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Technical Freelancer for Non-Technical Client(s) - Help!

cynthia-poole
Active Member
Cynthia P Member Since: Feb 3, 2021
1 of 8

I am new to Upwork, love the concept. I recently finished my 1st project, but need advice on how NOT to get burnt next time. I want to help clients with tech issues so they can focus on their business. In my 32+ years in the tech field, I know that a non-tech client often makes a request, and it takes some digging to determine what they really want. My first Upwork project involved a client who requested an “Excel expert to normalize a spreadsheet” and allocated 2 hrs for the project. I bid on the job and got it. It took 6+ hours to complete the project (I got paid for two). I put in the extra time bc I feared a bad review. Yes, it was a spreadsheet, but not the type of work that could be completed in two hours, it did not need an Excel expert and the descriptor “normalize” was inaccurate. Problem: a tech person cannot see what the (client) really wants before bidding. I accept responsibility for finding out ahead of time what a project entails, but how can I do this in Upwork?

jr-translation
Community Guru
Jennifer R Member Since: Sep 15, 2017
2 of 8

Cynthia P wrote:

I am new to Upwork, love the concept. I recently finished my 1st project, but need advice on how NOT to get burnt next time. I want to help clients with tech issues so they can focus on their business. In my 32+ years in the tech field, I know that a non-tech client often makes a request, and it takes some digging to determine what they really want. My first Upwork project involved a client who requested an “Excel expert to normalize a spreadsheet” and allocated 2 hrs for the project. I bid on the job and got it. It took 6+ hours to complete the project (I got paid for two). I put in the extra time bc I feared a bad review. Yes, it was a spreadsheet, but not the type of work that could be completed in two hours, it did not need an Excel expert and the descriptor “normalize” was inaccurate. Problem: a tech person cannot see what the (client) really wants before bidding. I accept responsibility for finding out ahead of time what a project entails, but how can I do this in Upwork?


Make sure you have everything you need before accepting an offer. You can communicate as much as you like with the client before starting agreeing on a final rate.

kinector
Community Guru
Mikko R Member Since: Dec 26, 2015
3 of 8

Cynthia P wrote:

I am new to Upwork, love the concept. I recently finished my 1st project, but need advice on how NOT to get burnt next time.

.

.

.

but how can I do this in Upwork?


The best way around is not to go for tiny projects. Just skip them since you have plenty of experience and will have no problem articulating the value you bring. Focus on bigger things now that your profile is not a $0 earnings anymore. That way, the communication overhead before the project starts is absorbed by the sheer size of the project once you get it going. The only overhead will then be the number of in-depth discussions that you might need to take but would not lead to a contract.

 

In those cases, you could try to offer a short paid consultancy support kind of thing by highlighting all the uncertainties that would be clarified to help the client come up with a plan that will most likely work.

 

I have a similar situation in almost every project. Non-technical clients. So, either I do real development projects that include technical implementation e.g. solving a specific bottleneck, or I do a few hours of hourly-paid consultancy that has no technical implementation. The latter type might include a short report of my recommendations so that the client feels like getting something tangible and the advice doesn't get forgotten.

prestonhunter
Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
4 of 8

Yeah... I would have had to receive and review the spreadsheet file before agreeing to work on it. Before accepting the contract at all.

 

Whenever there is a lack of clarity about a project, then that means it is an hourly contract.

cynthia-poole
Active Member
Cynthia P Member Since: Feb 3, 2021
5 of 8
Thank you for your reply. I will be more assertive in asking questions up front.
cynthia-poole
Active Member
Cynthia P Member Since: Feb 3, 2021
6 of 8
Thank you for your reply. Your comments are very helpful!
gilbert-phyllis
Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
7 of 8

A law of physics in the freelancing universe is that many clients -- it often seems like most -- will underestimate time/effort required for an assignment by a factor of three or more. The smaller the job, the more certain the client will be that it can be completed quickly (and easily, without pain or suffering, in fact we should be paying them for letting us do it).

 

IMO this does not argue for avoiding small projects. In most categories you almost have to do some small ones to establish the track record that gets your JSS going. I certainly did. And I continue to take on what I think of as "odd jobs" from time to time to make sure my UW job/client roster stays active. (UW represents only part of my work.) 

 

It does argue for avoiding cheapskate clients. You can't always recognize them from their job posts but you can approach interviewing them in a way that filters them out before you accept their contracts. Somewhat preciously, clients -- and UW -- seem to think they are interviewing us when the fact is a solid FL is interviewing the client. Or call it a mutual interaction. Just make sure you understand you're in charge of which work you undertake and on what terms. Otherwise, what's the point of freelancing? It's not without its headaches, after all.

 

Anyhow, get your policies in order and stick to them. You don't work for free. You need to see relevant materials before you can share a binding quote of money and time (how much it will cost and when it will be done). You have an obligation to yourself and to the client to ask as many questions as you need to in order to scope the work accurately, whether it's a 2-3 hour spreadsheet fix or something bigger. Stick to your own best practices in this regard and you'll be pleasantly surprised by how often undesirable clients reveal themselves in how they respond. (Not always but most times.) Many successful FLs here, including me, will tell you the most troublesome situations they've encountered stemmed from accepting projects they should've declined. I have never once thought, I wish I hadn't declined that UW offer.

 

cynthia-poole
Active Member
Cynthia P Member Since: Feb 3, 2021
8 of 8
Thank you so much for your comments and encouragement. You also confirmed that there really are some cheapskate clients ($5-10 an hour for highly skilled work). I will follow your advice...I want to develop a good reputation on Upwork.
Sincerely, Cindy
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