How to Run Background Checks on Clients
When you work freelance, reputation is everything, and I don’t mean just yours. It’s important that you also take into consideration, the reputation of the clients you take on.
It’s entirely possible to find what may seem like a dream client: a start-up blog network specializing in your niche, a design firm claiming ties to internationally known brands or many other situations that seem ideal. Problem is, hidden behind the hyperbole of their job ads, can lie a shady reputation. Unreliability when it comes to payments, unpleasantness to work with, or just negative associations with their company.
A wise move is to do some background checks on your clients, the way an employer might on potential employees.
Run a Google Search
We all know how easy it is to research a subject with Google, so why not a client. Search their company name, the name of your contact, or even do a search to find links back to your client’s website by appending the word ‘link:’ before their URL (e.g. type ‘link:freelanceswitch.com’ into Google).
Search the Blogosphere
If the potential client is a large company that frequently employs freelancers, there’s a reasonable chance that some of those freelancers have blogged about their experience. Do a search on the client’s name using Google Blog Search and Technorati to find out what they’ve said. If the client is a particularly huge nightmare, some may have even broken non-disclosure agreements to make their warnings heard.
Try Other Tracking and Search Tools
LifeHacker published a great article recently titled How to Track Down Anyone Online. Along with the creepy undertone are some great applications and sites that can help you go where Google doesn’t including Pipl a service to search the “Deep Web” and Wink a service that searches social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and so on.
Beware of Revenue-Share
Revenue-share is popular model for web start-ups since it poses almost no risk to the site owner. If their website doesn’t make any money, well, they don’t have pay out much to the freelancers they commissioned to put it together. And there’s the problem. A 25 per cent share of nothing is still nothing.
That said, revenue share can potentially be lucrative, especially if it’s on-going (as in, you’re still getting a share for your content years later.) So, be sure to check out the site in question thoroughly. If all their advertising consists of AdSense blocks, run fast and run far.
Ask to see traffic graphs and RSS subscriber numbers. If the client is serious, they shouldn’t have an issue supplying these.
Yet Another Reason to Network
Here at FreelanceSwitch, we frequently discuss networking and this is another reason to start getting to know your fellow freelancers.
If you’re weary of a large client, inquire with other freelancers in your field. Somewhere in that network, someone’s probably dealt with them and knows if they’re on the level or not.
Trust your gut
Finally, trust your own instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, there’s a good chance it probably isn’t. Don’t be afraid to walk away, even if you really need the work. Some jobs are simply going to be more trouble than they are worth.