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What Freelancers Need to Know to Avoid Getting Scammed

The flexibility and variety of being a freelancer make for an exciting and potentially profitable career. There is, however, a significant downside: Scams. They lurk behind every internet corner, hoping for a trusting, hungry freelancer to come along.

Don't let it be you.


Most Common Freelance Writing Scams

Although scammers are prolific, they do have their favorites. These are some of the most common scams that freelance writers are especially susceptible to:

  • Requiring 'samples' of your work to decide if they want to work with you

  • Trying to contact you outside of the freelancing platform they found you on, like Upwork or Fiverr

  • Hiring you immediately without knowing anything about you

  • Promises of substantial future projects, if only you write something free first

  • Stating they will buy you equipment for a writing job after you cash a check for them

  • Requesting that you submit an article for them and paying you- only if they decide it's good enough.


A Perfect Example of a Freelance Scam

I recently received a text from a woman who just gave her name and said she was from Upwork. She asked if I was available for work. After I said yes, she told me that I could start working part-time with flexible hours.

Does any of this raise a red flag? It should.

At this point, she hasn't told me anything about what I would be doing. She hasn't asked me anything about myself either! And, she contacted me outside of Upwork, so if something went wrong, I would have no way to hold her accountable.

So what did I do?

I politely said that I don't negotiate outside of the platform and thanked her for understanding. She protested, saying that she had pulled the proposal from Upwork because she already had plenty of proposals.

So why was she contacting me? My instincts were 100% on point. Someone just tried to scam me. It will happen to you too. But have no fear, I will show you some things to watch out for.


How To Tell If A Freelance Offer Is Real

A legitimate employer and job offer have distinct qualities, such as:

  • a professional email, website, and a web presence

  • a google search by name + scam that doesn't return any results

  • a LinkedIn profile with posts and employees shown

  • no typos or grammatical errors in their job posting

  • no Whatsapp or other messaging services are mentioned

On a recent Friday night, I was sending out proposals for copywriting jobs. I'm a wee bit obsessed with writing, and while I have plenty to keep me busy, I look for every opportunity to get paid for my talents. My husband isn't thrilled about my nonstop hustle, but he admires my drive. Anyways,

I received a response from Mr. Bob Bradway of Amgen. I recognized that company- it's a global biotech firm!

Here's where I should get excited, right? Not so fast. The first thing I did, in between introductory messages, was to look him up on LinkedIn. That's when I found out that Bob Bradway is the CEO of Amgen. How cool! The CEO is contacting me personally, on a Friday night, about my writing.

Or is he?

Did I really think that the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation was reaching out to me, personally, on a Friday night?

No, I did not.

I'm sure he has billionaire things to do with billionaire people on a Friday night. No matter what the real Robert Bradway was up to that night, I know he wasn't so impressed with my talent that he was messaging me.

Another scam was successfully avoided.


How To Get Paid For Your Freelance Work

The best way to prevent getting scammed as a freelancer is to be aware that it can happen to you when you least expect it.

Know whom you're speaking with and what their intentions are. If you notice that they aren't addressing payments for your services, that should motivate you to bring it up sooner rather than later. If you don't have that information, proceed with caution. I will give you an example that recently happened to me.

I completed an order for 50 captions. The client paid me right away to get started, was easy to work with, and he loved his final products. It was a great experience!

The following week they sent over another 50 captions, but this time I wasn't given a timeline and wasn't paid in advance. I could have done that work without the payment and assumed I'd get paid just like the first time. But what if I didn't? I wasn't going to take that chance.

Some people go to extremes to avoid being 'impolite' by asking for their payment. This reluctance is what leads to so many problems for freelancers. Instead, I sent him a pleasant message to ask what his deadline was for the next batch.

"Anytime," was his answer.

I had hoped that my message would nudge him to send my payment. I am quite the diplomat (it must have been the years of Model UN). But when that didn't work, I cheerfully told him that I would get started as soon as he sent payment.

What was his response?

I'll let you know when I hear back from him. That's right. That perfect client has not responded. Talk about being grateful for taking a moment to check!


8 Ways To Avoid Doing Freelance Work For Free

Here is the ultimate way to avoid working for free:

You have to be willing to ask for what you want.

You don't want to be working in the mere hope that a client will decide to pay you. You have to set your business policies and professional boundaries and stick to them like a user guide for yourself.

  • Don't submit free samples or projects, ever. You can showcase your work with a portfolio. They can decide if they want to hire you based on that.

  • Always get paid upfront, whether it's an established client or a new one. Another standard payment method for projects is paying by milestone (with 50% paid to begin).

  • Never accept a check from anyone to purchase equipment on their behalf.

  • Agree in writing on how many revisions you provide with your services.

  • Don't trust your instincts until you have set your policies because you honestly don't know what you're doing until you complete this crucial step.

  • Never be afraid to turn down opportunities. Desperation makes us act against our own best interests.

  • Don't get caught up in trying to prove to yourself that a job opportunity is a scam by playing along. They are much more experienced at their game than you are.

  • Do not pay attention if someone asks you to go against your policies because they have been scammed in the past. This is a classic excuse that scammers use, hoping to get you to go along against your better practices.

Above all else, always trust your instinct and don't assume that offers are real- let them prove it to you, and never be afraid to turn down work. Wishing all you fellow freelancers success and happiness-


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