The New Year is upon us and many freelancers will be looking to land new clients. Whether you have been working independently for years or through a freelance jobs platform we highlight some tips to avoid becoming a victim of freelance scams by unethical clients.
The old bait and switch? Golden promises? Contract scammers? Payment shenanigans? The number of scams that freelancers can fall prey to is growing. We were reminded of this when we came across an article on Nowadays.com, a site that offers courses for freelance editors, copywriters and proofreaders, that exposes the tactics of “freelance scams.”
The thing is, any freelancer could fall victim to a scam, depending on how sly or elaborate the scam is, as we reported in The Freelance Informer about an alleged international jobfish scandal. Some scams are so slight you may not even realise. However, it pays to learn what these scams are so you can keep an eye out for them before you waste your precious time and lose out financially.
Spot the red flags of freelance scams
One major warning sign is a client’s aversion to formal contracts. If they resist putting things in writing, it’s a potential recipe for disputes and unpaid work. Similarly, unrealistic pay promises should raise eyebrows. Sky-high rates might sound tempting, but they often mask attempts to exploit your skills without fair compensation.
Never grant access to your freelance marketplace accounts. These accounts hold your reputation and livelihood, and sharing them opens the door to impersonation and potential account theft.
Another red flag is being asked to pay upfront fees. Legitimate clients understand the value of your work and wouldn’t require you to invest before reaping the benefits. Likewise, be wary of requests to use unfamiliar payment methods. Sticking to established channels such as bank transfers, PayPal or escrow services minimises the risk of disappearing funds.
Scammers may also try to wrangle free samples of your work before committing. Don’t let them exploit your talent for free; offer paid sample options or clearly define the scope of any “trial” work. Be cautious of clients who push for communication outside freelance platforms. These platforms offer crucial protections, and their sudden abandonment could signal foul play.
Finally, never grant access to your freelance marketplace accounts. These accounts hold your reputation and livelihood, and sharing them opens the door to impersonation and potential account theft.
By staying vigilant and recognising these red flags, you can pitch your freelance services to new clients with more confidence. You should always look for where the client’s company is registered such as Companies House in the UK. If you are providing services to consumers, again, you will need to find out more about the consumer and ask for a deposit. Remember, if something feels fishy, it probably is. Trust your gut and prioritise your worth – don’t let scammers exploit your valuable skills.
Common freelancer scam experiences:
Here are some examples of scams that aren’t always so easy to spot that The Freelance Informer is aware of and how to avoid them:
- Unpaid work: Clients disappearing after receiving work, refusing to pay despite agreements, or claiming dissatisfaction without justification.
- Fake projects: Offers for nonexistent projects to steal personal information or creative ideas.
- Upfront payment scams: Requests for large upfront payments before starting work, often disappearing with the money.
- Scope creep: Clients demanding additional work beyond the agreed scope without adjusting payment.
- Bait-and-switch: Offering a high-paying project but switching to a lower-paying one after accepting the initial bid.
Advice to avoid scams:
- Do your research: Check client reviews and references before accepting a project.
- Never work for free: Unless it’s a well-established company with a clear benefit, avoid working without a contract or upfront payment.
- Get everything in writing: Have a clear contract outlining the project scope, deliverables, timeline, and payment terms.
- Use secure payment methods: Opt for escrow services or reputable online payment platforms to protect your finances.
- Trust your gut: If something feels off about a project or client, walk away. It’s better to be safe than sorry.