Being an independent contractor comes with many benefits, from flexible hours and work schedules to the freedom to do what you love as your career. One of the not-so-great things about working as a freelancer is the lack of support to help protect you. With over five years of freelance experience under my belt, I have dealt with scammers, abusive clients, boundary pushers, and just downright bullies. So to spare you from some of the headaches I went through, here are my top 5 ways to protect yourself as a freelancer:
1. Only take legitimate interviews:
When working as a freelancer, you will likely get used to doing more interviews than your average worker. The meet and greet phase is essential between getting new clients and starting new projects; you’ll want to know what constitutes a legitimate interview vs. a non-legitimate discussion. You're initial (often free) first meeting should never be expected to exceed an hour [any more, and they are abusing your time]. Anyone asking to interview via Telegram, WhatsApp, or Skype are scammers… just take my word for it and skip these. A potential client should never ask you to do work for free outside of sending them pre-existing samples (emphasis on the pre-existing). Lastly, trust your gut; never take an interview with anyone that makes you feel uncomfortable, is too pushy, or doesn’t seem honestly interested in your work.
2. Create your own contracts:
Before getting started with any private clients outside of a freelance platform like Upwork or Fiverr, create your own contract for your and your client to sign, don’t hesitate to set your terms to protect yourself. For example, here at First Pick, we have a late fee policy for clients that don’t pay on time; we also have an explicit non-compete agreement that all clients sign. Take a minute to think about what is important to you and set your contract accordingly. A client who is not happy with your terms is likely a client you don’t want to work with (e.i. If they are uncomfortable with a late payment fee, they probably plan to pay late often).
3. Set firm boundaries with your clients early and often:
Making sure that you set your boundaries with your client is vital to your long-term success in the freelance world. Because you aren’t a full-time employee and clients often don’t think about you as such, standard rules for how to treat people tend to go out the window. Some clients will push your boundaries, expect more from you than you are willing to give, and ask for unreasonable things. Make it clear early that this is unacceptable and that you expect to be treated a certain way. For more information on setting boundaries with clients, check out our blog post here.
4. Be strict about payment:
Many people will try to find every possible way they can not pay you. Don't let them. From making excuses about late payments to asking for extreme extensions and making absurd promises, don’t listen. If someone is a notorious late payer, they must pay upfront; if someone is behind on their payments with no update, pause on work until they can provide one. And remember, if you are lenient once or twice, clients will expect you to be lenient again.
5. You are not responsible for doing everything for everyone:
Clients will ask you to do things you have not experienced in or aren’t in your wheelhouse as a freelancer. It is okay to stick to what you do and ask your client to seek help for alternative tasks. Being great at one thing is more important than being eh at many.
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!