How Not To Get Screwed Over As A Freelancer [Video]


Crappy clients. We’ve all encountered them. In the best scenarios, we manage to cut ties with our dignity intact, and make a mental note to never make the same mistake again. In the worst scenarios, we spend months or even years sending invoices to no avail, trying desperately to collect payment for work delivered.

Despite the fact that there are over 30 million freelancers in the United States, legal mechanisms to protect us from deadbeats is almost non-existent. Ever tried to leave a restaurant without paying for your meal? The consequences are swift and embarrassing. Accept work from a freelancer and then fail to pay? No one bats an eye. Except of course for the freelancer, who complains to everyone who can listen while simultaneously wondering whether she’ll be able to make rent.

Kinda like these people:

The good news is that there are ways to avoid getting screwed over that don’t involve waiting for the government to wake up and treat the mobile workforce like an actual industry.

1. Speak softly, and carry a rock solid contract.

Docracy, the creative organization behind the video, specializes in providing free, open-source legal documents that are socially curated by the communities that use them. That means instead of trying to adapt a template contract for services to reflect your unique business, you can find specific documents created by lawyers that know your industry.

2. Power in numbers.

There are organizations and professional societies that exist to help protect freelancers like you. If something bad happens, they can step in to help defend your honor. That way, if a client tries to ignore your rock-solid contract, you’ll actually have the legal means to afford it. ‘Cause unless you’ve got one in the family, lawyers can be expensive. A few to start with: Freelancers’ Union, National Writers Union, United Scenic Artists, Professional Photographers of America, American Photographic Artists, Council of Fashion Designers of America, Industrial Workers of the World (includes Communications and Computer Workers Industrial Union 560).  Added bonus! Joining these organizations can often net you other awesome perks, like dental insurance or discounts on services.

3. Cowork it out.

Jumping into a new situation without doing your homework is almost always a bad idea. Thinking about signing a contract with a local firm? Got a queasy feeling about a client? Talk about it with your fellow coworkers. Collectively, Cohere boasts decades of self-employed and small business experience. Our members have been through it all before, no matter what it is. We especially like sharing tales of failure, because it brings us together and increases our collective knowledge. Also, we like helping our friends succeed. That’s what this is all about after all–being stronger together than we are on our own.

Got other tips for not getting screwed over? Share them in a comment!

Image via oskay/Flickr

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