As a freelancer, you will unfortunately be familiar with that sinking feeling you get from time to time when you realize that a seemingly legitimate client, for whom you have been working for months, has mysteriously disappeared and is suddenly un-contactable. This is an unpleasant feeling for any individual who makes a living from freelance work, and sadly there will always be those scam artists who will try to get something for nothing.
Before accepting and delivering any freelance work, you should always conduct a security check, check a contract you may be given or even draw up a contract yourself. There are a few easy and simple ways to make sure that, as a freelancer, you get paid and don’t have any unpleasant scenarios where your employer disappears in to thin air.
It’s not always easy to know where your money is coming from, and where it is going, when you’re a freelancer. With an unsteady income and the majority of your work being completed for remote employers who are often in a different country with a different currency, it’s of the utmost importance to protect your income. The obvious first rule is to never give out your secure bank details to an employer or give them ‘insurance money’ up front. Make sure you use online wallet services like PayPal or Google Wallet to protect your bank account.
Additional security tips are often advised, such as using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to ensure that you have an additional layer of security.
Another way of ensuring that additional layer of security is to use a third party freelancer facilitator website such as freelancer.com, which will do all the dirty work for you in terms of payment protection and security, and will put you in contact with verified and pre-paid employers. The website does require some upfront payment from the freelancer in order to use the platform effectively. The good thing is anyone can sign up, but that does mean that the occasional scam artist attempts to beat the system. As long as you ensure that your prospective employer has been vetted and verified by the website, you should be safe to work for them.
Another website with a more secure method of employment is Toptal, which has a much more effective mechanism of acting as the middleman to ensure that, as long as the work is completed on time, the freelancer will get paid. Toptal also uses a very simple payment system through PayPal, so there is no fear of losing your money to a dodgy employer. Upwork uses similar mechanisms and has received positive reviews from freelancers and employers alike.
However, using services such as these may mean you have to work for lower rates than if you find work on your own. There’s a lot of competition on sites such as these.
If you prefer to go it alone and cut out middleman or agency costs, it’s always extremely important to set up a contract with your employer and ensure that it has been thoroughly vetted and checked over by a third party. Make sure that you set up milestone payments to ensure that you have a regular income throughout the contracted period, and that you’re not relying on a big payout at the end of a project where you have put in a great amount of work.
Ultimately, the most important method of payment and job security for any self-employed freelancer is to ensure that you check the contract multiple times yourself, as well as getting a contract checked by a third party. There’s no safer way of proving that your employer has broken an agreement by having it written in black and white.