Do you long to trade your tiresome commute and dull 9-5 routine for the life of a freelancer? Whatever your skill set, creating a location-independent income has never been easier. Sadly, with the opening of these new frontiers comes the very real risk of falling victim to unscrupulous scam artists.
I transitioned from teaching ESL around the world to writing content remotely. Over the past year, I’ve encountered many common swindles. Read on and avoid falling prey to the same tired old tactics.
Whatever your chosen field, you’ll often encounter potential clients who ask for samples of your work. Now, there’s nothing wrong with supplying samples in and of itself. The sticking point is the expectation that you’ll work for nothing. This is not the right way to start any working relationship.
This sample scam is particularly prevalent in the Buyer Requests area of Fiverr or on the job boards of various Facebook groups. A con artist can target large volumes of hopeful freelancers and get what they need free of charge before vanishing into the ether.
Don’t be lured into what you might gain. Focus on what you have to lose. There’s nothing more precious than time, so value yours at a premium. Provide samples by all means, just stick to your guns and get paid for any testing process. You’re worth it.
Unusually High Rates
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. You should have a sound overview of reasonable market rates for the work that you do. When you spot an advert offering substantially more than you would expect, this should sound alarm bells rather than excitement.
This type of scam is often accompanied by the promise of needing to do very little indeed for this elevated fee. Be realistic. If someone is claiming you’ll earn $1,000 a month by answering emails or completing a few surveys, it’ll almost certainly end in tears. Your tears.
The only sound advice here is to follow your gut instinct. Sometimes, genuine projects attract a higher rate, so don’t lowball yourself by ruling out anything well paid. Look carefully at the work/reward ratio, and choose accordingly.
Conduct Due Diligence
Whether it’s a full-time remote job or a single freelance project, research is paramount. Try Googling the name of the company or individual followed by “scam, ” and you’ll find that most notorious frauds will have generated at least some bad press online.
There are many sites such as wahm.com targeted at freelancers where there are busy forums you can use to your advantage. Take a look and see who’s complaining about what. This can help you to weed out specific scammers and also increase your general awareness about what type of project to avoid.
Taking the time to research any opportunities is essential if you want to minimize your chances of being burned.
Needing to Buy Software
It’s unwise to commit yourself to any form of financial investment when seeking out freelance assignments. The employer should be paying you, not the other way around. Sudden demands to purchase specialized software should raise huge red flags.
Think about what you are being asked to buy and why. Any software that’s needed for a given job should be provided not paid for from your pocket. You should even be wary of freeware that isn’t well-reviewed.
As a freelancer dependant on your computer for a living, the software you should be investing in is security software that can protect your computer and your connection. You’re likely applying for jobs on the go, which means you’re using unsecured public WiFi connections. Your apps and operating systems can be hacked via public WiFi and infected with malware.
Aside from regular updates of the latest operating system security patches, you should invest in a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which will secure your connection and make it impossible for hackers to damage your computer or access your private information.
Promise of Future Profits
Another commonplace method of avoiding payment again hones in on our natural greed. Scammers offer, “How would you like to become partners in this deal? Rather than a quick $20, I can offer you a full share of future profits. Sound good?”
No. It sounds highly improbable, and you should be very wary indeed of accepting any such deal, all the more so if there is no contract in place.
Getting something on the back-end as a result of your work increasing profits is not unreasonable. This, though, should be in addition to payment, not a replacement. Resist the temptation to count unhatched chickens and speculate on what you might get. What you are likely to get is absolutely nothing.
Let’s Work Directly and Cut Out the Middle Man
If you’ve worked as a freelancer on micro-sites such as Fiverr and Upwork, you’ll know that losing 20 percent of your earnings in commission can seem distressing.
This is an issue that scammers are acutely aware of, and it gives them the perfect excuse to capitalize on your natural desire to make more money.
They politely ask, “Would you like to work outside this platform and deal directly with me?”
Keep your greed in check and avoid the temptation to circumvent a safe escrow system where you’re protected and will be paid for work well done.
Once you have established a level of trust and an ongoing working relationship, it’s perfectly understandable to cut out the middleman. With continuity clients, I have always made this shift seamlessly. The only time I attempted it with a first-timer, I completed two articles and was not paid.
If you take sensible precautions and trust your instincts, you can easily sidestep most of the more transparent attempts to scam you. The vast majority of employers offering freelance opportunities are perfectly respectable, and you should not let a few rogue operators put you off pursuing the lifestyle you dream of.
Drop us a comment if you have any thoughts on how freelancers can protect themselves from scams, and please feel free to share it on social media.
About the Author: Faith is a freelance writer who specializes in writing about privacy and cybersecurity. She hopes these tips help fellow writers protect themselves while searching for work.