Safety First! 4 Ways to Protect Yourself as a Freelance Writer

Safety First! 4 Ways to Protect Yourself as a Freelance Writer

You made the leap of faith of becoming a full-time freelance writer and are pitching pieces left and right hoping someone bites.

Seasoned freelancers know their niche, how and who to pitch, but beginners may feel a bit lost and not know where to get started.

While putting yourself out there is great, there are also security risks involved when handing a complere stranger your bio, email address, and creating a payment portal between you and a company.

Here are ways to ensure your freelance safety and pitch with ease like a pro.

1. Do business via websites meant for freelancers

While writing gigs can be found almost anywhere, even social media sites like Facebook and Pinterest, sometimes the best approach is to keep your job search to secure freelancing websites.

Upwork tends to be the go-to freelancing portal for both employers and freelancers.

You can easily set up your own freelancer page including your niche, past work experience and rate of pay. This then allows you to search for work.

Upwork allows you, as the freelancer, to also see how many other freelancers made a proposal on a client’s project, the rate of pay, and if their payment method is verified. To ebb on the side of caution, it’s a best practice to work with employers who are verified and have high ratings and a few reviews from other freelancers who have worked with them.

Beyond Upwork, Guru is the other site in which freelancers can visit for work. Just like Upwork, Guru has a checks and balances system for both employers and freelancers to see their reviews and past work.

2. Use a virtual private network

Freelance writing makes it so you always have a bio floating around the internet for anyone who reads your posts to click on and see.

Beyond giving away a little two-sentence bit about yourself, it seems like a very vague way to express who you are. Who can find you based on the fact that you like lattes and love to travel?

Well, they may not be able to find you from that, but someone digitally savvy enough could track the IP address your work comes from. This is where a little cyber security on your end can let you pitch in peace.

A virtual private network, otherwise known as a VPN, has the ability to encrypt your internet traffic or go into Incognito Mode like on Chrome’s browser.

This allows writers to feel a bit safer about putting their work out there because no one can hack your work and gather your IP address.

3. Keep your information safe

Backtracking to the former statement about using an online freelancing platform, you should also keep your information safe.

Upwork files your bank information through them, as do other platforms so that the employer does not see any private details on their end.

Employers should never ask you to simply send personal information such as bank routing numbers or your social security information via an email or phone call to properly pay you for your work.

If this does occur, then following your gut may be the best practice and cutting ties with this employer is worth more than the pay in which they were offering. There will always be other writing opportunities without the fear of identity theft.

4. Use plagiarism technology to your advantage

You wrote an article and you have rights to it — unless you just wrote something someone else said.

Now, many people are given the same information so it is possible to have multiple variations of the same story, but that is far different that blatant plagiarism.

Luckily, technology steps in and saves the day. There are now many different types of plagiarism software out there like Grammarly that can ensure you are not re-writing an article too closely to something already published.

Just like you wouldn’t want someone to take your work, you don’t want to do the same for someone else. It’s important to protect your reputation.

Freelance writing can be a very rewarding career, but it is best to impose these safety best practices early on to keep your information, identity and reputations safe for a successful future in writing.

Have other tips for keeping your freelance writing career safe? Leave them in the comments below.

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Filed Under: Freelancing


  • I must say your suggestions will help a great deal to writers who are always on the look for freelancing. I will get back again to read more from you. Hasta Lavista!!

  • I must say your suggestions will help a great deal to writers who are always on the look for freelancing. I will get back again to read more from you.

  • cb says:

    Hi, I am about to sign a Service Level Agreement with a magazine and I was wondering if there is no metion in the contract about the rights I am selling (first serial rights) does that mean it defaults to all rights or if there is a dispute later would it work in my advantage that they did not specify?


    • cb,

      It would be best to consult an attorney about such a specific question on contract law, but if that’s not a possibility, my personal suggestion when it comes to contracts is, “When in doubt, spell it out!” Never count on what is NOT written in the contract to protect you.

      Best of luck!

      Trish O’Connor
      Epiclesis Consulting LLC
      Freelance Editorial Services and Writers’ Resources

  • opal says:

    I must say your suggestions will help a great deal to writers who are always on the look for freelancing. I will get back again to read more from you. Hasta Lavista!!

  • I respectfully disagree with the idea of using an exploitative website like Upwork as a payment portal.

    As a freelancer, you are a business owner. Accept payments by the grown-up methods other businesses do. I have accepted checks from clients about whom I feel I know enough (and have yet to have one bounce), I have a separate account for accepting wire transfers from international clients (and have yet to need to close it out because of being compromised), and sell my ebooks and critiques through an Etsy shop. I plan to add secure credit card processing to my website. These are all ways of getting paid that require no association with a site like Upwork that has done more to promote the “race to the bottom” than any other force in the freelance world. If they didn’t even get you the job, why on earth would you want to pay them the fees? If you’re going to pay fees, it may as well be to an ordinary payment processor.

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC

    • Trish,

      Thank you for the input. This is absolutely a great counter argument on the platforms. My experience has been that while yes, these platforms do take a lot of change out of what you should be getting, they also have saved me with shady clients who decided not to pay me with their payment protection, which is where the idea came from. The money I was owed far surpassed the % Upwork took out, so it was a safety net of sorts.

      Again, I completely agree that they pricing and fees do not equate a fair payment until you have worked a fairly long time with a client.

      • Perhaps the issue, then, is not the selection of a payment processor, but the selection of clients.

        Early in a freelance career, it can be tempting to take any business one can find, without much regard for how “shady” the client may be. However, time soon tells that this is counterproductive; as you’ve found, sometimes you don’t get paid for work you were desperate to get.

        If you don’t feel that you’re in a position to decline an offer from a client you don’t trust, an approach that doesn’t rely on external payment protection is to require upfront payment of at least part of the fee, and break additional payments into pieces due upon completion of milestones specified clearly in the contract. If a payment is not made, work is suspended. You may still end up unpaid for the last bit of work you did, but you can break it into pieces you can afford to risk losing. If you try to be as selective about clients as you can afford to be, I think the occasional losses will ultimately add up to less than the Upwork fees.

        Good luck to anyone trying to find a method that works for them!

        Trish O’Connor
        Epiclesis Consulting LLC
        Freelance Editorial Services

      • Wendy says:

        A lot of potential clients on Upwork will insist on spec samples–often so specific that you can’t use it somewhere else if you don’t land the contract–and they might use it, anyway, because the work wasn’t part of a signed contract and isn’t protected by the user policies. It’s like a writing contest, with pennies to the victor.

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