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feedback frustration ...again

Ace Contributor
George S Member Since: Jun 2, 2011
1 of 10

I've talked about this topic a few times in the past (and many others have too) and yet again I find myself in the same situation over and over.

 

Let me outline the current situation, in brief, I have a client who hired me for a "prototype for demonstration purposes" (quoting from the contract description), this is essentially a prototype for an electronic product. I delivered this prototype with absolutely top quality work and in their own words: "thanks again for making our demo a success!" Now, let me also mention that this project was an hourly based contract. Due to unexpected issues (out of my control really) I ended up working many more hours on the project than I originally estimated and yet I stopped billing them at the original estimate that I gave them. Not only that, but I also made significant out-of-pocket expenses towards the project. This is all fine, just part of the business, and I consider it part of my vision of delivering a professional service "no matter what".

 

The problem is that, even after the demo was a success and after all the effort and flexibility on my side (which they are aware of) they just essentially want more for free, and keep pushing for priority. They keep asking for items that we didn't agree on without willing to pay for the additional time and they've become upset that I am not willing to comply with these requests. Obviously, there is a limit on how much I can keep going without billing, while I am willing to deliver the best with a "no matter what" mentality, there is a point where a project no longer makes financial sense. Following their latest requests, I have in fact communicated to them my intention to stop working on the project.

 

If this situation happened outside of upwork, it would be very easy to solve. I have delivered all that was agreed so I have no obligation to continue. They have what they hired me for, I got payed for it and that's it.

 

However, here on upwork there is a huge added frustration: feedback. Why should I, after working literally round the clock, putting a huge effort over a period of 6 months, making out-of-pocket expenses and delivering top quality work feel frustrated and helpless at the fact that all of this effort can turn against me on a stupid feedback rating that they have total freedom to decide on? Why should I, again after making their demonstration a success be literally held hostage of this feedback system?

 

I am well aware that I, as a "Top Rated" freelancer have the option to hide bad feedback (an option which I never used btw) but this is not really a solution. The current feedback system, especially on long term and complex projects like the ones I work on is very unfair towards us freelancers. I've had projects running for 6 months, 1 year, 4 years.... in that length of time many things change, situations change, project targets change, availability changes and even the client's attitude changes a lot. How is it fair that all of this effort is rewarded by a single number 1-5 at the end of the project? I can understand the current feedback system on work that can be delivered in a couple of days, but it is totally unfair on projects that span several months. Not only that, but given the nature of the projects that I work on, successful projects never really end. I have contracts for successful projects that are still open even though there is no ongoing work simply because of long term occasional support - and I'm ok with that obviously but the feedback system there fails completely.

 

I have arguably been very successful here on upwork, and after several years of very very hard work, personal sacrifice and significant out-of-pocket investment in equipment, I am looking to grow my business further but how can one plan for growth when, irrelevant of the quality of work delivered, a single client can literally destroy years of great reputation in an instant? It makes more sense for me to set up my own website and instead of spending money in upwork commission, I put that money in advertisement. However, I do like upwork for many reasons and if I can keep working here I would prefer that, but I just feel helpless with the current feedback threat.

 

Rant over Smiley Happy

 

George

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
2 of 10

Whilst I can see why you are frustrated, this surely is a perfect example of a breakdown of communication and not managing a project and the client properly.

 

If you train the client to expect you to work for free and be out of pocket throughout the course of a contract, how can you be surprised that in the end, after you have carefully conditioned the client to expect free work and you paying for stuff that isn't yours to pay for, expects just that?

 

It's a bit late now, but sit the client down and explain basic realities to them and to hell with the feedback.

 

If you never had to use the perk, use it now - this is exactly what it is there for. Your JSS is 100% - your history is great, the last time you had less than 5 stars was7 (!!!) years ago.... just what is the big issue?

 

In future, don't spend months training clients to become unreasonable by throwing free time and money at them. That can misfire in a spectacular manner.

 

There is a fine line of going over and above, and just throwing free work and money at clients willy-nilly.

 

Ace Contributor
George S Member Since: Jun 2, 2011
3 of 10

Hi Petra,

 

While I respect your opinion I don't really agree with what you say. There is a difference between trying to sort of "bait" a client giving them free perks (and then expecting to get them to pay more) and simply being fair.

 

I am not complaining about the additional hours and additional expenses that I made out of my free will to deliver the best. These are a normal part of this business, you have income and expenses, there is no way I can run my business successfully, and offer the high level of service that I do, without incurring expenses that cannot be passed on to the client. I am fine with all that. However, that does not entitle the client to ask for more than what was agreed. If we agreed on A, B and C, I will give you A, B and C no matter what, even if I make a loss, but that doesn't entitle you to ask for D! This is where the system needs to protect the freelancer.

 

Let me try to explain. The deliverables for the kind of long term projects that I work on are not easy to define fully upfront, both because there are challenges to solve and also because the project scope itself is not always well defined from the start. However, most clients request an estimate in terms of hours for the project completion (and rightly so). Let's say I estimate 100 hours for a certain deliverable. Now along the way, there are sometimes issues that come up, it's not the client's fault, so why should I charge him 20 more hours just to solve something that I did not expect upfront? ...that is not giving work for free, it is just being fair to what was agreed. Obviously, I do make this variability clear from the start but there are times when it is just not fair to bill something to a client, like spending 10 hours banging my head against the wall trying to figure out something with seemingly no real progress. 

 

So what I am trying to say is that this is not a matter to "giving away work for free" as you put it, it is about being fair and expecting the client to also be fair. Irrespective of this extra unpaid time and expense, there shouldn't exist a situation where a freelancer who has genuinely worked on a project for 6 months (even more so with a successful deliverable) feels obliged to continue because of the risk of bad feedback. I've had other clients in the past where I didn't do any such "work for free" and still ended up in the same situation. Maybe expecting the client to be fair is not always a good choice but the problem is that the current feedback system makes it easy for the client to be unfair. 

 

I disagree on the "to the hell with the feedback", in my view the feedback is everything really, at the end of the day, the good reputation that I have is made form many individual feedbacks, it is what brings further work and it is what puts food on the table. 

 

I'm not saying to remove the feedback, but surely if a client pays you week after week for 6 months, 1 year... they either have a lot of money to waste or more likely they are happy with the service being provided. There definitely must be a system to weed out the few bad freelancers trying to scam people, but other than that assuming a freelancer is genuinely trying to deliver a good service they shouldn't be afraid of getting bad feedback, which right now can happen no matter how good work you provide. It might be easy for me to hide bad feedback being "Top Rated" but what about the talented people trying to start out in freelancing? For them, a single bad feedback can mean a total dead end. 

 

A system of testimonials rather than feedback is probably more appropriate for long term projects so that clients can give positive testimonials to freelancers and the best freelancers will have many testimonials to showcase, but at the same time, clients cannot damage the reputation of a genuine freelancer.

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
4 of 10

It really doesn't matter if you agree with me or not. This is the system we have got and (unless you just wanted to vent) we freelance on Upwork based on how it *is* - not based on how we would like to tweak a site that serves millions of people, all of whom have different ideas as to how they would tweak it to suit their own current niggles.

 

I'm sure a mod will come along soon and thank you for your feedback and that it will be passed on to "the team" and that's it. Feedback isn't going to anywhere, nor will the JSS.

 

Again, you have the perk, use it. 

 

 

 

Ace Contributor
George S Member Since: Jun 2, 2011
5 of 10

Sure, we don't have to agree Smiley Happy and yes the system is what it is. My reply was not directed to you really, sorry in case it felt that way, just trying to get my message (and yeah some frustration) across. I must say there are many more positive than negative things to say about upwork, but in my opinion, there is not good handling of long term projects. Hopefully "the team" will take some of my suggestions lol

 

Maybe putting that differently: If you go to a restaurant and the food is crap you can write a negative review on TripAdvisor, if you buy something and it fails the next day you can leave a bad review but those are all simple, single deliverables with little room for subjective opinion. This is similar to short term jobs on here, if you agree to deliver a drawing of a red circle in 2 days, you either can draw that circle or you can't. There is little room for subjective opinions and little that can go wrong.

 

On the other hand, if you were employed somewhere and the employer was not happy with you, they might not give you a positive reference letter but they won't put a 1-star rating sticker on your face either. Unless there was something fraudulent with your behavior they don't have the right to dent your reputation. A long term project is much much more than a deliverable and much less clearly defined. Long term projects can fail for many different reasons, some might be the freelancer's fault, some the client's fault and others might be nobody's fault really. Sometimes over the period of the project, situations change making it simply no longer feasible. In many cases the clients don't even have the technical background to appreciate the work delivered (which is fine of course) - in fact, I never had any such issue or bad feedback concerns when working with clients who have a good technical background. So my opinion is simply that long term contracts cannot be treated in the same way as the short term, simple, clearly defined deliverable type of contracts and one main problem is (again in my opinion) the current feedback system.

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
6 of 10

I don't think it's practical or realistic to think about different feedback systems for long-term versus short-term projects. For one thing, some of the issues you mention as intrinsic to long-term projects can pertain to shorter project schedules, too. It depends on the field and the type of work being done.

 

What is different between long and short projects is client management and project management. Which means it falls to us, the FLs, to make each project and each client relationship work to achieve an optimal outcome. There is no way the feedback system can do that for us.

 

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
7 of 10

Phyllis G wrote:

 

What is different between long and short projects is client management and project management. Which means it falls to us, the FLs, to make each project and each client relationship work to achieve an optimal outcome.


I totally agree, but in fairness George seems to be pretty excellent at that, considering his jawdropping record of veeeeeeeery long term high value contracts and the fact that you have to go all the way back to 2012 to find a single contract with feedback below 5 stars... PS  -  OK, since this afternoon there is now a 4.7 - hardly the end of the world.

 

Which also means I am puzzled as to how it can be a real problem for him... especially with the perk available

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
8 of 10

Petra R wrote:

Phyllis G wrote:

 

What is different between long and short projects is client management and project management. Which means it falls to us, the FLs, to make each project and each client relationship work to achieve an optimal outcome.


I totally agree, but in fairness George seems to be pretty excellent at that, considering his jawdropping record of veeeeeeeery long term high value contracts and the fact that you have to go all the way back to 2012 to find a single contract with feedback below 5 stars... PS  -  OK, since this afternoon there is now a 4.7 - hardly the end of the world.

 

Which also means I am puzzled as to how it can be a real problem for him... especially with the perk available


Agree and agree. I do think this might be an instructive conversation, though, for newer folks. 

Ace Contributor
George S Member Since: Jun 2, 2011
9 of 10

I agree that some short-term work can still have the same issues that I attributed to long-term projects. Maybe "short-term" and "long-term" don't describe exactly what I mean. The definition in my mind for "short-term" is more that of a project that is easily definable, clear in the deliverable and achievable in an easily defined time. In general these can be completed in a few days and that is why I call them "short-term", examples from my own line of business are most design reviews, where I 'just' need to review an existing design and provide my expert advice on it, it is a no-risk project, I know it will take only a few hours to do, there are no challenges, I can plan it easily and nothing can go wrong really. Brief consultations are another example. Most fixed, low price jobs fit in this category. I am only an expert in my field so I dare not judge the work complexity of other professions but I'm sure everyone can list examples in their own field. The "long-term" ones are those which are less easily definable, more complex, have challenges which need to be solved along the way, and essentially all projects that span multiple months. The project duration is generally the most determining factor as obviously if someone commits to deliver something in a week, it generally must be something well defined, while on the other hand agreeing on something that takes a year to deliver is quite more difficult.

 

I can hide bad feedback with the Top Rated perk but I don't think that is a real solution and those who are starting out in freelancing can be badly damaged by a single bad feedback. The reason that it is not a real solution is that the problem is not only the aftermath of getting bad feedback but also (maybe more importantly) the frustration and extra effort that freelancers in such cases are forced to endure during long-term projects to avoid getting bad feedback. In short-term, low fee projects, a full refund might be a solution (which I don't recommend of course, but if you are starting out it is better than having your reputation ruined completely) but even that is totally out of the question for a long term project.

Ace Contributor
George S Member Since: Jun 2, 2011
10 of 10

Here's another thing that is bad about the current feedback system: most long term projects (at least in my line of business) that are truly successful, never end ...and thus never receive feedback.

 

I have projects that have been running for several years, with continued active work, the client is very happy with my work and yet I get no feedback on that because as long as the product is successful the contract will continue. Sure I can ask them to close the contract, give feedback and re-open a new one but it is not really a convenient solution. I have a couple of cases currently where I completed a design project successfully, occasionally supported the client further for a few months and then things went silent (which to me means there is no further need for support). The product that I designed is being sold successfully so I know it is all good, but when after many months of idleness I requested this contract to be closed, nothing happened. So there I am with a successful contract providing me no feedback at all! On the other hand, projects that go bad for some reason are much more likely to end sooner and have feedback submitted.

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