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Work is done, client hasn't approved milestones ...

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Heather H Member Since: Mar 15, 2019
1 of 11

I made some mistakes with my client - can you help me figure out how to fix it now, and do better next time? We set up a contract for 5 milestones over 5 days, 10 widgets per milestone per day, We did this because the client wanted to get them in batches as we went, rather than all of them a the end. 

 
  • Day 1: I attached a file with 10 widgets to Milestone 1 and asked for approval. 
  • Day 2:  Got great feedback via messages, but Milestone 1 didn’t get approved. I submitted 2nd batch of 10 widgets via message, and asked him to approve Milestone 1  and activate Milestone 2.
  • Day 3: client approved Milestone 1 and activated Milestone 2, so I attached a file with 2nd set of widgets to Milestone 2 and requested approval. End of day came, no approval and Milestone 3 still wasn't active, but I didn’t want to miss my deadline so I submitted 3rd set of widgets via messages.
  • Day 4: I got some feedback via message and client approved Milestone 2 and activated Milestone 3. I attached 3rd set to Milestone 3 and requested approval. Milestones 4 & 5 weren't active yet but 4 was due, so I submitted 4th set of widgets via message so as not to miss my deadline.
  • Day 5 (yesterday): radio silence from client. Submitted final set of widgets by messages, again so I wouldn’t miss my deadline, even though the final milestone wasn't active yet (neither was 4).  Resubmitted Milestone 3 for approval in the morning. Sent a chipper message to client telling them how great it was working on their project, love any feedback, please let me know asap if any revisions are needed, otherwise please approve all remaining milestones.
  • Day 5 + 1 (today): resubmitted Milestone 3 for approval this morning. Still nothing from client. Milestones 4 and 5 still aren't active, much less approved.

 

Now what do I do? All work is complete, but only 40% of the milestones have been approved. I know, I'm an idiot. But how do I salvage anything here? and how do I get paid?
Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
BEST ANSWER
2 of 11

Heather H wrote:

I made some mistakes with my client - can you help me figure out how to fix it now, and do better next time? We set up a contract for 5 milestones over 5 days, 10 widgets per milestone per day, We did this because the client wanted to get them in batches as we went, rather than all of them a the end. 

  • Day 5 + 1 (today): resubmitted Milestone 3 for approval this morning. Still nothing from client.

Do NOT resubmit milestone 3.

You get paid the funds in Escrow 14 days after the last time (!) you submitted the milestone automatically. Every time you resubmit, you reset the 14 day timer.

 

Unfortunately, if you have done any work in advance, anything that was not funded, you won't get paid for if the client stays gone.

 

Clients have 14 days to approve a milestone or ask for changes. If they do neither, the milestone is ato-approved.

 

 

Active Member
Heather H Member Since: Mar 15, 2019
3 of 11

Thanks - that makes sense. Lesson learned - don't submit work if the money isn't in escrow ... don't lead the milestones, and don't resubmit them once completed. Thank you!

Community Guru
Anthony H Member Since: Feb 22, 2017
4 of 11

What's a widget?

I thought they were similar to doo-dads or gizmos or gadgets.

Anyway, welcome to the waiting game. I have spent the past week waiting for a half dozen clients to get back to me, approve payment, fix their websites so I can work, get approval from HR to hire me, get done with their meetings, call back, write back, etc. etc.

The only thing you really can do is this: Start applying for other jobs. This one will just have to run its course and you probably can't do much about it without sounding pesky and annoying. (Yes, I'm sure there's an ideal way to be pesky and annoying -- the PC way to shine while you whine -- but you seem like you have all the diplomacy skills you'll ever need. Remember, when you tell them to jump off a cliff, always do it politely.)

So, just get three more jobs and let this stew in its juices until the glacier starts moving again. (Too many metaphors? My bad.)

Because after the client finally does what they should be doing, Upwork will start to slow things down even further, because Upwork likes to put your money in a holding pattern, so they can admire it for a while before letting you have it.

You might consider only doing work through Upwork's hourly tracking system, which is supposed to guarantee you get paid. I'm sure that's not any faster, but at least you don't have to worry about the funds eventually showing up. I've never used that system, so maybe someone else here can give you some pointers on that.

Good luck.


Active Member
Heather H Member Since: Mar 15, 2019
5 of 11

Thanks! "widget" is just what I used as a work-unit noun, rather than bog down my question with an unnecessarily technical description of the specific units of work I was doing for the client. And thank you for your guidance on not obsessing over it! (I totally want to obsess over it.) I will do as you suggest instead, start other projects and let this percolate. Thank you!

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
6 of 11

Anthony H wrote:


You might consider only doing work through Upwork's hourly tracking system, which is supposed to guarantee you get paid. I'm sure that's not any faster, but at least you don't have to worry about the funds eventually showing up. I've never used that system, so maybe someone else here can give you some pointers on that.


Neither a fixed-price nor hourly contract is bullet-proof in terms of payment protection for the FL. Each has its pros and cons, depending on the nature of the work and the project timeline. The key, in every case, is to use the contract as it's meant to be used. Stack that on top of solid client vetting and alert project and client management skills, and instances of losing money will be few and far between.

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
7 of 11

You're not an idiot, but yes, you may be in a pickle of your own making. (Any thriving FL who claims she's never done this or something similar, is not being truthful.) When you say "activate" a milestone, do you mean fund it? Because if the milestones were all funded and you've submitted the completed work properly, then you'll get paid after 14 days (+ 5-day security period) after each submission or whenever the client approves, whichever occurs first. But if you've submitted work against unfunded milestones, then you must depend on this client who may just be careless or may be unscrupulous enough to screw you out of the remaining fee. If that happens, then you may be able to assert ownership over the work product that was not paid for. In the case of written material that's published online, you can file a take-down order. I don't know anything about widgets and what recourse is available with those, but someone who does know is likely to chime in here.

 

I haven't experienced this dilemma but I've been FLing for a long time. If it's an unfunded milestone situation, I would send the client a "wrap-up" message: cordial but business-like tone; ask them to confirm receipt of everything you've sent and that it is all satisfactory; request they fund and approve milestones 3-5. If no response in 2 biz days, I'd send another message, again cordial but business-like, reminding them that per UW's ToS, they do not own and cannot use work product that they have not paid for. At that point, it's all a matter of how successfully you can shame/bully them into paying you. If they don't, then you still have the opportunity to leave candid feedback (along the lines of their taking advantage of your willingness to work on an urgent timeline and then stiffing you).

 

Going forward, avoid this situation by playing hardball on milestones: no funded milestone, no work. Period.

 

 

Active Member
Heather H Member Since: Mar 15, 2019
8 of 11

Thanks - I'll play hardball on funded milestones from now on. I guess that's what I mean when I call it "active" - if a milestone doesn't show up in the "active milestones" list and won't let me attach work to it or submit it for payment, then I guess that probably means it's unfunded. I foolishly assumed that since the contract was for $xx, that was the amount that had been funded. This is only my second contract on Upwork and my first milestone-based project.

 

The good thing about hard lessons is that you never forget them. Thanks!

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
9 of 11

re: "I'll play hardball on funded milestones from now on"

 

Heather: You have the right attitude, and I'm glad that you have learned more about how fixed-price contracts work.

 

I don't think you need to think of this as "playing hardball."

 

If you go up to the counter at McDonald's and order a hamburger, they're not going to hand over the hamburger until you pay for it. They don't consider this "playing hardball."

 

That's just how it's done.

 

With Upwork's escrow system in place, it's just silly for any client to ask you to do work without funding the milestone first. Any client who would do so is simply uninformed (in which case you may inform them) or a scammer, in which case you don't want to have anything to do with them.

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
10 of 11

re: "I foolishly assumed that since the contract was for $xx, that was the amount that had been funded."

 

Don't be hard on yourself. LOTS of new freelancers have made the same mistake.

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