Working as a freelancer or a home-based small business owner can be a tremendous lifestyle for many people, allowing a massive degree of freedom over how you structure your time, not to mention putting you firmly in the driver’s seat of your own professional life, rather than having you spend five days a week or more sitting around an office building, wishing you were somewhere else.
Alas, there are downsides to the freelancer or work-from-home lifestyle, though, not least of all the fact that some people will be keen to take advantage of you and scam you.
It’s important for the budding freelancer or solopreneur to be mindful of their security, and on guard for scammers and unscrupulous clients. Here are some tips for protecting yourself from fraud or exploitation in such a situation.
Process payments online via secure and trusted tools and systems
Handling payments online is naturally a pretty risky business, and if you make a habit of giving your bank account details away to protective clients and business contacts who you haven’t thoroughly vetted, you can be reasonably sure that it’s only a matter of time before you get ripped off, or robbed, in one way or another.
Even receiving payments from other people can be a very risky business if you don’t have the right systems and tools in place in order to help you. Various scams exist, for example, where you’ll appear to receive payment for your services only to have it withdrawn at the last moment.
Luckily, various services exist to help ensure secure and fair payments online, including eChecks among other things. Use these services wherever possible, and avoid falling into any unnecessary traps.
Never work without a contract, and get everything in writing
After having been in the world of traditional work for a while, it’s easy for people to get into the mindset of just doing their jobs and assuming that all of the chips fall into place as required. Unless you were specifically involved in drawing up contracts for your clients in your previous job, for example, you might overlook the importance of a contract altogether.
But be very clear — if you work without a contract, you have no guarantee of being paid, and little recourse if you are in fact scammed.
Always work under a contract, and keep a template on hand so that you can draft one up quickly for each client. And be sure to get all agreements in writing, even if just via email.
Participate in communities dedicated to your career
There are many communities that exist for different professions, including different classes of entrepreneur, which meet up and hold discussions online and in person.
Among the various things these communities do, is sharing tips on best practice, circulating news about scammers or exploitative clients, and providing a general support-network for their members, to reduce the chances of exploitation.
Try and join up with reputable communities for your profession at the soonest possible stage, be mindful of what they say, and participate in the discussions, especially if you’re uncertain about anything.