January 22, 2009
All business owners face situations where they have taken on clients or contracts that they wish they hadn’t. As the saying goes, “hindsight is twenty-twenty” but fortunately when it comes to freelance work there are some warning signs of of jobs and clients that you would be better off avoiding. The following tips can help people new to freelance work or serve as a reminder for more experienced freelancers.
Project deadline is unrealistic- If you have a client (especially a new client) who expects you to drop everything to work on their project or provides an unrealistic deadline you should be aware that you might be dealing with a scam artist. Although this is not always the case, many times less then honest individuals will try to get the finished project before you are aware you are the target of a scam.
Unclear project details- Be wary of a client who does not give carefully defined instructions on what it is they expect from you. Often times clients who have not had a lot of experience working with freelancers (and some who have) will provide only partial instructions to obtain a quote and then change their instructions midway through a project expecting more work for the same price. You should always get everything in writing and any deviation from the original quote should call for an increase in your compensation for work performed.
The “no contract” client- the reason for this tip is obvious, a firm is willing to hire you but unwilling to sign a contract, heed the red flag and steer clear of doing business with them.
Requires “examples” of your work- you should be wary of any client requiring new examples of your work or what some people refer to as “auditions”. There are unscrupulous individuals or companies that will advertise for a freelancer and require the completion of a task to exhibit your skills. Once they have all the “tasks” completed they no longer need to hire a freelancer and basically obtained their work for free. While it is reasonable to ask for examples of past work or perhaps a small sample of work specifically designed for the client, be sure you are not completing a full or partial project for free.
Doesn’t provide contact information-if your potential client is hesitant on providing valid contact information, take this as a sign you will likely have trouble collecting payment in the event things go awry. Any legitimate business or client will gladly provide contact information.
Unreasonable rates- Either high or low rate can indicate a client’s inability or unwillingness to pay for work performed. If a client is working on a budget and offers a lower than normal rate you should not accept it, you work is no less valuable simply due to the client’s inability to pay. If the rate that is offered is much higher than industry standard you might find the client is trying to lure you into more work or change the tone of the contract after you have begun work in an attempt to avoid paying the higher fee.
Payment “after delivery”- You should always receive payment prior to submitting the finished work or you will give up your leverage to receive payment since the client already has the final product. You will either lose out on the final payment or have to put forth a great deal of time and energy to get paid.