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Unresponsive Clients and JSS Score

Hi All, 

I've recently run into an issue with a client that I wanted to run past my fellow freelancers (and bear with me because it's a long one).


The client hired me on December 18 for a project that included design for a catalog, a folder, some insert pieces, and then some other assorted materials. They were providing the copy and imagery. Client was supposedly on a tight timeframe due to the holidays and a product launch that was to occur February 1.


Because it was close to the holidays, I immediately disclosed which days I was unavailable, but stated that if I had all the content as soon as possible, I would design the catalog piece first on the days I was available so we could get approval on the look (being the most complicated of the pieces, I wanted to start there to develop the client's look, then once approved, I could more easily filter it through and develop the other materials). I even provided a detailed timeline for completion of the project, including the days I was unavailable. Client said that this was fine, sent some content, sent a milestone, etc. It seemed like everything was good to go. The client made no indication that he would be unavailable during the holidays.


I started work on the catalog component, but in the midst I realized the client had only provided me with partial content - it's a product catalog, and I had all the content except for the product descriptions. So I reached out with a message - no response. On New Year's Day, after still not receiving any response from the client, I went ahead and sent a first draft of the catalog, but with placer text and photo boxes for the content I hadn't yet received, along with a list of items that I needed from the client in order to finalize that part of the project. No response. Another week went by (at this point I haven't heard from the client in 3 weeks). He finally responds to me and says he was out of town and couldn't respond.


So now my spider senses are tingling. First, he never mentioned being out of town for three weeks when we were discussing timelines and availability (even though my milestone due date was right in the middle of all of this), and second, in this day and age with technology, he had no means to send a quick message?


So we move forward - one of the questions I had asked him was if he had any lifestyle photos that we might be able to incorporate. I have product photos but that was it, and I've found sometimes clients have more, but you need to prompt them. This client then gets upset with me and says if I need photos I should be providing him with solutions, not questioning him. So now I'm in trouble for just trying to get more details on what resources he has available that I can access. I should also mention that this client has been very rigid with his budget and gets upset with me if I mention ANY pricing changes from what I originally quoted, so providing him with the option of stock images, then becomes an issue due to cost.


My second question to him regarded a separate component of the project. He had originally led me to believe this piece was a single 8.5x11 page and so I quoted him accordingly. When I received his content, he had submitted approximately 12 pages of content, and ALL of it MUST be used. So I told him we would need to requote that piece as the specs had changed. Client was then upset with me for that and said it's unprofessional for me to do this, yet the original specs that HE gave me were incorrect. So another ding.


Client then asks me for a list of what I still need from him - at this point he HAS provided me the agreed upon content, but in pieces and not all of them complete, so it becomes increasingly complicated to figure out what I have and don't have from him, but I provide him with a detailed list of what I think is still needed (at this point I'm still trying to get the product descriptions for the catalog - and it's now a month after he's hired me).


Finally about after 4.5 weeks of pushing for product descriptions, the client provides me with several pieces of unrelated content and tells me he is still working on the product descriptions and would have those to me "before the weekend". The weekend comes and goes and nothing. Another week goes by and he sends me some revised content, but still no product descriptions and states "I should be able to send these to you over the weekend." It is now 2 weeks since my last communication with this client and I still have not received what I need to successfully complete this project - we've been at this for 7 weeks with little progress.


Ultimately, I AM concerned about getting paid, but since I have only worked on a portion of the first piece of this project, I really haven't earned much at this point, so losing some money isn't my focus.


My bigger concern is my JSS score, should I decide to cancel this contract. I've been an UpWork freelancer in good standing for several years and the majority of the time I maintain 100% Job Success.  This client has already (multiple times) tried to push blame onto me for the project not moving, has told me I am not providing him with solutions (even though I have given him multiple recommendations), has indicated that I am unprofessional (even though I've always spoken with him professionally and with courtesy even when he has been very rude to me), even though he repetedly hasn't provided me with what I need to be successful in this project (despite multiple requests for that information), and doesn't respond to questions/messages through Upwork, so I anticipate a very poor review, despite my best efforts to provide him with information, options, etc. which will then impact my JSS Score.


So how would you handle - I think 7 weeks after a hire date is ridiculous, but I could always just sit and wait it out, work with other clients and see if I ever get what I need to finish this up. Or do I cancel, because I think I'm being set up to fail and it isn't worth my time anymore. Thoughts?


That being said, I've definitely learned the lesson of not starting a project until I receive all the pieces from the client. I've done that many times though and actually never run into this issue - usually my clients want to get me hired before I get booked by someone else, because they understand that I can get started and drop pieces in once they have them, and typically receive everything I need within a day or two. In turn, I totally understand that sometimes clients have part of what they need and not everything and try to provide them with a little leniency. I'm not sure how to handle this going forward with other clients, but definitely a lesson learned and something I will consider in the future!


Thanks in advance!

Community Member

If you are top-rated, I think this is exactly what the feedback removal perk was created for. If it were me, I'd  first find a way to amicably part ways, perhaps with a small $1 payment to make it an earnings contract versus no-earnings. If not, I'd cancel myself, refund all money, and use the TR perk. 


On the other hand, if you're at 100% JSS, you might be able to afford to take a small hit and do nothing. 


That's me. Others would do differently, I'm sure. 

Community Member

I additionally faced an identical situation. Don't worry if you are a top-rated freelancer you could request to get rid of JSS score and comments also.
Have a terrific day dear!

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