Working as a freelancer has a lot of advantages, especially if you’re not a nine-to-five person. However, financial transactions between freelancers and their clients are often not that well-regulated. Sometimes you even have to rely on your client’s word and have no legal protection whatsoever if they fail to do their part. No matter how much you need that job, don’t take it if you have no guarantee you’ll get paid. You’ll have a lot of different clients, and you’ll have to count on the fact that some of them are quite irresponsible when the payday comes, and some of them are simply frauds. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself if you’re a freelancer.
Store all communication with clients
You are probably going to use multiple channels when communicating with your clients. No matter the channel you use, make sure that the most important info, like your hourly rate or the amount of expected work, are carefully specified and written down. Phone calls are fine for some small immediate changes or emergency interventions. But when it comes to concrete details of your agreement, keep everything in writing, whether you use email, SMS, WhatsApp or any other channel of communication.
Whether it’s written or spoken, sometimes a word is just a word. If you think that’s not enough, then signing a contract is a must, especially for jobs that demand a large amount of work. You never want things like this to escalate and end up in court, but if that’s the only way to protect yourself, you should go for it. Also, make sure you have a very clear copyright agreement. It’s very important to specify whether your work remains under your ownership and you’re just giving your client a license to use it for a certain amount of time, or you’re simply selling all the rights to it.
Sometimes you’ll have very suspicious and seemingly untrustworthy clients, or even those well-known for their poor paying habits. It might be best to avoid them altogether, but if they offer money up front, then you should probably go for it.
Choose your clients
Nevertheless, paying is not the only problem you can come across when it comes to clients. There will be those who will want you to work more than you agreed upon. Some of them will try to get you to sneak in an extra article or two or an additional photoshoot as a sign of your “good will” and they’ll promise more work in the future. Don’t even consider doing this, unless it’s for your most reliable clients. Furthermore, avoid clients that seem chaotic or clueless, as well as those who complain all the time. Sometimes, the stress you’ll go through is just not worth the money.
Software used for tracking employees is generally designed and developed to protect the employer. Your employer can basically check what you’re doing at any point during your working hours and evaluate your performance. But if you’re a hard worker, these tracking systems can help you protect yourself as well, since you have the proof of what you’ve done and how efficient you’ve been. If your client uses some reliable employee monitoring software, there’s no way they can wrongly accuse you of not fulfilling your end of the bargain. These simple computer programs will have you covered.
Hire an accountant
No matter how small the scope of your freelance business is, getting an accountant to handle your finances is always a good idea, especially if you’re not the administrative type yourself, which is true for most freelancers. They can help you with the taxation, invoicing and storing all the necessary paperwork. It can be very complicated and time-consuming to learn how to keep track of your finances properly, and your accountant will be settling most of your financial issues in a matter of minutes.
Pick safe platforms
If you plan on using some of the online platforms for freelancers, be very careful when choosing them. Make sure they’re reputable and that there are no loopholes that problematic clients could use to avoid paying you. Some of these platforms use the escrow service, which means that your clients pay them right away, and then they keep your money until you finish the job. This way you have a kind of a middleman that makes sure you get your money on time. In general, you should use only platforms that have rules and regulations that are solid and transparent enough to keep you protected at all times.
Whatever you do, avoid relying only on trust and someone’s word. The whole agreement with your client, with all the necessary details, should be specified and documented very clearly. You can allow some freedom and flexibility only with clients you’ve worked with numerous times and had no problems whatsoever. But otherwise, do everything you can to protect yourself in advance.
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Writer: David Webb
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