In many ways, the US freelance market is like The Wild Wild West. There are heaps of platforms to choose from, millions of people looking for online work, and a whole web of online scammers ready to take advantage of someone if they can. So, how can you find valuable freelance talent online without risking becoming the victim of a scammer?
As someone who has worked as both a client and a freelancer, I’ve learned (through trial and error) about the typical ploys that scammers use on the freelance market. As a client, you have to work to protect both your time and money when thinking about hiring a freelancer. Keep in mind that freelancers are also seeking to do the same things, so a freelancer asking for a decent wage or setting respectful boundaries is NOT someone trying to scam you. Here are three red flags that you should look out for when searching for freelancers:
1. They are eager to get you off of the platform where you found them or have no history on the platform where you found them:
Many people will find their freelancers via an online platform like Upwork or Fiverr. Although lots of freelancers seek to invite people off of the platform (to avoid the 20% fee imposed), it is good to be wary of this. If you have not met with or been introduced to a freelancer, never leave the platform. If they are unwilling to do tasks on the platform even though that is where you found them, be very wary. Additionally, if they are on the platform and have no history, certainly do not leave the platform without first getting to know them better.
Recommendation: Consider skipping the larger, unmonitored platforms altogether and working with a reputable agency like First Pick.
2. Always use a contract:
Although most larger businesses will already have a procedure for working with freelancers/contracts, many small business owners and solopreneurs are newer to the freelance game. If a freelancer or contractor is willing to do work for you without a contract, be very wary of this. Contracts serve to protect both you and your freelancer from misconduct. NEVER give out personal information or payment without a legal contract.
Recommendation: There are lots of free freelancer contracts online, so before getting started with someone, always make sure to send one along (if they don’t already have one).
3. Be wary of too low prices:
If a price seems too good to be true… it is. Freelancers come in all shapes and prices, but do your research beforehand on what a typical skill is worth and keep that in mind (to get a better idea of how mucha typical virtual assistant will cost you, consider reading our blog on that topic here). If your average virtual assistant charges $25 per hour, do not be tempted by a $5 per hour price tag. Although outsourcing has become more and more common, remember that there are often significant downsides to hiring non-US workers (not to mention the ethics of paying someone pennies simply because you can). If someone promises you work on the cheap, remember that the work will likely be cheap. Someone who charges $25 will almost always provide better quality than someone who charges $5.
Recommendations: Do your research. Know what the fair market value of a skill is before you go freelance hunting. Knowledge of the industry will not only help you avoid scams but also give you the tools you might need to bargain.
Overall, to avoid scams, trust your gut instinct and do your research. If something feels sketchy, take extra precautions and don’t feel beholden to continue if you have a bad feeling. There are truly some amazing freelancers out there, so don’t be discouraged if you run into a few bad ones at the getgo. If you are interested in learning more about our high-quality, trained, US-based freelancers, reach out to us here or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Author: Camryn Pickworth
As the head VA and owner of The First Pick VA Group I have found such great joy in sharing my experiences and top tips with other freelancers and aspiring VA's. I hope that our blog can service as a great reference for VA's and Clients alike!