The best way to settle a dispute is never to have one in the first place. Preventative contracting, much like preventative medicine, can save on aches and pains that arise as a result of misunderstood project needs, inflated billing, or incomplete work.
The two best ways to prevent a dispute are engaging in clear and constant communication with the Employer and creating a Project Agreement that outlines each piece of the project. When both parties understand what is expected and what will be provided, 99.9% of disputes will never occur.
- Clear communication - Maintain good communication throughout the project. Good communication is key, be it at the beginning to discuss the project needs, terms, and schedule; in the middle to discuss progress, changes, and roadblocks; or at the end to review and confirm the project. The majority of Freelancer/Employer relationships that fail do so as a result of poor communication. We recommend that all Freelancers use Work Room Discussions to communicate with the Employers. It’s convenient, centralized location and real-time notification features make it ideal for keeping track of project discussions.
- Detailed Project Agreement – Create and upload a Project Agreement that details all aspects of the project and your relationship. The Project Agreement should include information on the project scope, deliverable dates, payment terms, ownership, confidentiality, termination, dispute resolution, and expenses. The Project Agreement protects both parties by defining the expectations in writing before proceeding.
There are several additional steps you can take at the start of a working relationship to help prevent potential disagreements.
- Don’t make assumptions — Be specific and precise when you and your Employer outline the project requirements and timeline for deliverables in the Project Agreement. If you don’t understand what an Employer needs, don’t hesitate to ask.
- Communicate clearly and respectfully — Make sure that what you are saying is understandable and clear. This is especially important if you and your Employer are from different parts of the world. Treat the Employer with the same consideration you want to receive.
- Build trust — Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Make every attempt to always follow through on what you say you will do and when you will do it. If you do not have the required skills or experience for a particular job, let the Employer know up front. It is better to lose a job and gain respect than to mislead and disappoint an Employer and have your shortcomings revealed partway through a project.
- Stay in touch — If you are traveling or are going to be unavailable for a day or longer, let your Employer know at once. Some Employers will panic when they are in the middle of a project and cannot reach you.
- Accept constructive criticism— If you submit work that does not meet an Employer’s expectations, ask him or her to explain precisely what needs to be changed and establish a timeframe for receipt of the revisions.
Occasionally, regardless of your efforts, working relationships get off to a rocky start or encounter bumps due to miscommunication or misunderstanding. Most interactions can be mended and projects restored if problems are adequately addressed early on.
- Don’t rush to judgment — Crises and emergencies are universal. Give the Employer the benefit of the doubt and an opportunity to explain any delays in communication or in getting feedback or compensation to you.
- Be responsive and accessible — If an Employer asks questions, respond in a timely fashion. Most Employers want a cooperative relationship, but a project may get off track without your input.
- Maintain trust — Follow through with what you have agreed to do, and continue to communicate in a respectful, professional manner.
- Document your communications — Use the Work Room Discussions tool for all your communications. This way both parties have a structured and secure way to reference what was discussed and agreed to.
- Speak up — If you are confused about your Employer’s expectations, don’t fume in silence. Your Employer can’t address problems if he or she isn’t aware of them. Most Employers are more than willing to respond to requests if they are asked openly and respectfully.
- Give Employers time to review the work — Employers need time to make sure they are thoroughly satisfied with the deliverables before they approve it. If you pressure Employers to approve the work quickly, you risk negative feedback, not being selected for future projects, and the pursuit of a refund via Guru.com or a lawsuit.
If, despite all of your efforts, you and the Employer are unable to agree or are simply displeased with each other for various reasons, a few simple steps can keep the situation from becoming disastrous.
- Don’t despair — If you used SafePay, you can contact Guru.com’s Dispute Resolution Department and pursue mediation and/or arbitration services.
- Stay calm — It is easy to panic or get caught up in anger when a working relationship sours or a project falls behind schedule. However, you’ll be able to reach a resolution more smoothly and quickly if a cool head prevails.
- Maintain professionalism — Even though communications have become strained, you can still interact with dignity. The most satisfying resolutions are achieved without resorting to hostility or malice.
- Brainstorm — There are countless ways that disputes can be amicably resolved. Your initial position may not be one that the Employer will agree to, but other ideas might be acceptable. Be creative and assertive in suggesting possible solutions.
- Put forth a good faith effort — Your satisfaction with the outcome of a dispute is directly related to your input into the resolution process and your willingness to negotiate and remain flexible.