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3bc53a90
Community Member

Is this a red flag indicating bad client?

On an hourly contract (that I haven't yet accepted), client insists that I use their timekeeping system.  So because I also have to use the Upwork timetracking system, I would have to remember to clock in and out in two different places.  I can see that I might easily forget to do one or the other and I also don't think it should be necessary since the client can already see my work diary on Upwork.

 

Another possible red flag (interested in hearing other's opinions) is that if I accept this contract, there will be a lot of "training" videos to watch and training modules to complete.  After many projects and jobs on Upwork, this will be a first time I will do this type of training.  It's so that I can be trained on the company "way of doing things" and be trained on what they expect in my deliverables, but it seems unnecessarily formal and like I'm getting into an employee position rather than a freelance position.  Any thoughts?

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fe9b8d82
Community Member

Hi Cynthia, fancy meeting you in the forums again!

You have a case of a client treating you (an independent contractor) as an employee.  My worries right off the bat would be what happens if there's a discrepancy in their timing software and Upwork's time tracker?  Are they going to blow a gasket because there was a small difference?

Further, it would depend on the nature of the training videos they wanted you to watch.  A small introduction to company culture or some stupid HR video is one thing, but it would seem to me that training videos for an indie contractor regarding the company culture and way of doing things screams "We want to treat you like an employee, but not have to pay benefits!"

Either that, or they're just super stuck in their ways and want you to make sure that you conform to exactly what they want.  I'd be cautious here.

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36 REPLIES 36
bobafett999
Community Member

Why would you care as long as they pay you for training and your work?

Because if they are a bad client, they can do things like dispute hours and give a bad review.  Sounds like you've been fortunate enough to not have a bad experience with a client.  I on the other hand, need to be selective as far as who I accept as clients because of one bad apple who disputed my hard work and made life generally miserable until I got rid of them.

deborah-ponzio
Community Member

1) I would not accept to utilise two tracking systems at the same time as it is not humanly possible and doesn't make sense;

2) I would not mind about the training as far as it is paid, however, clarifying that you are not an employee but an external service provider before you enter in such trainings would be good, I think. 

I would suggest to clarify the above with them to your satisfaction before you enter in any contract. 

Good advise.  I've responded that I would only use the Upwork timekeeping app and that I would understand if that's a deal breaker.  I've also asked to confirm that the "training" is billable time as a contractor.  If they continue to insist I use their own timekeeping software, or if there is any pushback about being paid for the training, I'll definately decline the contract.

fe9b8d82
Community Member

Hi Cynthia, fancy meeting you in the forums again!

You have a case of a client treating you (an independent contractor) as an employee.  My worries right off the bat would be what happens if there's a discrepancy in their timing software and Upwork's time tracker?  Are they going to blow a gasket because there was a small difference?

Further, it would depend on the nature of the training videos they wanted you to watch.  A small introduction to company culture or some stupid HR video is one thing, but it would seem to me that training videos for an indie contractor regarding the company culture and way of doing things screams "We want to treat you like an employee, but not have to pay benefits!"

Either that, or they're just super stuck in their ways and want you to make sure that you conform to exactly what they want.  I'd be cautious here.

wlyonsatl
Community Member

I regularly use TimeTracker and simultaneously track my time with Toggl. Not a big deal; I like the backup of billable time calculations.

 

Of course. any time they require from you is billable - including any "training" they require. Just keep in mind that you must use your keyboard and mouse in order for TimeTracker's tracked time to be immune to client requests for refunds on hours booked. And update the memo for each time period.

 

Clients can't successfully dispute properly-tracked TimeTracker records. But if the client gives you a bad vibe, move on to other new clients.

Hi Will, like i said below i'm having issues with Upwork's time tracker, it just doesn't work even if i give permissions in the firewall. You mentioned Toggl, i look for it but it's always nice to have a second opinion; have you had any issue to date, how does it work with UpW, have you having any claims from you clients...?

 

Marco C.,

 

Upwork usually tells me my billable work time tracked by TimeTracker is subject to review by Upwork because the client has not paid Upwork for my work. Upwork reviews my TimeTracker-tracked work time in the hope that I made some mistakes and Upwork won't have to pay me in full after such a review. Sometimes Upwork withholds a small percentage of my billable time because something I have done was not in full compliance with hourly payment protection's terms and conditions. (I am never told what these mistakes/problems were. Upwork just withholds the money without explanation.) However, usually Upwork finds no such problems and pays me in full even when a client does not pay Upwork.

spectralua
Community Member

I see no red flags here.

Contract hourly, task match description. I will use 2 trackers, 3, or more if client pay for this. Upwork tracker is a must. All other if needed.

calado-marco
Community Member

I also don't see any red flags.

But your question is interesting and it's one of my main reasons i prefer a flat rate payment with milestones.

As you know, upwork's time traking app takes snapshots of your desktop from the time you log in until you log out.

In one hand it has payment protection, that means that if the client is a grifter, upwork will pay for your work - payment secured.

On the other hand (and this is from personal experience) there can be times when you are looking at the other screen or trying to figure things out, and the snapshots look all the same ( it looks like iddle time) from the client's point of view you are doing nothing... And that can create meaningless discussions..

The other thing in my personal case is that (and i don't know why) my pc blocks upwork's time traking app - i've tried to give firewall and antivirus exceptions, but everytime i restart the pc it goes back to the same... so what i do when i accept hourly works is asking the client to put the first payment in escrow (for instance 10 hrs a week like a milestone) and then i just manually add the hours.

Don't know if this helps, hope it does.

I didn't know a client could set up escrowed funds on hourly projects, but I'd never depend on work time manually entered in Upwork's system. Such work time is clearly not covered by Upwork's excellent hourly contract payment protection. And "escrowed" payments are subject to reversal under Upwork's current system.

The client can put any value he wants in escrow, the thing is the value attributed to any particular work.

But you're right; manually added time doesn't have any payment protection.

What is the benefit (to the freelancer) of having funds in escrow for an hourly contract if the manually added time still isn't protected?  

Just like a milestone; at least you'll be paid according to the work you deliver.

It's definitely not the best solution but picture this; if only half of the clients were grifters and Upwork had to pay for their hourly work, Upwork would go down in a couple of months. When the client deposits the value in escrow, that's money that Upwork keeps, so the client has two chances; ask for reviews or loose the money.


Marco C wrote:

Just like a milestone; at least you'll be paid according to the work you deliver.

It's definitely not the best solution but picture this; if only half of the clients were grifters and Upwork had to pay for their hourly work, Upwork would go down in a couple of months. When the client deposits the value in escrow, that's money that Upwork keeps, so the client has two chances; ask for reviews or loose the money.


The other option is to ask their bank for a chargeback, so you don't really have any payment protection whether the money is in escrow or not. It's also possible for a fraudulent client to use a stolen credit card to fund the escrow account, in which case you won't get paid, either. The only real payment protection is to  use hourly contracts and use the tracker properly, and even that will only cover you up to $2,500.

Thanks for that.  I realize I'm at a point of being possibly overly cautious on accepting contracts after getting burned once.  I had a similar problem like your idle time with the tracker app; I was on multiple phone call consulations with a client, but I wasn't clicking around randomly or typing randomly on my computer enough so it showed as "idle" or not enough activity (because I was focused on the conversation), so when those hours were later disputed, the client got all that time reimbursed, and thus the client earned themselves free consulations.  

Upwork should automatically count time using its Zoom app. which we know is currently tracked by Upwork, to be considered irreversible work time to the benefit of the client. I don't know that it's possible to game Upwork's tracking of time spent on the Zoom app with a client, but it's definitely possible to show keyboard and mouse activity during TimeTracker usage without necessarily working on the relevant client's project. A bit of a paradox really.


Will L wrote:

Upwork should automatically count time using its Zoom app. which we know is currently tracked by Upwork, to be considered irreversible work time to the benefit of the client. I don't know that it's possible to game Upwork's tracking of time spent on the Zoom app with a client, but it's definitely possible to show keyboard and mouse activity during TimeTracker usage without necessarily working on the relevant client's project. A bit of a paradox really.


Yes, it's possible to show keyboard and mouse activity without working on anything, but if the client looks at your work diary and sees blank pages, they can dispute. (Freelancers who've tried to use auto-clickers have discovered that they absolutely do not qualify for payment protection, despite their high activity levels.) As I've said before many times, you can type notes in Word while you're on a call with a client, and that will qualify for payment protection. You'll also have the advantage of being able to send the notes to the client to sign off on whatever was discussed and have them for your own reference, so that there's no possibility of them saying, "I told you to do such-and-such during our call", when they said no such thing.

Just so you know, random mouse clicking or idly typing isn't enough to give you payment protection - the screen shots need to show that you're actively working on something and show progress being made. If you're on the phone, you can type notes about the meeting instead.

Yeah, how many times do we need to make hand sketches or mood boards or just loking at dwg's trying to understand things? Nothing of that counts if it not show changes in the screen shots? Nevertheless all that is work...


Marco C wrote:

Yeah, how many times do we need to make hand sketches or mood boards or just loking at dwg's trying to understand things? Nothing of that counts if it not show changes in the screen shots? Nevertheless all that is work...


I never said that it wasn't work, I said that the tracker had limitations. If a client looks at your work diary and sees a bunch of screen shots with you just typing "x x x x x x x", they can challenge that.

Yes i know that you never meant to say that it wasn't work, my reply was in fact to highlight that it is work... just like you said!๐Ÿ˜„

Not according to what I've been told by Upwork support.  They said that they only looked at the activity levels (clicks and key strokes) and any screen shots that had activity less than 50% in clicks and key strokes were not paid.  It had nothing to do with determining whether the screen shots "showed progress being made" or not.  But at least by making notes I will keep up the keystroke count.  It's always obvious though when someone is taking copious notes and it's distracting to clients and it looks like I'm not paying attention to the conversation.  It's a solution, but certainly not ideal.


Cynthia H wrote:

Not according to what I've been told by Upwork support.  They said that they only looked at the activity levels (clicks and key strokes) and any screen shots that had activity less than 50% in clicks and key strokes were not paid.  It had nothing to do with determining whether the screen shots "showed progress being made" or not.


By this logic, you could be playing a video game and still get paid; after all, you'd still be clicking, so the tracker would be measuring activity. What would be the point of the screen shots, if nobody is going to look at them to determine whether you're actually working or not?

I don't know the answer to that.  I'm just relaying what support told me regarding the disputed hours/time chunks.  In fact, part of the disclaimer email on the dispute said that dispute resolution would NOT be reviewing quality of work, only activity levels.

You're right, Cynthia H.

 

Anyone who wants to understand what Upwork tracks can review this page:

 

https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/articles/211064098-Log-Time-with-Time-Tracker

 

...which clearly says:

 

"The app does not record the following:
What you click
What you type
Non-visible information like ***ed-out passwords
Lists of applications you use
Images or video footage through your webcam"

 

 


Will L wrote:

"The app does not record the following:
What you click
What you type
Non-visible information like ***ed-out passwords
Lists of applications you use
Images or video footage through your webcam"


So you're saying that I could play a video game and still get paid? Why do you think the app bothers to take screen shots at all, if what we're working on doesn't matter?

Why can't I delete a comment lol

Obviously, Christine, what Upwork is referring to in that quote as being "recorded" is the mouse and keyboard activity, which is not the same thing as taking a screen shot. Different information; different action/activity for Upwork to track.

 

If either Upwork or the client review a freelancer's tracked time period and see the screen shot reflecting game playing, etc. then all the mouse clicks and keyboard action in the world won't be proving the freelancer was working on the client's project. 

 

This is why Upwork tracks the two different sources of freelancer activity. If either of the two different sources contradict the notion that the freelancer was working on the client's project then that 10-minute time tracked will not be paid by the client.

 

I am surprised you don't already know all of this. I guess we all need to review Upwork's Terms of Service, etc. once in while.

So you're saying that typing gibberish would qualify you for payment protection? I'm genuinely curious, since I've never been through the process - my clients always pay me. And didn't you say in another post that some segments of your time weren't paid for when you've needed payment protection, and you don't know why?

What I am saying, Christine, is what Upwork itself clearly says about its tracking of a freelancer's keyboard use during a TimeTracker-tracked time segment - what is typed is NOT tracked, that the keyboard is being used IS tracked. A pretty simple concept, I'd say.

 

Upwork won't identify why a particular 10-minute segment doesn't qualify for hourly payment protection. Since these amounts are so small I don't lose any sleep over them. Upwork provides payment protection on all but a small fraction of the time I track. The segments that are unprotected for reasons unidentified by Upwork are just a very small price of doing work via Upwork.

I think Christine's original suggestion to type notes during a phone meeting with a client, while you are running the time tracker, is an excellent idea.  That shows both activity, as well as a task related to the memo which you hopefully remembered to update.

You said "Upwork should automatically count time using its Zoom app." I think you're right, and Cynthia's case is a sample of that. If UpW is providing a consultation service charging by the hour (and most of this kind of services are provided by call or video conference) then UpW should track by zoom... That would make far more sence instead of just screen shots, unless that you full screen the video window and just move your head once every 30 secs...๐Ÿ˜…

celgins
Community Member

I'm not seeing dark red flags here, but maybe a light pinkish, misty rose coloring that I wouldn't be 100% comfortable with. My comfort isn't necessarily about the client being a scammer; rather, I prefer to avoid doing "extra" when my only desire is to provide a service. I'm not using any company tools, taking tests, or participating in any company training.


Using a second time-tracker might not be difficult to pull off, but I wouldn't do it because the Upwork time-tracker is where your hourly protection is--not the client's time-tracking system. The Upwork work diary is the only one I'm concerned about. If the client needs your hours tracked in their own time-keeping system, they can monitor your Upwork work diary; create a profile for you in their system; assign you a charge code; and either they can enter your completed time themselves or let you enter it after you close your Upwork work diary for the day.


Training? Please.

 

Like you and others have suggested, the training sounds like company training provided to employees. The only way I would consider this type of "how they do things" training is if they offer a long-term contract, which means you would be acting as their accountant/bookeeper for an extended period. Since I don't know much about freelance accounting/bookeeping, I don't know what the client expects in your deliverables or why they need to show you how they do things. In my opinion, your format for deliverables should suffice.

 

You're an expert accountant with degrees in accounting and almost 20 years of professional experience. Maybe you should be providing training to the client on how YOU do things. ๐Ÿ˜‚

3bc53a90
Community Member

I love this!  I'm relatively new to freelancing and trying to get out of the old "employee" mindset.  

mwiggenhorn
Community Member

As I work almost exclusively with lawyers, I have had many jobs where I had to use the Tracker and also whatever time-keeping their firm uses to re-bill their clients.  Usually, I am able to use the Tracker and then add that time to their program.  I would have no problem with running two simultaneously as long as I could edit in case I forgot to log on. It certainly would not be a red flag for me.

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