Web designers seldom move a finger for a client without an upfront payment. Why should copywriters work for free? While the importance of a decent, functional web design is clear to everyone, the importance of quality web content is a question that raises endless discussions. While proving your worth as a writer is a whole different story, today I want to discuss how a freelance writer can protect himself from scam.
#1 Communication and Project Details
Pay attention to how a client is communicating with you – is he clear, polite, does he ask a lot of organizational questions? If his replies are too brief and do not answer your direct questions, there is a reason to doubt his good intentions.
Sometimes, a job offer is written in a clear and articulate manner while when you start talking to a client in chat, it becomes clear he does not understand half the information you wish to discuss. Either the client pretends to understand poorly, or he is indeed a non-native speaker who won’t be able to tell a well-written story from a poor rewrite foreign schoolkids do when replacing 90% of words from Thesaurus.
It is risky to commit to a Project when you know only a fraction of the information that influences your reward. For example, ‘I will pay you when the full Project is completed, reviewed and accepted by our editorial team’ aims at hooking desperate newbies.
‘Payment will be made once a week, for the amount completed during the past week,’ suggests you might lose the week’s worth of work, if not during the first week, but by the time you complete the big project you may not see the last payment.
Another trick some employers use is deliberately not revealing half of their requirements when posting an initial job offer. For example, ‘I am looking for a technical writer for my blogs. You will be responsible for writing gadget reviews, market trends, new products, industry news and gossip. The articles must be engaging and seo focused, with bullet lists and sub-headings.’ It would be wise to ask a client if there are any additional requirements you will have to comply with, like adding the articles to his Word Press blog, with proper formatting, tags, and 5 HD not copyrighted photos. While a writer may have a fixed price for 100 words for technical writing, the rest of the client’s expectations do not fit into that price, obviously.
I committed to a software reviews project for a price I thought was ok for a long-term project and a client who pays promptly. However, I gave very little thought that I would have to download the programs, run them, make screen shots, explore opportunities, features and bugs. While writing an article based on other people’s opinions may take 30 minutes to 1 hour, exploring the programs and fixing the bugs they bring to my own PC takes a lot more time, effort and knowledge. Not to mention the danger it poses to a computer’s integrity. Yes, you get to learn about things like Sandbox, but some apps won’t run in Sandbox while others cause serious damage to your system. Had I taken that into account, I would have tried to negotiate a triple price for that project, or denied it altogether. Alas, this is how we gain experience.
#2 Secure Payment
Develop your own secure payment system and accept clients who are willing to comply to it. Both parties have to agree to comply to the payment terms before the writer commits to the Project.
When a client and a writer work together for the first time, it is next to impossible to negotiate on a full upfront payment. Both ends of the spectrum, clients and writers, are full of scam. The following schemes are transparent and provide more security to the deal:
Watermarked Images of Articles
– If the project is big, or suggests long-term cooperation, divide it into small batches. This in itself will show you how prompt is this client in payments, and in case he goes mute when the pay is due you will only lose a couple of days’ work.
– Complete the first batch, make screenshots of articles, watermark the images, and send them to the client, or upload them to the platform. Once the client rests assured the job is done, he transfers the payment. Only after that, you send him the text files.
Password Protected Files or Archives
Complete the assignment, create a password protected zip archive and mail it to the client, or upload it to the platform. After the client has proceeded with the payment, send him the password.
Create a Google Docs file, and forward the link to the client when the payment is released.