I have been using Upwork for a while but have only recently discovered these forums.
I have a client who hired me to ghostwrite a novel after I completed a paid sample she was very happy with. She put $2000 in escrow for the completion of Part 1. I sent her the first half of Part 1, about 15k words, written from her notes/outline. She reviewed it and said I hadn't captured the tone she was hoping for and there were some other issues. I told her I'd be more than happy to talk with her about this and revise until she was happy with the draft. She agreed and we scheduled a time to talk.
About an hour before I was to call her, she messaged me and said she'd prefer we end the contract, and asked how much she owed me for the work I did. I requested $1000, as that was half of what is in escrow and I had completed half of the first part. She said she would release $500, as she is now claiming she can't use a single word of what I wrote.
I tried to explain that I had spent considerable time on this and needed to be compensated for my work. She offered $750 and said that we would have to file a dispute if I was unwilling to accept this.
This is the first unsuccessful contract I have ever had, after working many years on Upwork/Elance. For those who have experienced this before, should I just accept what she is offering? Do I run the risk of no compensation if a dispute is filed? I turned down several projects to work on this, and I am truly baffled that she is saying she can't use a word I wrote. I have ghostwritten probably close to one hundred books and have never had an issue before.
I apologize for such a long message, and appreciate any insight or suggestions. Thank you.
Clients have the right to end contracts AT ANY TIME, for ANY reason.
Freelancers have the same right.
Clients don't even need to provide a reason.
If a client wants to end a fixed-price contract, all she needs to do is click on the contract, release any remeaining escrow funds to you, and close the contract. There is nothing a freelancer can do about it. And the client is not breaking any rules by doing this.
In your case, it seems like the client doesn't want to release the full amount of escrow money, but is offering you $750.
You may accept this offer, or reject it and go to dispute.
Why not just accept the offer?
re: "Do I run the risk of no compensation if a dispute is filed?"
Keep in mind that have the option of issuing a complete refund, and then you will own the work you did completely.
I do understand that she can end the contract at any time, and I am okay with that. She has since rescinded her offer and says she is going to dispute this, so I guess we will see where it goes from here. Thanks for taking the time to reply.
I'm glad you are maintaining a positive attitude about the situation.
But I want to be clear about something:
What your client is doing is NOT okay.
The proper way to end a fixed-price contract is to release escrow and close the contract.
This business of filing a dispute to try to get money back is completely unprofessional, unethical and immoral.
I'm a writer too, although I don't write books. Ultimately, the decision lies with you, but here's what may happen. If you and the client cannot agree on a payment amount, then the dispute will first go to Upwork. They won't make any judgment call. They'll simply mediate the price negotiation.
If the price negotiation fails, arbitration is the next step. To go to arbitration, both you and the client must pay $291 each. The arbitrator will then decide the payout. They could give you the full $1000, give you nothing, or anything in between. If you choose to go to arbitration and the client declines to pay the $291 fee, then you "win" the full $1000 automatically and don't have to pay your $291. If things get to this point, it's kind of a game of poker. The client may balk at the $291 ante and fold.
I'm sorry this happened to you. It seems to me like your offer of a $1000 payment was very fair.
Remember, the client only owns the rights to your work if you're paid.
Hi Heath, thanks for outlining the process. It is really the last thing I want to do! Your reminder that she would only own the work if I were to get paid is good, but I did sign an NDA, so not sure how that works. Regardless of what happens, I appreciate your reply, thank you!
Great tips from Heath.
re: "but I did sign an NDA, so not sure how that works"
If you aren't paid for this work, the NDA is void.
It is meaningless, because she broke the contract. If she doesn't pay you, then YOU own the book. And you can do anything you want with it.
How much do you value the book itself?
Is it worth it to you to tell the client:
Don't worry about the dispute. I will refund the money in one hour. I don't want the money. I want to retain ownership of the book."
re: "Is retaining ownership true if it was something written from her notes/outline?"
You did the work. You deserve to get paid.
If you hired a carpenter to build you a gazeebo based on your design, and then didn't pay him, do you know what he would do?
He would come to your back yard and tear it down and haul away any materials he thinks he can use. Not a darn thing you can do about it.
Don't pause for a second based on the fact that she wrote notes. You are NOT going to to provide her notes or outline to ANYBODY.
But the book? You wrote it. You weren't paid for it. It belongs to you.
These are Upwork's clearly stated rules. And Upwork does NOT specify any exceptions for "outlines."