Freelance Writers: How to Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients

While working on your own as a freelance writer has certain perks, there are also a few drawbacks. When it’s just you, your computer, a high-speed Internet connection and your clients, you open yourself up to potential problems, such as unscrupulous clients who refuse to pay you for your work. Here are a few tips for freelance writers on how to protect yourself from those unscrupulous clients.

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients: Prepare a Contract

Although a contract doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be paid for your work, it is definitely good insurance. A contract is an agreement between two people-the freelance writer and his or her client-that states the specifics of the project as well as the payment terms and the consequences for non-payment.

Have an attorney create a standard contract for you or talk to other freelance writers who might have a contract template. You can find pre-made contract templates at FindLegalForms.com and USLegalForms.com (state-specific).

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients: Be a Good Judge of Character

As a freelance writer, it isn’t your prerogative to accept every client who comes your way. If you’re getting a bad vibe or if you’ve heard negative things about an individual or company, feel free to say “no”. Even if you’re worried about paying the mortgage next month, you won’t be farther ahead to do work for free.

It is also not inappropriate to ask a client for references from previous contractors. Even if they’ve only worked with web designers or virtual assistants, it will give you peace of mind to know that other contractors have been paid in full and on time.

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients: Be Firm From the Beginning

One thing that I’ve learned during my short tenure as a freelance writer is that you have to be firm from the very beginning or clients will walk all over you. State your terms up front and let the client know that there isn’t any room for negotiation. Don’t let a client talk you down for your price or convince you that your work isn’t worth what you advertise.

That said, don’t be rude or inconsiderate either. Act like the consummate professional that you are and you’ll earn the respect of your clients. Turn in projects when they are do and send prompt invoices to encourage payment on time.

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients: Don’t Advertise That You’re an Amateur

If you’ve only been freelancing for a few months (or a few weeks!), don’t advertise that fact to potential clients. Instead, behave as though you’ve been freelancing for years. This will discourage clients from trying to get one over on you and will further illustrate that you’re a professional.

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients: Don’t Start a New Project Until You’ve Been Paid for the First

If you’ve completed a project for a client, wait until you receive the check before starting a new project for that same client. This will ensure that you’ve judged his or her trustworthiness before putting more work and effort into their cause. If you’re sent a check, wait for the payment to clear in your bank before starting a new project; bounced checks are hell on a freelance writer’s income.

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients: Hire an Attorney

If you’re knee-deep in a dispute with a client, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney for representation. Sometimes just a demand letter written by an attorney will be enough for a client to pay up, but if you are forced to take it farther than that, you will need an experienced attorney to help you through the legal process of collection.

Protect Yourself from Unscrupulous Clients: Don’t Allow Mid-Project Changes

If your client wants to change the scope or content of the project when you’ve already begun work, charge a fee. As a freelance writer, you must remember that you need to be compensated for any work that you perform, regardless of whether the client changes his or her mind. Put that policy in your contract and make sure that your client understands ahead of time.

Freelance writers are taken advantage of every day in America and overseas, but ultimately, it’s up to you to protect yourself from unscrupulous clients. Red flags and warning bells signal that you should cut and run, so you must listen to what your mind and heart tell you to do. A freelance writer’s ultimate goal is to generate income from writing, and you’ll have no income if you only work with unscrupulous clients.