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Problematic client wanting a refund long after the contract has ended

draganchev
Active

Please help. This is going to be a long post but please read it all the way through.

 

This is the timeline almost full of problems but I do have to write down some details to create the full picture of what is still going on.

The client has invited me to an interview on the 6th of May. I have accepted the interview and submitted the portfolio with some questions, as I always do. The client then asked me: "Why don't I just hire you hourly and you just submit your hours not to be more than 20 a week . I have all the schemes, etc. I can send you." 

The client then sent me an offer that they have immediately corrected and updated, then withdrew that offer and sent me another one (reason: this offer was replaced by another one), with no explanation as to why they did all that. To me that was the first red flag because they were either indecisive or couldn't figure out how to do things they want, but still nothing bad enough, so I have excepted it. We have settled with 5.5 dollars an hour, weekly limit 20 hours and start date May 07.2021.; literally nothing other than that, even though I asked about the due date and more when I submitted the proposal.

When I asked the client what would the color scheme be they referred me to a webpage that I had to buy the color scheme from. I did not do it; instead I just took a screenshot of the palette and worked it out in Ps, explaining how I think Upwork does not support referring to another website. Then of course I did charge it because that too is working on that job. That was the third red flag - the second one was that they were rude pretty much all the time, not calling me names but - some examples are: "educate me and I will do it",  "no, sorry, I think I need to write some things out for you to make it more clear", etc.

I would send her some images and examples of what my work would look like but she would constantly disregard (not all of them but 85%) files, messages and questions I would ask. And even more than that, but this post would be veeery long if I put all that.

We did settle with something so I did have things to start the work with.

I started the work on Saturday, May 8, 2021, asking 7-8 more questions that she did not reply before Monday, slowing down the process (something she would also keep doing and then blaming me for all the work not being done in time, forgetting that we did not settle with any due date at all). She did not even answer every question but did expect me to work with it (which I find wrong on so many levels). 

Then she sent me a floorplan with not enough details to work with, which is OK as long as the client answers all the questions I have about it; I have worked and successfully completed jobs with even less. However, not only that she did not answer many questions, she also openly wrote: "I do not want to get hung up on dimensions yet" and that: "the POSITIONS AND DIMENSIONS OF WINDOWS DO NOT MATTER". We argued a lot about doors and windows because she didn't want to answer my questions and kept persuading me that I have to make things work, things that could physically not be implemented later. I did explain the static and construction reasons why as well as the fact that she would have to pay another architect/freelancer to completely change the looks because things that she wants to put can simply not fit there. That would definitely not pay off for her, she still insisted though. I did not do it because I never want to do things that cannot get implemented in reality. Then she proceeded with drawing me things I did not ask for. 

One time she even compared me to another freelancer stating that "she only chose me because the other one was busy" and that the other freelancer "did it much faster". I did not even want to say that the work that the other freelancer did was downloading a model and rendering it without putting it in the actual space. And then........she asked me to put all other work on hold so I can finish her job. That would be OK if she did not PAUSE THE CONTRACT pretty much forcing me to do the work for free because she did not want to pay. Yes, my 3DSMAX program was constantly showing the "Not responding", yes it did take me a while to do the job but 90% of the time she was the one actually procrastinating and I have charged ALL the work I normally would. 

This is a part of the conversation:

 

**Edited for Community Guidelines**

 

I did send the last image and actually ended the contract. A few days later she did send me an INVOICE TO GIVE HER A REFUND but the message did not get to me (somehow) so she sent another one. I only received both at once only when she sent that second one.

Please tell me what do I do, I do not want to refund her, that would be free work. Plus I do not have the funds needed for it. She is literally the only dissatisfied client so far.

ACCEPTED SOLUTION

Dragana V wrote:

Should I be scared?

 


No, you need not be scared. The contract is closed. The client can't even give any feedback anymore. What you call "invoices" are most likely Upwork refund requests. They are not disputes. It is too late for a dispute.

 

Respond in a short and professional message that the time was tracked according to Upwork's terms and all worl handed over as requested. State that you will not refund and wish her well.


Then block her.

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16 REPLIES 16
petra_r
Community Guru

With hourly contracts NONE (!!!) of that long post (and I didn't read everything because it is too long and mostly has nothing to do with what is happening) matters.

 

All that matters is when you last tracked time.  When was that? If it's the contract that ended on the 29th of May it is waaaaay too late for the client to dispute a single Dollar. The client only has 5 days after the end of the work week to dispute, or, at the very most and in exceptional circumstances at Upwork's discretion, 30 days. Both are well and truly over.

 

You may write a brief message confirming that you worked the time and sent her the work, hence will not be issuing a refund.

Thank you for taking the time to answer. The client has put an invoice (not a dispute) on June 04th and the contract has ended on May 29th; I am not sure if she paused the time tracking on May 29th or 28th, however when I turned the desktop app on on May 29th it was already stopped. I am a little bit confused because the invoice writes that refunds may (only) be issued up to 180 days after payment is received. What does that mean for me as a freelancer and what should I expect from the client? What could be the possible outcomes and consequences?

The client has sent you her own invoice with her own rules included in it, as though you have to abide by her rules rather than Upwork's?

 

Tell her you have complied with Upwork's policies and procedures, none of which are affected by anything she decides she wants to do in terms of invoices and payments. Tell her the project is closed, you are done with it and wish her well in finding the right person to help her with her project.

 

And then just stop responding to her. Move on to better clients and chalk her up to a learning experience for you.


Dragana V wrote:

Thank you for taking the time to answer. The client has put an invoice (not a dispute) on June 04th


What do you mean "an invoice"?

Can you describe this? "Invoices" are not a part of Upwork's refund request process.

 


Dragana V wrote:

I am a little bit confused because the invoice writes that refunds may (only) be issued up to 180 days after payment is received. 


Are you saying the client did a "refund request"? Because those include wording to that effect. Is that what you mean by "invoice"?

In that case, that is meaningless. There is no way the client can dispute this contract anymore. The contract is closed, the dispute period is over.

 


Dragana V wrote:

 What does that mean for me as a freelancer and what should I expect from the client? What could be the possible outcomes and consequences?


Expect nothing. This is over. The client missed the dispute deadlines, you do not have to dispute.

 

If you have tracked the time correctly with the Upwork tracker, you'd have been protected even if the client had disputed in time.

 

This is what came to me as a text message:

(client) requested a refund

(amount written)

 

This is what I opened:

Contract ----

Invoice(s): Invoice for ---

 

I got a little bit confused by the wording myself but I guess that is the form of a refund request.

Thank you (all) for the consolating words, that means a lot to me now.

wlyonsatl
Community Guru

Dragana,

 

The better you know Upwork's rules, the better you can set up your projects and relate to your clients (especially the difficult ones) - many of whom have no understanding of the details of how Upwork works.

 

I am working with a couple of clients now who are pretty much disengaged with their own project, acting as though I should just do what needs to be done and stop asking so many questions. (Questions I am certain they cannot answer, or, worse, questions they don't understand.)

 

My advice with such a client is to just do what they tell you they want done rather than arguing what should or needs to be done. There is no good reason to try to reason with the unreasonable.

 

As far you are concerned, this project is in the past and no longer your problem. Just tell this particular client you wish her well and hope she can find the right freelancer. Then stop communicating with her. No more free work, but a follow-on freelancer on the same project might have a couple of questions, which I would answer for the other freelancer's sake, if not the client's.

 

For future such projects, always ask a potential client for information and necessary details before you agree to a contract. If they put you off, don't understand your questions or just aren't responsive, know that you can only expect their behavior to get worse once a contract is in place.

 

Good luck.

 

Hourly contract:

Client has 5 days after work week ends during which they can attempt to dispute a freelancer's hours.

 

https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/articles/211062158-Dispute-an-Agency-or-Freelancer-s-Hours

 

This client's behavior is unprofessional, unethical, and immoral.

 

As a freelancer, YOU must always be polite and communicate in a professional manner. But don't give the freelancer a refund. Refund thinking hurts clients. Don't criticize the client. Don't argue with the client. You don't need to defend yourself or your work. I do not advise you to completely ignore the client. But the fewer words you send in reply, the better. Many words from you can be like adding fuel to a fire. You want this fire to die down, not be stoked.


Preston H wrote:

Hourly contract:

Client has 5 days after work week ends during which they can attempt to dispute a freelancer's hours.


That's already been pointed out, but it's not just the 5 days necessarily.

 

According to Upwork's ToS Upwork can, at their discretion, examine the work diary of the last 30 days and make adjustments based on that, so it's not necessarily just the 5 days.


Either way, the 30 days are as categorically over as the 5 as the contract ended in May. 


At worst the client could request mediation, which is non-binding and has no teeth and nothing could force the freelancer to refund.

It can only benefit every Upwork user - freelancer and client - to know what Upwork's policies and procedures are.

 

I appreciate your notes about the 30-day time period, as well as your notes about what can happen after that time.

 

Every client who hires freelancers should know this:

The time to dispute a freelancer's hours (IF they don't qualify for Upwork payment protection) is during the five-day period after the work week ends. Even during that period, if the freelancer followed Payment Protection rules, you probably won't get hours removed and you will need to pay for that time.

 

After the 5-day period, you are probably not going to get any money back. You are taking a huge gamble if you think you can wait to do something after the 5-day period is over.


Upwork's rules and procedures in this matter are essentially designed to BLOCK a client from getting money back if the freelancer has been dealing honestly and really working on the client's project.

 

If a client wants to NOT pay a freelancer who logs time properly, the only safe and certain thing for the client to do is to CLOSE the contract before the freelancer logs time.

Thank you a lot!

Like I wrote, it was not a dispute but an invoice for a refund (if that is not one and the same thing; if it is - sorry for my ignorance, I will try better and do the research). 

I tried my best not to be rude - I did not criticize the client and gave my best not to argue with her. 

I think I do qualify for the Upwork payment protection, I did not get any hours removed, I was working on the client's project and I did log time properly (sory for the lots of "I"s). 

It has been over 30 days and the client has managed to send an invoice yesterday. What do I do?

Again, thank you a lot for taking the time to read and answer!


Dragana V wrote:

It has been over 30 days and the client has managed to send an invoice yesterday. What do I do?


It is not an invoice.

It is a request for a refund and the client can send them all she likes, it makes no difference and it is meaningless. They mention the invoice(s) the client wants to have refunded, if any.

Only a dispute yould have caused any involvement and the client is completely out of time for a dispute.

The client can send you more of those "requests for refund" but you don't have to refund and can just say "No". As advised previously, simply write a message saying that as the work was tracked as per Upwork's terms of serviice and all work was handed over, you will not be refunding and leave it at that.

 

The client can't force you to refund. Those requests (which you call invoices but they're not invoices) are the same as the client saying "Please send me a refund".

 

Hello,

Thank you for taking the time to read the post and give a suggestion. 

I know that sometimes we should just do what they want even though it is imposible to implement it later on, but here is what happens next - it is always an architect/designer/freelancer to be blamed for not advising them properly even though we did. I wanted to give her the advise that would ease of her own finances and I did everything I could think of to do that and to, possibly, intrigue her to put her trust in me when she starts working with the contractors and engineers.

I thought that the job is over and that I will not have to think of it again but she sent me two invoices (the first one I did not get in time) so now I am not sure if the project is in the past. I don't even know if I should just ignore her, there might be consequences to it that I might not be aware of. Should I be scared?

Thank you, again!


Dragana V wrote:

Should I be scared?

 


No, you need not be scared. The contract is closed. The client can't even give any feedback anymore. What you call "invoices" are most likely Upwork refund requests. They are not disputes. It is too late for a dispute.

 

Respond in a short and professional message that the time was tracked according to Upwork's terms and all worl handed over as requested. State that you will not refund and wish her well.


Then block her.

This all seems so goofy.

 

A client hired a freelancer to work for her.

And months later, the client sends the freelancer an "invoice", asking for money?

 

On what planet does that make sense?

 

I ate dinner at Village Inn a couple months ago. (I ordered an omelet.) Should I go back there now and deliver a bill to them, and ask them to pay me for the meal?

I guess the entitlement and egoism in some people lets them do questionable stuff. Lesson for me to be a bit more carefull when choosing the clients and jobs.


Dragana V wrote:

I guess the entitlement and egoism in some people lets them do questionable stuff. Lesson for me to be a bit more carefull when choosing the clients and jobs.


Dragana, it sounds like you came up against a client who just doesn't know what she wants and is very disorganized. And I think it's likely she realized she is in over her head when you began asking questions so you could do a good job. And when she doesn't know, and doesn't want to look stupid by asking you to explain further (which would be fine, right, because as experts we should know more than the client), but instead she got defensive and stopped responding and also began a sort of finger pointing. There are ways to de-escalate this, but often it's not worth it. 

 

But you used Upwork properly so you'll get paid and this client can move on to terrorize someone else. 

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