Great Expectations… Unreachable.

IMG_20150716_233816_editLast week I had an unsavory experience with a freelancer I’d hired to do some short article work for me.

But, first, a little background…

Upwork.com (previously Elance.com) is a website where freelancers of all types can register and bid for jobs. After doing work, you get rated for your performance, work produced, communication, et cetera.

For many beginners, it’s important to get those good ratings, sometimes at the expense of being underpaid, because good ratings make you more likely to win higher paying gigs down the road. Plus, experience is experience, and that’s worth something, too.

When I joined Upwork in 2013, I took a few underpaying jobs for the ratings and experience. As I got better, so did my reputation and, ergo, the pay.

This is the freelancer circle of life.

Recently, I had a project for which I needed several short (<500 word) journal-type essays written, from various points of view and on various topics. I knew I couldn’t write these myself, but also the budget I had to work within wasn’t much. All I could offer was $2 per article.

I knew this was an underpayment, but I needed these articles and my experience told me that there would be beginning freelancers or hobbyist-writers willing to do the work. Besides, the articles didn’t need to be perfect; I’d take them with misspellings and bad grammar because it was the content and viewpoints I was after, not literary perfection.

So I posted the job requirements and waited for applicants.

I got several. Two ended up wrote material for me (the others either backed out or were unresponsive).

Last week, I ended contracts because I’m no longer in need of material. I left my reviews of the freelancers as is standard Upwork procedure and moved on.

But one freelancer didn’t.

When “Perfection” isn’t achieved…

What I received was a bitter message about how unfair my review of them was and how they’d wished they’d never taken the job because it didn’t pay well and they didn’t even get a perfect 5-star review out of it.

So, basically, ‘Thanks a lot for nothing, you ungracious dolt!’

I didn’t understand what had happened.

I reviewed my review and found it satisfactory and accurate. On a 5-star scale, they’d rated an overall 3.33, within the “good” to “very good” range. Was this person not happy with being rated good or very good?

They were not.

What they wanted–what they expected–was a perfect 5, and nothing less would do.

But could I rate that in good conscience? Absolutely not. They’d produced good work, a couple times very good, that fit my needs. I had to ask for a revision early on, and even those revisions needed adjusting, but at a $2/article rate I felt it was unfair to continue to ask for the freelancer to invest more time into the work when what they were giving was just fine.

So in this bitter message they sent, they insulted my rating saying it was “unfair and unacceptable,” complained about the pay (to which they had agreed on in the first place, so that completely boggles me), and then–get this!–asked if I would reconsider the rating I’d given them.

Umm… no. Absolutely not.

Why? Because attitude is everything, and this freelancer absolutely failed.

…maintain your professionalism!

Had the freelancer expressed themselves in a more professional manner–that is, requesting I reconsider my review for x, y, and z reasons without insulting me or the job–I would likely have raised their score.

As it was, their attitude made me want to go back and reduce their rating by docking points for professionalism and communication.

But, I didn’t (lucky them). I left things as they were and simply explained (1) why I had rated them “good” to “very good” as I had, and (2) suggested they make it clear to future clients that a 5-star rating is not only hoped for, but demanded.

This freelancer was unable to accept my reasons for offering a 3.33, and said so as much in (another) spiteful message, but it became clear to me that this person was simply unprofessional, and throwing a temper tantrum at me was their way of getting what they wanted.

Who knows how many of their past clients were bullied into changing their ratings to reflect perfection? It makes me wonder, because every single other rating on this person’s profile was a five.

It makes me skeptical.

But, I let it go. In fact, I blocked the freelancer from contacting me or bidding on my jobs ever again.

I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life, in my work. Nobody does. negativity

Beware the “Perfect” rating.

Long story short: Nothing in life is perfect, so beware 5-star ratings on anything: Amazon products, freelancers, restaurants, whatever.

Likelihood is that those ratings are either faked, paid for, or downright wrong. A dining experience may be wonderful, a hotel may be awesome, a freelancer may be great, but none is perfect. THAT I can guarantee!

Seek a smidge of criticism.

I think I’m pretty darn good at what I do, but I know that I’m not perfect. Sure I want happy clients and customers, but I want a little criticism, too. I’m actually disappointed when I receive a 5-star review because that leaves me nothing to work on and offers an unbelievable and unrealistic perception for future clients.

I hope that freelancer is able to grow in their attitude about what 3, 4, and 5-star ratings really mean and accept that less than perfection is perfectly acceptable.


Here’s an article on what 3-star ratings mean to an avid reader, Jessica of Bookish Serendipity. Do you agree with her analysis?

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