Elance Blog

A Common Practice That Can Damage Your Professional Reputation


Hi All,

As a reminder, I’ll be dropping in from time to time to discuss behaviors or policies that benefit or impact the community. One of the first on my list is something we call, “Jobs without Payment.” This is essentially when a freelancer is hired by a client but no payments are made and money never exchanges hands.

A high percentage of underperforming Elance freelancers have numerous Jobs without Payment in their work history. And many of the freelancers on the list for review and account closures this year fell into this category.

These jobs damage the reputation of the community and we consider them to be a “red flag” in a freelancer’s profile. Getting paid and receiving Final Feedback is critical to building a reputation and work history here on Elance (clients can’t leave Final Feedback on Jobs without Payment). Because of this, we want to prevent Jobs without Payment, and to help you do so as well.

We’ve dug into many cases of Jobs without Payment and we find the root cause is often a simple matter of unmet expectations. Clients are unclear in their job requirements and the job scope ends up being different or unachievable. Or freelancers may overextend themselves by taking the job and over-scheduling their time, or by finding they don’t have the skills and experience required to complete the project.

So what can we do about these jobs?

Both Elance and you, our valued freelancers, can help.

On our end we’re doing our best to properly account for such jobs in a freelancer’s work history. First, for those rare, unavoidable situations when moving forward with a job just isn’t possible (the client changes his/her mind on the project or unforeseen events occur), you’ll find that one or two Jobs without Payment will not negatively impact your reputation. Additionally, when we see a Job without Payment pop up on a freelancer’s account and we find that it relates to a client with a lot of these job results or a history of poor feedback, we won’t record the lack of payment as a negative signal on a freelancer’s review.

For your part, it’s critical to only apply to and accept jobs you’re confident you can complete with success. Once accepted, carefully set and agree upon expectations with your client.

  • Ask questions. Make sure to discuss project deadlines, work deliverables and communication plans in your proposal/application and interview. Document these decisions carefully in your project’s Terms & Milestones.

  • Set clear expectations. Through detailed discussions about deadlines, communication styles and deliverable requests, you may uncover any mismatch in cost, skills or time that if not updated will lead to a poor outcome for the contract.

  • Interview your clients. Avoid difficult projects by ensuring the client is a) direct and reasonable in their expectations, and b) willing to clarify any open questions you might have before accepting a job. Also, only begin work on jobs where funding is in place. We can’t help recover funds that were never available in the first place.


I’m sure there are additional tips that could be of value for avoiding Jobs without Payment and I would welcome and appreciate suggestions from members of the community. My hope is that together, through our Trust efforts in the marketplace and freelancer and client education, we can make Jobs without Payment a thing of the past.






I have another two problems with two clients:

The first travels allot, so their is some blank periods in the project, like a gape of 1 or 2 months, than he comes back for 2 weeks, however the project is divided to milestones so he payed the first milestone but now the second is been a month and didn't end because he is travelling and I can't reach him to change the delivery date.

The second one, he loaded escrow, I did the work for him, but he kept coming and going each 2 - 3 weeks, in the end Elance gave the money back to the client, and now I can't bill him.

Proposed idea, before you put an account into review, please send a warning and the cause for the freelancer to take correction measures. Because sometimes clients cancel or close projects because their project are cancelled, this has to be taken into consideration too, I had that case with a client who awarded me in the first day, loaded escrow, and cancelled after 2 days because his project was cancelled.

Thanks for your comments and sharing these situations you've encountered with clients. We hear you on the need for providing freelancers with additional warning prior to accounts being placed under review and that is actually in our plans this year. Going forward, freelancers with below average work records will be notified that their performance is low and they are in danger of being placed under review. We'll also provide tips for improvement.