How to Spot Freelance Job Scams

Note: Today is Day 13 of my 30 day blog challenge. If you want to get my random thoughts about random stuff in your inbox, you can subscribe at the bottom of any post or mash the RSS button if that’s how you roll. 

A friend forwarded this email to me recently from someone who is looking for web design for their startup.

Though I know it was sent with all good intentions, as I read it, I spotted several obvious (to me) giant red flags that meant I wouldn’t touch this project with a ten foot pole. Had I gotten it directly, it would have gone straight into the trash.

In the interest of helping folks newer to the industry, I thought I’d point out some of the warning signs that indicate a probably scam.

We’re looking for someone to be a partner in a new company

Subtext: We’re not going to pay you, but we’ll totally make you a ‘partner’ in our super awesome startup that is totally going to take over the world and as soon as we hit it big we’ll all be rich!

I’ll go ahead state the obvious: you can’t buy groceries with some stranger’s hopes and dreams. Unless you’re legitimately and purposefully volunteering your skills for an organization you believe in, don’t work for free.1 It lowers people’s expectations and hurts the industry as a whole.

building some online software/webware for the travel industry. The opportunity is huge, estimated at over $10,000,000

Seriously? Either they don’t know how to count zeros, or they have a seriously deluded idea of themselves. Most people with ten million dollar ideas don’t know that’s what they are when they have them. They start small. They build something useful that people love and use. They make it better (and then they sell it to Facebook, Yahoo or Google so it can be ruined, but that’s another post). And if they do, they’re smart enough not to brag about it to people who haven’t signed NDA’s.

for the Orlando market alone, and it’s something we’d like to take nationally after launching in Orlando. Quality will need to be that of something that could win an award on http:///

So they want someone talented enough to win awards but notice they still haven’t mentioned a budget.

If you think you may have what it takes, and would like to discuss a possible partnership opportunity to own your own business, please send me some examples of websites you’ve developed and programmed.

This totally takes me back to my network marketing days (shut up). A lot of hype but very few people who actually do well.

My guess is that if you actually contacted these people and tried to talk to them about rates, contracts, estimates, tech specs–you know, the things web professionals actually use–they would make a lot of excuses and talk about how great the project is going to be and how fortunate you would be to be associated with them.

Guess what? If you’re a freelance designer, developer or both, you already have your own business. Spend your time growing it with real clients who have real money to pay your very real bills.

1. I’m all for bartering though. (Back)


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