How to Stay Safe While Freelancing: Part Two

Following up on the first part speaking on red flags, I still think it is very important to stay secure even when clients seem to be all that safe. No matter how long the list gets for red flags to look out for, there will always be other signs we can’t catch right away or even some less than honest clients who manage to pass a trust-test with flying colors.  With that said, there is a list of things I usually go through before I go off to meet a client anywhere.

 1.        Search up any information about the client. I think this one can go without saying because we always google folks we don’t know to see if we can find out more information about them online. Find any social media pages, articles, contact information, or webpages with their information and possibly even a photo attached so you have an idea who this person really is.

2.        Email or text the contact information of the client to a trusted person and also text them the address of the location I am expected to be meeting a client at. I always pick a close friend, one who knows what I do and is at least somewhat free at the time (I wouldn’t pick a friend who may not be able to leave their post due to job or curfew issues). They need to know where you are expected to be at and between what time. If there is no specific end time, the next step is what follows.

3.        Check in periodically throughout the meeting. After an hour or so, send a brief text. Anything just so they know you’re there. Pro-tip: iPhone-to-iPhone users have the feature of sharing locations. I always tend to leave that on shared and have the other person just check that periodically and any time my location changes, I just update them by clicking “send my location” so they know I’ve moved.

4.        With that said, in case you don’t have iPhone, but you do have a smart phone with Google Maps, you can always send them your GPS location by text or look up the address of where you’re standing and send it in a text message whenever you change locations. No smart phone means you’ll have to look out for the address of where you’re standing or at least send them location land marks or best guesses.

5.        Best times to text/update is during breaks or you can ask for a moment to take an important call/message. If the job is strict with phone usage, take the opportunity to figure out by what time is the job done by asking. I’d forward this information to my trusted person.

6.        Any thoughts-feelings about anything, always text them to the person. If you’re probably not feeling the client, text them that. Not feeling well, let them know. If you’re feeling uncertain but still want to move forward with the client, let your trusted person know! They’ll know then to be extra cautious and probably check in more frequently. Also doesn’t hurt to text any details of the event or describe the people involved.

7.        Once you are done with the task, text it! Always follow up with texts on when you’re leaving and when you’re on the road back home. Finally, if needed be, follow up with a text or location update when you’re home so that you and your trusted person know you are safe and sound.

This all may sound very tedious and make you wonder what kind or line of work one does but this is generally my go-to list of things to do whenever I’m meeting anyone for the first time or at an unknown event/location. This is also really good for just meeting people from online sites – dating or not. Generally the rule is that you should always let a trusted person know where you are going to be so that if anything happens, they have a hint at where to look for you first.

As always, feel free to share any tips on staying safe when meeting a client (or really anybody) for the first time.

Advertisements

How to Stay Safe While Freelancing: Part One

Another great title for this first part of the post would be Red Flags: Should You Go Meet that Client or Not. If you read a previous post of mine on rules to freelancing work, you might have already been expecting this post to come up. It will consist of what I consider to be red flags and what I do in order to always be sure I will be okay. Best way to start this list is by listing potential red flags. Note: Red Flags can sometimes be subjective as it may also be depending on who you are and what you have to worry about in your line of work. For example, being female and a freelancing model can bring potential dangers I always have to keep in mind about. Some of these apply to all other freelancing jobs and gigs while some of them may not. The list goes without particular order:

  • No Contact Information: Generally if they don’t have contact information or won’t supply it on request, it is safer to say adios! They don’t have to give out their most intimate details from the get-go, but generally, depending what the job entails, I would at least ask for their phone, email, and website if they have one. If they want to run everything through email without a single Skype call or way to contact elsewhere, it’s just really sketchy of them. If you proceed to work with them, use the safest avenues to get your money. You do not want to hand over your own sensitive information.
  • Agree before we release any more details”: This is generally a bad sign. I’ve had “clients” who did not want to release information until I said yes to their request or until I signed something. Now, I always drop them at any hint of secrecy. Usually it is them trying to get me to do something sketchy and while I have been able to get out of it because I did not sign any details, they were still very upset I bounced even though it is not my fault they would not spill the beans at the start. If you still are unsure about what the job entails, the pay should not convince you to go into a gig blindly. Ask as many questions as you can! If they put up a hard wall, you don’t want that job anyway.
  • Required to go alone or meet at a private location: If you’re ever going to a gig site to work, especially for the first time, it is highly suggested to have somebody with you. I generally have somebody take me to the location as a chauffeur or have my “manager” come to meetings with me. My “manager” is always my most trusted partner who is familiar with the business as well so they really do have knowledge in what is going on – I always tell clients they are the person I always look to consult to when it comes to which projects to take on so it is in their best interest to include his input and interest in a shoot. If clients state that it’s okay to bring somebody, they’re most likely okay. The ones who REQUIRE you to go alone are the ones to avoid as they don’t seem to care about your comfort levels as they may just be doing something sketchy as well. Meeting at a private location can go well if a person is allowed to come with but if they’re requiring you to meet at a private location instead of a public one, especially if it’s the first time, that is also a red flag. Say no thanks and fly away.
    • Pro-tip: Usually, when I’m going to meet somebody for the first time, I mention the possibility of having someone come with me for whatever reason – manager needs to be there, I need a driver to the location, etc. I usually just mention it to see their response towards it and I’ve managed to scope out folks who were expecting me to go alone. If they seem bothered by the idea of you going with somebody, they just do not care about your comfort and I’d say good-bye to that client.
  • Getting checks before work starts: NEVER deposit any checks mailed to you before any work was done. There are so many scams out there that involve cashing or depositing checks that are fraudulent – seriously, google it. Always say no to any gig that states they will pay you a large amount of money in the form of a mailed check ahead of time for work and then some. Modeling gigs have these types of scams running around as well. What they generally say is that they will send you a check that will pay for your portion of pay as well as the payment for the studio and makeup artists at a location yet determined. They expect you to deposit the check in your bank and essentially use “their money” to pay yourself and the rest of the studio. Truth is, there is no shoot, no studio, no people to pay. They do send you a check if you provide them with an address but that check is no good. When you deposit the check, the check always seems to be ok to begin but then after it is meant to be cleared, it is found to be fake. You lose money, and the bank you’re with will most likely close your account and report the scam, thinking you’re a scam artist yourself. I’ve been told the best way to find out if it’s fake or not is to cash it at a check-to-cash location, but it’s generally not a good idea to be seen holding a fake check and trying to cash it to begin with.
  • Rude tone or uncomfortable correspondence: Always expect respect. If a potential client is going back and forth with you and their messages seem to lack a little respect for you, cease contact with them. Generally, I let them know what they’re doing wrong and why I won’t work with them, to give them a chance to realize their error, in case they didn’t realize they were making me feel less than comfortable talking to them.

 Now with or without these red flags waved, if something just doesn’t feel right, I just go with my intuition and drop them out of nowhere. When something doesn’t feel right and you can’t explain it, that’s your intuition saying “get out now.” Best red flag of them all is that uneasy feeling out of nowhere.

I intend to update this list when I come across some more, maybe in a new post to re-share my original red flags as well. As always, feel free to share some other red flags in the comments section that you may know of and experiences.

Rules to Follow with Freelancing

Craigslist and other popular freelancing sites are wonderful resources to find freelance work from but they are also ridden with less than great opportunities and free-loaders. Some of these listed are things I had to learn on my own while others are more from feedback of others. For myself, these are the rules I live by as I do freelance work. Some of these may be open to flexibility, depending on what kind of work you do, and some others may not even apply for your line of work. That is OK! Look through these and it is ultimately up to you to consider adding these as part of your golden rules to follow.

1.        This is probably my most valuable rule of them all: Have a set standard rate and NEVER accept less than. Know your work’s worth and stick to it, no matter how slow the opportunities are coming in. Accepting anything less opens up your space to what I call “bottom feeders” and these are those who try to take advantage of you – they are worse than scum. Keeping a set price will keep them at bay and will invite those who are more likely respectful of your requirements and boundaries. Why wouldn’t they? They’re paying a potentially higher rate and if you accept no less, they know not to fuck with you or your time. Don’t attract disloyal clients now. My only exception to this comes when there are perks or very valuable, verifiable opportunities; however, even then, I would not trust any promises so I would also try to get as close to my minimum as I can get paid. The truth is that many folks will come to you trying to get you to do more work for less pay and to those, you will want to refuse. Only if they insist or you’re inclined to say yes due to not having anything else to do, what I suggest at the very least is to offer only what you can offer at their rate. For example, if your normal rate is $200/hr for a fashion photo shoot and they can only give $150/hr, tell them you’ll do $150 for the hour in the condition that they provide their own make-up/clothes/etc or even just tell them $150 will give them a max of 30mins to work with you at that pay since your time is very valuable.

2.        Anything involving “deferred pay” or “passion projects” that do not pay upfront for your work, day of or earlier, are to be avoided. Some of these jobs will not pay as promised and you will be spending more time chasing after your money than actually working. It doesn’t matter how good the money looks, demand your pay sooner than later. Bills and other expenses do not wait.

3.        With #2, it is highly recommended to get some sort of deposit at the start of work. Usually with new clients for shoots, I require half upfront when I arrive and before I begin any work.  This is especially important for those who work remotely or all online. It is at your discretion how much you ask for at the beginning.

4.        Do not travel for an interview, please. There’s Skype, phone calls, facetime for that sort of stuff. Only time it is okay to travel is if they’re paying you or compensating you for your time.

5.        Big names or affiliation should mean nothing to you – at least give them that impression. Lines like “if it goes well, this will lead to more work” mean nothing. This is not even a promise so don’t fall for it. People who use that line are dishonest or at least very inexperienced. It is already an assumed fact that good work leads to more work so don’t go for it if they are expressing that line or using big names to attract your loyalty.

6.        Do not submit anything in order for them to consider you. Contests, try-outs, auditions (unless you’re looking for acting gigs). This is where your portfolio comes in and if you have that ready, it should speak for you already. If the client isn’t already sold by it and by their interactions with you, then you don’t want that job anyway. This is them trying to get more work from you for free.

7.        With #6 said, always watermark your projects. Watermark even the projects you have ready for clients and this will protect you from having them run with your work without properly paying you.

8.        It is highly suggested that you do not feed the trolls. It is very easy to get caught up with folks who are harassing you for whatever reason involving your work and the best thing to do when it comes to dealing with these type of correspondences is don’t bother. Anybody giving you a hard time or trying to negotiate NON-negotiable terms are not worth going back-and-forth with and this will keep you in the power. You don’t need to deal or invite more negativity so just let them know your terms in order for them to work with you and say “it’s this or nothing.” If they insist to fight it, just ignore/block. Best case scenario, they may come around accepting your terms.

9.        With freelance work, there’s no guarantee your career will start flying same day, month, or year that you begin. No matter how long it has been though, if you love the work you do, NEVER give up because of how slow it is. Do not give up because of anything other than just because you have found something better to do. Even then, I would keep at it but it is not good enough reason to give up just because there are not enough good work opportunities out there or because there are too many negative people trying to make your work/career difficult to shoot with. Always keep posting your ads and keep responding to those you seem interested in. There’s always a good chance that a great opportunity will come about just from having posted one ad.

10.     With all the above, I would like to leave you with one last suggested rule: never turn down a great opportunity just because you’re unfamiliar with it or because your work does not fall under the line. I have been offered gigs that are outside of modeling/writing, and because I knew I could do it, they have turned to great money-making and networking opportunities. One example of this: I’ve had one client reach out to me for Spanish speaking lessons and it’s been a great friendship, network option, and money-making opportunity all in one. However, it is important to always do assess the risks before meeting a client though, and if the pros outweigh the potential cons, try it out. I sure am glad I did.

With all the above said, I hope you are encouraged to post that ad, resume, or profile up for your work. Always stay safe while working and look out for my tips with staying safe as that will come in a future post. In the meantime, feel free to post more tips you may have or consider while freelancing or share this post with your friends to encourage discussion. We are all trying to make a living after all! Let’s help each other.

If you care at all about customer service representatives, please read.

It is probably safe to say that there are many articles out there about how to give good customer service, what not to do when it comes to customer service, and how to manage difficult situations while still giving excellent customer service. It is all geared/catered towards the ‘customer is always right’ mentality and while that is not a bad policy to have, it generally doesn’t take into consideration the question “well what if they’re not? what about the representatives that come across really difficult customers who are unaware where the mishap is coming from, no matter how many different ways you try to explain it to them?”

As someone who has been in the field of customer service for quite some time now, I have had some time to think about a list of things folks can do that would be much appreciated by reps in most industries. Always feel free to add more in the comments section.

  1. Refer us by our names when you can. — Most of us have name tags on or we will mention our names to you when we are helping you so when you speak to us you know we’re actual people, not nameless company property.
  2. Express appreciation when you receive any kind of service or assistance. – A simple thank you will suffice and while we don’t necessarily need it to keep providing service, we may deal with mainly frustrated, upset customers so hearing a genuine thank you or expression of gratitude really is refreshing every once and a while.
  3. This doesn’t apply for every customer service related position but if a customer service representative is inviting you to review them and their service online, most often than not it is a way to receive extra income, provided that their company provides that incentive. In one example, a company of mine was offering $10 each recommended review we received and while it doesn’t seem like much, those $10 per review can be a nice addition to what we make. Often times, customer service related jobs is underpaid compared to the amount of work and stress representatives are expected to take on.
  4. Try, and I mean really TRY, not to rage on us. A policy, an expired coupon, a request we cannot overlook or supervise ourselves is beyond our control and while anger is often an effective catalyst to get somewhere when there’s issues, as customer service reps, we are often just pawns for the knights, kings, and queens of the chess board. We are often the first face you see and voice you first hear when you come in, call in to request attendance so we usually take the blow before our higher ups for something outside our control and with little to no warning. Not to say that you shouldn’t vent to us, we understand frustration and would want to know what’s the best way of helping you when you’re distressed, but when folks are yelling, shouting or calling us obscenities and threatening our job status over a policy we have to enforce or over something we do not have power or knowledge to change ourselves… let’s just say that it doesn’t help you, ourselves, and others who are either in the company willing to help or others who are waiting to be attended to.
  5. Please do not panic or get frustrated when we’re asking questions. We are likely asking questions to make sure we fully understand the situation and to make sure we are directing you to the appropriate venue to get where you’re trying to get to. Sometimes the questions can take a while but just like your time is valuable, our time is of the essence since there is many other also waiting to be helped.
  6. Also, try not to panic when you’re placed on hold or are left waiting for long periods. As customer service representatives, we can only do so much at times to expedite your process and sometimes while the appropriate situation or task is still pending, we still have to and are expected to attend to others. This is especially the case in receptionist offices where often times we are expected to help as many guests/customers coming in while being efficient as our position and resources allow us to be. I cannot count how many times folks have yelled over the phone or expressed excessive amounts of angry, hateful comments over being put on hold or made to wait too long when we were short staffed compared to the high number of calls and I had previously mentioned this to them ahead of time. Venting and expressing your dissatisfaction is understandable but yelling is a bit excessive considering how often multiple folks yell at the reps.
  7. Don’t be THAT person. The petty one. — While one rep may not have helped you well enough but the second one did, do not take it out on them by saying comments such as “well you weren’t very helpful” or “see, clearly you don’t know anything.” Anything along those lines would be better said to a supervisor so feel free to voice your concern or negative experience to a supervisor or management so that efforts are made to improve the service. There’s no need to get catty.
  8. DO tell us if we’re misunderstanding you! — Personally, I have no problem when someone tells me I’m not doing something right or understanding their point. Do not call us demeaning names or attack us verbally some way just because we are not understanding your situation right away or having issues communicating. Sometimes with that, we can ask a fellow coworker to come in and try clarifying things as a mediator.

Customers/guests who get rather rowdy should take into consideration how much harm that does for their case than good. It’s okay to be mad; we get the urgency of your situation then and there but when someone is yelling at a person, they should consider how hard it is for the representative to open up their ears to you when you’re yelling, literally and figuratively. I personally disassociate when being yelled at mainly because of an auto-defense mechanism so half of the stuff said, I probably won’t remember you said (it’s something I definitely have to figure out how to stop doing but it’s been that way due to previous traumatic experiences).

These are just some things I can think of that would be much appreciated from customers/guests while their seeking customer service. I saw an article somewhere that had generally the same idea with the title “How to get even better customer service” which made me laugh but generally, it’s sweet to think about. It’s all a cycle and while I like to think I enjoy dealing with challenging customers and that it helps me become a better CS provider, there’s only so much a rep can take before it gets draining and burnout becomes a possibility.

All in all, I wouldn’t leave the field for good just because of a couple bad-tasting experiences.

Stay mindful.