Scope creep and power balance

One of my primary problems with sites like Upwork has always been the enormous imbalance of power between clients and freelancers. Basically, one bad client can ruin hundreds of hours of hard work. They can punish you with bad feedback for any reason or no reason at all, and there's really not much you can do about it.


Many of them know this and will happily take advantage of it. And one way they do it is through scope creep.


I recently had a project where this was done to a very large extent, and possibly on purpose. I won't give enough details to make it clear who the client was, but I was asked to do what amounted to somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes of work for a flat fee, and then the client piled additional work on top resulting in it taking over 3 hours of my time. This also ruined an evening I had other plans for. He kept adding stuff until even he realized he was being unreasonable and stopped.


And there was basically nothing I could do about it. My choices were to either cheerfully say "yes sir" or risk him giving me a spiteful low feedback score -- maybe in private where I couldn't even see it!


There's no appeals process, no "arbitration", nothing. The client can be totally unreasonable and you are stuck with whatever they give you. We've seen so many examples of freelancer reputations ruined in this manner.


This was the most egregious example but it has come up more subtly in other projects as well. Some clients are reasonable and will offer to pay more when the amount of work increases. Others expect me to be able to read their minds --- they feel it is my fault when they describe needing X done but actually need Y done instead, and expect me to pay for the extra time required.


What's a real shame is that the client I described earlier has more work he needs done, I like him personally and I really enjoy the actual work. But I am going to have to "fire him" entirely because of the feedback system. I cannot afford to deal with more scope creep, and I also cannot afford the risk of getting a bad review if I take on another project, he decides to once again scope creep it to hell, I push back, and he retaliates with a 1* review saying "freelancer refused to do what was requested". Even if I insist on being paid in advance, he can still screw me over with bad feedback. The system is forcing me not to work with the client any more.


I'm interested in reasoned opinions on this. Note that I am NOT looking for "I'm so awesome that this never happens to me!" or "haha no problem because I am top rated!" or "just go for it, stand up for your rights even if it ruins your JSS!" I am aware of all of this already. If you don't need to worry about it, mazel tov. I am interested in practical ideas for combatting this power imbalance, especially for people who do not have top rated status. It will be two more months before I get mine.




Charles, scope creep is a problem even if you're top rated because you can remove feedback at most 4 times a year, I think. Anyway, the only reliable protection against it IMO is an hourly contract. As long as you use the time tracker and do not exceed the weekly limit, you get paid. Granted, the client could still complain, but none have in my experience, knock on wood. For the longest time I preferred fixed price for a number of reasons, but now perhaps I have a slight preference for hourly work. For fixed price projects, one strategy for avoiding scope creep would be mainly working with clients who have strong hiring history and decent reviews. Depending on the type of assignment, you could also state in advance how many revisions you're willing to do. 

"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce

That's why you gotta jack up the price for flat rate. If I think it will take me 1 hour, I charge at least 2. If I think it will be rough, I charge 3. 


If people want to pay for just the hours worked, then they have to go hourly.


Did you tell the client the requested work was outside the scope of the project? Did the client threaten to leave bad feedback? 


I don't know that I would be happy as a freelancer if I was forced to assume the worst of every client. 


In most instances, scope creep is avoided by clearing outlining the deliverables prior to the contract. If the client wants additional work, then you can politely state that it is outside the scope and ask them how they wish to proceed. 


The private feedback is not some huge hidden review. It is the same 1-10 rating freelancers see asking whether you would work with the person again. 

Just two days ago, I was contacted by a client who wanted me to do work that was squarely within one of my niches--and very specialized (scientific editing/proofreading). This was by invitation, not a job I had applied for. After a look at the text and some conversation with the potential client, I began to feel "scope creep" heebie-jeebies, and I held firm on taking this as an hourly task, if at all.


The client said hourly would be okay, if I could tell him in advance how many hours it would take (and if it would not be too many). (!!) I explained briefly the variables involved in his specific job that made it difficult for me to estimate the time required. (And, duh, if we could estimate the time required, that would always make it effectively a fixed-rate job, right? Or, worse yet, such an estimate, applied to an hourly job,  would make our "estimate" actually a CEILING, but not a guaranteed sum.)  The client upped his initial offer by about 50%, but there was still not enough wiggle room left in there for me.  (See Jennifer M.'s comments, above.) Finally, he faded away from the interview.


Even though the job sounded like a great fit for my skills, and the fixed price offered was ultimately not too bad, I am still quite glad that I stuck to "hourly only." I didn't get the job, but I'm thinking I probably dodged a bullet.


More and more, I tend to go with hourly jobs, unless the work particularly interests me, or else I know the client, or else the job is quite clear-cut.

Based on the way this site currently works and there is no way around this issue with fixed bid contracts.  You can mitigate by removing bad reviews as a top rated freelancer, but it cannot be eliminated due to the way JSS works.


My answer to this is based on my segment of work and I realize that this might not be reasonable or workable in other segments.  However, outside of when I first started and was looking to build reputation and experience on the platform, I absolutely never do fixed bid jobs.  First off, the chances that a client sufficiently built out a spec that one could reasonable fixed bid, is extremely small.  I would be quick to add that in the corporate world this is often the case as well.  Additionally, as a freelancer we cannot afford to put in the hours it would take for free in order to get to a point of a proper bid.  In the consulting world where they have business development groups and much larger contracts, this can be a feasible approach.  It's simply not in the freelancing space.  


What I tell every potential client is to use the hourly system like a fixed bid system in order to limit their risk exposure. By this I mean set a low weekly hourly allowance and through that gauge whether the results, communications, working style, etc., are as you expect.  Agree to some expected small deliverable and see what happens.  This keeps the freelancer from charging massive hours while allowing both parties to get something for the time spent.  Once the client is comfortable they can raise the hours if they wish otherwise no harm and you can keep working this way.  If you use the time up early and have more you could do, it's just a simple matter to let the client know you are prepared to do more if they raise the limit otherwise we'll await the next week and resume. 


Personally I have found the above to be extremely successful and it eliminates "scope creep" because it's all paid. For many clients it eliminates the fear of hourly by setting weekly limits.   It eliminates the "not in scope" difficult conversation as well as the need to pad the bid to accommodate for the all the unknowns.  


Charles - I once had a client such as yours. Luckly he knew what he was doing and paid me extra for that work.


IMO You could have told the client that you have fullfilled the requirements of the job and asked them to close the contract and open a new one for the extra work.


As to working with this client again, IMO you certaintly should. BUT, the contract should be an HOURLY contract. Hourly contracts are absolutly perfect for scope creep. With this type of contract the client can pile on as much extra work as they want and you will get paid for that extra work.  If this client will not open an hourly contract, then you shouldn't work with them again. (or if you do. triple your rate.

For those who prefer fixed price jobs the secret to avoiding and eliminating scope creep is to have a detailed and specific plan in place and in the workroom. It is best to use a contract with this info and have the client sign it.


Add a line saying something along the lines of any work above and beyond what is detailed herein is subject to additional charges to be determined.

I always make sure that scope is very clearly defined on the outset.

Every "Oh and can you please also do X, Y, and Z" is met with a very enthusiastic "YES" in the form of:


Hey Fritz,


Sure, that's a great idea and I can clearly see how that's going to make a real difference to "Pet Project Of Fritz"


The cost for X would be $ XX, for Y $ XX and Z $ XX. Would you rather set it up as three additional milestones or roll it into one? Both work just fine for me.






I've not had a client get shirty about it yet, or leave bad feedback. They either go for it, or suddenly remember that they don't need X, Y or Z after all (LOL)


I think the trick is to pretend (convincingly) that you never thought the client would be the kind of penny-pinching scoundrel who would even DREAM of demanding free work.

Thanks for the replies.


Maybe I am just feeling skittish after dealing with a client a month ago (just after I had started back up again) who REFUSED to be satisfied but basically I feel like any pushback I give a client now could be a reason for them to give me negative private feedback and muck up my JSS.


It's a really bad feeling and is making me reconsider my entire "career" here.


I know Upwork wants to protect clients from bad freelancers, and with good reason. But the balance of power has shifted so much that even good freelancers are at risk of having enormous amounts of effort go down the drain at the whim of someone who just decides he wants to do them in.


How do I know which is the guy who will take "Hey Mr. X, I know I said $100 for this project but you described 2 hours worth of work and it's now been 10" and turn it into feedback like "After we agreed on a price he tried to raise the rate! Ripoff artist! Avoid at all costs!"


So I just go along.


It's not right. But the alternative is worse.


Although again, I increasingly am asking myself "why am I doing this?"

@Charles K wrote:

Thanks for the replies.


Maybe I am just feeling skittish after dealing with a client a month ago (just after I had started back up again) who REFUSED to be satisfied but basically I feel like any pushback I give a client now could be a reason for them to give me negative private feedback and muck up my JSS.

 I understand how a bad experience makes you feel vulnerable, especially when you are still a bit new-ish and haven't got a large number of contracts yet. There is safety in numbers. Once you hit top rated and have a safety net, clients like that stop being scary.


The trick is to manage the relationship from before even accepting a contract. Be VERY careful who you work with. At this stage it is probably  without a shadow of a doubt better to turn down contracts the very second you get a "funny feeling" about the client. Interview your prospective clients, as much or more than they interview you. Take control from the outset, drive the contract, don't let it drive you.


Look at the feedback they left previous freelancers.  I barely glance at the feedback freelancers have left the clients, I am only interested in theirs for the freelancers.


Don't let yourself feel like the disadvantaged party of the relationship. Be assertive yet friendly and collaborative.

You know what? I've changed my mind.


I just started another job, this one hourly, except when I asked the client how much time he thinks it should take, I was told a figure that I thought reasonable based on the sample work I was shown. The actual work is double the length. It's impossible to do in the timeframe alotted.


I just politely told him this. If he ruins my JSS, then I'll stop applying to new jobs. Or leave Upwork.


Enough already. I have been working nonstop morning and night and I am just worn out.

why would you ask a client how long it should take?


@Jennifer M wrote:

why would you ask a client how long it should take?




@Jennifer M wrote:

why would you ask a client how long it should take?

Because if he thinks it's going to take 4 hours and I think it's going to take 20, I'd rather know that before I start than after I try to bill him and he balks and refuses the manual hours and gives me a crappy review?


I've only been back here for 6 weeks. I am not where you guys are. This is the stuff that the hoi polloi has to deal with.


I just had another prospective job, data format conversion, where I asked the client if I could talk to him to make sure I knew what he wanted. His response was along these lines: "Didn't you read the job posting? I have no idea how this should be done and the reason I am paying $N [which isn't that much of course] was so I don't have to spend time on this. All I want is something that works perfectly."


Yes that last line really happened.


But at least I am learning, he got a "thank you but I think it's best if I withdraw, good luck on your project" and a yanked proposal within 30 seconds of that.


Again, this is what the hoi polloi has to deal with.


Let me be clear: There are some fantastic clients here, and I consider myself lucky to have a few of them as long-term arrangements even after only a few weeks back on the platform. The problem is that one bad client can undo your rating and JSS despite you doing an excellent job and pleasing many others.


IMO, Upwork has given individual clients too much power over our future success. Most are reasonable, but some are happy to take advantage of that power, like the guy earlier this week that I mentioned in my OP.

@Charles K wrote:

@Jennifer M wrote:

why would you ask a client how long it should take?

Because if he thinks it's going to take 4 hours and I think it's going to take 20, I'd rather know that before I start than after I try to bill him and he balks and refuses the manual hours and gives me a crappy review?.

Sorry, Charles.


If the client "thinks" the job is going to take 4 hours, and I think it's going to take 20, and I respond with "OK, thanks!" who's giving them power, Upwork or me?

If I have no idea how long the work will take, I have to find out—not by asking the client their uninformed and sometimes ludicrously self-interested opinion, but by asking for the specific data past experience tells me is needed to give an accurate bid. An example from my niche would be prior review of a representative sample of text: "something past the introduction, please."

I have one client with whom I have far too many such conversations. For various reasons, I keep working with him. And I have learned that I occasionally have to say. "I have told you how much the job you have specified will cost; the only thing that can reduce that cost is reducing your requirements."

I have more than once literally told him "Take it or leave it." He has always taken it.



DMM, I can't tell the client "take it or leave it" if I don't even know what "it" is.


When I do hourly work I always want to know the expectations. Most of the time there's no issue. In this case there was. I still don't see how it's better to find out a client thought the work should take far less time after the work than before it.


My mistake here was not being more thorough in examining the total work to be done.

The jury may disregard the first two paragraphs. ;^)

@Charles K wrote:

Because if he thinks it's going to take 4 hours and I think it's going to take 20, I'd rather know that before I start than after I try to bill him and he balks and refuses the manual hours and gives me a crappy review?



 If some dude asked me how long I think it would take, I'd do the Ashley Simpson sidestep dance and peace out cuz I'd think I was working with a complete noob. That's just awkward.

Charles K wrote:

Jennifer M wrote:

why would you ask a client how long it should take?

Because if he thinks it's going to take 4 hours and I think it's going to take 20, I'd rather know that before I start than after I try to bill him and he balks and refuses the manual hours and gives me a crappy review?


I just had another prospective job, data format conversion, where I asked the client if I could talk to him to make sure I knew what he wanted. His response was along these lines: "Didn't you read the job posting? I have no idea how this should be done and the reason I am paying $N [which isn't that much of course] was so I don't have to spend time on this. All I want is something that works perfectly."


Yes that last line really happened.


But at least I am learning, he got a "thank you but I think it's best if I withdraw, good luck on your project" and a yanked proposal within 30 seconds of that.


Again, this is what the hoi polloi has to deal with.




Charles, I started on oDesk shortly before - unannounced and over night - it became Upwork and the JSS was introduced. Client #13 tanked my sparkly 100% JSS which become 89% (no money exchanged prior to contract closure, I never even worked for him). For a while, I raged against the JSS & the unfairness of it all. Then I figured it was here to stay and focused on what I could do. I became even more selective. BTW: from day one, I have only billed manual hours and nobody has refused them so far. It's a calculated risk I am taking.
Everybody was the "hoi polloi" when they started out here, even before the JSS. 
You don't ask clients how long they think a job should take because you're supposed to be the expert on that. Today I sent a proposal where the client's budget was $200. I bid 8 times as much because it is that much work. I probably won't get that job. There have been lots of jobs I didn't get because of that. Nevertheless, I promised myself that I would never compete on price. So far I haven't gone there.
As for the yanked proposal: WHY? I seriously don't understand your outrage/reasoning here. The client wants you to fix it, has no idea how to do it himself. To me, that's the ideal customer: he needs you and he knows it. Tell him what needs to be done & how long that will take. Again, you are the expert. You know stuff he doesn't know.
Do people ask you how much you are prepared to pay for your meal, dental appointment, new camera etc.?



I don't have years of Upwork experience but I've done a fair amount both hourly and fixed.  Both obviously have advantages and disadvantages.  I've thought of a couple of things that probably others have too and maybe one they haven't.  


When I apply to fixed price jobs I state in the proposal that the bid for that amount is based on various assumptions I've made to be able to tell if I am interested in the job.  I then state that my price may change after learning more about the job and if the client isn't interested that's okay.


The issue about scope creep makes me think about developing a scoping form that could be adaptable/customized to every situation and would to the extent possible capture everyrelevant detail and contingency.  The form would obviate the need to start from scratch creating a detailed scope for every job.


It seems like clients might appreciate that as they know exactly what they're getting, and it would make scoping a job and making sure you know what you're getting into easier.

Another factor to bring in, and this might get some angry, is the total value of the contract.  Low cost contracts create a large opportunity to get clients that are maybe not what you want.  I am certainly sure that there are many great clients with low cost jobs, but I am also sure there are a ton that aren't great.  Of course you can find clients with substantial contracts that aren't great either, but my sense is that things are weighted against you with tons of low dollar contracts.  I am not going to define what "low dollar" means as it's subjective and I don't have a means of seeing stats showing that things change once you get $X.  For me the only lower dollar contracts I deal with are from long-time existing clients who have a small issue that I can resolve for them.  I would never take this from new clients, but it's something I think is important with existing clients in continuing to honoring their partnership.


I realize that not everyone is in the position or market segment to only go after larger jobs.  But I do think if you are constantly swimming in the shallower end of the pool, you are going to run into these types of issues with more regularity.  



It's disturbing how often freelancers come into these forums talking about how they don't have choices. The root of that problem is not some mysterious power that clients have, nor Upwork's structure--it is the freelancers' choice to make fear-based decisions rather than behaving like professionals who set their own standards.


Every business owner in the free world is vulnerable to customer feedback. A restaurant can be seriously hurt by one popular critic or a small flurry of bad Yelp reviews, for example. Any business model built on avoidance of a possible negative consequence is by definition crap. The freelancer will always feel trapped, frustrated and dissatisfied. Income will suffer. Quality of work will suffer. Nobody will be happy.


The options are basically to set your own standards and live by them, get a regular job or resign yourself to a constant false sense of powerlessness and dissatisfaction.

It's very easy to sit there as a top-rated freelancer with years of experience and $30k+ earned and a $72/hr rate and likely a stable full of established clients, and not have to worry about the consequences of "setting your own standards". Meanwhile we witness a parade of people come through here literally every day who have been shafted over by a single client and are now having extreme trouble finding work.


These people are not usually claiming they are powerless. They are just stating facts. Fact 1, a client gave them a bad recommendation or feedback. Fact 2, they now have a low JSS. Fact 3, they are now having difficulty finding work, even though in many cases their other clients are or were very happy with them.


Are they powerless? No. Are they now at a severe disadvantage in trying to get established here? Absolutely.


This isn't even about me specifically. I actually have the luxury of taking a "take it or leave it" approach if I want to. I could disappear off Upwork tomorrow and while I'd have a lot of wasted effort to show for it, it's not like my kids would go hungry.


I am talking about the many, many other people here who are working extremely hard to establish themselves here and are at constant risk of having it all undone because of a client who refuses to be satisfied or who pretends to be happy and then sabotages with private feedback.


I find it disturbing that people are unwilling or unable to put themselves in others' shoes, and dismiss the feelings of powerlessness that others have without considering the difference in situation that is the cause.


The woman who posted here yesterday about a client who ruined her JSS and refused to change the feedback, and who couldn't afford to refund the money to remove the feedback -- there's nothing "false" about her feelings. They are completely valid. I consider myself fortunate and grateful that I could afford to give back $150 to deal with that situation. Others don't have that option.


And for the record, I never said I didn't have a choice. We always have choices. But sometimes, all of them have severe drawbacks or risks. That is the case here. And yes, it is entirely a result of how Upwork has designed its system, which allows a single client to unilaterally punish a client for any reason -- or no reason at all -- with no form of appeal available.


Sure, a restaurant critic can hurt a business. I've never heard of a critic saying "you better keep bringing me free meals or it will cost you". That happens here.

Charles - how do you think people get those earning levels, hourly rates, and years of experience?  Do you think the issues you are running into are new?  Everyone starts off the same with no clients and no site level experience.  It's the great equalizer.  There are plenty of examples here and certainly throughout this forum of people who somehow, against all the odds, were able to be successful here (in whatever way you wish to define success).  Same overall client base, same site, same JSS, same rules, etc.  There have been a number of useful posts here by people who have found success that you and others can choose to listen to or not.  Freelancing isn't for everyone and every freelancing site isn't for everyone.  That's not good or bad, it just is.  

Unfortunately it's not quite that even a playing field. Freelancing isn't new, but the JSS (relatively) is. Many of the people who are established here were already established before that was implemented. So there is no "great equalizer".


Established freelancers in high-end niches dealing with high-end clientele don't have to worry about one client ruining their online livelihood. Average freelancers do. For starters, the high-end freelancers have lots of steady clients, repeat business and job invites. They have less need to deal with an unbalanced system primed for abuse by the more powerful half of a relationship, with no recourse or appeal.


That's the problem.


BTW, I actually started freelancing online probably before most of the people here (around 2008) and would also be well-ensconced on Upwork had I not left for several years. I'm an "oldbie newbie". I have to work through the silly system with the 16 weeks and so forth, but I've done over 300 projects on oDesk, Elance, Guru, Freelancer and others I've forgotten, so I know how the game works. I also have the benefit of education and real world experience. Yet even with all that, one client can decide to be unreasonable and I am stuck with his never-to-be-seen negative feedback for months. No recourse, no appeal.


This isn't about me. It's about everyone outside the bubble on this forum who is stuck with a system that is simply unfair.

@Charles K wrote:

It's very easy to sit there as a top-rated freelancer with years of experience and $30k+ earned and a $72/hr rate and likely a stable full of established clients, and not have to worry about the consequences of "setting your own standards".

 Charles, I do understand the feeling. What I'm trying to convey here is that I go to the place you describe here precisely by setting standards and sticking to them. I am not disputing that people encounter these issues, nor that their feelings are real. I'm simply saying that responding to feelings is a crappy way to build a career.


I'm not trying to insult you or anyone else here. I'm saying I know what works, and I wish more people would find the courage to try it. I didn't start out with years of experience or a stable full of clients. I started out with NO writing credentials...not even an undergraduate degree. But, I was always selective about the work I took and clear in the lines I drew with clients.


You cannot become a respected professional without respecting yourself and your work enough to draw lines. Yes, that sometimes comes at a price, but in the long run, you simply cannot build your reputation and your authority by cowtowing to bad clients, any more than you can build a lucrative career by accepting crap rates.




Oh, my... 


It is never easy, but as soon as you accept that you have at least half of the responsibility for each professional relationship you accept, you'll understand the point of view of everyone else here.


I'm on Upwork since the last August. The beginning was great - I've earned my first $1 in a month and collected 12 eligible weeks as a rising talent. Then this one bad client (or, to be honest, bad contract, which I shouldn't have accepted in the first place) happened - I refunded him, lost the "rising talent" badge, lost these weeks... Two weeks without the "rising talent" status + two weeks with JSS 83%, and suddenly I was at the beginning again, yet with a JSS. Not a very flattering JSS. I felt horrible. Not powerless, but stupid. Unable to manage a relationship. 


Two weeks after this experience, I couldn't land a job - because of the JSS itself or me being emotional and writing proposals in an altered state of mind, or both - who could tell? My (relationship with my) long term clients helped me pass the critical JSS 90%.


I am not top rated yet. Technically, I am still very vulnerable. It is just that I am much wiser now and will not accept a "bad contract" again. If I do accept one and something wrong happens, I will not blame the client, and I certainly will not blame Upwork.

Tiffany, your advice is superb for people who come here with advanced degrees and professional work experience. For the typical freelancer, however, it's Russian roulette.


That's all I am saying.


You aren't dealing with the same sorts of clients, and don't have the bona fides to allow you to recover as easily from an early bad experience.


Note that I include myself in this group as well, and even I feel like I can be undone by any client at any time until I get "top rated".

Charles, please don't take this the wrong way, but where in life is there a truly "level playing field?" 


Upwork's prime objective is not to create a level playing field for freelancers, it is to do all they can to create great client experiences because those create income and profit and the whole point of the thing is just that: The company making money.


I also think you worry too much. It is entirely possible to bounce back from one bad client, and the trick is to choose clients very carefully, and then keep control of the contract from well before it starts to beyond the point when it ends.


Those are skills needed when running your own business, be it on a freelancing site or when opening a company or a restaurant. 


Running one's own business is not easy and there are those who succeed and those who fail. That is, unfortunately, just a fact of life, everywhere, in any category of business.

Those are all valid points. But I don't think Upwork needs to have a system that puts freelancers this much at the mercy of clients in order to achieve its goals.


Some sort of check and balance is needed to prevent clients from abusing the feedback system. Near as I can see right now, unless you are already well-established, there is none.


This system's flaws are actually working against Upwork as well. There are good freelancers getting driven off the platform due to THEIR bad experiences here, whicha re often not their fault.


As an aside, it is interesting to see just how completely unrepresentative this forum is of the overall freelancer workforce. Well over half the regular posters here are in likely the top 0.1% of the site in terms of earnings, hourly rate, number of jobs, etc. As someone who has had to "restart" recently I have gotten a taste of what things are like for the average player here, and it's not great.

Charles and anyone else interested, following please find a copy/paste of a portion of a post I made the end of February within a thread.   It shares an additional perspective,


",,,  there are numerous factors that Upwork supposedly utilizes to determine our JSS's.  Some of these are shared with us; some are not.  As noted in numerous threads regarding, many Freelancers do not agree with many facets of JSS.  Personally, I definitely don't believe that JSS is at all calculated in we Freelancers' best interests; that's my opinion.  In my own personal case my most recent Client (contract ended last week) really must have done a "slice and dice" job on me as far as their Private Feedback as my rating is now 82%.  Prior to that it was 88%; decreasing from 92% as my first Client fell off my time computation grid.  I'd also closed a couple of contracts that Clients had not; even upon my request.  However, I waited in between closings and received a great Feedback in between.  One can be so very careful but certainly doesn't seem to have as much control over outcomes as we'd like.  Also, my decrease in JSS from 92% to 88% to 82% occurred within just a few weeks.  Eventhough I was challenged, irritated, and frustrated each time my JSS has decreased, it honestly doesn't appear to have harmed me; if so it's been slight.  I continue to receive Invitations and am contacted regarding Proposals I've submitted.  Since I'm extremely selective, I have not began a new contract as of yet.  Regarding that "90% many jobs are looking for" simply disregard that and apply to any project you believe you can successfully do and would be interested in doing.  I've previously read within this Community that oftentimes Clients aren't even aware of that criterian.,,," (Yes, I used to be "Top Rated" also.)


Since the aforementioned has occurred, I'm even more selective now.  For example, if a potential Client doesn't have a history of giving their Freelancers great public feedbacks, I'm not interested...  Of course there are no guarantees even if they have that history.  I'm fully aware that at this point it wouldn't take much to plummet my 82% to who knows what depths.  With this in mind evidently the decrease in my JSS has harmed me more than I initially thought it had.    

Dude, there are people here who are new. People who have come into the field since the JSS. They manage because they MANAGE their business. You want to work gigs, but you don't seem to want to learn how to run a business. You shouldn't be self-employed. Find an agent to handle negotiations or be someone's employee. But don't kid yourself that these issues you are facing only happen to you. It's just not true. 


And, really, would you rather get advice from people who have failed to make money? You'd rather be reassured that other people fail than learn how to succeed? 

@Charles K wrote:

Tiffany, your advice is superb for people who come here with advanced degrees and professional work experience..

Charles, I have no advanced degree, yet I work in a technical and lucrative niche. I built my reputation and ability to charge my posted rate on Elance, and luckily the transition to Upwork was not disruptive to that upward trend. The point is that I built that reputation contract by contract, using the self-confidence and good judgment I was repeatedly told I must exercise to to escape penny-a-word serfdom, and to succeed commensurate to my abilities. My middling "level" on Elance was replaced by a quite good JSS, which I've been able to maintain.

There is no evidence that a JSS lower than 90 ruins or hinders one's career; it's not entirely clear that a score higher than 90 enhances it. And over time, it has become abundantly clear that with the exception of the housekeeping requirement to close contracts—which neither my clients or I find onerous—the JSS rewards good business practices: judicious choice of clients and contracts, followed by timely delivery of excellent service. 

If you're not prepared to do that, what are you doing here? Mind your business, and the score will take care of itself. And yes, once you hit Top Rated, you're better insulated against rogue clients and contracts gone south. Until that point, such incidents are far from career-killers.


I have questioned and occasionally railed against the JSS. And I have discovered there are much better uses of my time.




I hate to say it, but I think way too many people on here just launch into things without doing their research. Believe me, every job posting I see, I am READING INTO their descriptions. If I get the least bit of impression they're way too demanding, sound closed-minded to outside input, or sound fishy I don't apply.


People take these crap jobs with shifty clients and then pay the price. I've been burned only once so far -- and instead of letting my emotions take charge, I'm leaving my milestone work submitted even though this guy basically took what I had then claimed "he was going the boring way" anyway with his boilerplate that he had put a proposal out for to do EXACTLY the opposite.


Per Upwork policy, that proposal sits, it is auto-paid in 14 days from submission. And I won't refund it, because the client received work, Going forward, with these types of things the first milestone will need to be paid before work continues on things like edits. I am getting $20 out of this, but I should be getting a majority of what was agreed upon.


Just don't feel like picking a battle with this one, unless I catch my boilerplate being used. Then I will file something with Upwork over it, because that's theft of service.