Being a freelance copywriter is a great way to make a decent income. A lot of people choose this line of work because it allows them to make their own hours and they get to determine how much money they make each week or even each day. However, and this is a big “however,” in the world of freelancing, particularly online, you’ll need to know how to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. This is because there are any number of scams out there, not to mention, dishonest people who may try to get you to work on projects, meanwhile they have no intention of paying you.
Newbie or not, I’m quite sure you’ve read other freelancers’ rants about difficulties in getting paid from problem clients. You may have even had one or two of these challenging situations yourself.
You’ll need to make sure that you always protect yourself so that you have a nice, steady income and a great experience as a freelance copywriter.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take to keep folks from cheating you. If you apply the following tips you’ll have a much greater chance of assuring that your fees are protected and that you are not scammed out of your money.
1. Find Out About Your Client Before You Meet
Look the prospect up before you agree to work with them and before you discuss the assignment with them. Your findings may help you develop more pointed questions that will serve to safeguard you and your fees in the end.
There are countless, simple ways to research a client, but be creative in your search for information on them. A few quick ways to do a makeshift, but effective “background” check are as follows:
- If this client finds you in an online forum, make sure that you check their feedback score (if any).
- If this client finds you on an online staffing platform (e.g., Elance.com), check out the comments made by previous contractors. Make sure there are no listed problems with that client. Also make sure that you check into the feedback that your potential client has left. If they show a history of leaving a bunch of negative comments, be wary of that client. It may signify that he or she is impossible to please.
- Enter the client’s email address in a popular search engine and scan the results. If that email has ever been associated with a scam, it may be listed in your search results.
- Take twenty or thirty minutes to plug their name or their website URL in The Better Business Bureau’s website, and look them up on Yelp, Angie’s List, SiteJabber, TripAdvisor and the like.
2. Protect Yourself By Using Written Contracts
Another great tip to staying safe and making sure you get the money you earned is to always use a contract. Using a contract/written agreement/quotation agreement can help assure you are paid upon completion of your work. If you do not have a contract, you will not be well-protected and you’ll undermine any leverage you otherwise would have had.
If the client gives you a hard time about signing the contract or starts “nickling and diming” you on more than one provision in the agreement, this may be a sign that there will be more issues and stress ahead. It’s probably best to not work with that person.
3. Get a Down-Payment Before You Start the Job
Making sure that you are getting paid is key when doing freelance copywriting work or any type of freelance work. Many writers require that clients leave an initial deposit, and you should too. This deposit assures the client that you will provide the copywriting work, and it helps to assure you that the client will pay for the work. The deposit you require should reflect the amount of work you will be doing. For larger jobs you will need to require a larger deposit and for smaller jobs you can require less. Having the deposit will help to ease your fears about not being paid and will help to develop a trusting relationship between you and the client.
4. Make It Simple for Clients to Pay for Your Services
When Mr. Pain-in-the-A says, “I only have a debit card,” you want to be able to say, “That’s fine. I take wire transfers, and there will be a fee of $___ dollars for that transaction.”
If Ms. Bothersome says, “I can only pay by credit card,” you want to be able to say, “That’s fine. I have Intuit or Paypal, so you are more than welcome to pay by credit card.”
Of course, in order to do this, you’ll have to set these program up. Luckily, these payment services are user-friendly, and there’s always customer service (with real live agents) available to help you if you have a problem. Today, many, if not most, banks offer merchant services for small business owners (including freelancers). These services allow us to accept a whole host of credit, debit, wire and mobile payment methods the same way the larger establishments do.
Set and hold to milestones when you are working on someone’s project, especially if it’s a multi-tiered one. Always send a sample to the client before you begin so that you can make sure he or she is satisfied with your work. Stay in constant contact with the client and confirm that you understand his or her wants by repeating it back to them and getting that nod, preferably the electronic nod – via EMAIL. The more you and the client are in synch, the more promising your experience is likely to be.
If you do end up with a problem client you will at first need to be patient. In the beginning, if you cannot work things out, it is advised that you cancel the job with the client before things get too complicated. If you have already turned in work, try your best to work with the client and see what you can do to improve the work or meet his or her needs by some other mutually satisfactory means.
Your business as a freelance copywriter can be greatly protected by these simple steps. Remember to follow your instincts, and if a job or a client does not feel right, move on to another job. Require a contract and make sure that you get a deposit before beginning the job. Lastly, create that “paper” trail. If you’re a straight shooter, it’s always to your personal and legal advantage to have a paper trail, even if it’s email only. Sometimes a financial dispute can very easily be resolved by reminding and showing your client that on X date, you did Y, just as she requested in her email.