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Private feedback is stupid

If Upwork’s goal in designing the Job Success Score was to create the most opaque, unpredictable, and frustrating metric imaginable, they have done a very good job. I have a client who gave me a rating of 4.85 stars and explicitly recommends me in her public feedback. Yet, my JSS went down because of something she said in her private feedback that indicated that she is a client that “wouldn’t recommend me”. The thing is, how private is it if I can still tell that she is saying something negative? Perhaps this feature was designed to protect the client, but it’s hard to see what it is protecting her from in this case, since I’m still very aware that she said something bad about me and it is now left to my imagination. I’m certainly not happy with her and am probably unwilling to work with her again because of this. Good thing she has that protection! The really stupid thing is that she probably didn’t say anything that bad. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Upwork applied some other weird rule to her private feedback that


Why is this necessary? Why do we need two layers of feedback, which allow clients to be two-faced? Why does running a business on Upwork need to be different from running any other business, where you are judged entirely by your (one and only) public review? Why did Upwork name it Job Success score if it is actually judging other things than the percent of jobs you complete successfully?


I get that maybe there was some inflation in reviews, but my god, the current system is just so miserable to work under. I have gone out of my way to make every client happy, including this one. They have all told me that I have completed their project and that they are very pleased with the finished product. They have all left me good reviews. Yet that isn’t enough to have a 100% JSS. Great system.

Community Member

It's not true that all of your clients have left you good reviews. Three out of 14 left no feedback and all three of those closed in the past few weeks. As I understand the system, those are more likely to have dinged your JSS than any private feedback from a client who gave you a 4 on communication and 5's on everything else.


Private feedback is not stupid. It's in place to protect clients from being harangued by FLs (which, according to many longtimers here, was previously a severe problem). I don't know why you think anyone running any business anywhere is "judged entirely by your (one and only) public review." There is never any way of knowing for sure and completely what clients say about you versus what they say to you.


The JSS is a flawed solution but nobody cares what we FLs think about it. And that's fine. You have a great start here with strong feedback. Even this recent ding--whatever its genesis--has only knocked you down to 91%. Instead of gnashing your teeth about it, spend the time and energy figuring out how to minimize the 'no feedback' contracts--they're a potential plague for all of us, and can't be eliminated but can be managed.

I am very aware of the no feedback problem, another rediculous factor in the JSS, and am working to take care of it. However, those contracts existed before this review and only caused my score to drop to 94%. Upwork support told me that that the drop to 91% was caused by something this specific contract wrote in private feedback. So yes, it is this account's private feedback that is driving down my rating. 


As for the "one and only review" comment, I was referring to the rating systems of other businesses, where Yelp/Google/Tripadvisor give one aggregated public review. Obviously, there are lots of things affecting a business's reputation in general that happen offline, but there isn't a second review system on Yelp where customers get to mess up a business's rating without their reviews actually being published for the business to see. That would be a really frustrating feature for businesses to deal with. That is exactly what is happening on Upwork. 

Why is this necessary?


Freelancers hounding clients for 5-star feedback. At least, that's the short answer.  Others who were part of the Elance/Odesk platforms prior to Upwork will likely give a more detailed reply. 


I'm a Yelp'er, meaning I regularly review establishments using their system. They have a protocol in place regarding any attempts at manipulating feedback. From my experience, if you as the reviewer go back in and remove the review, a pop-up screen appears asking why you're taking such an action. 


But, Upwork isn't going to change the back-end private feedback anytime soon (or maybe never). So, like many of the other FL'ers, I just accept it as the nature of the system and strategize, as best as possible, the opening and closing of client contracts. 


BTW, yes, I agree with you. Would love to see just a straight up star system. But, unfortunately, nefarious FL'ers and clients ruined that, sadly.   



Interesting. Thank for sharing. It's nice to have some context at least. 

The ironic thing is that the JSS is actually forcing me to hound my clients for feedback since no-feedback and idle jobs hurt my score! I never used to reach out to clients about feedback at all because it seems unprofessional, but now I have to, because Upwork does a bad job at convincing clients to leave feedback in the first place and then penalizes me when they don't. 

I tell clients that open contracts begin to penalize my JSS (which in some cases this appears to be true). The strange thing is, there are FL'ers who have a plethora of open contracts and 100% JSS (or at least still somewhere between 90% and 100%). But, with all of the backend components that we cannot see, there could be other reasons why this is the case. And, perhaps they are still receiving ongoing work so the contract isn't inactive.


As I said in another thread, JSS is wacky. 


What I do not do is say anything about a review or feedback. 


The MIA client contracts I close ever so slowly (mainly because I don't want new potential clients to have a false impression of my availability, though this can be cleared up during the interview process). 


If this is the issue, why not just make public feedback non-changeable? Seems like an easy fix. And I also think the very idea of private feedback opens the door for vindictive tactics. The whole idea of feedback exists so that if there is an issue, a freelancer can fix it. How can a freelancer fix something he/she doesn't know is wrong?


How does a freelance harangue a client for a good review? I really am curious, and at what point? before th job is closed? 


Community Member

Kate, quite a lot of freelancers have come to the forums describing the way that they ceaselessly harassed clients who had left them negative feedback until the client changed it. In fact, I've seen freelancers do this after a client left them a "horrible, unfair!!!!" 4.5 stars.


It varies a bit from freelancer to freelancer, but basically they repeatedly contact the client with dramatic entreaties and demands to know what they "did so wrong" and why the client is "trashing their reputation" and blah, blah, blah until the client will say anything to make them shut up and go away. Fortunately, private feedback cannot be changed.

I believe I once read on these forums that only private scores of 8+ qualify as "your client would recommend you"...

I don't know where that came from and I don't think anyone really knows how it all works, so that may be complete rubbish... Anyone shed some light on this?
Community Member

Joseph, just like Kat said, the reason for private feedback is contractors hounding clients for feedback. It feels almost like in some cultures people believe that the secret to excellent feedback is begging for it, not doing a good job. And they don't beg for it once, either. They literally won't leave you alone for weeks and will message almost daily. And trust me, when I say this person did not do a good job - it's not like they did not say "sir" that one extra time.


One guy achieved half of the results we agreed he would achieve and lost interest in the project. I had to chase him for weeks asking to finish work. Every time he would say "ok, it's done now". I check - and something has been done, but the feature is not usable still. I point it out, he says "ok". Once again he comes back saying "it's done" and again - it's not done. And this is happening for weeks! Like 8 times he came back saying "it's done" when it wasn't. EIGHT TIMES! At the same time, my client is on my case asking when their website will be ready. Contractors like that deserve not being able to find clients.


Another guy charged us arm and leg for a project. I review the hourly screen shots and see that half the time he has been working on a different project. WTF!?


Yet one more guy completely butchered a Wordpress template we hired him to make. That was something! Parts of the page were *flying around* when you scroll it down. I guess, he found it too difficult to remove some default animations and probably thought "eh, whatever!" The next guy we hired said it was easier to completely re-make the template than to work with the code the first guy had written.


When I give private feedback, I am looking for a way to give perfect feedback. I ask myself "can I give them a 10 and feel like I am not lying to the other contractors?" The question clearly asks "would you hire this person again?". Most of the time the answer is yes, actually, and the score is a 10. But occasionally, you meet a contractor-from-hell who drags the project down and unwittingly creates more problems than he could have ever solved. Such people should not be on Upwork (or any workplace, really) until they re-evaluate their approach to work.


In some cultures, people will say anything to land a project, even if THEY KNOW they can't do a good job at it. I guess they want to make that $100 now and "feedback? i'll cross that bridge when i get there". They don't focus on results, they feel like if they got tired working - they must have done a good job. I think the JS was really meant to separate these guys from the people who actually try. And I think JS works well.


Sometimes, I see applications with JS around 60%. A score like that you don't earn in a single project. You have to fail several of them to be at 60%. It is extremely valuable information and I think it's a good thing for everyone. For you too, actually. You sound professional, you probably always do a good job. So, their low score reduces your competition. If your score is high, you will be considered first for work. (And in my book 98% is as good as 100% if not better. Because 100% may simply mean the contractor has not run into difficult projects yet.)


I have done my share of contractor work (and still do). I know how things work. I know that on a fixed price, a contractor may think he will make $20/hr, but when problems start - hours go in, but the price stays the same. As the contractor sees that his hourly rate is dropping to $15/hr, then to $10/hr - he is getting more anxious, less motivated to do good work, and more conflict-prone. Yet, as the client, I cannot accept a partial result. It's either 100% done or it's not done. Because I cannot give partial result to MY client. This is a problem with fixed price projects.


Sometimes, I specifically hire people on an hourly basis, even though it's possible to agree on a fixed price. I don't want them to worry about money when the quality of their work is critical for me. I'd rather overpay 20% or even 50%, but have them do a good job. I want to be able to come back to them 10 times and ask for changes and not worry about their reaction. This is something some clients don't understand. They think fixed price projects can be cheaper, therefore they are better. They first say "I just need a simple website" and then a dozen of new tasks comes up during the project. That is just as uncool and needs to be dealt with. Such clients exploit hard working contractors and also should not have a place on Upwork.

Community Member

You SIR have made it clear to me.
I as a freelancer got really frustrated with a dropped JS and was looking for ways to tell how angry I am. Although I think I did a good job.
But, your explanation makes sense and when I think it again...MAYBE it's good that private feedback exists.
For the reason I need to work harder to satisfy my client.

Anton R wrote:

(And in my book 98% is as good as 100% if not better. Because 100% may simply mean the contractor has not run into difficult projects yet.)

Why? That's just what you assume. Maybe the contractor did run into difficult projects but found the way to overcome those difficulties finalizing the projects with flying colors.

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