It begins with… you!

Fighting scams and non-paying clients

When it comes to fighting scams, you possess the best weapon in the world against it. It's called: a brain. Here is how to use it…

There is hardly a week passing by without reports about scams in the voice over world. This leads to insecurity with some talents, while others become overly suspicious and begin questioning legit jobs. It's time to outline best practices to avoid the scammers without excluding valid opportunities.

bodalgo has integrated a lot of features to prevent scams. For example, every job posting is manually approved before you see it. But when it comes to direct messages sent to you via your profile page, there is little we can do upfront. The good news is, though: If you follow a few simple rules, scammers will never be an issue for you – promised!

Rule #1: Never send money

Scammers are not interested in your work. They are solely interested in your money and want to trick you into sending it to them. But remember: As a talent, it is always you that gets the money, not vice versa, so you don't send money. Under no circumstances. Never. Ever. Really. I mean it.

One common tactic of scammers is to send a check that has been issued too high, so they are asking you to send the balance back to them. Needless to say that there would be a big surprise waiting for you weeks later when the check fails to clear. Again: Never send money. Period. It is always a scam. There is no exception to this rule.

Rule #2: Do your due diligence

This rule not only helps with identifying scammers but also clients that might have no interest in paying you once the job is done.

You must always make sure that you have full contact details, including postal address and phone. You should get a little suspicious if you are about to start recording and still have no clue for exactly who you are recording. Remember: Most companies feature full contact information in their E-Mail footer.

The less information you find about a client, the more your eyebrows should raise …

The less information you find about a client, the more your eyebrows should raise …

Your eyebrows are allowed "to go Spock", too, if you have a company name but can not find any information about the company online. It's not necessarily a scam, but you should ask for more details.

Always stay away from clients insisting on using Western Union. Western Union is the bank of choice for scammers because it makes it easy for them to hide in anonymity. Frankly: In my book, Western Union itself should always be avoided at all costs as they are making millions in commissions helping crooks all over the world.

The use of public E-Mail providers should not make you think less of the legitimacy of a client. There are a lot of freelancers out there, and not all of them have a dedicated E-Mail server.

Rule #3: Your payment terms

Be crystal clear about your payment terms before doing the job and make sure that your client understands and agrees to them. Not clarifying payment terms upfront and then asking for immediate payment in the invoice will lead to unnecessary discussions, frustrations, and bad customer experience.

How to avoid not being paid

Not getting paid is almost as painful as being scammed. So we want to avoid those "clients", too. Again, follow these simple steps, but beware! All of the practices below should only be applied to first-time clients of whose legitimacy you are not 100 percent convinced. Never use these strategies when the customer's identity is not in question. The risk of not getting paid drops significantly with the client's level of public awareness.

There is nothing wrong with asking for a partial upfront payment when dealing with a first time client. A reasonable amount would be between 25 and 50 percent. Avoid asking for a full upfront payment. Why? Don't forget: As much as the client might be new to you, so are you to the client.

Watermark your work. "Watermarking" means that you add sounds to the audio before sending it for approval. These sounds need to be audible enough to render the audio commercially unusable. At the same time, the client still needs to be able to judge your read.

Again, to be sure: You only apply the last two "rules" as a last resort with first-time clients you have never heard of, and you are already suspicious of.

Haven't been paid? There is still hope…

Be patient. Too many times, talents have approached bodalgo claiming they have not been paid when in reality, they have just sent the invoice a week or two ago. Patience is a virtue, especially if you have failed to discuss payment terms (see above).

If your invoice is overdue, don't just write one E-Mail after the other. Pick up that phone and give them call – nothing wrong with that if one or two emails did not do the trick. Be friendly. Be firm.

In very, very rare cases, nothing of the above will help, but wait: In case your client commissioned your work on behalf of another client, there is still hope! Approach your client's client and tell them in a friendly but firm way that their agency/production company/service provider did not pay and that they must not use the recording before your invoice has been dealt with.

So there you have it: Being scammed is totally avoidable, and it does not take much to protect yourself. The same goes for identifying clients that are potential troublemakers. Feel free to contact me if you come across (potential) scammers. I am constantly updating bodalgo's built-in scam protection system.

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tl;dr - Summary

Being scammed can always be avoided by following one simple rule: Never send money. And definitely not via Western Union. To secure payment from clients, always make sure you have communicated your payment terms and you have their valid and complete contact data. If your client does not pay, escalate it - if applicable - to their clients.

voice over jobs  scams  best practices