Uh oh, No escrow

Moneybags empty pockets

Hi, my dear readers!

I’ve been meaning to discuss this for a while, but I never quite got around to it.

I’m going to tell you about the time I overlooked a very crucial mistake I don’t want to see other new freelancers make. It’s common sense, I’m embarrassed, but it bears repeating because of its importance.

I think I’ve mentioned this particular client (not by name, naturally) before, but I never quite elaborated on everything that happened. His name’s still protected, but for the sake of this post, we’ll call him Steve. I worked with him through Elance.

Steve commissioned me to ghostwrite a murder mystery for him. He gave me a basic premise of the story; it wasn’t so much a full outline as a prompt.

The first week of working with Steve went well. I submitted my status report on time and got paid after a day or two. He liked my writing and asked me to keep going, which I did.

Next week comes up, I submit my status report, and there’s no pay. I figured “Oh, well, he must be backed up with other projects. I’ll give him a couple of days and talk to him later. I have other projects to fill.”

Another week passed and I still hadn’t heard anything from my client. I had worked for and not been paid or communicated with for two weeks. While Steve should have talked to me if there was indeed a problem, I was hurting myself and the project, too.

See, I made the mistake of working on the promise of being paid. One of the best things about working with Elance is their Escrow system. For those who don’t use the site, here’s how their Escrow system works:

  • A buyer/employer submits their payment  for a project to Elance.
  • Elance holds the funds until the job is complete.
  • Once the project is complete, the client approves Elance releasing the funds.
  • In the event of a dispute, the Escrowed money can go to either the client or the freelancer (depending on the case)

In my case, I foolishly did not wait for Steve to deposit funds for Week 2 and Week 3 before starting the work, so I basically worked for free for two weeks.

I got played like a fiddle and I only had myself to blame.

As a result, I use 2 safety measures that you might want to pick up (if you haven’t already):

  1. Secure at least a partial, non-refundable payment for your project. That way, if the project goes belly up, you at least come away with something.
  2. If you’re working through a site like Elance or PeoplePerHour, never start work until the Escrow for the project has been funded.

What are some hard lessons you’ve learned as a client or freelancer? Discuss in the comments below!

Be sure to check out my portfolio and professional site here

Happy freelancing and we’ll talk again next week!

– Adam


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One thought on “Uh oh, No escrow

  1. […] I’ve learned some fairly hard lessons on my road through the world of freelancing, and one of the hardest was getting paid (I discussed a specific case in this post). […]


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