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Client will not pay

Active Member
Regina M Member Since: May 9, 2019
1 of 18

Project: Days 1 and 2


The client found me on the Up Work site and asked me to submit a proposal. In her message, she said that she would not pay if not satisfied  (I am not sure of Upwork's policy on this/first time user).


Upon starting the project, the client told me that the resume and profile she sent me was four years old and not relevant to her current work. I asked her if I could send her some questions and then we could talk on the phone.


She said she preferred to call me within the next few minutes and we could just talk about her work.

Off the top of my head, I asked her some KEY questions about her identity as a designer, her vision, philosophy, etc. 


She was scattered/not focused and did not give solid answers. I told her, any designer can state what you are stating, so please provide substance/a tangible answer so I can build a narrative. For example, when asked what inspired her to become a designer, she said there was no real answer. I asked "why luxury" and she said that her name means "finer than silk." I was looking for a solid answer like, "I always appreciated stellar design because my father was an artist and I spent time in his studio as a kid" or "When I was young, I made my own doll clothes...or "I constantly read fashion magazines," etc...something like that. 


She kept switching gears: She mentioned not wanting me to include that she was born in Pakistan, but later decided to go with an old world (time-honored techniques from Pakistan) meets new world (technology of NY) narrative. 


Upon first draft....based on notes I jotted down from the conversation in which she gave quick comments and jumped around from production to materials, overseas factories, special needles used for leather, muses, etc....she was not satisfied with the direction I went in and amount of time I required to retrieve necessary details from her vie email. I was also editing/incorporating a new stream of content she continued to add. She said that she did not have time to devote to this. 


I was frustrated, but professional and I asked her if she wanted to go with another writer.  At this point, I only invested two hours and it is my first time using Up Work, so I was okay with walking away at that point and not being paid. 


She texted me several times after 11 pm and then continued to go back and forth with me via email until 12:30 am and told me that she still wanted to work with me. The following day, I added an additional 5 hours and worked with her all along. I have records of all messages--email and text (attached).


I continued to work on she kept adding content and then deciding not to feature that content, so I continually revised.



Day 3 (today)

She wanted the project by 4:00 today (but never mentioned an absolute deadline until today/apparently she was submitting it as an application for an award and has a 4:00 deadline) and messaged me at around 2:00 and said it was ready to go.


A few minutes later, she said it was "weak" and wanted me to revise it, but never made it clear IF she would pay me. I told her that I would not revise it if she was not going to pay me.


I worked with her all along on revisions. I was always available by phone/text/email and answered all of her inquiries. I have never used Up Work before, so I am unfamiliar...not sure how to proceed. 


**Edited for Community Guidelines**

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
2 of 18

Um... You understand this is a bad client, right?


re: "...said that she would not pay if not satisfied"


It sounds like you made a mistake in accepting the contract from such a person.


re: "I have never used Up Work before, so I am unfamiliar...not sure how to proceed."


You could tell her:

I really want your project to succeed. I want you to end up with exactly the resume that you want to have. I don't want you to spend an unreasonable amount of time with a freelancer who isn't right for this task. I feel like there may be a disconnect between your vision of the project and the way that I work. If you would like to close out the contract now, requesting a full refund, I will grant that refund. According to Upwork's rules, that is okay to do, and it will mean that the work I did belongs to me. You won't be able to use it. I might use it as a portfolio piece. I'm not sure yet. Alternatively, if you would like to close the contract and request 50% of the amount in escrow back, I will accept that, and you will be the sole owner of all the work. You may use it in any way that you like, and I won't be able to do anything with it."


...and then don't do any more work on this. Be prepared to walk away from a client who wastes your time like this.

Active Member
Regina M Member Since: May 9, 2019
3 of 18
Yes, your reply definitely validated my crazy experience. Is there anything I can do? Willing to take the loss, but hesitant to go thru a third party site again.
Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
4 of 18

re: "...but hesitant to go thru a third party site again."



There is you.

And the client.

That's two people


Who is the third party?

Community Guru
Virginia F Member Since: Feb 15, 2016
5 of 18

Regina M wrote:
Yes, your reply definitely validated my crazy experience. Is there anything I can do? Willing to take the loss, but hesitant to go thru a third party site again.

Like Preston, I'm wondering what "third party site" you're talking about? She asked you to submit a proposal, but did you actually receive an offer and get hired ... with a contract in place? If so, fixed price or hourly?


If you're not sure how things work, there are lots of resources you may want to look at so you know the processes that should be in place before you start any work, in order for you to get paid.

Active Member
Regina M Member Since: May 9, 2019
6 of 18
I did receive an offer and get hired. Yes, first time, so was not sure how
it worked. In the beginning, she accepted my proposal.

She just withdrew the offer, so I guess I won't get paid. Some of the money
was in escrow, so I figured it was safe to go ahead.
Avery O Moderator Member Since: Nov 23, 2015
7 of 18

Hi Regina, 

I checked your account and it doesn't look like a contract was set up. It is very likely that an offer was made, which you were not able to accept. 

We always recommend to freelancer that before you start working on any project on Upwork, make sure that an offer was sent, you have accepted it, and it's showing as an active contract on your My Jobs page, and  the client's payment method is verified.


You may also want to read up on these freelancer resources and these tips for avoiding questionable jobs, for help getting started, and for more information about working safely through Upwork. Hopefully this helps!

Community Guru
Kathy T Member Since: Jul 17, 2015
8 of 18

If this client withdrew her OFFER, you never had a contract. You worked for free. 


If a client wants to hire you, they will offer you a contract on this site with the terms, scope of work and payment and in which you can accept the contract/offer, or decline the offer. 


Please read up on how to work correctly on this site and learn the procedures so you can do work and get paid for it. 

Community Guru
Kholleras I Member Since: Nov 24, 2015
9 of 18

All these details you've given are irrelevant. If you have an hourly contract and properly logged hours, you'll get paid. If you have a fixed-price contract, submit the work you did for the milestone and you may get paid.


If you have no contract, you probably won't get paid (although you can try asking the client to set one up). If you have a contract but didn't log hours properly, didn't have a milestone funded, or haven't submitted work for the milestone, you probably won't get paid until you do.


If you're looking for advice, here it is: stop wasting your time working with difficult clients.

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
10 of 18

Not sure why you accepted a project with such a ridiculous client but in any case, you need to learn how UW works. For instance, you want to avoid contracts where you don't get paid anything and/or you refund what you were paid because those situations undermine establishing a strong track record and getting a high JSS. Review the information provided for new UW freelancers and browse this forum to find answers to your initial questions.