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slschakel
Community Member

How should I handle this carrot-dangling client?

 Hi Everyone,

 

I'm hoping to get some advice on this sticky situation. I've been working for this client on a very repetitive/tedious/not fun at all writing task. I took lower than what I normally would because of the promise of lots of long-term work. 

 

They almost didn't pay me for this first 1k milestone because I didn't check that it was in place first! My clients have always set it up without me having to hound them, but I guess I finally learned my lesson about checking the milestones (yay me).  They were about a week late and paid in 3 installments. I get vibes that there is a 3rd person/partner in the loop who doesn't really value what I'm doing and doesn't want to pay for any of this. 

 

In the meantime, they are pressuring me to start more projects while I'm waiting to be paid. Blogs, category descriptions, etc. As soon as they opened and funded (not approved, but I've submitted the project to it) the milestone, they were wanting me to start more projects and have it done ASAP.

 

They got a little huffy with me today when they found out I did not write the blog for them because, as I explained last week, I don't start work without a milestone in place. No new milestone, no blog post. I started to feel like a broken record telling her to open the milestone, so I just stopped saying it. 

 

Now the 3rd person is finally getting around to reading what I've written, and they apparently have problems with the copy (another sign that they are sloppy).  But then they say it's fine, but they want a 5-10% discount on the rest of the project. They promise it'll be worth about 8k to me when it's all said and done (which I REALLY need the money). 

 

I'm being manipulated and I'm sick of it. They've constantly been trying to negotiate me down on this since the project started, and I'm sick of it. But I'm also hesitant to turn my back on a project that size. I'm just starting to get big contracts like this, and I'm worried backing out now will hurt my JSS, and I won't get another big project like that for months. 

 

I guess at this point I really want to just end the contract and forget about it. They can find someone else to pester. Can anyone offer some words of wisdom for this situation? 

ACCEPTED SOLUTION
jmlaidlaw
Community Member

Promises of work to come are worth exactly $0 in cash.

Discounts on freelance work usually make very little sense if they are "volume" discounts. Freelance writing doesn't typically operate such that there is a reduction in effort for volume. When you offer a discount for volume of work, all that you [typically] are doing is locking in a low rate for a long time. Bad for you, but good for cheapskate clients. Volume discounts make sense for buying bulk toilet paper. You're not toilet paper.

Don't let desperation lead you into a bad situation. Some [bad, conniving, low-class] clients prey on desperation.

 

ETA:  The casual attitude toward setting up milestones is a HUGE red flag. It suggests that, at BEST, they consider your just compensation to be only a vague afterthought to their project. One wonders if these people take such a casual attitude towards their own paychecks. (And one assumes they do not!) At worst, they are scheming to obtain your work for no payment at all.

 

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13 REPLIES 13
jmlaidlaw
Community Member

Promises of work to come are worth exactly $0 in cash.

Discounts on freelance work usually make very little sense if they are "volume" discounts. Freelance writing doesn't typically operate such that there is a reduction in effort for volume. When you offer a discount for volume of work, all that you [typically] are doing is locking in a low rate for a long time. Bad for you, but good for cheapskate clients. Volume discounts make sense for buying bulk toilet paper. You're not toilet paper.

Don't let desperation lead you into a bad situation. Some [bad, conniving, low-class] clients prey on desperation.

 

ETA:  The casual attitude toward setting up milestones is a HUGE red flag. It suggests that, at BEST, they consider your just compensation to be only a vague afterthought to their project. One wonders if these people take such a casual attitude towards their own paychecks. (And one assumes they do not!) At worst, they are scheming to obtain your work for no payment at all.

 

Thanks for laying it out this way, Janean. I appreciate the advice. I think I really needed to hear that because it seems like I always have clients asking for discounts in exchange for long-term work, so I assumed it's just the way these things work. I just haven't gotten brave enough where I can just say no and walk away. But I'm not toilet paper! I think I'm going to just end the contract and cut my losses. 

Sophie -- You are not the first (and surely will not be the last!) freelancer to be asked to offer a discount for work done now, based on the promise of future work. (Wimpy used to say in the old Popeye cartoons: "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.")  However, that proposal just doesn't make sense in almost any case for a freelance writer. If you go through old forum threads, you will find many in which seasoned freelancers advise against the practice -- for a variety of reasons. You will also find many threads in which newbie freelancers complain that the promised better-paying work never materialized -- that is, the promised payment on Tuesday never came for the hamburger that the client ate today!  [Sorry, know that the time sequence of that phrase doesn't really work. Poetic license.]

 

Good for you to ask for advice and support here! And best wishes with your work!!  Welcome!

Sophie, I'm not a Writer but was going to suggest that it appeared from your OP that you sincerely already knew what you needed to do.  Kudos to Janean for sharing her expertise with you.  Best of luck, Sophie! 

jmeyn
Community Member


@Sophie S wrote:

Thanks for laying it out this way, Janean. I appreciate the advice. I think I really needed to hear that because it seems like I always have clients asking for discounts in exchange for long-term work, so I assumed it's just the way these things work. I just haven't gotten brave enough where I can just say no and walk away. But I'm not toilet paper! I think I'm going to just end the contract and cut my losses. 


 Sophie,

 

No, it's not the way these things work. Volume discounts make sense if you have economies of scale at work, This isn't the case with writing or translating.

tlbp
Community Member

Dangling carrots are used to tempt donkeys to move. Are you letting this client make a donkey out of you? 

slschakel
Community Member

Haha! Thanks for the support, everyone! Nope, I've decided that I'm not toilet paper, and I'm not a donkey.

 

I'm going to just end the contract and tell them I'm not the right freelancer for them. Then I'm probably going to pour over the similar forum posts! 


@Sophie S wrote:

Haha! Thanks for the support, everyone! Nope, I've decided that I'm not toilet paper, and I'm not a donkey.

 

I'm going to just end the contract and tell them I'm not the right freelancer for them. Then I'm probably going to pour over the similar forum posts! 


 

Urghhhh, so many red flags with this project. I fully respect your decision.

 

Whatever you do,  try to be very polite and maintain that degree of professionalism. I know it can be hard when you KNOW you're being manipulated in this way, but OTOH, try not to take it personally - a company/individual/organization that uses these tactics isn't thinking about you or the quality of your work, they're thinking about gaming the system and getting a lot of work for very little money (IMO). See if you can politely close the contract and move on.


@Sophie S wrote:

Haha! Thanks for the support, everyone! Nope, I've decided that I'm not toilet paper, and I'm not a donkey.

 

I'm going to just end the contract and tell them I'm not the right freelancer for them. Then I'm probably going to pour over the similar forum posts! 


This is totally the right decision, and the relief you feel when you don't have to work on that project or deal with those people anymore will hopefully be gratifying!

 

Walking away can be a very powerful statement of your values in your business. Your time, and your sanity, are worth more than placating clients who just don't get the basic deal that if they want the work, they have to pay for it!

gilbert-phyllis
Community Member

I don't understand how payment could have been "late" or "paid in 3 installments." But never mind, the main thing is that this client seems to represent a perfect storm, with equal measures of incompetence, inexperience, disorganization, and weak scruples. Do not think, for one second, that the project will ever be worth to you what they claim it will be worth in fees. And that's before you factor in the excess time, energy and emotional bandwidth it will consume. You may need the money but you don't need the aggravation. Shackling yourself to these guys will prevent you from being available--logistically and intellectually--for much better opportunities. You've got a good track record established here and you need to play a long game. (Which can be hard, I know, when creditors are playing their short games!)

 

 

I think you should close the contract and get on with your life. If they ding you on feedback, use your TR perk to have it removed. 

That was the scary thing, Phyllis. This was all after I had completed the work and realized they had not set a milestone in place, so they could have just disappeared on me. I think I'm really lucky I've gotten paid at all because I didn't watch my back. I've seen a lot of horror stories on these forums of people saying they never got paid in situations like this. I won't be making that mistake again. 

 

When I asked them to open the milestone, they kept funding them in small, arbitrary amounts. Instead of making one milestone for the full $979 we agreed on and talked about throughout the process, they did $40 at first, then 500 (she said she couldn't get her partners approval so she just gave me something to go on), and now 439 that I have submitted to, but they have yet to approve.

 

My strategy has been to very politely get them to open new ones, and then I quickly submit before they can take it down or whatever. I feel like I should mention that English is not their first language, and they have been claiming to be unfamiliar with how Upwork works. I've been giving them the benefit of the doubt, but today when they are trying to get even more discounts, I just have to see it for what it is. 


@Sophie S wrote:

That was the scary thing, Phyllis. This was all after I had completed the work and realized they had not set a milestone in place, so they could have just disappeared on me. I think I'm really lucky I've gotten paid at all because I didn't watch my back. I've seen a lot of horror stories on these forums of people saying they never got paid in situations like this. I won't be making that mistake again. 

 

When I asked them to open the milestone, they kept funding them in small, arbitrary amounts. Instead of making one milestone for the full $979 we agreed on and talked about throughout the process, they did $40 at first, then 500 (she said she couldn't get her partners approval so she just gave me something to go on), and now 439 that I have submitted to, but they have yet to approve.

 

My strategy has been to very politely get them to open new ones, and then I quickly submit before they can take it down or whatever. I feel like I should mention that English is not their first language, and they have been claiming to be unfamiliar with how Upwork works. I've been giving them the benefit of the doubt, but today when they are trying to get even more discounts, I just have to see it for what it is. 


 Huh? I'm not sure a client can take a milestone down while you're working on it. That is so far beyond the pale of what we ought to have to worry about, that if you think that's a possibility, then stop doing business with them.

 

"Funding them in small, arbitrary amounts" is nonsense. They can either afford you or they can't. They either trust their own judgment in selecting a professional to work with, or they don't. If they don't trust themselves, then they won't trust you and you can't trust them. If, for whatever reason, you are inclined to work on a milestone that is only partially funded and you need to show the client the work in order for them to fund it completely, then protect yourself with a watermark or copyright or whatever is appropriate for that deliverable, so that they can't legally use it until they pay you in full. But that's a lot of drama. It's a lot simpler to stick with working on funded milestones only, with clear and specific definitions of SOW.

 

Cultural disconnects and language barriers can be challenging and we each can decide the extent to which we are prepared to invest extra time/energy in negotiating them. Lack of familiarity with how UW works is not an unavoidable circumstance or an inherent condition that merits extra patience or consideration--it's a choice. In this case, it's just more manipulation.

kat303
Community Member

Promises don't pay the bills no matter how tempting they can be. Try going to the grocery store and telling the cashier that you promise to pay her later and that you'll be a regular shopper at the store.

 

Money, is tempting, but if you're having such a hassle at this point, just think of what it will be if you continue to work for this client. They will try and manipulate you into free work, or they will start to find fault with your work and you'll start to get tons of revisions thrown at you.

 

IMO, you should politely end the job.

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