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After nearly a decade of buildup, the freelance industry is booming. While other industries floundered in the wake of the pandemic, freelancers have thrived. We are in demand more than ever before.
With that high demand, though, comes the risk of exploitation. This is especially true if you don’t know how to stay safe online. Freelancers from across all business sectors are vulnerable to being taken advantage of. And just like anybody who spends time on the internet, we need to practice proper online security measures.
The interchanging of personal details, in-depth research on random sites, and the rise of cyber attacks in general means that freelancers need to adopt protective methods. Preventing the theft, leakage, or mistreatment of important data and personal information should now be considered an integral part of the job.
When working online, the rule is simple. You can never be too careful. Here are six tips for protecting yourself as a freelancer so you can stay safe online and ensure your career will thrive.
Use The Right Websites For Finding Work
The websites that you find freelance jobs on are fundamentally important to your online safety. Sites that lack the proper systems and guidelines needed to protect both you and your clients can cause serious problems if you don’t read the fine print. So, make sure you select an online job portal that adheres to high standards of safety and security.
Don’t look for work on sites that aren’t specifically designed for freelancers. They won’t be able to offer you the same kind of data and payment protection that approved freelancer sites do.
When you use reputable freelancer websites to host your client interactions, you not only gain access to a much wider variety of writing gigs, but you also get to experience the peace of mind that comes with secure legal and payment options.
Practice Basic Data Safety
Data safety is extremely important for anyone who spends a lot of time online. But for freelancers who work solely online, you should consider it non negotiable.
Your data would include everything from your freelance products and services to your Social Security number. Any private documents, files, client lists, charts, or emails containing sensitive information need to be kept as securely as possible to avoid theft and exploitation.
Practicing data safety looks like:
- storing your digital products and private data in a secure cloud-based system
- conducting business on an approved freelancer website
- installing a high-quality antivirus and anti-malware software
- setting up encryptions on all your devices
- using a VPN (more on that in the next section)
Freelancers who travel internationally while working online are especially in need of practicing data safety. As are digital nomads who move from place to place on a regular basis. Wherever you go, new online threats arise, so make sure you are well prepared for defense.
Use A VPN to Stay Safe Online
A VPN is a virtual private network, and you should use one. There are plenty of free VPNs available online, or you could opt to pay for the service too. Freelancing means that your digital footprint traverses a wide virtual ground, making it conspicuous and vulnerable to being tracked, hacked, or otherwise harmfully intercepted.
A VPN is digital protection for your computer. Cyber criminals with enough digital savvy can easily track your IP address and use it to infiltrate your online affairs. This becomes especially true if you travel a lot and thus become discoverable to a broader net of hackers.
A VPN also protects your computer from being attacked by malware or viruses. Similar to Chrome’s Incognito Mode, using a VPN will help keep your computer and your data safe from the digital equivalent of free radicals.
Use Plagiarism Technology
Plagiarism technology is a good idea in particular for freelance writers.
Most of the time, when a professional freelance writer commits plagiarism, it’s an honest mistake. Writers are constantly drawing information from research papers, news bits, and references, and accidental repetition is more common than you’d think. But try telling that to your client.
Plagiarism detectors help protect your reputation as a writer. The last thing you want is a client accusing you of copying someone else’s work and passing it off as your own—and getting paid for it. Fortunately, there are loads of reputable plagiarism detectors available online to prevent this.
Educate Yourself On Intellectual Rights
Another concern for freelancers is the exploitation of intellectual rights. If you are dealing with a slippery website or mal-intent client, the potential for them to take your work without paying you or crediting you for it is high.
Signing on to projects with contracts that don’t work in your favor is also something you should be extremely cautious of. It’s often the fine print that will get you, so make sure you read your contracts well and have a baseline understanding of what red flags look like.
Many freelancer writers happily produce work they know they will never get credited for. Still, as a writer, it’s important to cultivate awareness of professional and intellectual rights. Freelancers in professions other than writing may or may not be credited for their work but still need to be aware of their intellectual rights.
Keep Your Private And Professional Lives Separate
Even though it’s more convenient, storing all your personal data with your professional, work-related data is not a good idea. Why?
Because if you get hacked, the hacker can access your mother lode of precious private data in one fell swoop.
Instead of keeping all your information in one place, divide it up into two or more secure storage clouds – one for your freelance career, and one for your personal life. You can also use different email addresses for personal and professional communications as well as different online profiles.
Not only will this make it safer for you to continue your virtually active career, but it will also make it easier to manage your affairs from the inside. A little bit of organization can do a world of good.
Stay Safe Online as a Habit
When it comes down to it, protecting yourself as a freelancer is largely just about practicing healthy online safety measures. Only accept jobs from trusted freelancing sites. Use a VPN. Store your data securely. Doing everything you can to protect your work should become part of your day-to-day working life.
No matter who you are or what you do, protecting yourself and your work is something you will never regret doing. As freelance work and the digital nomad lifestyle continues to trend, you should follow these tips to stay safe online. They’ve never been more important.
He's built multiple 7-figure content marketing businesses, including one with a successful multi-million dollar exit. He's passionate about content marketing, the freelance economy, and internet business in general.
Shaun has extensive experience hiring writers, which is one of the reasons he founded this project. Unsatisfied with most job boards for hiring writers, Shaun decided to build his own from the ground up. Shaun also is the founder and editor of WritingTips.org, a website that teaches anyone how to write better.