bad client experience



I had such a bad experience yesterday with a client. At first all was good and friendly.

She had set up two milestones.

I made two drafts. And put a lot of effort and creativity with the work. And she wrote she was happy with what she saw. But wanted some more ideas. She sent a photo I thought she wanted to use. And I made something from that. To me it was nice. And not overworked. But less is more in design I think. And has to be readable and be visible.


Then in an hour she just closed the contract. Without any notice.

I didnt understand why and was totally shocked. She one hour earlier said I was doing good and was no the "right way."

If she had wanted changes it would have been easy to ask for it and discuss...

I think its very rude doing like this. She also wanted me to send her escrow back.

I am not much for disputes. And even argue.

But, does disputes like this lower your score, even when its not your "fault" ?


I know there are bad experiences sometimes..and some people are not kind. But this really made me upset and used as well.


Thanks, Karin



Have you asked the client?


Did the client respond?


I can't see how she could have been unhappy after being happy, this sounds very strange indeed, especially with no communication.


I personally absolutely adore your work, it is beautiful and charming and "speaks" - Presumably the client looked at your wonderful portfolio before she hired you, so must have been familiar with your style?

Thank you Petra.

Yes, she said she looked. And liked my portfolio.

Then I made a draft she liked. And, just to be kind, did an other one with her relative on the photo.


Next step she just closed contract and without any sign she had been unhappy with the work.

She had told me it was looking nice.


I have written her again. And she replied she has choosen an other freelancer after reviewing their drafts.

I was awarded project and the Escrow was there..but she claimed to have it back.


No idea what went in her head. It was very frustrating after a couple of hours work.


She later today repleied I in the last idea had copied and pasted the first draft...But it wasnt ready to go. I was working with her contract and was supposed to do so until she was happy with the work.


To me it was very rude. And unkind.


You do indeed have a beautiful portfolio.


You don't need this client. Probably best to move on and not give her another thought.


On a more general note, as a client who has hired many artists, I really think it is a mistake to use fixed-rare contracts when hiring talented artists.


If I hire a talented artist to work for me, I don't want there to be a built-in incentive to do a minimal job and turn it in. I would rather pay for time. If she spends more time, making my project even better, that is a good thing. If I want more artwork, or changes to the work already done, I want that work to be done by somebody who is being paid fairly for her time rather than grumbling because I am making her do extra work for free.


(And if I don't like the work I see in work diary screenshots, or if I don't like the concepts or style submitted via drafts, I like the ability to close an hourly contract immediately, saying, thanks, but we are going a different direction with this project.)



 In the real world, most jobs for freelance journalists are fixed price. If we contracted for a story about lions and, after I did the work, you asked me to add elephants to the piece, I would simply ask you for more money.


There is no "built-in incentive" to do a minimal job. In the real world, repeat business is vital so doing the best job every time matters. Professionals know how to properly price jobs, including fixed-price jobs, to do them well.




  Have you filed a dispute?


  I had a similar experience with a client ghosting a bio last month on a fixed-price escrow job. There were warning signs I should have heeded. A lot of back and forth before hring and before escrow was funded and a request to lower my rate. The client had a good story to tell so I took the job out of (foolish) kindness.


After submitting the work, the client said she'd changed her mind and decided to write the piece herself. I offered to do a second draft, though it made no economic sense for me.


She  closed the job and asked for escrow back. I declined. Work has been done. It was good. Payment -- even the small payment -- needed to be made. The money is not the issue; the issue is being paid for work done. I noticed the client, though new, had made four hires on jobs and not paid out any money.


Here is where Upwork's system fails to protect freelancers on fixed-price escrow jobs. It took a long time for the dispute to be handled by Upwork's dispute manager (more than a month). The manager, near as I can tell, has not looked at the messages or at the quality of the work (all in the work diary).


The last message I got from Upwork said the client was unsatisfied, would not pay the fee, and therefore the dispute would normally go to mediation.


But...mediation costs $875, split between the cilent, the freelancer and upwork ($291 apiece). That's more than the fee. Where is that mentioned in the Upwork TOS?


So the Upwork dispute person advised settling for a few pennies. I've refused. I don't care about the money. I do care that there is essencially no escrow protection for fixed-price jobs when a client can arbitrarily say they are unsatisfed with the work.


For all I know, the client is actually using the work. I'm sure this is an isolated incident. But, to me, this is a loophole that allows clients to get work for free.


I'm sure there are plenty of freelancers who aren't as big a jerk as I am who walk away from disputes like this with nothing.


Expectations.  The client has an expectation for the job, and you have an expectation which might be different.  The ideal point is when expectations are equal.  


This applies to fast-food for example where if they make it better one day then people are unhappy then next.  It's better to be consistent.  Personally, I try to keep expectations lower than what I plan on delivering.  They are ecstatic when I over deliver.  In reality I just kept the expectations low and delivered on point.


Some clients just want free work and use threats to leverage innocent freelancers.  This happened to me many times and one client drove me into the ground.  Business people are rewarded for being tyrants.  They get what they want by abusing freelancers without suffering a scratch.  We have a lot more to lose and they know this.


Report them for abuse.  You did work, which meet the requirement.  They owe you money whether they like it or not.  They could ask for changes, negotiate, or choose a wide variety of options.  Abusive clients are the bane of Upwork.  They continue to get away with it because we could lose our accounts and source of income.  Hopefully Upwork will get rid of jokers because they are worse than straight up fraudulent clients.  


They broke the TOS by trying to force you into providing work for free.  That's grounds for some consequence.  If Upwork does nothing then they choose clients over freelancers.  It's toxic and it erodes the marketplace.  


Keep the money and leave a horrible review letting freelancers know that they will rob you and hurt your reputation.  If all freelancers did this, there wouldn't be abusive clients.  They exist because they know that they can get away with it.

haha James, yeah, it would be a bad idea for a client to bank on me not paying the fees. I will do it just for the lulz. Don't screw me out of my money man. lol The dispute process is stressful, but you gotta draw the line somewhere when someone wants to mow you over. I can take a lot of abuse and let it roll off my shoulders, but when you threaten my livelihood the fighter comes out.


I'm also with Daniel. Underpromise and overdeliver is what I do. The hardest part keeping this way of working the system is that people think you're sitting around doing nothing waiting for them to graciously give us work. Today is the first day I haven't been busy in months. lol

Preston and Jennifer are right as always.  Heart


As a client, when I'm unhappy with the result the freelancer is always quick to offer a refund.  They are terrified of the JSS boogie monster or worse.  It gives clients the impression that they SHOULD deserve a refund, when they absolutely should pay.  If they insist on giving a refund then there's nothing that I can do but I tell them it's not necessary.  The only time that I feel I deserve a refund is when I've been defrauded.


You don't get to try on freelancers for size without taking a risk as a business.  They are already saving tons of money by using Upwork.


The same thing happened with Uber.  They undercut the market and now taxi drivers can't make money like they used to.  Unfortunately, they went too low and it's just hurting everyone.  They give way better service for a lower cost.  If it's cheaper, it certainly shouldn't be superior or it's detrimental to the market.  Upwork is in the same boat; freelancers aren't charging enough and clients continue to expect more for less.  Upwork would be better off dropping more clients and freelancers so we have more stable incomes and can provide better service.  If something is wrong then it should be obvious but lines are blurred when freelancers give the milk away for free.