But the whole mess got me thinking... As a freelancer (writer or editor) you are always going to be taking a leap of faith when you sign on with a new client. Sure there are ways to check if the person and company are legit. There are red flags that she tell you to run, not walk, in the opposite direction. But sometimes the red flags aren't as obvious. Sometimes the person is legit even if the gig is not.
While obviously not fail-proof here are some ways to tell if your next gig is the real thing or a very elaborate hoax.
- Does the client have a business e-mail address rather than a yahoo/g-mail/hotmail account.
- What does the website look like? Is it modern or does it look like an 8th grader put it together? There is no website? Can that be legit in today's world - doubtful.
- Is this person 'stalkable' on the internet? Can you find their Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter accounts?
- Beyond the basic Google search. Take the time to google blog search and google news search the company and person you're dealing with. You might unearth some really eye-opening info.
- Are you being asked to jump through hoops before a relationship is even established? Companies (spammers) often tell you to enter your info into a website - don't. They'll claim it's to see if you're legit - well if they are legit can't they just pick up a phone?
- Proving yourself is to be expected, but submitting three trial 'free' articles and a list of the 12 articles you'd like to write about is out of line.
- Are all the papers legit? Have you signed a contract?
- With everything done online, sometimes you never even talk to the person via phone. That doesn't mean you shouldn't call the listed numbers and confirm they are real.
- Have any of your freelancing buddies heard of or written for this client? Referrals are a great way to expand business, but it can also be a way to find out about the real clients and the crooks.