Unfortunately, in the freelance world, there are very few ways to protect our finances. In this article, I’m going to teach you how to spot a freelance scam.
Unlike those who can claim unemployment or file a lawsuit against an employer who fails to pay, we are stuck somewhere in the middle. We are neither unemployed nor do we have enough information (or money) to file a lawsuit against a client who failed to issue our much-needed weekly check.
Avoiding a Freelance Scam
The vast majority of the time, clients who fail to pay have already planned their escape. They use a fake name, email, PayPal account, and business to lure you into doing work for them – only to skimp out when the time to pay finally arrives.
Here are ten warning signs that often signal a freelance scam.
The client refuses to sign a contract.
If the client refuses to sign a contract, don’t bother starting an article. Contracts exist to protect both the independent contractor and the client. There is absolutely no reason to say no unless something shady is going on. You should also verify the identity of any contractual client – in addition to the company name associated with them.
The client wants to work via Skype.
I’ve had nothing but bad experiences on Skype. Unlike other platforms, Skype has no “report” feature. So, while you can report inappropriate behavior, you cannot contact the company to expose a freelance scam.
The client wants to pay monthly for weekly work.
The vast majority of reputable clients will pay on a weekly basis for weekly work. While I could go into detail about the inconvenience of certain payment structures, I’ll leave it at this – any client that insists on paying once a month is likely looking for a month of free work.
The client has hourly deadlines.
I’ve never even heard of a positive experience with a client who provides an assignment and expects to have it returned in a number of hours. Every project takes time, effort, and consideration. If your client doesn’t understand that, they likely aren’t looking for quality at all.
The client offers way too much money.
I once had a potential client offer me $80 per article. She wanted to give me $450 upfront via PayPal for my first five articles – without seeing a trial piece!
While the instructions for the articles seemed legit, there was something fishy about the whole situation. I turned her down. A few months later, I noticed a similar advertisement on Upwork. I applied. Low and behold, it was the same woman. I reported her.
The website ended up sending an email to everyone on Upwork, warning of a virus that was spread through her application. She was taking personal information through a corrupted file sent with the instructions.
The client seems eager to get started – no matter what the catch.
If your client is willing to work with nearly any stipulations to get you started on your first piece, there’s a reason.
The client wants a mountain of work completed in a molehill of time.
Any decent client understands that good work takes time. No one, other than a large and verified corporation, has enough money to support freelancers in bulk. Think realistically about finance management. Where is the money coming from?
The client refuses to communicate through a verifiable platform.
If your client wants to communicate via text message or Skype on a permanent basis, there’s a problem. Hearing their voice or seeing their face will not only ensure they hold themselves accountable for your livelihood, but it will give you a better verification of their identity.
The client isn’t anywhere on Google.
Can’t find anything about your supposedly reputable client on Google? Are they refusing to offer up information? Be cautious. They may be using a fake name or company.
The client won’t supply much information about the job.
What will your writing be used for? Where will your writing be published? Is this a ghostwriting job? What company does your client work for? If you can’t answer any of these questions, you don’t have any business taking on the client.
Take heed of these red flags and be cautious. A well-placed freelance scam can burn.