I would like to discuss my very recent pathetic experience with a client. The client invited me to look into her work. After submitting a proposal, she hired me instantly. She is currently pursuing a master's degree from math department and working on her thesis on mathematical modelling of some data using Python or MATLAB. She wanted me to develop an agent based model for her university scheduling, which is a part of her thesis. But unfortunately, she does not have any knowledge on agent based modelling, machine learning, deep learning, heuristic models etc. Also, whenever I tried to explain the coding that I was developing for her, she never gave me a chance to speak. She always dominated the conversation, talked way too much about her requirements without any realizations about the scope or feasibility of the outcomes, and texted very frequently even outside Upwork (on WhatsApp).
It was a 1100 USD project with three milestones. At the beginning, everything was going okay. Although I realized that she did not have any knowledge on her research area, but I tried my best to cooperate with her. She first told me to build an SEIR model for the university student and faculty member class schedule based on the current considerations of the pandemic. She gave me a paper that discussed the approach for the SEIR model with different plots that she wanted me to mimic exactly with her own data. I promptly sent her the SEIR model with similar results. But all on a sudden, she was complaining that it was completely wrong to use SEIR approach. She told me that her professor wanted an agent based model for the schedule. The funny thing since she does not have any background, she did not realize that I also sent her the schedules implementing the genetic algorithm for that complex scheduling task for her whole university members.
She is a graduate student of mathematics, but she has never heard of that term. I tried to explain her several times, but every time, she talked in her ways with her requirements without acknowledging that I was helping her to choose the right modelling approach for the thesis. She started with SEIR, but her professors rejected that model. At some point, she eventually thanked me and said that she was satisfied with my work. I did not realize that in the meantime, she was in contact with other freelancers for this same project. Today she ended the contract all on a sudden without informing me. We were about to talk for the project, but she canceled blaming me that it was too late to finish. But the final deadline to finish all the tasks is on 02 March 2021. I noticed afterwards that she hired another freelancer a few days back (see the screenshot below), and that is the only reason she just canceled with me. She only paid me for the first milestone that she also requested a refund. I tried my best to communicate with her all the time, but she became rude, harsh, and very impatient as the project moved on, which I now realized that she found a better option than myself.
Upwork does not provide freelancer the options to cancel a contract without any penalty if they find that the client is involved in some unethical manners to search for a better choice when they already made a contract with anyone. My contract was supposed to end on 02 March 2021. Because Upwork punishes us for a zero income canceled contract, we have no choice but to continue with the client even if we feel that the client is indeed abusing us. Next, for this type of client behaviour, we have also other barriers. The client puts a damaging remarks on my profile, so my JSS will go down sharply. It is a win-win situation for the clients, but a complete and utter disaster for a poor freelance like me. I would really appreciate if someone could provide their insights dealing with this type of situations so that I could improve myself and avoid these circumstances in the future.
**edited for Community Guidelines**
I'm sorry to learn about your experience with this freelancer. I haven't been able to check your account yet, but do you have the Contract ID for this contract? It sounds like this is a fixed-price contract. Please know that as a freelancer, you always have the option of disputing the non-release of a milestone payment. When you a client requests a refund on money in escrow, you also have the option of releasing the refund or disputing it if you think you have the right over the money in escrow. Any dispute filed goes to review, and a member of the Mediation Team will reach out to assist both you and the client to come to an amicable resolution.
We also have fixed-price protection in place to make sure that you get paid for work completed. Hopefully, these options will be helpful to you in the future.
Here is the contract ID: 26276689. The client has already paid me the first milestone, but asked a refund for it. I do not think I need to dispute it since she had approved the first milestone. But there were other two milestones that I was supposed to finish by 02 March 2020. She canceled the contract suddenly because she has already hired another freelancer for the same job in the meantime. So, she asks for a refund for the first milestone now and is planning to give that amount to the other freelancer for this job. She probably found someone more qualified than me while still being in a contract with me. It is very unfortunate and so disappointing to digest everything.
Thanks for sharing that information, Enaiyat.
I see it now and see that you have already been paid for the first milestone. For the other milestones, since there was no money in escrow, we will not be able to help you collect any funds that have been promised but not deposited to escrow. Therefore, it's important that the amount held in escrow is appropriate for the work you will perform for that milestone.
For the first milestone, you have the option of issuing a full refund, a partial refund, or no refund at all. The decision falls to you and how you wish to move forward with this request. I would however suggest discussing this with the client or at least communicate how you will move forward with the refund request so that you can smooth things over and end the relationship amicably.
Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately, I won't make any further communication with that client. She hired another freelancer right after 6 days of hiring me. My contract began on 12 February, but she hired somebody in between without informing me that she will not continue with me. She could have informed me on 18 February when she hired the other freelancer. I wouldn't put my efforts on her work then. But she disguised the matter. This is such a level of dishonest and disrespectful acts on Upwork. I wish Upwork would stand with the freelancers or at least consider some options so that the JSS won't hurt much for freelancers in these excruciating events in the future.
Thank you so much Mikko for taking time to provide your insights. Next time, I will ask certain specific questions to the clients, whether the project is directed towards their academic degree or not. For that incident I mentioned, the client informed me that she needed help for making a schedule that considers the current pandemic parameters. She said that their university needed this schedule as they move forward with planning to open the campus. But next time, I will ask more questions to make sure about their full intent of the work. I have been involved in academics for long and I take seriously about the academic integrity, plagiarisms, and so forth.
But as you may realize, I could not opt-out of that when I came to know her real motivation of hiring later on because of the Upwork's brutal system of lowering freelancers' JSS. It is very unfortunate, but I had to continue with her for the sake of maintaining my career on Upwork. I wish, Upwork will consider a case-by-case approach in the near future when they assign JSS using their secret algorithm. As a new freelancer, it hurts me now; nevertheless, I will learn from mistakes and build a healthy profile here.
Enaiyat Ghani O wrote:
I could not opt-out of that when I came to know her real motivation
Yes you could have done and yes you should have done. You deliberately, willingly and knowingly participated in something you know is very wrong.
Enaiyat Ghani O wrote:
....because of the Upwork's brutal system of lowering freelancers' JSS.
Upwork do not lower your JSS for ending a contract... That's a cheap cop-out. What lowers your JSS is bad feedback, and you got that anyway. So that backfired in a spectacular fashion, didn't it?
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