How You Can Avoid Being Exploited As A Freelancer


Thinking of starting a career as an online freelancer? The idea may sound intimidating, especially if you’ve worked as a 9-to-5 employee for years. Taking the big leap means sacrificing your regular paycheck and your daily routine. 

On the other side of the coin, freelancing could also mean better earning opportunities and a more flexible schedule. You can take on multiple projects from different clients and you’re allowed to work from home (or anywhere you choose) at times convenient to you.

There are, however, some pitfalls you will need to be wary of as a newbie. Sure, there are a lot of good, generous clients out there. But the fact remains that there are also some unscrupulous individuals out there, waiting for the chance to prey on inexperienced freelancers.

Regardless of whether you are a digital illustrator, a graphic designer, a musician, a programmer, a writer, or anything else in between, you’ll want to be extra cautious when dealing with potential clients via the internet.

Here are 6 pointers to keep in mind so you can avoid being exploited as you go after freelancing jobs online.

Tip #1: Study the project description

When you’re looking for jobs using freelancing sites, don’t just jump on every single opportunity you find. Take time to scrutinize project descriptions to tell whether or not they will be worth your time and effort.

Your goal is to at least have a basic understanding of the task at hand before sending your application. So, study the posting to see if it’s really something up your alley.

A friendly reminder: be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true. If it’s a simple job that promises huge pay, there’s always likely to be a big catch.

Tip #2: Do some research

Before accepting a freelance job, take time to research if the client is legit or not.

Try to look up online reviews and ratings about the company. Check out their website and social media channels. Watch out for any red flags as these could guide you in making a sound decision.

You’ll know it’s a good client if they have a lot of positive feedback. Otherwise, it may be best to steer clear.

Tip #3: Ask specific questions

Be upfront as you start communicating with your prospective client. Ask the right questions so you can learn more about their requirements and how much they’re willing to pay. Ask about their guidelines, and their expected timeline for completion. Know who you will be working with or who will supervise the project.  

Determine if the task is realistic and reasonable for you. You’ll be able to save yourself from a lot of hassle if you get as many details as possible from the get-go.

Tip #4: Have a written contract

Once you’ve decided to proceed, it’s important to have a  formal contract between you and your client. You can either ask them for one or create your own (there are plenty of templates available online). Obviously, this will be good for your protection.  

In a Medium article, Daryl Bruce writes that freelancers should be “extremely wary of any client who refuses to produce or sign a contract.”

When a client provides you with a contract, pay attention to the fine print so you know what you’re getting into before affixing your signature. Otherwise, come up with a detailed contract that is fair and satisfying for both parties. There’s a wonderfully pithy saying: “The big print giveth, and the small print taketh away”!

Tip #5: Ask for advance payment

Once you’ve established a good reputation, even very early on in your venture, there’s nothing wrong with requesting a deposit from clients. Again, this is for your protection. You want to work with a client who trusts you enough to make an up-front payment, especially since you’ll be investing time and resources in working on their project.

Remember, a professional client will find nothing wrong with sending you – an independent contractor with a proven track record – a partial payment. You can also, as pointed out above, add this into the contract.

Depending on what you agree on, you can ask for a 30% or 50% upfront payment before starting anything. This helps you avoid clients who will ghost you after you’ve provided them with the completed project.

Tip #6: Negotiate for a raise 

In freelancing, you’ll have a lot of returning clients once you’ve proven your worth through the years. In such cases, do not hesitate to ask for a raise, especially if you’ve been working with them for a significant amount of time.

You should never undervalue your capabilities. Generally, clients will be more than willing to shell out more cash to keep freelancers who have built a solid relationship with them.

Final words

As you look for freelancing gigs online, these pointers should help you prevent getting scammed. With caution and common sense, you will be able to find great clients that value your skills and compensate you competitively for it. 

Good luck on your freelancing journey!

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