vWorker - Bidding, Client Interaction and Project Award Policies and Mechanisms
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vWorker provides two forms of on-site communication for contractors and clients. Most interaction takes place using the site’s private messaging system, which is simply an extension of the bidding function: a contractor starts out with a bid or a pre-bid, the client replies, and so on; a record of the conversation is kept for both to reference. There’s also an optional instant messaging feature that the parties can use if they wish.
vWorker has a strict policy against off-site communication between client and contractor during the proposal process. The company unabashedly declares that this is to protect their fee: given that a transaction percentage is all they charge, this seems perfectly reasonable. But the policy also serves to protect clients and contractors from unscrupulous business partners.
The company wisely makes an exception to the rule against off-site communication for larger projects. If the client has specified a budget range of $500 or higher, clients and contractors are allowed to communicate outside vWorker.com. This is important because a telephone call is often a much more efficient way to answer complex questions and get a better sense for the needs of a client. I would not want to negotiate a large project using only online messaging.
vWorker has a policy requiring weekly status reports for all projects with a value of $150 or higher. The company is very serious about this, imposing severe penalties in its overall rating system if they are missed, and even giving the client the option of canceling a project if the contractor fails to file them.
The process of awarding projects on vWorker is very simple. Clients are able to view a summary of all proposals they’ve received, and click any one of them for details. They can reply to freelancers to discuss terms, counter-offer a bid and so forth. Once the client is satisfied with a proposal, he or she can accept it to close bidding and start the project. It is also possible to choose more than one bid for a project, when this is relevant.
vWorker is unique in its policy of mandating escrow on all projects. The client is required to put 100% of the project value in escrow for fixed rate work, and a week’s worth of estimated time in escrow for hourly work. For more details, see the escrow discussion.
There really is no separate terms negotiation phase with vWorker. As I mentioned above, the project posting system includes features that allow clients to specify in great detail the terms and conditions by which they want work to be done, including legal protections. These terms, combined with the promises made by the contractor in his or her proposal, and the site’s terms of service, become the effective contract for the project.
vWorker does not provide any sort of multiple-date milestone scheduling system for larger projects, of the sort found on sites like Elance and Guru. Clients and contractors working on larger projects can manually split the work up into separate projects, of course, but there’s no formal mechanism for managing this.
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