Freelancing might sound appealing and profitable. Being your own boss, working at your own pace, and not being bound by corporation constraints are all alluring ideas that draw many people into the freelancing business. Add to that the many success stories of lone wolves turned rich overnight by signing up in freelance sites, and you might think you’re headed for a dream come true.
But if not done right, freelancing can be the source of major headaches, as I came to learn to my dismay (that’s a story left for another time). At the center of most of those headaches are customer issues.
Many customers will pose as working for some company while in reality, they’re not even on that company’s payroll and are in fact brokers that are acting as middlemen. In some cases, they’re total imposters and are only using a company’s name in order to beef up their profile and attract freelancers. And many will try to extract work without paying for it.
So how do you make sure your customers are who they say they are and will honestly pay for your efforts?
Make sure the customer has a site
When customers are want you to write articles for them, they will logically want to post them on a website. Make sure that the customer mentions the website in question in the job post, or at least during the interview.
Customers who are reluctant to reveal their site’s name and address are likely to be brokers and don’t want to reveal their customer’s identity. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being hired by brokers, but bear in mind that they’ll always offer low prices since they’ll want take their cut from the result of your efforts.
I personally don’t apply in any blogging and article-writing job that doesn’t mention a specific site.
Make sure the customer actually works for the site
Many customers will mention the name of a company or a site and claim that they work for it, while in reality they’re not. So how do you make sure they’re telling the truth?
My personal experience is to ask customers to offer an email address in the company or site domain, which will ensure that they are actually affiliated with the company in question. I even take it a step further and demand that they send me a short message through that email address to make sure they really own the address.
Don’t be shy to ask. In fact, I approach my customers candidly and tell them that past experience has taught me to make sure my customers aren’t impersonating some other person or company. If they’re really who they claim they are, customers will respond positively to your professional behavior.
Never give out completed manuscripts
In the article-writing business, most customers will ask you to give them a sample prior to hiring you in order to check the quality of your work.
By all means, never give out full articles before being hired. I’ve run into many customers who will take your (and other applicants’) samples and put you in their rearview mirror.
What I do is that I write an outline of the sample article (headings plus short descriptions of each part) and then I flesh out one of the sections by no more than 200 words. It shouldn’t take more than half an hour of your time and is more than enough for an honest customer to assess the quality of your work and hire you if you match the criteria.
This way, if the customer doesn’t get back to you, you don’t have to lament the loss of an article for which you’ve spent hours of energy.
Make sure the customer pays
Most freelance sites will tell you if your customer’s payment method is verified. Make sure you check it before entering a trial or long-term contract. And do not begin work before the site’s safe-pay or escrow account is funded. This will ensure that you get paid for your efforts, even if the customer later decides not to hire you for a long-term job
Over to you
If you’re a freelancer, you’ll agree with me that customer relation has intricacies and delicacies that need to be addressed in full. So how do you make sure you’re dealing with an honest customer? I’d like to hear it. Feel free to drop a note in the comments section.