By Rhonda Campbell
Major firms have been attracted to offshore, contract and freelance workers since the 1990s. The attraction is growing, especially toward freelancers.
Employers who hire freelancers don’t have to deal with payroll taxes, employee healthcare costs or real estate expenses. Shady employers try to get work from freelancers at rates that are well below what they would have to pay the average employee. As a freelancer, if you’re not alert, you could spend years working for $5 or more dollars an hour than an employee who does the exact same work that you do earns.
Underpayment to No Payment
At first glance, $5 an hour might not seem like much. However, log 40 hours and you’d be underpaid by $200. And that’s just for one week.
Contently reports that the average full-time freelancer made between $20,001 and $30,000 in 2015. Only five percent of the freelancers who responded to a Contently survey made $100,000 or more.
Underpayment is bad enough. Worse is not getting paid at all. More than a quarter of freelancers spend time chasing down money that they are owed.
You can reduce your chances of getting stiffed as a freelancer if you research potential clients. Similar to how you check out an employer you’d consider working for, check out potential clients. Do an online search on prospects. Review BBB reviews. Look over professional writer forums to see if there are warnings about the client.
Getting Paid as a Freelancer
It may be easier to check out major clients, looking thru regulatory documents and reviewing their business ratings. Freelancers Union has a client scorecard that you can use as you complete your research.
More actions that you can take to avoid getting stiffed as a freelancer are to:
• Get a detailed contract from each client that you work for. Make sure that the contract includes processes, payment amounts and payment timeframes for each different project that you work on. A good contract will also state the number of edits or revisions that you may have to complete. Make sure that contracts respect you and your skills. If a client doesn’t present you with a contract, draft one of your own. Elance has sample contract templates.
• Submit invoices to clients on time. Include agreed upon payment terms on each invoice (similar to your telephone company or loan department do with you).
• Stop completing new work for a client who hasn’t paid you. There’s no need to add three to four months of unpaid for work to your portfolio.
• Avoid payment scams. If a client sends you money orders or a check then tells you that they accidentally overpaid you and ask you to return the overpayment. Don’t cash or deposit the money orders or checks. Contact authorities. It could be a scam that would leave you holding the very, very short end of a stick.
Take your freelancing career seriously. Remember that you are the CEO of your career. Approach your business similar to how a CEO at a major organization approaches her business. This includes taking a client to small claims court should she refuse to pay you for work that you have already performed.