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Legal Protection Tips for Freelancers

— December 16, 2021

When you vet a client, you should explain the services you can offer and how you deliver them.

Freelancers commit significant time, energy, and resources to find work and keep their clients happy. They are also responsible for billing clients, managing projects, paying their employment and business taxes, and performing many other work-related tasks. As such, freelance workers can easily lose sight of the legal side of their daily work, although doing so can cause serious problems. 

Ultimately, freelance workers are not always subject to the same legal protections that other employees have through their businesses. Thus, if a freelance worker encounters a legal issue, he or she can face costly and time-intensive litigation. Additionally, this worker can experience brand reputation damage that makes it tough for him or her to land freelance jobs.

If you are a freelance worker or plan to launch a freelance business, plan accordingly. As part of your efforts, use the following tips to safeguard yourself and your business against legal issues. 

1. Use Credible Websites to Search for Work

FlexJobs, Indeed, and other job search websites provide convenient access to freelance opportunities. But, if you are not careful, you risk using a site that inadvertently exposes you to legal problems. 

Learn as much as you can about a website for freelance workers before you start using it. Find out if the site requires freelancers to establish contracts with employers. Furthermore, explore how the site ensures its freelancers get paid.

Review a freelance job website’s terms and conditions. If necessary, reach out for additional support from the site to learn about the legal protections it provides. From here, you can decide if the site is a credible source for freelance work.    

2. Choose the Right Clients

A sticker-covered laptop computer and a mug of coffee sit on a coffeehouse table.
Photo by Alan Levine, via Flickr. CC BY 2.0

You want clients who provide freelance work that matches your expectations. Yet, some freelance work clients can be better than others. And in the worst-case scenario, you may partner with clients who compromise your freelance business. 

Research a client before you start a project. To do so, implement a vetting process so you can get plenty of insights into a client and how it operates. 

When you vet a client, you should explain the services you can offer and how you deliver them. You should also learn about a client’s pay rate and how it compensates freelancers. Find out how long it will take a client to pay you, too. 

If you want to move forward with a client, ensure a contract is in place that defines all terms and conditions surrounding your work. Your contract should be easy to understand and verify that you and your client know what to expect from one another. In this instance, you and your contract can sign the contract and use it to lay the groundwork for a successful work relationship. 

3. Secure Your Data

No business is immune to cyberattacks. Freelance workers must secure their digital assets. Failure to do so can lead to a data breach, along with associated brand reputation damage and revenue losses for both a freelancer and its clients. 

Securing your data, clients’ and otherwise, is one of the main steps to starting a freelance business. You can use encryption software on your equipment to secure all data and projects. The software can be utilized across client documents, emails, and other digital files. And it hides these files from cybercriminals. 

Also, keep an eye out for unsecured networks at airports, coffee shops, and other public venues. You may find a network provides seamless access to Wi-Fi, so you can use it to complete work on your laptop computer or mobile device. Conversely, if the network is not secured properly, it can expose you to cyberattacks. 

To guard against unsecured networks, deactivate the auto-connect feature on your laptop and mobile devices. That way, your device cannot automatically connect to a potentially unsecured network. You should err on the side of caution before you connect your device to a Wi-Fi network, too. If you do not know anything about the Wi-Fi network and it may be coming from an unfamiliar source, do not connect to it. 

4. Stay Up to Date on State and Federal Business Laws  

Freelancers are typically treated as stand-alone businesses under state and federal laws. However, some exceptions apply. 

For example, California Assembly Bill 5 became law in 2019. Under this law, Golden State businesses were required to reclassify freelancers as full-time workers. As a result, these freelancers became eligible for workers’ compensation, unemployment, and minimum wage protection beginning in 2020. 

Learn about laws that apply to you and your freelance business and comply with them at all times. This ensures you are working as a freelancer per state and federal business laws. It also allows you to capitalize on all state and federal legal protections at your disposal.

Finally, be diligent as you explore legal protections for you and your freelance business. If you stay ahead of potential legal issues, you can protect yourself and your business against such problems. The result: you can put yourself in a terrific position to run a successful freelance business, without the risk of legal issues. 

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