• Advice

How to keep your personal information secure as a freelancer

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Establishing a career in freelance writing can be a very rewarding endeavor, but it doesn’t come without its own set of risks. Freelance writers typically find their work online, and you’re probably already well aware that the internet itself is filled with scams–just as it's filled with useful information.

Although not every freelance writer uses the big, popular freelance job sites to find the bulk of their work, it’s important to be aware of the extra risk of being scammed when using these sites; these tend to be major targets for scammers looking to take advantage of people who are merely looking for employment.

Keeping your computer or laptop as secure as possible and being savvy and vigilant with regard to online scams is vital to ensure that you don’t encounter problems in your freelance career before you’ve even had a chance to get it off the ground. The good news is that if you know where to start, keeping your information secure as an online freelancer isn’t too difficult. Here are some top tips to help you out.

Use a reputable security software program

If you’re going to be using your computer or laptop for work every day, then it makes sense to invest in a reputable security software. This is especially important as a freelance writer, since you could often find yourself sharing financial information with others online to get paid for your hard work.

Many people already have an anti-virus program set up on their computer, but there’s another security program that freelancers should never go without, and that's a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. A VPN allows you to keep your information safe by keeping your location hidden and encrypting your internet connection. Also, a VPN can help you keep your information more secure if you tend to use public internet on the go; for example, if you connect to the public Wi-Fi in your local coffee shop to get some work done over a cappuccino.

Staying connected to one when using the internet is likely to deter hackers since your actual location cannot be determined through your IP address as a VPN actively masks it.

Get savvy about scams

Learning how to spot a scam can help you stay one step ahead of those up to no good. Even if you have a reliable anti-virus tool and use a VPN, it’s important to be aware that there are no guarantees that your information is a 100% secure.

This is why it’s a good idea to get clued up on scams that tend to be targeted at remote workers. For example, avoid taking any jobs that require you to pay up front for anything; no freelancer should ever have to pay simply to get work unless you’re using a reputable subscription job site. It’s also a wise idea to avoid giving any potential clients, and employers your financial information. When possible, take payments through PayPal and other secure payment wallets.

Another tactic that some scammers use won’t lose you any money, but you’ll certainly be robbed of your time and effort. It’s not uncommon for potential clients and employers to ask you to write a sample for them, but any reasonable employer will always pay you for this even if they choose not to give you further work.

Avoid working with anybody who asks you to write more than one free sample as it’s likely that they’re trying to scam you out of free work to post on their site or sell on to others.

Keep sharing to a minimum

Unless you’ve been working with the same client for a long time and have developed a trusted relationship, it’s essential to share as little personal information as possible when working remotely. If you’re asked to give out personal details, ask yourself if the client or employer has a legitimate reason–if not, keep all the information to yourself.

It’s perfectly doable to work as a freelance writer without even giving out your name, thanks to secure payment wallets such as PayPal and anonymous profiles on freelance sites. It’s unlikely that a client will have any real need for information such as your address or social security number.

Overall, it’s vital to go with your gut feeling and be prepared to back out of jobs if something doesn’t feel right.

Harold Kilpatrick is a cybersecurity consultant and a freelance blogger. He's currently working on a cybersecurity campaign to raise awareness around the threats that businesses can face online.