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  • Writer's pictureSharmila Ganapathy

6 Predators Freelancers Should Watch Out For

Today's guest post is by experienced freelancer and author Brigitte Rozario:

Freelancing is a bit like taking a walk in the jungle. You need to keep an eye out for predators and make sure you don’t expose yourself to leeches as you enjoy the scenery. While freelancing offers many opportunities and rewards, it comes with its own challenges and pitfalls.

The best way to protect yourself is to have a network of friends who are also freelancers. They will be able to recommend you for jobs, as well as warn you about bad paymasters and overly-fussy clients.

Another good way to protect yourself is by having a quotation letter or contract which is signed and stamped by the company which is engaging your services.

The quotation/contract should stipulate the specifics of the job, the duration, fee, as well as how many rounds of amendments you are prepared to complete. For anything more than RM1,000, you could also add that you need a deposit upfront, usually 50%.

If it’s a big project that can take months, you should insert a cancellation fee. This is to ensure you get paid if the assignment is terminated halfway or before it starts. It’s only fair you get paid because you would have cleared your schedule for this undertaking.

If your client is not willing to sign the quotation or doesn’t want to pay the deposit, then you should consider not moving forward as this is a big warning sign that they won’t or can’t pay you.

Here are some typical “predators” to watch out for:

The bargain hunter

This client is always looking for discounts and ways for you to reduce your fee. They will resort to telling you that others are charging less or even insult you and the quality of your work. From the get-go, they’re the ones who will ask for discounts, making you feel like you’re at the pasar malam (night market) instead of a work meeting.

If you have already taken on a job with this client, see it through, but avoid taking any more assignments unless you are really desperate because, if you work with them long enough, you will start believing that you are not very good. You can’t let the bargain hunter negatively affect your self-esteem because, in this line of work, you need all the self-confidence you can muster to sell your services.

The late paymaster

When the economy is bad, you will find many clients delaying payment. The freelancer is usually the last one to get paid because clients know that apart from nagging calls and email messages, freelancers can’t do much about getting the fee from them.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to spot this one until it’s too late. The best you can do is ask around before taking on any job from a new client to find out if others have worked with them and how they are as paymasters. Do keep in mind that some good paymasters can turn into very bad ones overnight.

The fussy client

This client is hard to please and tends to micromanage a lot. They want things done their way, down to their writing style. Usually, the fussy client is hard to spot until you’ve already started working on an assignment. In many cases, the client doesn’t even know what they want but they know what they don’t want. This is a very tall order to fill.

The procrastinator

This client might be a bit too laid-back. They will be easy to work with but you will find that the project cannot move forward after half the work is done. If after a few months there is still no progress, insist on getting a percentage of the fee, according to how much work you have done. Don’t wait for the project to complete because chances are, this project will not be done this year, if at all.

The direction changer

This client doesn’t really know what they want. They might tell you to do one thing but then change their minds halfway and change it again after you have delivered what they wanted. If in the initial two meetings they change direction, be wary going forward. They might change direction again.

If you decide to proceed, make sure you get all the instructions in black and white, whether it is on printed paper or in an email, so that you can show them the agreed direction. Also, include in the quotation how many rounds of amendments you allow and what the fee is for amendments beyond the stipulated number.

The free samples client

When a client asks for samples of your work, make sure you stipulate that there is a fee involved. Get them to agree on the fee and sign the quotation, otherwise, you will never get paid for that “sample”.

This client seems to think they can get samples for free even though it takes time, research and energy to write that “sample”. If the client refuses to pay, promising that you will receive payment once they start the project, don’t agree to the free sample. In many cases, the project doesn’t take off and you’ve given them an article for free.

Whenever possible meet your potential client in person and get all contracts signed and stamped. If you can’t meet face to face, do all the Internet checks you can to ensure the identity of the person you are dealing with and the credibility of their company.

Be very careful when taking on new clients. I’ve never met a freelancer who hasn’t been cheated by one client or another or faced difficult clients. That’s part of the steep learning curve that comes with what is inevitably entrepreneurship.

After all, being a freelancer is like being a business owner. The only difference is that you are the staff, the boss, and the debt collector, and your product is your writing or editing services. It’s up to you to make your business a success.

Brigitte Rozario is a freelance writer and editor, and a published author. She can be contactedat

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