Here are the best ways to deal with bad reviews on the Upwork Platform
I love being a freelancer. But I will be the first to admit, the job isn’t without its ups and downs. And I am going to assume, if you’re reading this article right now, you’re more than likely having one of those “down” days. Perhaps you missed a deadline or perhaps you bit off more than you can chew with a project that wasn’t right for your skillset. Maybe you’re just dealing with a toxic client. No matter the situation, this less-than-ideal situation has you worried about an equally less-than-ideal review on your Upwork profile.
As a Top-Rated, Expert-Vetted freelancer on Upwork who has earned over $600,000 on the platform, I can assure you I’ve seen my share of toxic clients over the years. A couple of which resulted in not-so-great reviews. At the time I thought these incidents would tank my entire career. Luckily, I learned two very important lessons in the process:
- Bad reviews are not the end of the world.
- There are ways to dispute negative feedback on the Upwork platform.
There are three primary ways to dispute and/or remove negative feedback and bad reviews from the Upwork platform: Top-Rated removal requests, reporting Terms of Service violations, and offering a full refund.
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My Bad Reviews
First, let’s start by talking about the times I’ve had to remove bad reviews. For context, throughout my entire Upwork career, I’ve completed more than 250 jobs. And out of over 250 jobs, I’ve only ever encountered this problem twice. And both times, were fairly early on in my Upwork journey. You’ll be happy to know, that if you’re just starting on Upwork, things get easier as you go. The higher your rate, the more you’ve earned, and the more prestigious your profile, the better quality clients you’ll attract over time.
Scenario One: The toxic client
The first scenario involved a cheap client with a pension for scope creep and an inability to effectively communicate. After multiple days and too many hours spent on a $50 job, I informed the client I would be ending the contract. The client became understandably angry and threatened to have me kicked off the platform.
In this scenario, I was able to remove the feedback on my profile altogether by issuing a full refund (more on that later). Sure, I lost the $50, but I was able to just move on with my life and quickly replace that income with an easy client who treated me like a human. Sometimes we spend hours worrying about how to salvage $50 when we could already be looking for, and working on, more fruitful ventures.
Scenario Two: The disorganized client
The second scenario involved a client who left for a two-week cruise right after hiring me. He instructed me to work with his team in his absence. And here’s the fun part – I discovered right after he left that the team didn’t seem to know why I had been hired. After two weeks of working with the team, the client returned from his cruise disappointed that the completed work wasn’t a match for what he had in mind.
In this scenario, I was able to have the negative feedback removed from my profile by employing the Top-Rated removal request perk (again, more on this later). This action resulted in a “feedback has been removed” comment on my profile.
Below, I will break down a variety of options for removing, disputing and even preventing negative feedback from appearing on your profile including the methods I personally used for the two above scenarios.
Preventing a Bad Review
First, you should know that the best way to deal with bad reviews is to prevent them in the first place by doing your best to work things out with the client. After all, removing negative feedback after it’s already happened is neither an easy nor a guaranteed process. And in some cases, it can cost you financially. Prevention is always the preferred method.
You should also know, that even removed feedback can still impact your Job Success Score (JSS). But don’t panic, a small dip in your Job Success Score (JSS) score isn’t the end of the world. I recovered pretty quickly in both scenarios. My JSS score bounced back within weeks and I’m currently at 100%.
3 Ways to Remove Bad Upwork Reviews
1. Top-rated freelancers can request a removal every 3 months
This is the easiest way to remove negative reviews from your profile. If you are Top Rated, Top-Rated Plus or Expert Vetted and have completed at least 10 contracts, you can contact customer support for a removal request within 14 days of the feedback being posted. Agency removal requests should be submitted by the owner, business manager or agency administrator.
When you contact support, you can request to have it removed only from your Job Success Score, or from both your Job Success Score and your profile. But I can’t imagine a scenario in which you wouldn’t request to have it removed from both. The changes usually take effect the same day. However, the feedback won’t be removed entirely, it will just be replaced with the message “this feedback has been removed” (see screenshot above). Also, your feedback to the client will remain visible unless the client requests its removal. And if the client responds to your feedback, it too will remain visible.
Finally, you can only make a feedback removal request once every three months. So don’t waste it as you only have a limited number of opportunities throughout the year. This is ultimately the route I took in the previously mentioned scenario two. I can proudly say (knock on wood) that in now six years on the platform, I’ve only had to utilize this option once.
2. You can dispute the feedback if it violates Upwork’s Terms of Service
This only works in rare cases. But if the negative feedback violates Upwork’s Terms of Service, you can request to have it removed by contacting customer support. You must be able to prove that the feedback does violate Upwork’s terms – be prepared to provide documentation. Success is not guaranteed using this method, and every removal request is handled on a case-by-case basis. But if you believe your client is in violation, it may be worth a try.
Sample violations, according to Upwork website, include but are not limited to:
- A user attempts to coerce another user by threatening to give negative feedback
- A user incites or encourages violence
- The client requests or demands free services
- The client expresses views unrelated to the work in the feedback system such as political, religious or social commentary
3. Offer your client a full refund
Public feedback will only be visible if you’ve received payment for the work. If you end the contract before you’ve been paid, the client cannot leave a review. If you give your client a full refund for the work, their feedback will be removed from your profile altogether.
Sure, there are a couple of downsides to this option. First, you forfeit the pay. Second, the effect on your JSS score will remain. But ultimately, in many scenarios, it may be worth it just to get out of a bad situation and rid yourself of a toxic client.
This is the route I took in the previously mentioned scenario one. Sure, I ended up losing a lot of time. But the client was only offering me $50 anyway. And I realized I was better off moving on to a serious client than throwing even more time at the situation for a low payout.
And here’s the great news – right after dumping that client and refunding their money, my very next contract ended up being the biggest I’ve ever had (at over $150,000). I hate to think that I might have missed out on making $150k had I stayed in that bad situation, chasing $50, with a rude client who was monopolizing all of my time and energy.
“I hate to think that I might have missed out on making $150k had I stayed in that bad situation, chasing $50, with a rude client who was monopolizing all of my time and energy.”– Morgan Overholt
The Key Takeaway
I want everyone who reads this to know that things get so much easier on the Upwork platform over time. In the beginning, it’s hard to find quality clients and secure big contracts.
Cheap clients, low budgets and scope creep are all par for the course for inexperienced Upworkers. Even as a fairly experienced freelancer when I joined Upwork, I struggled at times. And it took a few months to figure out how to make the system work for me. With time, you’ll learn to better identify client red flags before you even begin. As you raise your rates and gain traction with 5-star reviews, you’ll naturally begin to attract more quality clientele.
Today, I mostly only work with an established base of Upwork clients who treat me well and always pay on time. I never apply for jobs, and most of the time I leave my profile set to “not available” because I stay so busy. I rarely can take on new work. And I haven’t dealt with a “bad client” or a “bad review” in years. But if I did, I know Upwork would have my back.
Have you had experience with toxic clients and bad reviews on Upwork? How did you handle the situation? Let me know in the comments below. And don’t forget to connect with me on social media.
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