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philomenaaah
Community Member

How can we protect ourselves better to prevent dealing with clients who can harm our score?

Hi everyone. I'm just wondering how can we freelancers protect ourselves better to prevent dealing with clients who can harm our score. In my case, for example, I try to establish a good and clear communication since the beggining. If I notice that the client is vague and are not capable to give me instructions after several attempts to communicate, I prefer to not move forward.

 

I had two strange situations happening with me recently:

 

1. The client asked me to write aa ebook as a ghostwriter and sent me lots of instructions to folow. At the end he offered me a very small (very to not say ridiculous) amount to do it, saying that he didn't have money to pay me and sent me a file trying to motivate me to buy my own ebook with discount after I deliver it. I refused the offer and reported the situation;
2. Other one was a client how asked me a quotation for a very specific job. He accepted my quotation, but at the offer he made, he was sending the offer with the amount that we agreed, but he was asking the triple of work to be done. I refused, of course.

 

These are just examples and what I want to ask with all this is that, in my case I could identify what was happening on time before accepting a contract, but if this happens after we accept the contract... Like, the client send a offer for a specific job and right after I accept the client ask much more work that is out of the scope of his first request, how do I protect myself? Because ending a contract will always affect my JSS. So, this makes me feel afraid to move forward at some situations.

 

What are your thoughts about this?

32 REPLIES 32
wlyonsatl
Community Member

Filomena,

 

These games certain types of low-budget/low quality/ethics-challenged clients play are probably experienced by almost all Upwork freelancers.

 

You are right to stick to your focus on very clearly defining each project in writing in the Upwork message system and always paying close attention to the actual offer each potential client provides. I have more than once had a client agree to one thing (such as an hourly rate) and then send an actual offer that is completely different without discussing it with me (requiring a fixed price).

 

Any client who does this sort of thing before they have even hired you will almost certainly try a few tricks to get more work out of you without paying you more once the project begins. This sort of project creep is so common in my type of work that I almost never use fixed pricing with new clients.

 

I'd rather lose a creep-prone client than risk working with them, but I know not everyone has the choice to turn down work.

 

Good luck.

Beautifully written response.  Uplifting.  Bravo.

@Will L. I cannot turn down work, but once I see that the client is trying something that sounds strange to me I simply don't work with them. It's sad but this exactly what I do. But if it is something that is happening already. Imagine: you already have a contract and the client decided to ask more work that was not discussed before. You know that is obvious that if you don't do the job, they will leave a bad feedback. What can I do in these situations? Report to CS?

 

@Rene K. I work at a difficult market. I'm a communication specialist and a voice over artist and I provide my content in Portuguese. The list of Portuguese opportunities is not that big, so I need to apply to those ones as well, unfortunately. But I pay very attention to the client approach. If something doesn't sound right to me I don't move forward.

 

@Robin H. No, I didn't even accepted the contract, fortunately. Most of the times I can feel if the client has good intentions or not. If he starts answering in a vague way or not answering to my questions at all, it's a big red flag for me.

 

@Preston H. That's is totally true. But most of the clients who are looking for a Portuguese freelance prefer Fixed Price contracts. But I can always test and try to make an hourly contract with them.


Filomena S wrote:

 

 

@Rene K. I work at a difficult market. I'm a communication specialist and a voice over artist and I provide my content in Portuguese. The list of Portuguese opportunities is not that big, so I need to apply to those ones as well, unfortunately. But I pay very attention to the client approach. If something doesn't sound right to me I don't move forward.

 


I hear you. Nevertheless, you need to be very careful, which you already are. My advice was also meant to a wider audience, especially people who are new and gullible.

 

 

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   â€”William Ashbless

Filomena,

 

There is no perfect solution for you, but maybe you can take some solace in the fact that Upwork excludes feedback from consistently negative clients in calculating a freelancer's Job Success Score.

 

https://community.upwork.com/t5/Freelancers/Regularly-Negative-Clients-Feedback-Not-Included-in-JSS/...

 

If only we could know which client's feedback  is excluded in this way...

versailles
Community Member

There is one trick that works almost every time: when it's obvious that they're cheap, it is almost certain that thew will give you a poor feedback. As a consequence, avoiding them as you did is the best option.

 

Cheap clients are the most demanding ones and the most likely to lock you in a scope creep job and to leave a poor feedback if you refuse to bend.

 

This is why many of members of this community exhort newbies to not engage with these cheapos even though they are desperate to get their first feedback on their profile. This first feedback may very well be their last!

 

 

 

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   â€”William Ashbless

Uplifting response.  There is much experience and goodwill packed into this.  Bravo.

lysis10
Community Member

I have the shield of the TR perk, so I don't protect myself at all. I just roam free on the platform, and when I find a lolcow, I poke at it and then go run behind my TR perk when it gets all mad.

To explain.  When one is a top rated freelancer for some period of time, a special perk is established.  One out of ten scores can be erased (from the JSS impact standpoint).  As another bar that must be surmounted, this perk can be engaged only one time in three months.  The cost is to have a job rating be listed with something akin to 'these ratings have been removed from a contractor."

New-to-platform Upworkers are at least sixteen weeks away from gaining this perk.  And that countdown starts only after a JSS is established (once the Rising Talent designation has been completed).

 

New-to-Upwork contractors do not have this shield. Nor are they likely to, unless their tactics and techniques to close down jobs successfully are developed.

 

Counsel to protect one's JSS for the significant period of time it takes to gain this Top Rated Contractor perk is of high value.

 

John.

robin_hyman
Community Member

You're received some great advice already.  Mine is to keep looking out for those red flags.  You can spot a difficult client a mile away if you ask the right questions and can see through their answers.  

 

For the first example you shared, did you accept the job without money in escrow?  It sounds like it.  If you follow the Upwork progress properly, you will always be paid.  Never accept work without having all of the information you need to start or payment made (if fixed price).  

 

The more projects you complete, the better you will be able to spot the red flags.  Work smart!

I think it IS good to avoid bad clients.

 

There is a "middle ground" between completely avoiding a questionable client and jumping into a contract with him. That is an HOURLY CONTRACT.

 

An hourly contract is safer and less complicated. If a client may seem to be someone who will nitpick or engage in scope creep... but you really would like to work for him... Then you can agree to an hourly contract. That lets you bill for ALL the time that you spend on behalf of the client. It makes it much more difficult for the client to avoid paying for your work.


Preston H wrote:

. If a client may seem to be someone who will nitpick or engage in scope creep... but you really would like to work for him... 


Why in the world would you "really like to work" with someone like that?

I admire this contractor's goal to work with all potential and work-engaged clients successfully.  That is a sign of positive service ethic, a willingness to try to be flexible, and the desire to win work that increases income.   I admire contractors who will speak to their issues and perceived failures in a public forum. In follow-on, I admire uplifting, counsel-packed responses from exceptionally talented Upworkers.

Clients who engage in nitpicking or be prone to scope creep may in turn be potentially excellent allies and long-term clients.  I believe in client education, providing them with the knowledge to successful gain their own objectives, and in so doing, 'create a good client'.   So very many, it seems, enter our platform without the knowledge of how to be a good client.   That we have the opportunity to see this for what may be -- a simple mis-alignment of their objectives and ways of doing business - can be a great honor of service provided.

Scope creep is a common problem consultants around the world, across all sizes of projects potentially face.

Place them in a 'delivery box' - meaning a tightly defined boundary of scope.  Get it in writing to layers of granularity that may include external documentation gently delivered.  The most powerful words and concept I have found, are these.   "Your best outcomes (client), are achieved when I succeed.  My best outcomes are acheived when you succeed.  We are in this together". 

re: "Why in the world would you 'really like to work' with someone like that?"

 

You make a good point here. Most of us would NOT want to work with someone like that.

 

But I'm also thinking about Will's sentiment about not every freelancer being able to turn down work.

 

I think everyone would agree that freelancers are not actually "forced" to accept work with bad clients.  There are some clients and some jobs that should be turned down now matter how new a freelancer is (and desperate to establish himself) and no matter how much they want the money... Most of us would look at some of these red flags and just move on...

 

I bring up hourly contracts as a safer, and potentially workable, way for a freelancer to work with a client who shows signs of being a "scope creeper," but might not be a bad client over all. This may NOT apply to the specific client that the original poster is thinking of.

 

I know from my own experience that there are clients with whom a fixed-price contract would be a big mistake, but who can turn out to be quite fine if an hourly contract is used.


Preston H wrote:

re: "Why in the world would you 'really like to work' with someone like that?"

 

You make a good point here. Most of us would NOT want to work with someone like that.

 

But I'm also thinking about Will's sentiment about not every freelancer being able to turn down work.

 

I think everyone would agree that freelancers are not actually "forced" to accept work with bad clients.  There are some clients and some jobs that should be turned down now matter how new a freelancer is (and desperate to establish himself) and no matter how much they want the money... Most of us would look at some of these red flags and just move on...

 

I bring up hourly contracts as a safer, and potentially workable, way for a freelancer to work with a client who shows signs of being a "scope creeper," but might not be a bad client over all. This may NOT apply to the specific client that the original poster is thinking of.

 

I know from my own experience that there are clients with whom a fixed-price contract would be a big mistake, but who can turn out to be quite fine if an hourly contract is used.


Preston, for me a very small fixed-price feels like a better test. I think the key is, if you aren't sure but want to try, a small test (likely worth less than whatever a couple of hours is to you) is a fair avenue to try. 


Preston H wrote:

re: "Why in the world would you 'really like to work' with someone like that?"

 

You make a good point here. Most of us would NOT want to work with someone like that.

 

But I'm also thinking about Will's sentiment about not every freelancer being able to turn down work.


True. Good point.

Thing is... working with bad clients tends to end up costing more in the long run, because it messes up one's profile and that leads to less opportunities at lower prices.

 

I have said it before, but success in Freelancing, and especially on Upwork and similar places, both financially and overall, is determined as much, if not more so, by the clients we turn down than those we accept.

This counsel comes from an Upwork professional who has established both a stellar delivery career and is among the most active on the platform in hiring contractors.  When he speaks, it is most surely a good idea to listen carefully, read his counsel several times and act upon it.

Preston,

 

Over the years I'd guess I have succeeded in convincing clients who initially wanted a fixed price contract to agree to an hourly contract, but my success rate at that has probably been less than 1 in 10. Maybe even 1 in 20. Nothing to write home about.

 

But I may be getting better at it - last week I convinced an otherwise attractive fixed price client to agree to change his offer to an hourly arrangement. My type of work is very different from project to project but there are mostly common elements that every potential client can choose from to get exactly the end product they want.

 

By giving the prospective client a complete list of the components of what's possible and letting him tell me which elements he required, I could give him a range of hours required for each component. When he saw the top end of the cumulative possible range of hours for the total project, he confirmed that even that number was within his actual budget (and yet well above the fixed amount he initially wanted me to agree to).

 

This won't work for everyone, but I'm sure even most freelancers can sometimes better communicate the scope of what they can provide, convince new clients to accept an hourly contract to include what the client requires and get improved win rates on new jobs as a result.

 

 


Will L wrote:

 

This won't work for everyone, but I'm sure even most freelancers can sometimes better communicate the scope of what they can provide, convince new clients to accept an hourly contract to include what the client requires and get improved win rates on new jobs as a result.


Yep. Which brings us to the communication skills that are almost as fundamental to have as one's core skills.

 

 

 

 

 

-----------
"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   â€”William Ashbless


Will L wrote:

 

....By giving the prospective client a complete list of the components of what's possible and letting him tell me which elements he required, I could give him a range of hours required for each component. When he saw the top end of the cumulative possible range of hours for the total project, he confirmed that even that number was within his actual budget (and yet well above the fixed amount he initially wanted me to agree to).

 

This won't work for everyone, but I'm sure even most freelancers can sometimes better communicate the scope of what they can provide, convince new clients to accept an hourly contract to include what the client requires and get improved win rates on new jobs as a result.

 

 


Thanks, Will, for explaining your contract/proposal breakdown approach. I have become indifferent to hourly vs. fixed-price contracts. Knowing my own working pace at various tasks, I can provide a similar breakdown in fixed-price milestones.


Robin H wrote:

 

For the first example you shared, did you accept the job without money in escrow?  It sounds like it. 


It is physically impossible to create a fixed rate offer without funds in Escrow.

Uplifting reply.  It warmed my heart to read it.  I so wish someone was there to relate this sentiment to me, in my new-to-Upwork career days.  Bravo.

a_lipsey
Community Member


Filomena S wrote:

Hi everyone. I'm just wondering how can we freelancers protect ourselves better to prevent dealing with clients who can harm our score. In my case, for example, I try to establish a good and clear communication since the beggining. If I notice that the client is vague and are not capable to give me instructions after several attempts to communicate, I prefer to not move forward.

 

I had two strange situations happening with me recently:

 

1. The client asked me to write aa ebook as a ghostwriter and sent me lots of instructions to folow. At the end he offered me a very small (very to not say ridiculous) amount to do it, saying that he didn't have money to pay me and sent me a file trying to motivate me to buy my own ebook with discount after I deliver it. I refused the offer and reported the situation;
2. Other one was a client how asked me a quotation for a very specific job. He accepted my quotation, but at the offer he made, he was sending the offer with the amount that we agreed, but he was asking the triple of work to be done. I refused, of course.

 

These are just examples and what I want to ask with all this is that, in my case I could identify what was happening on time before accepting a contract, but if this happens after we accept the contract... Like, the client send a offer for a specific job and right after I accept the client ask much more work that is out of the scope of his first request, how do I protect myself? Because ending a contract will always affect my JSS. So, this makes me feel afraid to move forward at some situations.

 

What are your thoughts about this?


I think you hit the nail on the head that the best way to deal with this is to properly vet clients before taking on the work. I am very picky about who I'll work with because I just won't work with people who (a) aren't  going to listen to my expert advice  and (b) seem to be too pushy and unreasonable. Of course, in addition to budget and other logistical deal breakers, those are the two questions I ask myself before taking on a client. 

 

And I have never really had a significant problem that couldn't be solved through conversation and understanding on both ends. 


Amanda L wrote:

I think you hit the nail on the head that the best way to deal with this is to properly vet clients before taking on the work. I am very picky about who I'll work with because I just won't work with people who (a) aren't  going to listen to my expert advice  and (b) seem to be too pushy and unreasonable. Of course, in addition to budget and other logistical deal breakers, those are the two questions I ask myself before taking on a client. 

I totally agree with you on this, because I try to do exactly the same thing.

 

Once I had a client who asked me to write European Portuguese articles regarding a specific subject and then he edited my text and added a few words and expressions in Brazilian Portuguese. It's all Portuguese, but the grammar is totally different and some words are not used in both accents. So, the text was with a low quality because of that. I informed the client and explained everything. He kept editing my text. After the job done I never applied again to his job offers.

 I concur with Filomena.  A good client listens and responds to the advice provided by the Upwork professional they are considering retaining for work.  A tactic I engage in is to provide some relatively minor 'test advice' that is true-and-real, yet at the same time, not particularly large in its impact upon the project.  This, I often do during the project formation steps and before the fateful button "accept contract" is clicked upon. 

Perhaps consider, during project formation, the location of some aspect of delivery or budgeting that seems slightly askew, and provide the prospective client with counsel to make an amendment. .  Then observe the prospective client's response.  If they go into combative mode, one of two circumstances have probably happened. They are combative by nature or feel threatened by the suggested alterations to their mindsets.

Test a client's capability to receive advice, consider it diligently, and make informed business decisions with an explanation as to why that decision is made.  In net, quietly position the prospective client to make a good decision (that, in this case, potentially amends their current trajectory of action or thought). Then, observe if such is done and amend one's desire to click on that 'accept contract' button accordingly. Position a prospective client for good decision making then measure their success in doing so.  'Qualify them as much as they qualify us' is the foundational theory engaged.

Have a good day!


Amanda L wrote:

 


I think you hit the nail on the head that the best way to deal with this is to properly vet clients before taking on the work. I am very picky about who I'll work with because I just won't work with people who (a) aren't  going to listen to my expert advice  and (b) seem to be too pushy and unreasonable. Of course, in addition to budget and other logistical deal breakers, those are the two questions I ask myself before taking on a client.


Same. When I'm offered a new contract, I often communicate with potential clients for days before accepting.  Upwork allows a pretty generous 5 or 6 days for accepting a contract, and I think many newbies rush to accept a contract without taking advantage of that window. So unless clients are in a rush, I look for red flags in their communications and other tell-tale signs that there could be problems working with them. I'm borderline neurotic about it as some of these warning signs others may consider "small," but I've never been wrong.  

 

There were two recent examples where I bailed after being sent a contract, and breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't yet accepted their offer. 

 

re: "So unless clients are in a rush, I look for red flags in their communications and other tell-tale signs that there could be problems working with them."

 

Clients who are in a rush should be willing to spend money.

 

If I am really in a rush, I don't have time to play games. I don't have time to be a cheapskate.

 

If I am in a rush, I am going to hire freelancers I know can deliver the quality I need in the timeframe I require. I will hire multiple redundant freelancers. I need the work done quickly, and I don't have time to look for new people if the first freelancer fails to deliver.

Preston,

 

I tell clients who say they're in a mad rush that I charge an extra 30% for projects that have to be completed in less than 8 weekdays.

 

After hearing that, one client then told me he could wait at least 9 days for completion. The others said it was worth the extra money and we moved forward.


Lisa B wrote:

Amanda L wrote:

 


I think you hit the nail on the head that the best way to deal with this is to properly vet clients before taking on the work. I am very picky about who I'll work with because I just won't work with people who (a) aren't  going to listen to my expert advice  and (b) seem to be too pushy and unreasonable. Of course, in addition to budget and other logistical deal breakers, those are the two questions I ask myself before taking on a client.


Same. When I'm offered a new contract, I often communicate with potential clients for days before accepting.  Upwork allows a pretty generous 5 or 6 days for accepting a contract, and I think many newbies rush to accept a contract without taking advantage of that window. So unless clients are in a rush, I look for red flags in their communications and other tell-tale signs that there could be problems working with them. I'm borderline neurotic about it as some of these warning signs others may consider "small," but I've never been wrong.  

 

There were two recent examples where I bailed after being sent a contract, and breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't yet accepted their offer. 

 


Yes, I had a client interview the other day, and the client acknowledged he had no clue what he was doing, but as I tried to advise him on strategy, he simply ignored me and talked over me the whole time. And I was just kind of like, "eh, I think we're not a good fit."  But Filomena is in a more difficult situation that she can't turn away work as much as some of us can.  That's definitely a touch situation to be in . I think we've all put up with the unreasonable client from time to time due to scarcity. 


Amanda L wrote:

Lisa B wrote:

Amanda L wrote:

Yes, I had a client interview the other day, and the client acknowledged he had no clue what he was doing, but as I tried to advise him on strategy, he simply ignored me and talked over me the whole time. And I was just kind of like, "eh, I think we're not a good fit."  But Filomena is in a more difficult situation that she can't turn away work as much as some of us can.  That's definitely a touch situation to be in . I think we've all put up with the unreasonable client from time to time due to scarcity. 


I would not work with that client either. And yes, for me it's difficult because sometimes I just see less than 5-10 new offers per day that fit with my skills. So, everytime I see that I can deliver a quality work accordingly with the job offer, I apply. And then I try to communicate in a very clear way to see if me and the client fit to work together.

.Then there was the time a client retained me to write a business plan for a special type of visa application.   In essence, if individuals are willing to bring in a pile of money to start a company that will hire U.S. citizens, they go to the front of the line for visa applications.

About 1/2 way in, it became clear that the plan was to fake the financials, try to gain the visa illegally, and so on.  I had to choose between completing the work and provide what was, in essence, a misleading set of projected financials.  Or shut the project down and take the hit.  Though this happened many years ago, I still remember a testy phone call with a (literally) screaming-mad client and the ensuing 2.5 rating.  This happened before the JSS existed, before a contractor could remove a score, and that one sat out there for a long, long time in full visibility.   Just a memory now.  All things pass, including disagreeable clients who are the source of inspiration for long, useful advice-laden threads.  At least they are useful for that purpose.


Lisa B wrote:

Upwork allows a pretty generous 5 or 6 days for accepting a contract, and I think many newbies rush to accept a contract without taking advantage of that window.

In my experience it's 7 days, and I've sometimes taken longer than that, so the client has then had to send a new offer (or is never heard from again).

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