Hey ladies, and gents if you’re reading this too. I have had time to let off some steam, and I’m now ready to share my news with the world. I say I’ve had time to think, of course, but I’m not actually over what has just happened. If anything, this feels as bad as a break-up. Right now I’m feeling betrayed, hurt, furious and a big joke. Yes, I got conned for the first time in freelancing this morning, and I’m going to explain what happened, and most of all, give you the guidance before it happens to yourself. So please, grab something tasty and screenshot or save this link, because I’d like to think that one day – you remember this information and you thank me.

Whilst I could go on and on about why you should make your website your own virtual portfolio, clients won’t always find you and sometimes, we need a little assistance. I would always advise someone to let their potential clients find them through their own website, but that’s for another article. The majority of freelancing sites consist of bidding in order to win a job, which I think is completely unfair, but then again this is for another article.

When we turn to freelancing sites, whether you’re a newbie or experienced in what you do, we’re all after some extra cash. Maybe you’re also hoping to land more work. Either way when push comes to shove, if you don’t know what you’re worth – you’re most likely going to rush and under price yourself, this is a no go. What then follows with inexperience are school boy errors. I will explain as much as I can throughout the article. First up, the non-so juicy news about me being conned.

What the hell has just happened?

Is what I thought to myself today whilst eating my tea. I was awarded a project to write an article for an entertainment industry. I quoted them £100 for 1,000 words. The content needed extensive research so I upped my price a touch. They told me they needed it by 5pm today, baring in mind that I had accepted the project at 2:30am in the morning.

The discussion was fine, I was sent an instruction list and we agreed that the article would be ready by 5pm. At 4:30pm I was contacted, asking if I had completed the article. I told them that I had and they asked for the article – hold up. No, no, no, no. No payment had been sent, not even a deposit and I’d actually wrote 2,148 words because I worked really hard to extend the article.

I said I would happily send screenshots of the article, but I am not sending the word document until payments have been released. They agreed and asked If they could have the full screenshots. So I went ahead and split the paragraphs/topics up and saved 12 screenshots. I then compressed the file and sent them the compressed file of screenshots. Once they received them, they asked If I could send the article via PDF. I said sure no worries, their reply was instant “Okay, we’re waiting”. What the f***? I knew they could open a PDF in word and gain access to the actual text. Was this them trying to mock my intelligence?

I then politely said “I am only going to be able to send the PDF once the funds have been released, as discussed.” The light bulb soon went on, I realised slowly what was actually happening.

The instant messaging had stopped and 20 minutes later I then received another message “Okay, I understand. I can’t release the funds until my editor approves of the article”. Hold up – what freaking editor? I was furious. Their was no mentioning of an editors approval in any discussion and if so, I wouldn’t of agreed to write the article because I knew that I wasn’t going to be paid.

I was then refused payment. I simply lost my patience. I had completed the article, nothing was mentioned about a third approval, and stupid me – I didn’t write up a contract, request a milestone or have any written agreement in place. They told me I would “have to wait until approval for the funds to be released.” As soon as I stated that they wasn’t being fair with me I was told “Your review has been accepted. However we need you to change the article” I wasn’t interested unless a freaking payment was made. As you can imagine, once payment was questioned, no further contact has happened.

Sure, they’re laughing. They could easily type out my hard-worked article now from the screenshots. Yet I have the actual content, and I’m just a relieved in the fact that I didn’t send the full article over. So there we have it, free labour and careless mistakes.

Freelancing sites are great for starting out, and they can be really handy! They’re not all full of scams and people trying to pull fast-ones, but please take the steps to protect your work and your precious time.

Have a contract in place

Do not freak out and run for the hills. A contract can be wrote by a lawyer or of that profession, but that’s not ideal and is not necessary. A contract doesn’t need to be paragraphs and paragraphs and it doesn’t need to be complicated in most cases. A contract is ideal to have in place for small projects and large projects. If you’re seeking work from somebody on a freelancing site, then you will possibly come across a milestone feature, I’ll explain this next. Yet if you’re not working a freelancing site and this client has come to you i.e. through your website/portfolio/social media, or you’ve found them, you need something in place.

Depending on what the job is, contracts will vary. If a client wants to work with you, they will be happy to create a milestone or sign your contract. Remember, the contract is put in place to protect both you and your client/employer. So if the client doesn’t sign, it’s because they’re pulling a fast one, and probably don’t feel the need to.

If you’re using Freelancer websites, always request a milestone

If you’re using any freelancer site, you’ll notice that most of them offer a milestone procedure. Freelancers cannot request the payment milestone, but the freelancer can request one from whoever they’re doing work for. Milestones are put in place to protect the employer and the employee. Once a milestone has been created, the employee is showing that their genuine and they want the work completed.

The employee must place the awarded amount into the milestone, the freelancer site then freezes this money. Therefore the employee can not withdraw the money, and the freelancer doesn’t receive the money until the project is complete. This is actually very fair because once you’ve started the work, you know that the employee has already agreed to send the funds.

If an employee refuses to request a milestone, they’re probably trying to pull a fast one. My advice is to not start any work until either a deposit has been made or a milestone has been created. They will try and pull any excuse, like what happened in my story. So be sure to cover yourself and if an employee doesn’t want to create a milestone or even pay a deposit, cut the contact because not only are they being disrespectful to you, but you’re being disrespectful to yourself as well.

Never send the completed project, always send a screenshot

If you haven’t been paid for your work, only send a screenshot. Whilst it’s hard to argue that screenshots can still be used to steal your work, if a milestone is in place or a deposits been made, always send a screenshot until you’ve been paid.

Never trust anybody when it comes to work. You should NEVER send the actual text document if you’ve wrote an article for somebody without being paid first. Not everybody will try and type out the text from the screenshots, the majority of people fairly want to see the article before you get paid, which is only fair. Just be sure to cover yourself.

This also applies to all freelancing work. Never send the full work you’ve completed until you’ve received the funds.

I’m glad I have two lovely clients at the moment who I write for, however to this day I would still send screenshots other than the text document until payment.

I’m not slating freelancing but it’s important to educate yourself on your rights and also how you can cover yourself. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article, if you’ve got any questions or you’ve shared similar experiences, please comment below or get in touch with me! I’d love to help anybody out as much as I can and remember, freelancing is a brilliant way to build you skills, gain some extra cash and you could meet great clients, who knows what doors they might have open for you in the near future?