Aftering experiencing a couple of non-paying clients, I've reflected on the experience, and I feel that there is enough data to suggest there may be a trend of oDesk scams. They seem to come in 2 forms:
Scam Type #1: I do the work, complete it, and send it to the client. The client responds rudely and never again. After some point, even after contacting oDesk support, I end up closing the contract unpaid because I want the client out of my life.
Scam Type #2: This is a more devious form of non-paying clients. It's a sort of bait and switch. Client posts a job for one type of work, but asks me to do something totally different. Generally, not a big problem as I see it. Then the client asks for my personal email and only corresponds outside of oDEsk. (It's not against odesk rules to do this, but I see the problem with it now: oDesk has no record of our work correspondence. In any event, after I complete the work, the client complains and complains about a problem that does not exist and then says he is going to close the contract. In the end, I end up closing it unpaid because he does not respond and I want him out of my life.
To protect myself, I do the following:
1. ask for a down payment to filter out the true con artists. In the past, I never had to do this. My clients sometimes became friends and they rehired me so it was never a problem.
2. Only accept work by individuals: I won't work with a client who has posted 100 jobs. This is some kind of agency and it's a yellow flag to me.
3. Only accept work by clients in the U.S., Canada.
What has been your experience?
The skype interview is good to see who you are working with. I haven't been doing that but I guess I should try it.
I have been starting to ask for 10 percent down to filter out clients who have no intention of paying. It seems to be working. The sincere clients never have a problem with the upfront payment.
As far as getting through to management concerning this problem, I'm not sure how to do it. I've used Customer Support and they have been as good as they can be. But, it's out of their control for fixed pay jobs which are not guaranteed.
So, my suggestion is to pass along to oDesk management that I believe this no-pay client problem is BIG. What management should do is make the client pay upfront and place it into an escrow account and when a milestone is achieved by a contractor that appropriate portion of the escrow is passed to the contractor. This will:
a. eliminate any client who had no intention to pay in the first place
b. eliminate a client's motivation to not pay because they have already paid.