Handling Negative oDesk Feedback

Negative oDesk FeedbackHandling negative oDesk feedback is a very important aspect of being a successful freelancer at oDesk. A very important part of the oDesk Marketplace is the presence of a feedback system. Much like eBay, this feedback system provides a great system of trust which is used by both freelancers and employers. In an ideal world, the feedback would tell you everything about the freelancer and the employer will do a cost-benefit analysis to hire the right candidate for the job. Similarly, the employers with a negative oDesk feedback would be in the ‘high-risk’ category and thus need to provide a better pay for this increased risk.

However, nothing is ideal and even though the oDesk feedback system is a great one, it is not always accurate. After all, the feedback system is highly subjective and you may not always agree with the assessment. However, it is a prominent part of your profile and perhaps the very first thing that a potential employer is going to look at. This means a negative oDesk feedback can ruin a potentially great job opportunity. Obviously you would like to avoid it.

In addition, having a negative oDesk feedback at the very initial stage of your freelancing career isn’t a great way to start it off. You can find it difficult to get hold of good jobs and assignments even if you are otherwise qualified for them. This is why it is important to handle negative feedback right away. That is the purpose of this article – to help you get ahead of the game.

Understanding How oDesk Feedback System Works

The oDesk feedback system can be a little different from what you are used to seeing at sites like eBay or even other freelancing sites like Elance. Here are some important aspects of the system:

  • You cannot remove a negative oDesk feedback. It is on your record forever.
  • You can hide the comments written for you along with the feedback. It would show up as ‘private’ on your profile. However, the star feedback will still be visible.
  • You can enable an employer to change the feedback left for you. Make sure you have communicated before doing this because they can obviously leave a worse feedback if you are not professional about it. It is up to them whether to change it or not, though.
  • A project should have a payout of at least $1 for the feedback to show on your profile.
  • You cannot see the feedback of the other party before submitting your own feedback. After 14 days, you can no longer leave a feedback, at which stage this becomes available to view to you and the public. In the interim, it shows as ‘feedback awaited’.
  • It is possible to dispute a feedback with oDesk but it only removes negative feedback under exceptional circumstances, which means it is not very common.

Now that you understand how the oDesk feedback system works, lets work our way through to solving the problem of a negative oDesk feedback.

Identify the Reason for Negative oDesk Feedback

This is the very first step and also perhaps the most important, because the course of action you take later on depends on the reason for this negative oDesk feedback. The reasons can be several and it is important that you identify them. Once you have this figured, we can move on to how you should resolve the issue and possible solutions. Here are some possible reasons for this negative feedback:

  • Genuine Miscommunication: The project was a good experience for both you and the employer and he was happy with your work. There was constant communication throughout. However, there was some miscommunication – perhaps you didn’t get an email update or a resource which they thought they had given you. As a result, the final product was good but not completely as was required. This does happen, so you need to clarify with your employer.
  • Very high standards: The employer has very high standards for whatever reason. This means they will leave a very good feedback only if they are blown off their feet by your work. They don’t leave a negative review but not a very good one either – remember that even a ‘neutral’ 3 star review is going to hurt you a lot when everyone else gets a 4.5-5 star feedback.
  • There was a Conflict: This happens at times when the employer doesn’t have a clear idea or what he wants or when the freelancer is unable to provide the service he promised. This is a real conflict situation and cannot be resolved just by talking over because both parties have different expectations about the project. As a result, the employer leaves you with a negative oDesk feedback.
  • Pay Conflicts: This is a fairly common situation where the employer is happy with the quality of your work but wants you to work at an incredibly cheap price and this wasn’t made clear during the start of the assignment.
  • Feedback Hostage: We are now entering the shady areas: some employers hold a freelancer hostage to a feedback, getting more work out of them and threatening to lower the feedback if not delivered. This is a serious issue and should be reported to oDesk.
  • Shady Employers: Some employers are just shady and don’t leave a good feedback no matter what. All their previous assignments end badly too. It can be a tough situation to handle.
  • You are Just Bad: You can just be bad. May be the pay you ask for is reserved for experts and you don’t know the ABC of the trade. Or you might claim to be an expert and clearly lack the knowledge and authority. It is hard to resolve this issue except maybe talking to your employer and explaining your situation or if you have any genuine excuse.

These are but a few of the reasons why an employer might leave a negative oDesk feedback for you. Remember that every situation is unique, so you need to look for the best resolution method.

Next, let me present you some possible solutions

Solutions to Negative oDesk Feedback

You can use one or more of these strategies to reduce and revert your negative feedback. These are just pointers and you might want to use many of them at once. Sometimes the stakes are quite high and you need to ensure that your feedback isn’t tarnished. These should help you deal with the problem.

  • Talk to the employer: This is always the first step in the process. Be professional and don’t be rude. Never ever use profanity or other unwelcome behavior. Never threaten. Ask politely what the problem was. Also tell him how much a positive feedback means to you and how important it is for your freelancing career. Try to resolve the issue through emails. Most employers are nice people and they will only want to help you. However, if you are genuinely very bad, there is nothing they can do. For slight adjustments to the feedback, this system works the best.
  • Offer Something Extra: If the employer feels that you are not up to the mark and that the price you demand doesn’t reflect the quality of the work produced, offer to do something extra so you can earn ‘bonus points’ and thus enter into his good books. I am not suggesting you give away freebies especially to someone holding your feedback as a hostage. However, if you feel that you didn’t do as good a job as to deserve a 5 star rating, you might consider this option.
  • Refund the Money: This is an extreme situation but shows how important the feedback system can become. I personally had to do this once. Some employers are just outright mean and have no intention of leaving a good feedback no matter how well the work was done. In this case, you might want to consider just refunding the whole project amount. Remember that if the amount drops below $1, the feedback is removed from the profile. Obviously this is not an ideal situation since you work to get paid but is necessary at times.
  • Dispute with oDesk: If you think you have a good case against the employer, you can take the issue up with oDesk. This is especially so if the employer was threatening, blackmailing, being profane and other unacceptable behavior. You should show all the proof and evidence to oDesk and let them take appropriate action, including removing it from your profile page.

In the end, I would like to mention that negative oDesk feedback is also a learning experience. It tells you about your shortcomings and the scope for future improvements. Always take the feedback seriously and think about how you can improve and grow as a freelancer. Take a long term view. Also remember that oDesk isn’t the end of the world and for talented freelancers, there is no holding back and one site doesn’t make or break a freelancing career. Take the negative feedback as a learning experience and move on. And remember not to repeat your mistakes!


  1. I was thinking of using Odesk to make some money on the side. Thanks for your tips on this as it is inevitable that someone will run into one of the scenarios you mentioned.

    • Sherry says:

      I had a bad experience with my very first employer due to a genuine miscommunication. She said she needed 200 articles and only provided 20 topics. Having done several projects where I needed to multiply the number of articles by the number of topics given to reach the total the client needed, I did this for the project and got stuck at about 110 articles about a week into what the client said would be a month long project. I told the employer that I could not continue and told her that she could keep the 110 articles for free which were attached in the same email and that I was completely stuck in regards to coming up with 100% fresh content. I apologized profusely and she began name calling etc. in her responses. She insisted in another email that I did only 1 article because she didn’t take 2 seconds to OPEN and READ the Word file. I soon found that she only wanted to pay me $1.00, yes a dollar, just so that she could use her review to hinder me in getting more work. She claims I insulted her which I didn’t do KNOWING this was my FIRST ODesk project, in the review she lied saying that my articles tell readers to get the products in the trash when they were clearly sold online, I never wrote that in any article, and she said that I was a time waster. Time water, I can live with but the other names I won’t get into here. Only AFTER opening the file that I sent to her a 2nd time, the tone of her insulting emails changed. She suddenly admitted that she was a poor communicator and told tales of death within her family. As a first project on ODesk, this was a disaster and thanks to the review, I may not get another project on ODesk.

      • Sid says:

        Sherry, I am really sorry to hear about this. Some things are just out of our control, luck being one of them. That being said, you are not out of options –
        1. If $1 is all she paid you, just refund the amount and you will have the feedback removed from your profile. This will prevent this bad experience hindering your next job prospects. After the refund, the comment and feedback are no longer a part of your profile.
        2. File a complaint with oDesk. If you genuinely believe this is not your fault, then you should contact oDesk and submit proof of the abusing that you are talking about here. They do take these matters seriously and if you can explain your point of view, they will definitely consider removing the feedback from your profile without the refunding option I told you about above.

        Good luck and I hope you have many more positive experiences in the future and hope this doesn’t deter you from considering freelancing seriously! Good luck!

      • Sherry says:

        I immediately refunded the dollar (I could not take any payment because I committed and didn’t complete it) but there must be a waiting period or maybe they’ve changed the rules because the negative feedback is still there. I felt very bad about quitting but I would not have if the terms were more clearly laid out.

        Funny thing is, she messaged me asking me to to delete the requirement of an upfront deposit on the project. She chose me even though there were other applicants and then trashed what work I did do for her and insulted me. I stayed professional to avoid horrible feedback and got it anyway.

  2. well i guess we can make such negative feedbacks private so then no one will see them except us =)

    • Sid says:

      It is just the comment that you can make private, but your rating is there to stay. In addition, the work still shows up on your profile and instead of the comment, it just says ‘made private’ or something along those lines. This is still bad, of course.

  3. Karen says:

    Hi Sid,

    I only have 2 feedbacks since I started working in oDesk. Thankfully, I got great reviews. But I have always wondered what I will do when an employer will give a negative feedback. Thanks for your advice. I am always careful when it comes to choosing clients to work for. Before I apply for a job, I check their feedbacks as well to know if previous employees had problems with them.

    • Sid says:

      That is certainly a smart thing to do. You don’t want to jeopardize your future work prospects at oDesk just because of a bad employer or even a bad assignment. Such things happen in the long run and you should have a way out. Although refunding the project costs is drastic considering you have invested your time and effort in the work, it is sometimes necessary. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that for you. Good luck!

  4. athena says:

    if i wont leave a feedback even after 14days, will the feedback show up on my profile?

    • Sid says:

      Yes, if the other other party leaves a feedback and you don’t, the feedback still shows up on the profile page. It would show ‘no feedback given’ for the party that hasn’t left the feedback and the actual feedback from the party that did.

  5. Wanda Steel says:

    Thanks for those very helpful points! I have been with odesk for a year now. And I got great reviews until such time I joined in an agency where they apply on your behalf. Because of them and without asking my opinion of what kind of jobs I’d like to take on odesk, unfortunately got a lower feedback which has lowered my 5 stars. I regret joining them. I should’ve not joined them in the first place and right now there are invitations from agencies over odesk which I declined. It’s a lesson learned the hard way.

  6. Maria says:

    I am very glad that oDesk has ways to protect contractors against clients who unjustifiably post poor feedback.

  7. Hilary says:

    The same thing just happened to me,i am new to freelancer.
    I got this client who awarded me on a project but our misunderstanding started the firs minutes of doing the work,i discovered some missing information which was a must have.When i contacted the client,he become mad at me at terminated the whole project.
    He further tarnished my name by leaving this negative comment.
    Am really at loss,for i don’t know what next.

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    It is good to see people take the time to spell out the problem or issue, followed by providing valuable direction as to how to dela with it. Thank You

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