Dispute Non-Release of a Milestone Payment

While we hope that all freelancer and client relationships and projects will run smoothly, we understand that occasionally you may have a disagreement with a client about the work you submitted and your payments. We encourage you to always try to work things out with your client first. However, if you do need to take further steps, we created Upwork Fixed-Price Protection to allow freelancers and agencies to file disputes under these two circumstances:

  1. A client ends the job with an escrow balance
  2. A client fails to release a milestone payment despite the delivery of work


You have 7 days to accept or reject the client’s request for an escrow refund

To file a dispute on an ended contract

  1. From your find work home page, go to My Jobs and choose All Contracts
  2. Find the contract and select See Request
  3. Choose the option I do not approve of this request and wish to file a dispute
  4. Select Next
  5. Specify your reason for the dispute and give details to support your claim that the work is complete and that your payment is due. Explain the situation with enough information to enable the dispute specialist to understand your claim
  6. Choose Continue and review what it means to initiate a dispute. If you agree, choose Continue to Dispute


You can also access the escrow refund request from your notifications or messages.

To file a dispute on an active contract

As a freelancer, you can file a dispute on an active fixed-price contract when: 

  • The client refuses to release a milestone payment
  • The client releases a partial milestone payment and applies the remainder in escrow to a future milestone

Important to know:  You should first reach out to your client to discuss any issues, as in most cases they can be resolved without filing a dispute. Please be sure to use Upwork Messages to have these conversations, so we will be able to review them as part of our process, if a dispute is filed.

If your client doesn’t respond or an agreement can’t be reached, you should:

  1. Contact Upwork Customer Support
  2. Give details to support your claim that the work is complete and your payment is due. Explain the situation with enough information to help the dispute specialist understand your claim.

    Our customer service team will then open a case with one of our mediation specialists to review your situation.

Access your disputes

Once a dispute is submitted, you may review or update the request by following these steps:

  1. Log into your Upwork account
  2. From your Find Work home page, go to My Jobs and choose View All Contracts
  3. Find the contract and select See Dispute


Under Upwork Fixed-Price Protection, disputes enter a mediation process with an Upwork mediation specialist. Your specialist will work with both parties towards a resolution, and the process may take up to 21 days. If your client is unresponsive to contact attempts, we will notify you of the outcome of your dispute.

Freelancers and clients are usually able to reach an agreement. However, if you and your client are unable to reach an agreement during the mediation period, the mediation specialist may make a non-binding recommendation.

If you or the client reject the mediation specialist’s recommendation, we will send you both a Notice of Non-Resolution. The final option – should you choose to pursue it – is to proceed to binding arbitration (meaning the decision of the arbitrator will be final) by the arbitration provider service, Brief, which is a neutral third-party organization.

Learn more about arbitration here, or see the Upwork Fixed Price Escrow Instructions for more details.

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