This week, one of our members at Learn Freelance Writing had a dilemma. She was actively pitching for work, (and doing rather well considering she landed an epic job with one of them) when she was approached by a prospect who wanted to send her some files to work from. It all looked a little bit suspicious from the outset, especially when the zip file seemed to contain an application form for something (she had no idea what). Upon further inspection and speaking to the group members, she decided the client was phony and probably trying to give her a virus that installs something into her computer. Yikes!

So why am I telling you this? Not to scare you away from freelance writing, that’s for sure.

I’m telling you because there are ways you can spot phony clients like this before you even engage in conversation with them.

Think about the kind of spam you receive into your email inbox. Has anyone else had a number of Nigerian Princes and Ministers’ wives make contact with unbelievable claims and offers? I know I have. And so has James Veitch, who led this pretty hilarious TED talk on his email exchange with someone randomly wanting to give him some gold! If you have some time to waste today, I suggest you give it a watch.

My point is, you can spot most email spammers a mile away. They always make outrageous claims, they’re overly eager to communicate and their email address is questionable. And sometimes its not so easy to figure out if you’re being spammed or not. When a company logo looks legitimate, you need to dig a little deeper to discover whether or not the content is genuine.

The same applies to clients on freelance networking sites or job boards – If you develop an eye for spotting the time wasters, you won’t spend a single second entertaining them. This will give you more time to communicate with clients who actually want to work with you – genuinely.

So, what should you look for?

  1. A phony client won’t have positive testimonials. Check any feedback he or she has received on a freelancing site (if using).
  2. They will have either no work history, or a history of questionable, random projects unrelated to what you’ve been asked to do.
  3. A phony will not give you specific, detailed information about a job they have on offer. The language will be vague and hurried.
  4. They will try to get you to download something or log into something you’re not familiar with. Or they’ll ask you to create an account on a website, or use your bank details.
  5. They have no other online presence – their company names doesn’t exist and you can’t find them on LinkedIn or social media.

Of course, stumbling across a phony client only happens once in a blue moon. But, if it happens to you, it’s crucial you’re one step ahead. Do not waste your time on clients who are willing to waste yours. End any conversation you begin with these people, move on and become a¬†wiser freelancer as a result.

Would you like to learn more about discovering the very best clients out there and ridding yourself of the fakes? Try our Learn Freelance Writing trial now!