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duenasstephen
Community Member

Hourly client is asking for refund after closing the contract

I manually added time to a contract over a week ago for a client who sent an offer with a 40 hour limit for the week. The work was tedious and time consuming. All in all, it took me 38 hours to complete. A few days later, he responds saying that someone else did twice as much of the same work in only 6 hours and he didn't want to pay me that much and that we should work out a solution. I apologized and expressed my confusion that it took me over 12 times longer to complete the work, that I would show him my workflow, and could he share with me how much work the other person completed so that we could compare and find a reasonable compromise. He said he would, but never did. I asked twice, because we can't determine what "fair" is on my end if he is comparing me to someone else but not sharing the work that they did so we could compare. For all I know, this "other person" doesn't exist or only completed a fraction of the work that I did.

 

Ultimately, I am asking a moderator what to do since the hours were logged over a week ago, the client already closed a contract, and THEN they asked for a refund. There is no option to refuse the request, so do I just not respond? I can't afford for Upwork to just refund the money without my approval.

 

Please let me know!

42 REPLIES 42
759e32fa
Moderator
Moderator

Hi Stephen,

 

Thank you for reaching out. If the hours were logged by the client last week, then this week is their review period where they can dispute the said hours.

 

Since they were logged manually, they will not qualify for Hourly Payment Protection if the client disputes them as they did not meet the criteria. We can only suggest that you communicate with the client at this point and use the Upwork Desktop App moving forward. You can read more about Hourly Payment Protection here.


~ AJ
Upwork

The hours were logged the week before last. The client didnt request a refund until 8 days after the week ended. So he is outside of the review period, right? 

Yes, but according to the stories around here, that is frequently ignored.

sajal36
Community Member

What I have read if it is manual than that can be disputed by client. So it is a better situation if prior approval is taken from client on logging manual hours. If client approves than this problem will never arise. Also what is harm in using upwork logging hours through desktop app. 

lysis10
Community Member


Sajal S wrote:

What I have read if it is manual than that can be disputed by client. So it is a better situation if prior approval is taken from client on logging manual hours. If client approves than this problem will never arise. Also what is harm in using upwork logging hours through desktop app. 


Whoever told you this is wrong. The only protection you have on hourly is following the payment protection rules. As a matter of fact, hourly is the only contract form where you have any protection at all.

prestonhunter
Community Member

I am sorry that you are experiencing this.

What you are describing is a client who is behaving in an unprofessional, unethical, immoral manner.

 

If the client hired you to work for him, and you logged time, then you should be paid for your time.

 

Did another freelancer do a similar task for less money?
Maybe yes. Maybe no.

But that is irrelevant.

 

Of course you should not agree to refund any money at all to this client.

 

If the client disputes your hours from the previous week, and you logged your time manually, then Upwork will remove those hours from the time that the client must pay for. If that happens, then it is still distasteful for the client to avoid paying you for your time. But the client will not be violating any Upwork rules.

 

If you don't get paid for some time because you used manual time and the client disputes your time, then that is your fault. You should have used the Upwork desktop time tracker in accordance with Upwork payment protection rules.

allpurposewriter
Community Member

Stephen,

Sometimes you simply can afford to give a refund if the option is to accept the pay and a lousy review at the same time.


In at least one scenario here, you find yourself in a lose-lose situation. It sounds like you have a choice between accepting a bad outcome or a lousy one. 

 

I took a client to mediation and then to arbitration once. It took several months and hours and hours of arguing back and forth to get through mediation, which clearly the client had no interest in making work. Arbitration was, thankfully, much quicker, but it cost $200 or so to have arbitration take on the case. 

Yes, I finally got the money I was owed, but it remains very difficult to justify. Looking back I would probably do it again, but that isn't to say it didn't come with a price. Lots of time lost and money sacraficed just to make a point. The money certainly becomes moot after so many hours of arguing with a narcissist who was pathologically unable to admit he'd made a mistake.

The dispute, mediation and arbitration that Anthony describes does not apply to Stephen D's situation.

 

The contract that Anthony had in his example was a fixed-price contract. But the original poster's contract is an hourly contract.

 

To prevent the client from disputing all of the hours logged last week, the original poster could theoretically try to work out a deal with the client. However, if the client is already OFFICIALLY disputing the hours worked last week, and those hours were logged manually... Then there is nothing the freelancer can do other than to say "no" if asked to issue a refund. But like Jennifer points out, disputed manual time during the five-day review period is an "auto-win" for the client. He will simply need to learn from his mistake and not make the same mistake next time.

Thanks, Preston. It was a fixed rate contract. I should stay away from TOS questions. It's not my area of expertise. 

lysis10
Community Member

tsk tsk manual time. I've had this happen but used Tracker. Not sure what will happen since it's manual time. 

 

For the record, if you keep using manual time and they dispute within the review period, just know that they auto-win and you lose the time so probs need to be smarter about this.

25005175
Community Member

Assuming all time was manually entered, then you lose no matter what, just like Jennifer said. Via Upwork, anyways.

 

Depending the sum in dispute and depending on the laws of where you live/work and the laws of where your Client lives/works, you may be able to sue in court. If you ask Upwork for the contact information of your Client for the purposes of a lawsuit (and promise to pay Upwork their cut of the earnings), then Upwork says that they will provide it to you. But the ToS also say that they won't cooperate in general with non-Upwork processes without directive from a subpoena.

 

In my experience with a local client with whom I also had an Upwork contract after they refused to pay me for a previous contract, I successfully convinced them to pay for the previous contract by notifying them (and a couple of their advisors) of my intent to sue. They paid.

re: "Depending the sum in dispute and depending on the laws of where you live/work and the laws of where your Client lives/works, you may be able to sue in court."

 

The math doesn't work out.

 

Taking someone to court will cost far more than 38 hours worth of work. And there is no guarantee that the freelancer would win.

 

But I note that your successful outcome was not a result of suing someone, but was a result of threatening to sue.

The math doesn't work out.

 

Taking someone to court will cost far more than 38 hours worth of work.


That entirely depends on the court and whether or not OP requires/wants a lawyer. States may prohibit, allow, or require lawyers for civil suit at various levels. I studied the process and fees pretty intensely, because I was preparing to file - I had even called a court to verify the exact district in which I needed to file. Filing fees and the fees for serving notice were low for me in North Texas.

 

And there is no guarantee that the freelancer would win.

True. But there was also no guarantee they would get paid for this contract in the first place.

 

But I note that your successful outcome was not a result of suing someone, but was a result of threatening to sue.


Yeah. But I had everything ready to go to court. And my recent win against the same client in arbitration for the Upwork contract, as well as the conversations that I had with their business advisors, convinced them that I would do it and most likely win.

As a rule, threatening to sue isn't a very effective tactic. It's something frustrated people tend to yell when they're feeling powerless, and businesses and attorneys often have a good laugh over it before moving on with their lives. If you've put the demand together adequately (meaning demonstrated that you have a viable claim and know how to pursue it) that often changes.

 

I have to agree with what Tiffany said you should not pull the sue card unless you are really prepared to follow through.  However do not back down.

duenasstephen
Community Member

The hours were logged the week before last. The client didnt request a refund until 8 days after the week ended. So he is outside of the review period, right?


Stephen D wrote:

The hours were logged the week before last. The client didnt request a refund until 8 days after the week ended. So he is outside of the review period, right?


Kinda curious how this works out. I've been through this but used Tracker so I just said "no refunds" even though it was such a pain to answer for a week. I knew I was covered by payment protection. I'm curious how this will work with manual hours. I would just go with "no refunds" and see what happens. At worst they tell you "too bad manual time" but you can't do anything else anyway other than tell them "nope, no refunds."

sajal36
Community Member

I believe manual time is not covered under hourly protection. If a client disputes any hours you log in to your work diary such as manual time, will be refunded back to your client.

 

I suggest to use upwork desktop apps to log the effort as this will also give client confidence on the job done by the way of proof of work until the trust is established. I had the scenario where client himself asked me log the hours as trust was established. Please talk to your client and walk through and convince him on the effort that was requried for the quality job. 

39d702a7
Community Member

May be they needed it done in less hours / budget. Clients must convey all their expectations and limitations in the beginning. 

A client may feel they have a "need" for less time or less budget.that does not change how hourly contracts work.

 

Hourly contracts mean you pay for all the time logged by the freelancer.

 

Your expectations or limitations don't change that.

 

If you can't afford to hire a freelancer, then don't hire the freelancer. If the hours being logged become too expensive, you need to end the contract.

duenasstephen
Community Member

At this point, the funds will be paid to me within a day or two, so now my question is, if I get paid, clears my bank, etc., THEN the client disputes, hiw is Upwork supposed to refund him those funds? They pull my earnings from future contracts? That doesn't seem legal. Once the funds are released and in my account, it seems like Upwork wouldn't have a way to legally refund the client since he waited too long to dispute and I am already paid. 


Stephen D wrote:

At this point, the funds will be paid to me within a day or two, so now my question is, if I get paid, clears my bank, etc., THEN the client disputes, hiw is Upwork supposed to refund him those funds? They pull my earnings from future contracts? That doesn't seem legal. Once the funds are released and in my account, it seems like Upwork wouldn't have a way to legally refund the client since he waited too long to dispute and I am already paid. 


Yes, they will put your account in the red just like any other chargeback. The money you earn will go towards the negative balance. Because the client did not dispute within the review period, I think you can just say no refunds but without payment protection he can file a chargeback. Since you used manual hours, you will lose if he files a chargeback. But that's getting too far ahead. Nothing like that might happen, so you can worry about it if it happens. 

 

eta: Just saw your edit. Yes, answer the mediator always until they say that the dispute is closed.

I can assure you that this has nothing to do with "legal" or "illegal."

 

This is Upwork, not a court of law. What you should be concerned about is what Upwork allows, what it actually does, what it is physically capable of doing. Upwork does not operate according to my personal interpretation of some particular set of laws within some particular jurisdiction.

But, of course, Upwork DOES operate according to the present court interpretation of various particular sets of laws, or is legally liable for failing to do so. 

 

It's weird that you persist in telling freelancers that it doesn't matter if things are legal. If your neighbor came to your house and stole all of your work equipment, would you shrug and say it had nothing to do with the law but what the thief chose to do, or would you expect to have your property returned since it had been taken illegally?

To reiterate:

Original poster Stephen D.'s understanding about what is "legal" of "illegal", or his assumptions about such things, are irrelevant to how Upwork operates.

 

I don't know what that has to do with my house. My house is not on Upwork.

 

When someone interacts with Upwork, their interactions are governed by Upwork policies and procedures, as manifest both through Upwork software system (source code) and training given to employees. Along with the decisions of actual employees.

 

If a freelancer sincerely believes that Upwork is breaking the law (and I'm not assuming the original poster holds such a belief), then that belief does not change the way that Upwork actually operates.

 

Upwork, like all companies, is simultaneously in compliance with the law and in violation on law. There are countless bodies of law and countless jurisdictions, which often have conflicting laws. No company is in compliance with all laws everywhere, and certainly not in compliance with all interpretations of all laws.

Did you by chance read the terms of service when you signed up? If not,  you should probably do that.

wlyonsatl
Community Member

Jennifer,

 

Upwork's policy currently says in regards to fixed price contracts, "If you would like to request a refund directly from a freelancer or agency, you can reach out through Upwork within 180 days of the payment. For refunds on payments made between 180 and 365 days ago, contact support."

 

Request a Refund โ€“ Upwork Customer Service & Support | Upwork Help

 

On hourly contracts the client "...must file any dispute during the five days after the billing period has closed." And Upwork will helpfully have one of its own employees go through the freelancer's TimeTracker details looking for ineligible time tracked. (If I remember correctly, clients used to have to do this for themselves.)

 

And we have heard from other freelancers that this "deadline" is not always strictly adhered to.

 

 

 


Will L wrote:

Jennifer,

 

Upwork's policy currently says in regards to fixed price contracts, "If you would like to request a refund directly from a freelancer or agency, you can reach out through Upwork within 180 days of the payment. For refunds on payments made between 180 and 365 days ago, contact support."

 

Request a Refund โ€“ Upwork Customer Service & Support | Upwork Help

 

On hourly contracts the client "...must file any dispute during the five days after the billing period has closed." And Upwork will helpfully have one of its own employees go through the freelancer's TimeTracker details looking for ineligible time tracked. (If I remember correctly, clients used to have to do this for themselves.)

 

And we have heard from other freelancers that this "deadline" is not always strictly adhered to.

 

 

 


oof. I get so much heat from people who try to tell people manual time is fine and nothing has ever happened to them so surely nothing will ever happen to anyone else. What they don't tell people is that they do so very little selling that they are not the same as someone selling tons of contracts. I don't know how anyone can think that just because nothing ever happened to the 2 contracts they had for the year means that nothing will happen to anyone else. How do you tell people manual time is fine without telling people to protect themselves? Especially when I tell people use Tracker because I've been through this multiple times and it's a no-stress easy way to protect yourself so just do it. Now that I know it protects from chargebacks, it's even better.

 

OP, I'm sorry this happened but you gotta use Tracker to protect your money. Manual time is the worst way to bill people. Make enough money on Upwork and you will need the protection sooner or later.  My personal approach to this would be to go for broke and try to keep the money. Like I said before, I've been through this but I used Tracker so I knew I had all the power.

 

I'd love to hear how it went down tbh so if you come back and tell your story, that would be cool to hear and it will help others understand how manual time disputes go down.

 

Yeah, a lot of posters here protest that something has always worked for them so it must also work for anyone else. But any freelancer who doesn't fully understand Upwork's rules and procedures, ill-defined as some of them are, should think through how they deal with clients from initial contact through final payment in order to ensure they will get paid.

 

I would guess I have had Upwork search through my hourly bookings on less than 10 of my 400+ projects over the years. The communications from Upwork never tell me anything other than there is a "problem" with the clients' payment methods, so this may have been due to charges on a confirmed payment method (credit card) being kicked back by the credit card bank due to insufficient credit availability or the client has asked their bank to do a chargeback. Nevertheless, I am notified by Upwork:

 

"Dear Will,

 

We're writing to let you know that your clientโ€™s payment on Contract ID# XXXXXX with XXXXXX was unsuccessful for the invoice week 20XX-XX-XX.

 

We've reviewed your work diary and are pleased to inform you that your hours are qualified for Upwork's Hourly Payment Protection.

 

Please review the payment programโ€™s criteria listed here to ensure future payments are also guaranteed.

 

Happy Working,
Upwork Trust & Safety Team"

 

If Upwork decides some of the time I booked did not meet the proper criteria when a client hasn't paid Upwork for an hourly contract Upwork's message let's me know how much billed time they have reversed.

 

Of course, there are no details given in this case, nor can I dispute the reversal in any way.

 

But even when Upwork finds time I booked that they reverse it is a smll percentage of my total billing. Just the price of doing business here, I suppose...

At least you get the emails. I never get any emails anymore. lol It just shows up on Tuesday instead of Friday.

 

Just my experience, but I think you get your work diary reviewed the first time but it's often automated after the first time. I think they've manually reviewed my work diary twice, and I've used payment protection 4-5 times now. For anyone crying that Upwork is losing money because of payment protection, know that they get their money back IME a lot. The two times I used it last year, the client came back (albeit weeks) later and paid Upwork their balance. I got my money and Upwork got theirs, if this is what people want to cry about. Before that, they got their money. Of the money they've paid out to me, the only money I'm unsure about is for $500 on my first time using payment protection.

 

The types of people who say nothing ever happens to them with manual time have very few new contracts sold, use it on repeat clients, and/or sell so little that their risk is small. But still it could happen to them and then they'll be talking about how it happened to them so now everybody should listen to them because now it affects them.  The comedy writes itself.

 

So I'm going to keep telling people to use Tracker whenever possible. I know it's not always possible, but you gotta do what you gotta do to protect your money. Upwork gives you something that nobody else gives you, so use Tracker.

 

My lowkey theory is that people hate on me for saying these things because they don't like that someone is successful with hourly and want to push escrow. It's the only thing I can think of why you would keep telling people to not protect themselves because they are fine so nothing will happen. The escrow people really have a weird rabid hate for people who go hourly.

wlyonsatl
Community Member

My most recent hourly protection kicked in when a client told me she couldn't afford to continue to pay me, despite the fact we were nowhere near the total billed hours that I clearly told her initially I expected the project would require.

 

She actually posted that on the message board (clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer) and I told her I'd have to stop working if I knew she couldn't pay me. She complained to Upwork and wanted a refund. Now, I could have told her no problem, don't worry about paying me, Upwork's hourly protection will cover it. But I didn't think that was ethical, even if it had turned out to be true.

 

Nonetheless, Upwork reviewed my billed hours on her project !?!? They found nothing, so maybe they just went through the motions to make the client happy.

 

I was eventually paid in full for the hours I booked. I don't know whether this clown paid Upwork in full.


Will L wrote:

My most recent hourly protection kicked in when a client told me she couldn't afford to continue to pay me, despite the fact we were nowhere near the total billed hours that I clearly told her initially I expected the project would require.

 

She actually posted that on the message board (clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer) and I told her I'd have to stop working if I knew she couldn't pay me. She complained to Upwork and wanted a refund. Now, I could have told her no problem, don't worry about paying me, Upwork's hourly protection will cover it. But I didn't think that was ethical, even if it had turned out to be true.

 

Nonetheless, Upwork reviewed my billed hours on her project !?!? They found nothing, so maybe they just went through the motions to make the client happy.

 

I was eventually paid in full for the hours I booked. I don't know whether this clown paid Upwork in full.


I feel ya. Just went through this last week. Some people I swear. I told him around 8 hours, charged him 9, and he told me he'd report me if I don't refund him because he thought it would take me 2. Why in the world people think these things, who knows. But, I told him to go ahead and do what he's got to do but I worked those hours and no refunds. 

 

I hate working for individuals, because I think these problems are much more likely. But there are slim pickins these days so as long as they open an hourly contract, I'll do it.

25005175
Community Member

In cases, like that, I always ask them for proof - which they never provide. And it is why I think meeting notes for audio/video calls are so great.

6bfcdaf8
Community Member

Here's what i try to do as a freelancer :

 

* i set my hourly rates and business strategy in a way that i can always afford to return a client a few weeks worth of budget. I should not starve if  i dont get paid for a week or two

* I always use desktop tracker. If i use manual time for a reason, i tell the client so they are not surprised

* I usually stay away from jobs where i cant see an estimated timeline for accomplishment and talk about this upfront. Because, start with the end in mind, that is, leaving a happy client behind.

 

So lets ask yourself this, there are freelancers made more than a million working solo here on upwork. Within this pool or wealth, if a client is unhappy about your performance, i'd try to find a way to make them happy and consider i bought myself an expensive training.

alexamira
Community Member

Hello Stephen,

I told my client that I can not conitue working.  After she ended the hourly contract on March 5, she then asked for a refund from  02/05/2024 - 02/11/2024 and   02/12/2024 - 02/18/2024 (15 hours per week).  I logged to UP tracker with work diaries within that prescribed period. Accused me too of stealing from her. Am I obliged to refund her since I adhere to Upwork policies?  What will happen if I WON'TE REFUND her?  Will it affect my JSS.  By the way she is a 3rd time returning client.  Thank you for your inputs.

Regina S. P,

 

Once you engage in a contract with a client on Upwork, they have a permanent ability to leave feedback for you. And client feedback is the only thing that determines your JSS.

 

Some clients are consistently difficult to work with. Upwork hasn't said how it measures "difficult to work with," but Upwork also says feedback from such clients has no effect on their freelancers' JSS numbers. Unfortunately, we cannot know exactly which clients achieve this honor.

 

If you used TimeTracker correctly, Upwork's hourly payment protection should kick in for you if the client doesn't pay Upwork the amounts she was billed for those weeks. You are never obliged to repay properly tracked billed work time.

 

Move on to other projects; forget about this client's threats. You almost certainly can't do anything to change her mind about whatever she has decided about rating your services. There is no assurance refunding her your earned money would help you in that respect.

 

If Upwork does decide to go through your TimeTracker work time with a fine-toothed comb, there is also nothing you can do. There will be no transparency for you in Upwork's decision to reverse any of your billed time; no input from you will affect that decision.

 

Good luck!

Hello Will,

Thank for the inputs.  Currently, we are now with Upwork Mediation specialist and he is requiring me to submit proof of work.  All I have is the spreadsheet shared by the client.  I logged to Upwork tracker from Feb 5 - 10 anf Feb 11 - 17. These are are the period covered for clinet's request for refund.  Client is accusing me of stealing time from her.  Tasks and time is covered with work diaries. I don't want to refund but the client insisted that I owe her 40 hours (contract was 15 hours per week only).  Prior to her dispute she asked me to work wihtout billing her and I did.  Yes, the client is very hard to understand and she is a 3rd time returning client.  Now Upwork Mediation Specialist is askig me to submit Proof of Work???  What shall I submit - UP can check my work diaries and can determine.  Please advise and help me -  I am 67 years old freelancer here.  Thank you and God Bless!

Did you do work on the spreadsheet? If so, I hope you kept copies of each iteration, which would show the many changes you made to the spreadsheet in relation to the hours you billed the client via TimeTracker.

 

You should always keep copies of each iteration of changes you make to a client's original document, so you can revert to an earlier version during your work (if needed) and to show proof of work. 

 

The second reason is part of what I call "freelancing defensively." Always assume every client could complain to Upwork to try to get billed time reversed. You can shut such a request down quickly with clear factual proof you did the work you billed the client for.

 

At the very least, you should have a copy of the client's original worksheet and a copy of the most recent version you sent her. Point out to the mediator all the changes you made, which (s)he can verify by comparing the two documents.

 

Good luck.

Yes, I have the copy of the spreadsheet no changes in the spreadsheet and I marked /hi lighted those emails that I sent randomly.  Thank you, Will!  Can I asked for favor?  A simple draft for this for my reference, please?  Tnx Regina.

 

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