Creative Client Cons By George English

Freelancers get ripped off every day. Sites like are filled with stories and warnings about people who simply don’t pay for writing or editing or graphic design work. Sometimes the check just never arrives, but quite often these crooks are more creative and more sinister. Some have honed their skills over many years, and if you were to look into their backgrounds, you’d probably be entertained for weeks just reading about their various scams and deceptions: You’ll find a mechanics’ lien on the family station wagon; cell phones listed because land lines were cut off for non-payment; and frequent relocations in an attempt to keep ahead of creditors. Their entire lives are designed around dodging bill collectors.

One of the things I’ve noticed is that, while we are all wary of the new business or stranger who wants to hire us, sometimes people and businesses we know and trust are the culprits. It’s difficult to protect yourself, but before taking on a new client, freelancers should take a look at the client’s projects and websites and see if there has obviously been a string of different creative hands involved.

Another way freelancers can protect themselves is by never sending out work that has not been paid for. Instead, send watermarked proofs. If it’s an article and you’ve agreed to a pay-on-publication contract, do as much research as possible to see if there are any negative reports about the publisher online, and contact the potential client’s local Better Business Bureau. Make sure you have the correct name and an ISP e-mail address for whoever hires you. People writing you as