How We Dodged a 1-Star Imminent Review

how to dodge negative feedback as a freelancer

Those of you who have already been in the freelancing business for a while, already know what I’m going to say: If there’s one thing certain in freelancing, is that you won’t be able to please all of your customers.

Most of the people we’ve worked with are great! We’ve even become friends with some of our clients and kept a close relationship even after the work was complete. And generally, if the results you produce are good, there will be a good work experience between you and the customer. But from time to time, when Lady Luck is on vacation or faith woke up on the wrong side of the bed, you’ll hit that one customer no one wants to work with – Mr or Ms NothingPleasesMe. This is what happened to us last week. Here’s the story:

Mr NothingPleasesMe Part 1 – The Task

The job was pretty simple – we had to create about 50 descriptions for some health products (about 5000 words). This is something our writers have done many times in the past, and the feedback was excellent. We had to complete the work in 48 hours. Although the deadline was short, the work was sent to the customer on time.

The payment was released shortly. Here’s the first feedback:

“Thanks – these look great.

I will send 50 more shortly”.

Mr NothingPleasesMe Part 2 – What the Hell

“What the hell” is actually a quote from the second message the customer sent, along with other similar words of praise. I almost spilled my coffee when reading all the insults, listed one by one like a beautiful rap song. It was my turn to think what the hell – the night before everything was great.

This is where it all went to the dogs. Although we realized that he only read like the first 3 or 4 descriptions, his mind was made up – the quality of ALL the content is poor.

So we argued with him! – no, we didn’t! In fact, we kept our heads down, paused all other projects and split the work among all our copywriters so we can send a new batch of descriptions back in 24 hours.

You’re probably wondering why we did this, considering all of the above. Here’s some advice:

a) Even if you don’t always go by the saying that “the customer is always right”, you MUST do everything in your power to avoid negative feedback

b) On Upwork (and probably on other freelancing platforms as well), once the customer releases the payment, they can leave feedback even if you refund the entire amount

c) No matter if you agree with your customer or not, you should ALWAYS be interested in offering a positive experience. This is how you get recommended, this is why customers will return to you for more work.

Mr NothingPleasesMe Part 3 – An Earthquake Always Has Aftershocks

So, we worked our asses out to rewrite all the content and send it back in the same day. This time we made it our unique goal to produce the best quality possible – and we did. And here’s the first line of feedback: I really hate to say it but these are also pretty poorly written.

As freelancers, we worked about 150 jobs so far, out of which about 80% received feedback. About 98% of these jobs were rated 5-stars. I’m telling you this so you can have a better idea of the quality of services we are offering.

We realized that this time he only read the first description.

So we argued with him! – yes, we did! Just a little bit. But we had a plan.

See, we were already planning to offer him a refund. But if we would have done that right away, we couldn’t have asked him not to leave us a negative review. And even if we would have asked him, he would have probably said no, even if we refunded him the entire amount.

So we started a small psychological warfare, by bringing him arguments to prove that he only read the first description and that you can’t judge the entire work that has been done only by reviewing 1% of it. And we also pointed out a few things he was wrong about, regarding that first description. This is just a part of the message we sent him.

how to avoid negative feedback

We were, in fact negotiating on who’s right and who’s wrong and trying to bring him to the point where he would admit, in his mind, that he, in fact, rushed into judging that our work was poorly done. After 24 hours and a few more messages the customer gave up on the aggressive attitude and adopted a new tone. It was time for phase 4.

Note: Showing your customer that he is wrong isn’t usually a smart thing to do. But if you do decide to take this path, make sure that you bring your customer rock-solid arguments that prove your statements. 

Mr NothingPleasesMe Part 4 – The Refund

Once we got the customer to the point where he admitted to himself that he was wrong, it was easy (he never admitted this to us, though). Here’s the message we sent him:

offered full refund to avoid negative feedback

Not only that he agreed, but he also asked that we keep half of the amount:half refund


See the difference in tone between what the hell and the message above? Anyway here comes the grand finale:

refund for positive freelancer feedback

And here’s the feedback:

how to get 5 star freelancer feedback

You see Andreea’s name there as we took the project via her account.

To be honest, this was probably the most difficult customer we came across and the hardest round of negotiations we’ve been through in order to avoid the negative feedback.

A few things to keep in mind

I can’t stress enough of how bad negative feedback really is. Once you get it, you will almost never be able to get rid of it! It will be stuck to your freelancer profile forever. And while positive feedback brings you more jobs, negative feedback will definitely be the reason why you won’t get any. So you have to do anything in your power to avoid it:

  • If you need to re-do the work, then re-do it! You’ll probably spend 24 hours at most recreating it. The negative feedback will stay with you forever.
  • If your last option is to refund some of the payment, then, that’s what you have to do – you can make that money again on the next (depending on the gravity of the situation, you will decide if you will need to refund the full payment or just a part of it).
  • If you need to kiss your customer’s ass a bit, then don’t hesitate. Screw your spine and dignity – you’re looking to get paid, not fighting for what you believe in.

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