How To Respond To Negative Rating?

Dear Angela,

About one year ago, I subscribed to a website that acts as a clearing house for freelancers and clients. The geneal operation is similar; jobs are posted by clients and bids are submitted by freelancers. Once a freelancer is chosen by a bidder, a contract with milestones and target completion date are agreed upon, and work begins. At the end of the project, the client rates the freelancer’s work, and this rating is posted for future clients to review.

Since I started writing for this site’s clients, my rating has been at the highest level, as I treat each client’s project with extreme care and respect, and give each one 100% effort.

My problem involves the rating I was given by a first-time client from Europe who wanted an ebook written about her unique business. I estimated that the project would take about one month. After accepting the project, my client became ill and couldn’t send the necessary material for me to begin working. Two weeks passed, and finally I received her material. I communicated regularly with her throughout this period and until I completed the project, incorporating her edits and comments. I also advised her that I would not meet the proposed deadline due to not receiving her material on time.

You can imagine my surprise and shock when she wrote in my rating that I was late finishing the project. Also, she rated my work as “adequate” while sending me very complementary emails on my writing throughout the process of writing her ebook.

As expected, her rating lowered my previously perfect score. I felt this was quite unfair, but instead of replying to the client, I posted a comment on my rating page explaining the reason for my failure to meet the original deadline.

This approach soothed my bruised ego, but if a client does not read the “feedback” comments, he or she will not find out why my rating was lowered. Do you have any advice? Although it is not possible to anticipate how a client will act, I am more selective in choosing who I accept as clients now, and in the future!

Thanks for your time,


Well, thank goodness that site allowed you to post a rebuttal! Some sites don’t.

I can’t imagine why that woman would give you a negative rating, unless she’s just a very mean person.

All you can do in these cases is to present your side in the most professional fashion possible (meaning leave the name-calling and emotions out), and hope future clients will review your rebuttal.

Where writers get into trouble is when they allow their anger to rule their pen (or their keyboard). They then end up writing something that makes them look even worse (just look at our Whispers and Warnings forum for examples of publishers who wrote really dumb things on a whim). When dealing with a dispute, no matter how hard it is, keep your posts and all correspodence at the highest professional level possible.

Just today, I was contacted by a woman whose company appears in our Whispers and Warnings Forum. Instead of offering to change her ways, she accused me of “slander” (the correct term is libel), and her emails further degraded after that. She ended up demanding to know my publishing credits (she felt a need to prove she was better than me), accusing me of fraud, challenging me to a debate, and ultimately calling me “chicken.” I kid you not. As her emails came faster and with more anger, she stopped using any capital letters at all. Can you imagine how embarrassed she would be if I published her emails? This illustrates how people can respond to criticism in the wrong way, and how they can ultimately make themselves look a lot worse than anyone else possibly could.