Excitedly, you clicked on the link he sent to join him on Telegram. How happy you were to receive your first task on Upwork. Instead of the client sending you the job details on the platform, he decided to take you to another platform. In his words, “I reply faster on telegram.” You didn’t detect anything shady – only focused on getting the job and proving your expertise. On Telegram, he told you to pay a membership fee. Quickly, you press your pin and paid for it. After all this process, rather than seeing the job post, he blocked you. Sorry. You have been scammed! This scenario is one of many ways scammers use to scam new content writers and freelancers. Read this post to avoid scams in freelance writing.
The freelance work rate is growing, with 59 million freelancers living in the US alone, according to a survey conducted in 2020. Additionally, 20% of employees during the survey period also considered freelancing, which would increase the number of people in the “gig economy” by 10 million. With the increase in freelancers, scammers prying on innocent people are also growing. As a freelancer, I have also been burnt on a few occasions. Therefore it is pertinent to know how to avoid scams in freelance writing. So, here is a list of how to identify potential scams in freelancing.
A client requests you pay before being hired.
As a freelance writer or freelancer, you probably have the necessary skills to deliver high-value content – the skill, knowledge of getting a client, and software to use, which are primarily free. Therefore, any client asking you to pay a fee, such as membership or buying a client’s product, before giving you a job is mostly a scam. More often, your payment and signup are required from them to earn signup bonuses on platforms.
To avoid this scam, just don’t pay to access work with an individual client. However, this is different from a service fee for using a platform. For instance, you can sign up for free on Upwork and have a limited number of connections. To send more proposals, you pay a fee to buy more connections. And it is not compulsory. Rather than this, paying a signup fee for any individual or unknown platform is a scam.
A client prefers to pay offsite (directly via Paypal, Skrill, or Bitcoin)
The transaction should pass through the platform if you use Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr. Never accept payment via other payment options outside the platform, such as Paypal, Skrill, or cryptocurrencies. They may tell you the platform will charge a fee for the transaction and want you to receive the payment as a whole. In most cases, they are scams trying to run from paying you. Other times, they might want to pay with a stolen credit card, putting you in danger. To avoid this, tell your client to use the platform’s payment option.
A client prefers to take you outside the platform (Telegram, Whatsapp, or Skype)
Most scammers prefer to use Skype, Whatsapp, and Telegram as sitting tools instead of the platform they meet you. When you communicate on the platform you meet (Upwork and others), you will have a chance to contact customer service and open a payment dispute with the records of all the transactions if anything goes wrong. However, you won’t have opportunities to do this outside the freelance platforms.
A client refuses to accept an agreement or contract.
Before starting work, it is pertinent to have a contract or an agreement. There are exceptions, however, if you trust the client, which comes when you can prove their track record, ask other freelancers, or get them through a trusted referral. Otherwise, getting a gig through a work platform is not risk-free. However, if you get a client via LinkedIn, Facebook, and a non-freelance platform, a contract and agreement are pertinent. Iron out all aspects of the work before starting, including milestones, payment options, number of iterations, and others. Signing a contract got me $350 a week ago. I could have lost all without a contract.
A client paying more for the project
You should be careful of a client offering to pay more and telling you to remit the additional fee to another client. In this case, a client will discuss the project and offer you the job. The next is the freelancer asking for a favor of sending you an invoice of a larger amount than the agreed fee, with you sending the extra to another account.
In this case, the first installment is from a stolen card or fraudulent account. Now, when you send the money to another account, the scammer will receive it. However, when the stolen card’s owner realizes the stolen fund, the bank will reverse the payment, and you will be at a loss. Therefore, never accept this agreement to send extra cash to another account.
A client is asking for lengthy and numerous free samples.
A client asking for more than one sample or, at most, two is a potential scammer. A client may need to test you if you are new to the game or have difficulty trusting your ability. However, a sample is more than enough to demonstrate your expertise. Additionally, if a piece is getting longer than 500 words, you might be submitting an actual job instead of the supposed sample. One of the ways to avoid this scam as a freelancer is to bargain for paid samples – a client pays for the sample. After submission of the unpaid sample, don’t just keep it in your folder; publish it in your portfolio.
A client does not want a milestone payment until the project’s completion.
A client avoiding paying in milestones or discussing it is a potential scammer. Come to think of it, will you deliver a 50k words e-book without upfront or milestone payment? What if the client runs upon completion? Milestone payment after every 5k words deliver, for instance, will minimize your loss if any. Equally, understand your client’s budget, the milestone payment, and the payment upon completion.
A client asks you to pay for software.
It would be best if you did not buy software or special equipment as directed by a client. A client who wants you to use a special software should make it available and not affect your payment. Make sure you have this discussion with your client. Otherwise, your hands may be burnt.
A new client on a platform with no history or strong profile
As a freelancer, part of your job is to check your client’s profile before starting an offer. Check the reviews and ratings, including the payment status. However, if a client is new to a freelance marketplace, tell him to verify his payment method on his profile before starting a project. If it is too much to ask, take jobs only from clients with verified work histories and good ratings. Let’s assume the client is having a problem verifying his payment method, be careful not to take the communication outside the marketplace or pay money for anything. Another rule of thumb is to be extra vigilant when the offer is too good to be true.
A client with bad reviews
A client with many bad reviews is a red flag. Even if he is not a scammer, numerous bad reviews may point out problems working with him, including late payments. However, most scammers won’t have any previous work history on a platform. So stay clear of such clients. Additionally, a client with no reviews is also a red flag. A client with no reviews and who is still new to the platform should have a strong media presence. If none, run.
A client is asking for your IDs and documents.
A client does not have a reason to ask for your IDs or documents unless you are hired as permanent staff working remotely. Scammers are most times successful when they have requested for your document to verify. A client requesting this is a potential scammer.
A client sent a link to sign in with your detail to a social media site
As mentioned earlier, stay onsite when you meet a client on a social media page. A client requiring you to enter personal details into a site is often a scammer. They may attempt to copy your sensitive information, including your password. Pay cognizance to a client’s behavior to avoid a phishing attack.
A project a marketplace rejected
Any project that violates the terms and conditions of the freelance marketplace is a red flag. A freelance marketplace will most likely reject a task that tends to harm freelancers. Some reasons a project may be rejected include spamming, hacking, trading of accounts, and falsifying documents. Therefore, check a project that has been invalidated and run from it.
A client or other freelancer wants you to share your account.
For many reasons, people will want you to share your freelance platform accounts if you are a successful freelancer. As a successful freelancer, they will come to hype you – be careful. Anyone asking you to share an account wants to steal the account. Sharing the account is also a privacy risk as the little information on the account may be enough to hack it.
Above are some solutions to avoid scams in freelance writing as a freelance writer. However, just as we are getting better at bursting their bubbles, some scammers are finding new ways to scam you. Hence you should beam your searchlight carefully on every offer before getting a job done. When an offer sounds too good to be true, chances are that it is too good.