Three Scams Freelancers Face and How to Avoid Them

Scams are common. They always will be. Someone always wants more for less, to avoid shelling out dollars, to get a better deal, no matter what the means. Writers aren’t immune to scams, either, and there are a couple of them to avoid.

The Free Sample Scam

A new client approaches a writer with a proposed assignment of, say, ten articles. The client requests a free sample to make sure the article is up to standards or matches the desired tone and style. That sounds reasonable to new writers.

So, the writer produces a free sample to the client. Then the writer never hears from the client again. Why? The client has asked nine other providers for a free sample and now has ten beautiful articles without paying a dime.

The Cancel Project Scam

This scam is a refined version of the Free Sample scam. A new client awards a project of ten articles to a writer and asks to see the first one. The excuse is still that the client wants to make sure tone, style, and quality is up to standards.

Once the writer delivers the first article, the client says that the article isn’t good enough. He or she then proceeds to state that the project can’t continue and cancels it. Of course, the client has done the same thing to nine other providers.

In this case, the client has one article and hasn’t paid for it. The writer hasn’t had a chance to revise the work according to spec, can’t make up for the situation, and ends up looking bad.

The Disappearing Act scam

This scam is fairly simple and difficult to avoid, depending on the business terms a writer proposes. Most writers these days ask for a 50% deposit with the balance due on delivery. A client who awards a project agrees to the business terms and pays the requested deposit for the work.

The writer works through the project and delivers the work to the client. The balance of payment for the project is now due. The writer never hears from the client again. The client has received all the work at half the agreed price.

There are more scams out there, of course. As writers and freelancers become wise, dishonest people come up with new scams to benefit themselves. Protecting yourself as a writer isn’t always easy. There are some tricks of the trade to follow:

  • Ask for a deposit on the work
  • Never give away free samples
  • Have a complete portfolio
  • Set up a clear payment schedule
  • State concise business terms
  • Have the client sign a contract
  • Indicate who retains copyright on the work
  • If copyright transfers to the client, indicate when that happens
  • When issues with clients arise on auction sites, contact administration for help
  • If the client uses copyrighted work, pursue case legally

Let’s hear it from you. What scams have you seen? Have you been taken in by any? What did you do to resolve the situation? Were you able to resolve the issue at all? Do you have words of advice for writers and freelancers to avoid being taken for a ride?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.


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