and deal with the client. Knowing you could close the contract and manage the situation likely gave you some confidence to continue dealing with it. It was good to come and ask here. 

This is really a good point that's often overlooked. Knowledge is power!

williamtcooper
Community Member

Hey Charles, regardless if the JSS is affected, the contract should be ended with that many problems otherwise you are likely to get a bad JSS and bad Review. Thanks!

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