With the global online marketplace changing the way companies do business, a whole new world of employer-employee relationship is opening up. Freelancers, people who were once relegated to individuals who didn’t work directly for your company but who still maintained a physical presence when doing a specific job, are now moving into the sphere of having a virtual presence.

Whether the freelancer is someone from the same state or region as you are or is a qualified individual currently living in another country, there are some guidelines that can help you make the most of this great opportunity.

The ideal freelancer is someone who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in his field and has your company’s best interests at heart, even though he isn’t an employee of your business. For many companies’ freelance needs, location doesn’t matter, but it does raise some questions when it comes to not only ensuring that your job gets done right and without any hassles over payment, but also that your name, data, intellectual property, and company reputation are fully protected.

Like many other aspects of online interactions, relying on trusted, vetted platforms to connect you to a freelancer is a really good idea. There are companies that have good reputations for following through if situations arise. Some sites will have a built-in escrow arrangement that lets you fund the job you’re hiring for without having to release payment until you’re satisfied that it’s been completed. Most important of all, these companies gather feedback on their freelancers, which lets you see how other people felt about the quality and experience of working with the individuals.

But not all working relationships are going to be perfect, so it’s important to remember some safety guidelines for working with an online freelancer. First, don’t gloss over those reviews. Read them and take note of the information they contain, and watch for warning bells about slow turnaround time, shady business dealings, or worse. Remember not to hand over too much personal information, either, no matter how friendly or normal this person comes across in all of your email transactions.

One of the most important red flags comes down to money. Any freelancer who agrees to accept payment “under the table” or by skirting the platform’s fee structure should be a clear signal to you to run away. Reputable freelancers make their income—whether it’s just a little side money or even their full-time annual income—by having a good relationship with the platform and by maintaining a work standard that results in high feedback scores. Having their accounts suspended for shady business dealings would result in a dramatic loss of income, and the kinds of people you want to work with will never let that happen just so they can avoid paying a tiny percentage of their fee to the platform.

Depending on the kind of work this freelancer will be doing, there might be a need to provide access to sensitive documents or account access for things like your website or social media. Be sure you have done your due diligence about this person before you open up your company to a stranger you met on the internet, since all you have to go on will be feedback from his past freelance work and your interactions with him leading up to assigning him the job.

Of course, not all of the negative experiences from working with freelancers will come down to frightening scenarios about suspicious people. Remember that offering clear project guidelines, maintaining constant communication, and exercising transparency about how this individual will be compensated will go a long way towards making this a positive business decision. Just bear in mind that the same behaviors you would guard against in dealing with your personal safety on the internet are even more important when your business and its reputation are at stake.

If you found this information helpful, you may want to consider taking part in the Identity Theft Resource Center's Anyone3 fundraising campaign.  For more information or to donate please visit http://www.idtheftcenter.org/anyone-3


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