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The Terror Client on Upwork.

I recently encountered a situation with one of my clients on Upwork that I thought I should share with my readers. After doing all the work, the client turned around and refused to pay, saying the job had not been done to his satisfaction. That was despite the fact that we had actually been working together on the articles through Google Drive. It was after this incident that I finally discovered that Upwork has its share of difficult clients. So, how did the saga of the difficult Upwork client begin? Below are the letters and other correspondences that will show you how the whole thing unfolded;

Upwork to Me via Gmail

A return of funds from escrow has been submitted for the following:

Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
Amount in Escrow: $53.00

Please take action within 7 days, or the remaining escrow balance will be returned to the client.

View request now >

Thanks,
Upwork Support

My immediate response was to go to Upwork’s Message’s section to get in touch with the client. Although I had read about the existence of difficult clients on Upwork, I had never encountered an issue like this before and wanted to get further clarification from the client;

Me:

Hey. Saw you asked for a refund. Was that in error? I thought the work was going along just fine…

Difficult Upwork Client

No that’s not an error. I am not happy with what you have provided

Me:

Am very sorry you didn’t like the work. I would welcome any criticism to help me out with future work. Upwork provides much of my livelihood and I need the clean record. In any case, I assume you are going to release the content back to me. If that’s the case, I can just release the funds without opening a dispute.

Okay, I was still in shock here and thought I could walk away with my work. Unfortunately, as you will see later on, my ego didn’t allow me to take this sensible step…

Difficult Upwork Client

Content is yours I don’t need it. I have no use for it. And I have not used it anywhere.

Angrily Filing a Dispute on Upwork

Difficult client on Upwork My Anger slowly grew

You will notice from the above exchange that I initially was very diplomatic and had even agreed to release the client’s money in exchange for the right to use the work on this blog. However, after a few hours of consideration, it dawned on me that the client was being rather unfair. I mean, I had written 7 articles whose word count surpassed 7700 words. To then just turn around and say he didn’t need the work seemed to me to be the height of unfairness. In any case, I decided to file a dispute with Upwork, which led to the following correspondence;

Email From Upwork

Dear…. (Me)

We are writing to confirm that you have filed dispute 100……. and that your client has been notified.
Here are the specifics:

Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
Client: Difficult Upwork Client
Disputed amount: $53.00
Reason for dispute: Completed milestone to requirements, Client changed requirements
View dispute

Next steps?

The Dispute team will contact both parties via email within 5 business days to assist in reaching a mutual agreement. Most disputes can be resolved within 30 days.
In the event a mutual resolution cannot be reached, third party arbitration is available. Upwork Customer Support will attempt to schedule a meeting with both you and the client. If an agreement cannot be reached within five business days, the dispute can be escalated to an independent arbitrator.

Regards,
Upwork Customer Support

The Client’s Reaction

Upon being notified that I had filed a dispute, the client sent me the following messages through Upwork’s Messaging Center;

Message From Difficult Upwork Client;

So you filled a dispute

Me:

Sure. I feel rather unfairly treated. It, maybe, not entirely be your fault, but you should get my angle. Today, I have just written ten articles for another client at a cost of $5 per 400 words. I wrote the lot in one day. That’s the kind of rate that sustainable for making a living on Upwork. Now, with the sometimes needless revisions that I ended up doing while writing your articles, my earnings dropped from around $30 a day to around $0 in two weeks! I admit, part of it was because of the unforeseen hiatus and that was entirely my fault. But, to then simply request a refund after I had spend so much time doing the work!

We, perhaps, should have done it on an article by article basis to prevent this kind of thing. In spite of all this, the articles are quite attractive from my point of view. I am an amazon associate and could easily turn them into a profit. My worry is you may have already used them somewhere! You say you haven’t but considering everything else, how am I to believe that? In any case, I opened the dispute because, yes, I need the time to make sure that the articles haven’t been used somewhere. We will just have to let Google be the judge of that and that may take quite a few days. I also need to have the three star review removed from my account. I will have to work with Upwork on that…

Client Rejects Dispute

At this point,  Upwork, through its Disputes Resolution Center, started trying to mediate in the dispute. How this works is that Upwork gives both parties a platform (a page), on which to air their views while trying to reach an agreement. Immediately after the above exchange, the client rejected the dispute;

From Upwork:

Hello …..(Me),

We want to let you know that your client has rejected the dispute you recently filed on Upwork.

* Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
* Client: Difficult Upwork Client
* Disputed amount: $53.00
* Reason for dispute: Completed milestone to requirements, Client changed requirements
* View dispute

The contract is now closed and the remaining balance of $53.00 will be held in Escrow until a resolution is reached.

Next steps?

The Dispute team will contact both parties via email within 5 business days to assist in reaching a mutual agreement. Most disputes can be resolved within 30 days.

In the event a mutual resolution cannot be reached, third party arbitration is available. Upwork Support will attempt to schedule a meeting with both you and the client. If agreement cannot be reached within five business days, the dispute can be escalated to an independent arbitrator.

Reasons Given by the Client for Requesting a Refund;

It was at this point that I got to know of some of the reasons why the client had requested a refund. Here is a message that he send to Upwork;

From: Difficult Upwork Client – 07-12-2017 15:28:30 GMT

Work done by this freelancer is below par and he delayed the deadlines because he had personal commitments. Which is clearly mentioned in the chat logs.

From Upwork:

Difficult Upwork Client has submitted an update you may want to review on dispute #10032601

* Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
* Client: Difficult Upwork Client
* Disputed amount: $53.00
* Reason for dispute: Completed milestone to requirements, Client changed requirements
* View dispute

=== Discussion thread ===
—-
From: Difficult Upwork Client – 07-12-2017 15:56:38 GMT

This freelancer told me his livelihood depended upon on Upwork and He begged me if I can give him some time off because he had personal commitments. No in regards to my honesty he still has rights to collaboration folder if I was so dishonest why would I still keep him in collaboration folder and secondly regarding content it was supposed to be posted here: https://best-air-fryers.com/ but as you can see this site is dead and I assured him I am not using his content and told him he still has access to collaboration folder and he clearly mentioned he will not file a dispute, I understand his fear that I have stolen from him but that’s not the case here. But I feel cheated by this freelancer and because he completely retracted from what he to me earlier in the day. As far as his work is concerned it is not at par with what I needed and he clearly highlighted this issue himself that he can’t write articles about the products that I asked him to review and he suggested me to hire another writers to finish the articles you can check the chat logs.

My response to the client’s allegations

Okay, as you may have noted, the client is actually telling the truth. I had indeed, promised to give him back his money (I didn’t actually have it of course. It was being held in Escrow by Upwork, but I could allow them to release it back to him.) I had had a change of heart at some point, however. It is also true that I had suggested to the client that he hire an additional freelancer. The articles were reviews of products that were so similar that after the fifth one, I had realized that there was a real danger of me repeating some things. In any case, here is how I responded to the client;

From: Me – 07-12-2017 10:05:43 GMT

Greetings.

I want to state here that I am quite willing to refund this client the money for the work done, in return for the right to post the articles on my own blog. I have discussed this with him, and he says I can do this. However, my worry is since he has turned out to be so dishonest, what’s to prevent him from posting the same articles that he has not paid for on his blog and getting me penalized by Google?

The client hired me several weeks ago and we agreed, after a trial first article, that I would write 10* 1000 word articles. He set a milestone for 5 articles and paid into escrow. I wrote the articles and posted them to a Google Docs page that the client had created.

The client proposed several revisions and, and I ended up spending way too much time trying to satisfy his demands. I mean, I have a 100% job approval rate and I bent over backwards for him in order to retain it. As late as Saturday 8 July, he was still asking me to continue working on the articles. As you can see in our messages, he told me to add summaries to the documents.

A few days earlier, he had suddenly turned nasty on me, claiming that I was not serious about the project. That was really painful, since I had not slept the previous day while working on this project.

It later turned out that those revisions were not necessary, since the client had neglected to refresh his browser, with the result that he was still seeing the original articles. So, I spend a whole day revising work that did not need to be revised!

I was surprised today when I got the message that the client was requesting a refund. This is something that’s entirely new to me. I spoke to him, and he said I had not done the job to his satisfaction. I mean, there is nothing wrong with the articles, in my view.

In fact, I am willing to use them on my own blog, as already mentioned. However, what guarantee do I have that the client has not already posted them to his own blog and is dishonestly demanding a refund? I definitely do not want to be penalized for posting duplicate content on my blog.

I also don’t want to tarnish my job success score. I depend on Upwork to feed my family, and this client is now putting my children’s livelihood at risk. And what compensation do I get for the hours that I spend redoing work that did not need redoing?

When I got the email about the refund request, I went into Docs and partially removed all the articles. I can forward them to you to show you that they really are of the highest quality. I do not, however, have a guarantee that the client had not already copied the work! He has definitely not been fair to this point.

As said, I require guidance in this regard. I would immediately release the funds and use the articles on my blog, but for the fears that I have mentioned. If the client can undertake to you not to use the articles in question, he can definitely have his money back.

The Saga Continues

As you can see, the above letter contained some of the reasons why I had not immediately released the money to the client. It also mentions that I had removed the work from Google Drive. What had happened is that the client and I were working on the articles through, as already mentioned, a Google Drive folder that he had created.

When I had received the message from Upwork stating that the client was asking for a refund, I had immediately rushed into the Google Drive folder and had copied the work to my own computer. To further protect myself, I had modified the articles by removing everything save for the first paragraphs. I know, this may appear to some to have been spiteful, but I didn’t want the client to turn around and begin using the work on his own blog at some later date. Of course, there was always the possibility that the client had already copied the work into some other folder. Below is a response from the Client;

From Difficult Upwork Client

Difficult Upwork Client has submitted an update you may want to review on dispute #10032601

* Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
* Client: Difficult Upwork Client
* Disputed amount: $53.00
* Reason for dispute: Completed milestone to requirements, Client changed requirements
* View dispute

=== Discussion thread ===
—-
From: Terror Client- 07-12-2017 16:03:03 GMT

Again I will highlight it’s his content and he owns the copyright on the articles but his articles are not up to my requirements, so I assure Upwork and freelancer that the content is his and only his I don’t want any part of it. So please refund my amount that is held in escrow.

Peeved

At this point, I really was peeved. I mean, after doing so much work, how could the client simple state that he no longer needed the articles? The claim about quality was, I belief, just an excuse. Something else had to have happened that changed the client’s mind about going ahead with the project. In any case, here was my response to the above message;

From Upwork

This confirms you updated dispute #10032601

* Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
* Client: Difficult Upwork Client
* Disputed amount: $53.00
* Reason for dispute: Completed milestone to requirements, Client changed requirements
* View dispute

=== Discussion thread ===
—-
From: Me – 07-12-2017 16:17:13 GMT

This approach to freelancing and Upwork is, in my view, entirely wrong. I suspect the client suddenly no longer needs the articles in question. So, it may be the case that I own a blog and can use the articles in question; but what would happen if it was another freelancer who does not have a site on which to post the articles?

Its rather unfair to have someone work on something for two weeks before suddenly demanding a refund! And its not like I posted all the articles at once. The client could simply have stopped me even at the beginning when I had posted only one article!

As I mention to him, perhaps his expectations for work on Upwork are a bit unrealistic. I have just completed a ten article job for another client, and I wrote them all today for $50. The whole thing wouldn’t be sustainable if it took freelancers two weeks to earn $0. In any case, here is one of the articles for you to judge their quality.

Now it was the Client From Hell’s turn to be livid;

Difficult Upwork Client has submitted an update you may want to review on dispute #100……

* Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
* Client: Difficult Upwork Client
* Disputed amount: $53.00
* Reason for dispute: Completed milestone to requirements, Client changed requirements
* View dispute

=== Discussion thread ===
—-
From: Terror Client  – 07-12-2017 16:20:37 GMT

Now I have nothing further to say to you or UPWORK I am filing for a chargeback with my credit card company.

That did provide a little bit of comic relief. The client was now threatening to have his credit card company claim the money on his behalf from Upwork;

Terror Client has submitted an update you may want to review on dispute #10032601

* Contract: Need Skilled Web Content Writers at $10/1,000 Words
* Client:  Terror Client
* Disputed amount: $53.00
* Reason for dispute: Completed milestone to requirements, Client changed requirements
* View dispute

=== Discussion thread ===
—-
From: Terror Client – 07-12-2017 16:24:03 GMT

Because your comments here prove that not only you are incompetent but you are also a pathological liar as well. It might be a huge amount for you but not for me and now I’m going to fight this on principle basis.

Ouch! That did hurt. I am a pathological liar! Well, that was definitely the first time that I had ever been called that….

Enter Upwork Dispute Specialist

After the slugging match between the client and me, Upwork assigned a “Dispute Specialist,” to help resolve the issues. She began by sending me the following email;

Jenn C…. (Upwork Help Center)

Jul 13, 11:13 PM EET

Dear ….. (Me)

My name is Jenn, your Upwork Dispute Specialist, and I’ll be working with you to help resolve the issue. I understand there is a problem with your client, Difficult Upwork Client, on Contract ID 18……….

In order to assist you further, please respond within 3 business days and provide any additional information that will help us further investigate this issue.

With this information, we will work together with you and your client towards a mutual resolution. Please note that a resolution could take up to 30 days.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
Jenn
Upwork Dispute Team

That Got Me talking

From Me to Upwork

Jul 14

Greetings Jenn

Yes, I have been having problems with the client, DUC. You can follow the issue in the messages that I have been exchanging with the client. Needless to say here that the client first hired me on June 11 2017. I completed that task and the money was dully released. We then agreed that I would work on a further 5 articles. We had agreed on a time frame of around two weeks for the articles and the client was paying me $10 for 1000 words.

I immediately started work. I can’t say there was a problem at this point, save for the fact that the client required constant revisions which practically made the whole venture unprofitable on my part. I mean, I can, with my other clients, write three or four articles in a single day. You can actually see the hit that I took in my earnings as I sought to satisfy Mr Terror Client. I any case, that is all beside the point.

I was doing the work through a Google Drive folder that the client had created. The work was completed a week and a half or so ago. However, the client immediately told me that he was not satisfied and needed to have revisions made. I spend days and nights and, as I tell him in one of my messages, slept only 4 hours while revising the work.

After completing the revisions, I then informed Mr Terror Client. He again, told me that he was not satisfied, and started to adopt a nasty tone, telling me that I was not taking the work seriously. I later deduced, based on what he was saying, that he had not refreshed his browser and was still seeing the work that I had originally submitted a week or so earlier. He acknowledged this, and I remained civil, as you can see in my messages, despite the fact that I had just spend two days revising work that did not need any revisions!

Again, this is all beside the point. On 8 July 2017, the client told me to add summaries to the work, which are about Air Fryers. I assumed that everything was on track, and spend several hours working on the summaries for the five articles.

Imagine my shock, therefore, and this is the point, when on July 11, I woke up to find that the client had requested to have his funds returned from Escrow. I mean, after all the work that I had done, was I therefore to get $0 at the end of the day? The client will tell you that I initially agreed to release his funds. That is true. I have a website where I can post the articles and they are quite “monetizable.”

However, what guarantee do I have that the client has not already posted the same work elsewhere? I definitely do not wish to have my site penalized for having duplicate content. And what if it was someone who did not have a site like me?

It’s clear that Mr Terror Client is trying to get both the work and his money back. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been telling me to make revisions on the articles as late as this Saturday. In fact, I will go so far as to accuse Mr Terror Client of being rather churlish. I, as you can see in our correspondences, tried my utmost to be polite, despite the fact that he had entirely seized my time for a price that I can make in a single day from my other clients. Not only that, but he goes a step further, telling me that I do not have the right to any payment.

PS: This whole issue may be academic at this point. Mr Terror Client told me that he was going to ask his credit card company to institute a chargeback from Upwork. You can see it the threat in one of the threads. So, you may actually need to check whether or not he has already done that. I don’t know how Upwork operates if that is the case…. I should also point out that I cut out the articles from Google Drive when Mr Terror Client requested his money back.

Here is how Jenn, The Upwork Dispute Specialist responded to my rant;

Hello Tapiwa,

Thank you for your reply and for providing additional information on the dispute.

We have advised the client that you are not willing to drop the dispute as you are seeking compensation for the work provided.

We have suggested the client offer an alternate payment amount as he is not satisfied with the work performed. I will be contacting you with an update as soon as it is available.

Your continued patience is appreciated.

Regards,
Jenn
Upwork Dispute Team

Okay. So far so good. At this point, I thought things were going rather well, although I still did not have any illusions. Here is how I responded to Jenn’s email;

From Me to Jenn,  the Upwork Dispute Specialist

Jul 17

Okay. Thanks. Just to point out that there is nothing actually wrong with the work itself. I have been going over it, and if it appears a bit stilted and not my style, its because the client was excessively micromanaging and asking for constant revisions. And, I don’t think the client finds anything wrong with the work. I suspect his project didn’t work out, and he want’s to cut his losses. He has, perhaps, abandoned the entire project, not because of the content, but because of some other issue. As I said, the client was asking me to add sections a day or so before he asked for his money back. And we had been working like that for the past two or so weeks. If the work wasn’t up to scratch, he would have told me to stop working earlier. Something changed.

My point is, it wouldn’t be fair for me to suddenly get nothing after doing so much work. It would also be unfair for me to take a hit on the agreed amount, although I would accept your guidance on this point. As I said, Mr Terror Client wanted so many revisions that I couldn’t work on any other projects, as you can see if you check my account. Mr  Terror Client’s work was almost all that I could do at this point. I would be willing to keep the work and post it on my own blog but for fear that Mr Terror Client has already used it and now wants his money back. I also hope you checked on that chargeback issue. You may actually be trying to mediate when the client has already asked his credit card company to reverse payments to Upwork. That’s what he was threatening to do the last time that I talked to him.

Jenn’s response was a bit testy at this point. I still wonder why;

Hello….. (Me)

Thank you for your reply.

As a friendly reminder, Upwork is legally unable to decide how who the funds are released to. As an Escrow agent, Upwork can only facilitate a negotiation to help the client and freelancer find a mutual resolution.

The client is offering to resolve the dispute with a partial payment of $10.00.

Normally when neither party is willing to negotiate we move the dispute to an independent arbitrator for a legally binding ruling. However, there is an arbitration fee of $875 which is split between the client, freelancer and Upwork at $291 each.

Given that the cost to file exceeds the amount in dispute, it may not be reasonable to move the case forward to arbitration.

Please let us know if you accept the clients offer within two business days.

Regards,
Jennifer
Upwork Dispute Team

The funny Side

The upwork client wanted me to accept a paltry $10 for my work

Now, the above message stuck me as being patently unfair. I mean, after slaving for so long on his work, the client was now asking me to accept $10 for over 7700 words. This would translate to a fee of around $2 per article, which is a far cry from the $15 that I charge some clients. At this point, it had become fairly obvious that I was not going to win this one. It was about time for me to throw in the towel. However, I had to try one more time;

From Me to Jenn, the Upwork Dispute Specialist;

Jul 19

Thanks Jeniffer. I do accept the client’s offer, on condition that I get the right to keep and use the articles in question. Arbitration in this case would be, as you say, rather needless, considering the amount involved. The work is, as I have mentioned, first class and it would be unfair for the client to get 7, high quality articles for only $10. All the articles run to around 1100 words. You will notice from my profile that I had a 100% job success score before this incident. My work, which I can forward to you, is above reproach and to the client’s specifications. I have, again as you can see, since had a couple of highly satisfied clients on the back of this incident. You will also notice that I had initially offered to refund Mr Terror Client his full amount in return for my work. The thing that changed my mind was fear that he had already used the work. It also stuck me as being unfair that he was continuing to ask me to add sections on the work a day before his decision to withdraw money from escrow. That, in any case, is now beside the point. As said, I will accept the $10 on condition that I keep my work. Otherwise, I would rather count my losses and keep my work.

But the Dispute Specialist was having none of it;

Hello….. (ME),

Thank you for your reply.

Please note that accepting to resolve the dispute with the clients offer will result in the Client attaining the rights of the work that was provided.

However, funds in refund being returned to the Client will enable us to inform the Client that you would remain owner of the intellectual property as payment was not received for the work.

Please advise how we should proceed.

Regards,
Jenn
Upwork Dispute Team

Throwing in the Towel

I had always known I would have to give up at some point

At this point, I realized that it was time for me to give up. I had frustrated the difficult client as much as I could ever hope to. It was time to let go;

Okay Jenifer

Please proceed to refund the client the full amount. I would rather keep the work, which I can try to monetize on my own blog. That, in any case would be better than giving away nearly 7700 words and two weeks’ work for $10. Again, refund the client and I will keep the work. I hope I don’t meet similarly inclined clients in the future. And I hope Mr Difficult Upwork Client hasn’t already used the work elsewhere. If you can get the client to commit not to use the work elsewhere, and not to have used it elsewhere, that would even be better.

A final word from the Upwork Dispute Specialist;

Hello …. (ME), 

Thank you for your participation in our dispute process.

Funds in Escrow have been released to the Client and the dispute is now closed. 

Regards, 
Jenn
Upwork Dispute Team 

An unforgettable incident

Well, the client actually won at the end of the day. In a way, I knew right from the beginning that there was not much that I could do to get justice. Upwork heavily favors clients at the expense of freelancers and Mr Difficult Upwork Client was always going to get his money back.

In a way, I think I protracted the dispute because I just wanted to frustrate him as he had frustrated me. But, after a while, I decided to release the money, while getting the right to my articles. If you come across articles on Air Fryers on this blog, those are the are the ones that I am talking about here.

How have the disputed articles been performing?

I would like to say that the articles in question have made me loads of money. In fact they have not; though I have been getting one or two page-views every day. I know, that’s not much, but my blog is still fairly new and I am hopeful that, going forward, I will begin to get something out of the dispute.

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