"... You'd think I'd learn my lesson and not settle for subpar treatment, but apparently I'm a glutton for punishment with too low self-confidence to set my expectations too high!"
Barbara - it's not too late to begin demanding what you are worth and rejecting what doesn't suit you.
Sorry about your experience in that ... i could tell you stories that would curl your hair!
Another thing I do sometimes is make a pro and con list. You know the rest.
First, I don't know what platform/freelancer site you are refering to. But I would certainly read their help section on payment for hourly jobs. I may be wrong, but I think that a clients method of payment should be verified in some way before you start working. And perhaps, funds should be in their cash account. Otherwise, every Tom, **bleep** and Harry could hire contractors for hourly jobs, and never pay them. If you can't find the information concerning verification for hourly jobs, you should defintely contact the help desk support staff.
When anyone needs a "rush" job I usually charge extra for that because I have to carve out time and concentrate only on that one job so that it can be finished by the rush deadline.
Next, I don't understand why he can't do milestones. Is it because he doesn't intend to pay, and milestones would be a fixed rate job which would require him to fund escrow?
In your own words, he is a client with high demands, a jerk (a total jerk) who Demands you work around midnight for him and he hasn't shown any sort of commitment (money wise) to you except empty promises of double payment. This sure doesn't sound like a client that I would want to work with, But that's my opinion.
Do I have the right to refuse additional hours until proof of payment is obtained? No only do you have the right to refuse additional hours until proof of payment is obtained. Since you worked for him already not only should you see proof of payment you Should get paid and Then see proof of payment for the next week's hours.
Also, do I have sufficient grounds to release him as a client if he does not pay in a timely fashion? Freelancing is a business, YOUR business. With your business you have every right to not only release him as a client but fire him as a client. You are under NO obligation to work with someone just because they've awarded you a job.
I don't work on empty promises with jerks who have high demands.
An update on the situation: He wanted 50 (short) articles tonight, after being informed multiple times of my business hours as well as my commitment to other clients. I told him at most I would be able to deliver 10, and only if he were able to verify this in a timely fashion. Over an hour later he responds back with "Well we'll just do 100 tomorrow then" ... Completely neglecting my other clients, who pay, albeit not much, but reliably. He told me that after the 100 "product descriptions" he would release payment and then release me from my contract.
I sent back: "Hello sir, as I told you before, I would not be able to complete that many descriptions today. I have other clients and you have been very demanding with my time, which truly is not fair to my other contracts. Additionally you have disregarded any mention that I have given as to my availability, and I feel that it would be best if we close out our contract now. I am sorry that it did not work out, but I feel that you need a freelancer who is able to commit to you full-time, and that isn't me. I have multiple clients and I value them all equally, and your excessive demands will not make you a priority over the clients that I have been working with for weeks. I will send you an invoice for the articles that have already been completed and you may close out my contract. I understand if you do not have positive feedback to leave for me as I was unable to meet your incredibly high demands. Thank you." (This was as nice as I could possibly word it; I tried to keep it professional, but really I just want him to go away.)
In response to this message and the invoice I sent, I received three more messages, begging this time for the 10 articles I had originally offered. Yup... I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get paid. Would it be unprofessional of me to ignore him from here on out?! (Oh, and if it's pertinent at all, the platform is Freelancer.com)
Total hours that I billed? 5 1/2.
Total time with his incessant communication and demands? About 15 hours, with about 2 hours of sleep that I missed out on.
Stop working for him now. I doubt very much that he will pay you and why are you burning yourself out for this creep?
One hundred articles a day? This isn't writing; it is regurgitation.
Start respecting yourself, get some better paid gigs (even if it takes time) and get some sleep.
"In response to this message and the invoice I sent, I received three more messages, begging this time for the 10 articles I had originally offered. Yup... I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get paid. Would it be unprofessional of me to ignore him from here on out?! (Oh, and if it's pertinent at all, the platform is Freelancer.com)"
He won't pay you. It just won't happen. The only reason why he pushed you that far is that he wanted to steal as much work from you as possible, which is also why he's now begging since he has probably sold your work off somewhere else aready, and now he has to tell HIS client "got bupkis" because he hasn't written anything himself and was relying on his little scam with you to deliver him the goods... And it's too late to get someone else to scam and deliver. He is also full of it, as even with hourly contracts, in Freelancer.com it is still possible to require the client to put money in escrow as an "reserve". Basically, when the contract started, you would have been able to ask for, say, three hour's wage to be put in escrow. However, as they have no "auto release" of funds if the client does a runner, even that would have given you little joy.
I also bet you that if you have a good snoop at his profile, if he has good feedback there, it's for him as a freelancer, not as a client, and as soon as you tell this to support, his profile will get closed in a couple of days.
If I were you, I would just answer him that you will think about the 10 articles (or the 100) when he has paid for the time you have already invested into him, and you would also require half of the money upfront for any future work. I bet you you'll never hear a beep from him after that.