As a freelancer, most of your payment options will be digital. However, some clients may pay through check, while others may use direct deposit or credit card. These are all standard forms of payment and are typically trustworthy.
Some clients will try to scam freelancers by offering to pay via unusual methods. This can include asking freelancers to accept alternative forms of payment (goods and services instead of money) or to accept payment using methods such as gift cards.
- Directly through the freelance platform you’re using, which will receive the payments and extract a fee
- PayPal or a similar platform like Wise or Payoneer
- Credit card
- Direct deposit
- Some other, minor payment systems, such as Square, that you may use if you’re the type of freelancer who sells his or her objects through physical means
However, you should never accept payments through means that are wholly atypical or completely unusual. For example, if a client asks to LA installment loans pay you in goods instead of services, don’t accept it (yes, this happens and I have had a client request this type of unusual payment option before).
To keep your own income reporting safe and to avoid suspicious payment behavior from clients, only accept payment through vetted and acceptable means.
8. “Test” projects
This is a scam that many freelancers, especially writers, experience at least once before they learn their lesson. It goes like this:
- You submit a proposal
- The client responds and says they like your proposal and would like you to do a test project. If all goes well, they’ll hire you on for more work
- You complete the test project, and never hear back from the client again, or the client tells you the work is great but he/she selected another freelancer
In many cases, the client isn’t actually looking to hire. Instead, the client is using test projects to gather quality work from freelancers without having to pay a penny, or by paying a significantly smaller amount than what such a project would usually cost.
How to avoid test project scams
It’s easy and understandable why many freelancers fall for this scam. Getting a response from a client who asks for a test project is often an indication that they liked your proposal and that you’re close to securing the contract. But there are some clients do will abuse this trust to their own advantage.
The best freelance platforms all include an integrated communication system. This system offers some privacy protections for freelancers, making it possible to communicate about business without having to give out personal information, unless you want to or need to for the job.
Freelance platform communication systems make it possible to easily file complaints against clients for abuse and fraud. This is why some clients may try to move communication off of the official, integrated channels.
If there’s no paper trail to follow on the freelance platform chat system, the freelance platform may not be obligated to assist you in recovering from the negative impacts of fraud.
How to avoid scams through external communication channels
If you’re using a freelance platform, only use the official communication channels until you have developed a strong working relationship with a client. Even then, you may want to stick with the official chat systems that come with these services, as they can help protect both you and the client from potential abuse.
For those freelancing outside of official platforms, your best option is to create a separate email address and phone number for business purposes. You can use something like Google Voice to create a VoIP number disconnected from your personal number and have those communications come through to your mobile device so you don’t have to buy two phones with separate numbers. You may also want to create a separate Skype account for business use as well.