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tanya-mikhaylova
Community Member

Should I dispute?

I have just worked for a client who was extremely difficult and expected the moon when I was extremely clear and told her exactly what I would provide with a $250 contract. (Fixed rate) I had an uneasy feeling about this client so before accepting the contract, I told her exactly what she could expect and she agreed. 

 

I have worked at least 5 hours on this project but did not complete it because she did not provide the needed info.

 

The main dispute was that the client wanted me to provide some color options. I did based on market research (as discussed before the contract started) but she did not like any options nor did she give any clear direction. She just said she wanted something "fun, different, and lively"- and to make sure her customers think so too. Me not being a mind reader, I asked for some examples of what she deems "fun, different, and lively," and provided her with a link to the Pantone color swatches. I also asked her for a mood board, who her target customer is, and even for just one image whose colors she likes. She did not give me anything and decided to color the artwork herself. I provided her with Illustrator sketches (my mistake!) After she figured out how to color them, she sent me a rather surpirsing message after- it was all fun emojis beforehand. She was unhappy that she had to do work (I told her multiple times I could color in the sketches if she provided me with Pantone codes, a mood board, or anything for reference, but she ignoreded me on that point. ) She said I lacked enthusiasm and wanted to cancel the contract- and asked for what I thought. I told her she should do what she thinks best. 

 

Now I am unsure if I should release the funds in Escrow or dispute it. I did so much work and tried to go above and beyond. Everything was going well, I was recieving positive messages with emojis from her until she got the Illustrator file and I helped her figure out how to work with it....

 

What woud you advise in this case? I am not worried about her feedback- I have tons of positive feedback and this is my first bad experience here. I do not work for free and feel that I should be compensated for my work. 

ACCEPTED SOLUTION

My opinions is NO refund. But you shouldn't be paid the full amount either. Figure out what percentage of the work you completed and equal that to a percentage of the full amount that would have been paid to you. If you did 75% of the work required then you should be paid 75% of the total amount you would have been paid. 

 

If you file a dispute, an Upwork mediator will basically tell you or suggest to you to try and come to a mutual agreement. It may sound like they made a decision and this is what you have to do. Mediators can only suggest, their suggestions or advice is NOT binding. 

 

Arbitration is the next and last phase. It costs a $291 fee from Both the client and you. The only way you get that fee back is if the client doesn't pay their $291 fee. Then you automatically get the fee back and what ever is in escrow. 

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18 REPLIES 18
hodgesh
Community Member

If you did the work, keep the money. If you did only part of the work, keep only part of the money.

Thank you for your reply! The only options I see are to refund the entire amount or to file a dispute. Not sure how to request a partial payment. 

re: "Thank you for your reply! The only options I see are to refund the entire amount or to file a dispute. Not sure how to request a partial payment."

 

Just talk to the client.

 

You can propose a compromise amount. Or ask her what she thinks is fair. She can release only part of the money in escrow, which will require that you agree to the partial refund. You can do so.

 

That way you don't need to have a dispute.

From her messages to me I'm pretty sure she is not going to be very amendable to my asking for something fair. She offered $50 and I did not respond to her about that and asked her to delete the work that I sent her from my computer. She did not confirm/agree to do that.


Tatyana M wrote:

Thank you for your reply! The only options I see are to refund the entire amount or to file a dispute. Not sure how to request a partial payment. 


If you dispute, someone from Upwork will try to facilitate a compromise. They don't make decisions and can't force her to pay you, but they can try to get to a middle ground.

If... by your own admission... you didn't finish the task, and the client offered you $50 for your work... Then accepting the $50 may have been the smart move.

I did more than half the work we agreed upon and then spent lots of time trying to work with her, so I do not think 50% is fair even if I am being extremely generous. I could not complete the work because that required her to name a color, and she refused to do that. My biggest mistake was giving her the design file before any payments were made.... I think I will dispute, since it is odd to me that she was happy up until she had the design file (and I showed her how to use it.)

o


Tatyana M wrote:

I did more than half the work we agreed upon and then spent lots of time trying to work with her, so I do not think 50% is fair even if I am being extremely generous. I could not complete the work because that required her to name a color, and she refused to do that. My biggest mistake was giving her the design file before any payments were made.... I think I will dispute, since it is odd to me that she was happy up until she had the design file (and I showed her how to use it.)

 

! very important typo in here! I meant $50- not 50%


 

My opinions is NO refund. But you shouldn't be paid the full amount either. Figure out what percentage of the work you completed and equal that to a percentage of the full amount that would have been paid to you. If you did 75% of the work required then you should be paid 75% of the total amount you would have been paid. 

 

If you file a dispute, an Upwork mediator will basically tell you or suggest to you to try and come to a mutual agreement. It may sound like they made a decision and this is what you have to do. Mediators can only suggest, their suggestions or advice is NOT binding. 

 

Arbitration is the next and last phase. It costs a $291 fee from Both the client and you. The only way you get that fee back is if the client doesn't pay their $291 fee. Then you automatically get the fee back and what ever is in escrow. 

Thank you Kathy! The client does not agree that I did half the work so I doubt she will agree to the dispute or anything Upwork suggests.  (I asked her for 50% and she said no.)

 

I feel that I need to advocate for myself since as a freelancer- that is all I have and while it is not a lot of money and I can file it under "lesson learned" I don't want freelancing culture to be such where clients can do whatever and freelancers just take it as "lessons learned" again and again.

 

I don't view clients as doing favors to freelancers out of the goodness of their hearts- they are paying for work or for a service and everyone is on equal footing. 


Tatyana M wrote:

Thank you Kathy! The client does not agree that I did half the work so I doubt she will agree to the dispute or anything Upwork suggests.  (I asked her for 50% and she said no.)

 

I feel that I need to advocate for myself since as a freelancer- that is all I have and while it is not a lot of money and I can file it under "lesson learned" I don't want freelancing culture to be such where clients can do whatever and freelancers just take it as "lessons learned" again and again.

 

I don't view clients as doing favors to freelancers out of the goodness of their hearts- they are paying for work or for a service and everyone is on equal footing. 


Hi Tatyana. You must decide what's best for you, But if it was me I would dispute, ask for a fair proportion of the agreed payment, and make it clear that I was prepared to pay for arbitration if necessary. Going to arbitration will probably cost your client a lot more than a fair settlement, so hopefully she will see reason and settle. Of course, if you go to arbitration it will be costly for you too, as each of you will have to pay the $291 arbitration fee. But starting a dispute doesn't commit you to arbitration, so you have nothing to lose at this stage. Personally I would go ahead with the arbitration if necessary, as I can afford to lose $291, and it's worth it to me to feel that I've put up a fight.

 

I believe you only have 7 days in which to start a dispute, so don't leave it too long.

Tatyana,

 

If you did the work don't agree not to be paid.

 

It sounds like you dealt with her fairly. If you think that is true, let Upwork mediation do their thing. Ask them what your options are as the matter progresses. Pay close attention to the messages you get from them and follow their instructions to the letter. If that does not result in a resolution you fully agree with, don't agree to it. Let the client decide if she wants to then take it to arbitration. I doubt she will considering it will cost her $291 and she might not get the result that's best for her pocketbook.

 

Refunding money to this person at any point will not be a guarantee that her feedback for you, especially the private feedback you will never see and that we have been told is so important to the calculation of your Job Success Score, will be better than if you make no refund.

 

Good luck.


Tatyana M wrote:

Thank you Kathy! The client does not agree that I did half the work so I doubt she will agree to the dispute or anything Upwork suggests.  (I asked her for 50% and she said no.)

 


It sounds like you did a lot more than half the work; you say that you gave her multiple sketches in Illustrator and all she did was colour them? It sounds like you should maybe give her a $50 discount, but that's it. In the end, she did get files that she was able to use, so I don't see how she can claim that you didn't do the job.

 

However, as a fellow graphic designer, I wonder if you might like some constructive advice. It does strike me as a little odd that you handed her the files and told her to colour them herself. I understand why you did it, but I would have handled it differently. First, in my fixed price bids, I always specify that my price includes no more than two rounds of revisions, and after that, it'll be hourly. Then if I have a client who is giving me vague instructions, I say that I'll be happy to keep trying different variations, but they'll be paying hourly at this point. That usually prompts them to be more specific; if not, then at least you're getting paid for your time. Getting frustrated and basically saying, "Here, I give up, do it yourself" isn't great customer service. (Having said that, I've sometimes cancelled projects and given a full refund when it's obvious that the client and I aren't even on the same planet, let alone the same page - but even so, I never let it get to the stage where I'm doing multiple rounds of revisions without pay.)

Thank you for the wise words! I am actually a fashion technical designer and the entire project was to give her a tech pack, which includes the sketches that I did. I did not ask her to color the sketch herself and at multiple points told her I can if she just gives me something to go off. I offered her 5 colored in options and her feedback was that she didn't like them and she wanted something different and fun. At that point I asked for Pantone color codes, a mood board, and even one image I can use for reference, as "fun" colors are subjective and I was not going to guess endlessly without any further information. She gave me nothing but said she wants to play around with the colors herself and asked how she can do it... I gave her the file and she was super happy judging by her use of emojis. I always reiterated that I can color the file myself and present her a second round of options if she gives me a hint of what colors she was thinking of.

In addition to the excellent advice offered by Christine and others, I would suggest that what would have helped you in this case would have been following advice I often give with regards to fixed-price contracts:

 

If you are dealing with a new client (one you have not worked with before), then start small, so that the client can demonstrate she can be trusted with this contract model.

 

The first milestone or contract should be no more than an hour or two of work.

 

That's what I do. The final goal may be a significant project, which could take many hours and a lot of effort. But I only gree to a first milestone or contract which is the first small chunk of the overall project.

 

If the client pays for that work as expected, then I can agree to increasingly larger milestones or contracts.

 

If the client plays games with paying when the task is submitted, then I know that she can't be trusted with fixed-price contracts. I may still be able to work with her using an hourly contract, but not fixed-price.

 

I am always aware that a certain percentage of clients do not understand how the fixed-price contract model works, and never will undersand it.


Tatyana M wrote:
I offered her 5 colored in options and her feedback was that she didn't like them and she wanted something different and fun. At that point I asked for Pantone color codes, a mood board, and even one image I can use for reference, as "fun" colors are subjective and I was not going to guess endlessly without any further information. She gave me nothing but said she wants to play around with the colors herself and asked how she can do it... I gave her the file and she was super happy judging by her use of emojis. I always reiterated that I can color the file myself and present her a second round of options if she gives me a hint of what colors she was thinking of.

Oh, don't get me wrong - I'm totally on your side! Trying to read minds is definitely the most hellish part of our job. But I think that you had options other than asking her for mood boards etc., because even at that point, you're asking the client to work on her own project, when she feels that that's the reason she has hired YOU. Could you have put together 5-6 colour palettes (without recolouring all of the sketches) and asked her which one was closest to her vision? Or there are plenty of websites with "fun" colour combinations that you could have sent her to, instead of asking her to provide Pantone numbers.

 

I just know that once the client starts to think, "This designer just doesn't GET me," then you've lost them. Couldn't you try to salvage this by apologising that things didn't work out as planned (and by this I mean, take all of the blame for not understanding her needs, even if you don't think it was your fault) and ask her to reconsider what a reasonable amount would be?

 

Ha yes those would have all been good ideas to approach this with and definitely something I will do in the future! Thank you! Usually all of my clients either have a mood board (step zero in every single fashion design project) or they know exactly what they want and tell me, since I do more of the the technical work. Someone not telling me what they want took me by surprise.

I had an odd feeling in the begining and so I outlined the process for her and exactly what she can expect for me before accepting the contract - should have noted that odd feeling and insisted on an hourly contract- I can provide unlimited revisions/color options if I am getting paid for it!

Well, good luck - let us know how it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚ 

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