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How to write feedback: Polite truth, or barely-there neutral?

It comes to us all. THAT client.


In my off-Upwork life I don't have feedback to think about, and so far on Upwork, they've all been gems.


'Til now. The *job* was lovely and I've been compensated, mostly. The *client* was not so lovely. I accepted it as simply frustrating, silent, and quirky... until the last ouch.




—difficult to nail down needs & parameters for job, wishy-washy, arbitrary… never really did, in fact—more like “you do you,” which seemed like a vote of confidence at the time and now... yeah, maybe a red flag

—made changes to parameters AFTER work stages were done, more than once, meaning having to wait for clarification, back up, & re-do before continuing... putting job behind schedule

—approved going forward w/o completed step (i.e. "do that simultaneously with next step because we love how it’s going & we don’t need to see it") but then at very last minute, was surprised not to have had the step delivered separately

—lots of radio silence to my updates and interim deliveries, unanswered questions, lack of understanding of process though it was clearly explained and re-explained to keep clarity throughout—tbh I continually wondered whether the client was *reading* anything I wrote at all, being so unresponsive, but again, I figured everybody's busy so I guess this is just their "way"

—in spite of required redos & late feedback + no answers to essential questions making project run over time, seemed surprised that it wasn’t done, and then—cut the project off so no billing* to finish is possible


*I messaged to say that if I can have the needed answers I've been asking for, I'll at least do that part (billing or no billing) because I don't like not having delivered a finished project—even if more time would be needed to make it a sparkling project I'm proud of, it should still be at a done stage... (I didn't say that last part, lol)



I assume I'm going to get poor feedback from them, and of course I'm bummed about that because it was a cool job and I busted my butt on it. But anyone who operates like this client is likely to think the odd, abrupt ending is the other person's fault. That's not my concern today—it's whether I should word my feedback as a warning to other Upworkers (in a polite way), or not.


Do I write a few polite, careful, but terse-enough words to let others know to consider their stress-tolerance? Or do I just say "Thanks" (or nothing) and hope that brief neutrality lets future freelancers imagine the rest?



Your experienced thoughts welcome.

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Do I write a few polite, careful, but terse-enough words to let others know to consider their stress-tolerance? Or do I just say "Thanks" (or nothing) and hope that brief neutrality lets future freelancers imagine the rest?

If it were me, I'd probably give feedback somewhere in the middle of this. I don't think you need to show neutrality--be direct and clear. But also, be concise. I wouldn't waste energy trying to outline many pertinent details from your experience , but that's just me.


Community Member

Be forthright on the specific star ratings. "Brief neutrality" in your written comment is insufficient warning for other FLs. But you don't need to write more than a sentence, two at the most. A friend recently characterized effective criticism as "calling out sh-t without throwing any" and I love that perspective. What you described boils down to, among other things, inexperience collaborating effectively with professional freelancers. If I saw that comment, I would assume one or more of the following: fuzzy and/or fungible project specs, inconsistent/ineffective communication, poor understanding of their own objectives, general asshattery -- any of which is a bright red flag. 

Community Member

Thanks, folks! Of course I would never write what I did above or any version of that—just wrote it out to give the flavor of what I have to boil down if I'm trying to be of help to others. 


I appreciate both of you saying that simply staying neutral-to-nil isn't enough—that's exactly what I was wondering. Then I'll be calling out without throwing, when the moment comes!

Community Member

Do as you would like to be done to you. I would write the truth.

Community Member

You can tell the polite truth, just don't appear vindictive.  For me, sometimes I leave people with comments that can be taken multiple ways, such  "A one of a kind person/client and a unique and eye-opening experience"


Let's keep in mind that "one of a kind" can be very good...or very bad.  The Hope diamond is 'one of a kind', but so too was Charles Manson.  "One of a kind" isn't always a good thing.


Many experiences can be 'unique' and 'eye opening', and UNPLEASANT at the same time.


I also have decribed these types of people as having 'colorful personalities'.  Not every color in the crayon box is 'pretty', though.


Sometimes it's what you don't say, that speaks volumes.   If somebody says they had an 'eye opening' experience but doesn't mention anything about wanting to experience it again, that says plenty.


I think in your situation, I would leave a short comment and let the number of STARS for each category SPEAK for themselves.  For instance, if a freelancer sees a comment "one of a kind client" or 'client with a very colorful personality' and the rating was 2 stars...well, that SAYS just about all that needs to be said.   Most freelancers with common sense will know that is code word for 'this client is trouble'.  Whatever you do, be diplomatic and polite with your words, but you can be as harsh as you want with the 'stars' in the rating

Community Member

I would be very brief but in a way that tells freelancers the type of problems you were having (sounds like mostly poor communication, lack of clarity in instructions and shifting scope?). Simply saying it was a bad experience isn't really helpful, because different freelancers have different expectations and your bad experience (not necessarily this one, just saying if you only give generic feedback) could be someone else's ideal client.

Community Member

Nobody is required to write feedback. If it is going to stress you out figuring out what to write, just say nothing.

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