In recent years, freelance work has increasingly grown in popularity, which has led to more concern over freelancer scams. Scammers, taking advantage of job seekers or people looking for side income, pretend to be employers (or even "helpful" fellow freelancers) in order to steal personal information and money.
Is there a way to recognize freelancer scams and protect yourself as an independent contractor? You will learn about five of the most common scams and how you can avoid them in this article.
1. Easy work for a high salary
Whenever you find a job posting that is too good to be true, it is probably not a legit posting. If you fall for this freelancer scam, you're probably not going to get the promised payment. You may find that they are not even looking for your services at all - they might just be trying to get your information or bring you into a pyramid scheme.
Tip: Make sure you do your research thoroughly -
It is essential for you to understand your field in order to avoid falling into this trap. Look at a lot of job postings to find out what the average salary and responsibilities are for your ideal position. By doing this, you'll be able to notice if something is unnatural.
2. Paying for access to work
There are several types of scams of this nature. Clients often request that freelancers pay a deposit, or more commonly, they insist that the client purchase something to set up your workstation so you can access it from home. They might claim that their software or product is critical to the project. Nevertheless, they require you to send money for the job.
In any industry, this is an unusual practice. The client would have specified in their job description that you needed specific resources to complete their project and provided them on their own terms if that were the case.
Tip: You should never pay to start working -
Defending yourself against this scam is as easy as declining any offer that asks for payment!
3. Unnecessary “test” projects
The majority of test projects are not scams, which is why it will be difficult to avoid falling into this trap. When a client is interested in your profile but you lack experience, they may ask that you do a task or two as a test. This usually gives beginners a chance to show off their skills.
Additionally, some people might take advantage of your recruitment process in order not to pay you for your services. A client who requests sample work from freelancers can receive satisfactory results without spending any money. The only thing they would have to say is that you are not the right fit for them, and they will choose someone else.
A regular test is much simpler and quicker than an exploitative project. Also, they would likely come from independent employers or small enterprises that do not clearly describe their recruitment process in their job descriptions.
Tip: Send a minimal amount of free samples
It is not unreasonable to be asked to submit a sample, as it is a way for clients to assess your abilities. This sample, however, should be relatively small in comparison to the client's project description. Requesting more than one assignment is a bad sign.
4. The lack of a mutually agreed-upon pre-work agreement
You should always have some sort of written agreement, even if the project is small and its duration is short. The project's deliverables, its projected timeline, and its payment information are included in this document. You are not only protecting yourself, but you are also keeping track of your paperwork.
Be wary of clients who refuse to acknowledge this agreement. It's a sign of either their lack of funds or seriousness, and you won't want to have to deal with it halfway through.
Tip: Don't begin work until you have a confirmed contract -
If your client hasn't signed the project agreement in writing, politely inform them that it is your policy not to start work unless there is a clearly documented, mutually acceptable arrangement. Make sure they send a written confirmation. Those who have never hired a freelancer before may not be familiar with contractor etiquette, simply reminding them might be all that is needed. If you don't get a response after trying several times, feel free to try another project. Once you get one, you're set to go!
5. Mishaps on freelancer sites
You might have guessed that most of these scams occur on freelancer sites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com. Usually, there are some safeguards in place to keep scammers from accessing the website, but there are still cracks for scammers to slip through. There some are instances of unknown, unauthorized users hiring freelancers. Highly accessible communities often come at a high price.
Tip: Read site reviews and look for protection policies
Check out the payment and project protection policy of a freelance community before joining. Some sites will not have a clear, helpful policy - and it is best to avoid them. You can also search for reviews of these sites on websites Reddit (or try searching for "freelance scams") to get an idea of how safe they are.
We hope highlighting these freelancer scams has shed light on the different ways in which independent workers can be taken advantage of. Even though it may seem daunting, remember that for each con artist out there, there are many more prospective clients looking for you!
Check back here to learn more about getting started as a freelancer and how to protect yourself from fraud.