vWorker - Escrow Services, Work Tracking Systems and Payment Guarantees
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vWorker goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to escrow: it not only provides an escrow service at no additional charge to deal with the Internet trust problem, it mandates its use on all projects—even for hourly work. This system, combined with policies such as requiring account verification to be completed before a project can begin, and the company’s robust arbitration system, provide unparalleled protection for contractors against being ripped off on fixed rate work. On hourly projects, a time logging and monitoring application gives a guarantee that workers will be paid for all hours worked—though some may not be too thrilled at the prospect of using the rather invasive program, which takes screenshots and even sends webcam pictures to clients.
Escrow is mandatory for all fixed rate projects on vWorker. Clients are required to deposit the full value of the project into escrow at the time that the project is awarded. Since full escrow is mandatory, there are no issues such as which party requests it, or what happens if the other party doesn’t want to use it.
The operation of escrow is standard: the funds are deposited by the client, the contractor does the work, and when the client is satisfied with the work, the funds are released to the contractor, less vWorker’s transaction fee. There is no additional charge for escrow services. If a dispute arises between the parties and they cannot come to an agreement on the disposition of the escrowed funds, vWorker’s dispute resolution procedures come into play.
vWorker takes escrow seriously, recognizing its value in protecting contractors from clients who have not demonstrated an ability to pay for work. Until escrow is funded, vWorker will not even notify a contractor that they have won a project—the site actually locks out communication between client and contractor until the client “shows them the money!” The rationale for this policy is to prevent a client from pressuring a contractor to begin work before the client puts up the cash. vWorker is to be commended for its dedication to protecting contractors from abuse in this manner.
The first time a project is awarded by a client, a delay may occur when he or she attempts to fund escrow, while the client’s account is verified. Again, to its credit, vWorker will not consider the escrow funded until verification is complete—contrast this with other sites that allow work to begin while escrow funds are “pending”, which puts contractors at risk. At vWorker there are no concerns about contractors thinking escrow has been funded when it really has not.
The only problem with the verification policy is a practical one: while the client is waiting for verification, the project is put on hold, and the client may seem to the contractor to have “disappeared”. Clients can avoid this by pre-verifying their accounts before posting a project, but I don’t think vWorker does a good enough job of educating clients about this issue ahead of time. I’ve had several projects where the client seemed to be caught completely off guard by the need to go through verification before their first project could begin.
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