Freelance writers have a lot to protect. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting hours of work into writing your next piece and then coming back to your computer to find that your file has vanished. Of course, this can happen from power surges, and the main solution is to click “save” on your document every few minutes. But sadly, this can also happen from malware and hackers that have access to your device.
Besides those security risks, there’s also the issue of others stealing your work. For example, sometimes freelancers are targeted by those who are looking for free articles to post on their websites or sell off for profit. A potential employer may approach you online and ask for samples of your work or even hire you and then take off with whatever you send to them, all without paying you a dime.
The unfortunate reality is that freelancing and using the internet does come with some risks. Scams are fairly common on popular freelance websites, and using the net in general can sometimes pose a threat to your personal information and overall privacy. However, that doesn’t mean that you should avoid working online.
To avoid becoming a victim of scams, malware and hackers, there are few preventative measures you can take that will ultimately protect your work, as well as your other files and information.
Install Security Software
None of your devices that connect to the internet should be without the proper security software, as not only will software help to protect your files, but it can also prolong the lifespan of your gadgets. Anti-virus programs are no longer only for your computer; they can now be installed on smartphones and tablets, and they’re the most basic form of protection against malware. Luckily, they can also be found for free, so you’re no longer required to pay a subscription fee to protect your device from viruses.
My personal favorites are Panda Free Antivirus (for your computer) and Avast Free Mobile Security (for your mobile devices), as both offer their own benefits. Panda’s software is very simple to understand and automatically updates for you, so you don’t have to stay on top of it to keep it up to date. Avast Free Mobile Security is recommended because it not only offers the usual anti-virus features, such as virus scanning and filtering, but also has unique anti-theft features that can come in handy.
Another program you should be using is a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which allows you to connect to a remote server. When connected, your internet connection becomes encrypted and your IP address masked, making you appear as though you are located elsewhere (unless you connect to a server that is in your hometown) and deterring hackers from using your internet connection as an access point into your device.
VPNs have the added benefit of securing your connection from anywhere in the world, meaning there’s no need to avoid public WiFi while traveling or working from your favorite café. You can also use it to unblock websites that are sometimes restricted based on your geographical location. The down side to VPNs is that you typically have to pay a monthly fee in order to use them.
No worries though—they range between $5 and $15 per month, which is a small price to pay for protection. Out of all of the VPN services available, my favorite is ExpressVPN, as they offer unlimited speed and bandwidth, 24-hour customer service, and a 30-day, money-back guarantee. They don’t keep logs of your online activities either, which is particularly important when you’re concerned about your privacy.
Change Your Passwords
Password protection can help a lot when it comes to protecting your work. Your online accounts require a password, but did you know that you should also be keeping your device password protected as well? For an added layer of protection, you can even create encrypted and password protected folders to store your documents in on your computer.
When it comes to passwords, you’ll be better off if you change them somewhat regularly and also check through them to ensure that they’re considered strong. Strong passwords will have a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols (whenever possible). They’ll also be at least eight characters long.
Avoid using any sort of personal information in your passwords too or anything that could be linked back to you (such as usernames, titles of your work, etc.). Of course, you should always keep your passwords to yourself as well. Even if an employer or potential employer claims they’ll need one of your passwords, it’s best to avoid giving it to them (they shouldn’t need this information in the first place); ask if they’ll consider setting up a shared account instead that can be used exclusively for business purposes.
Though remembering strong passwords can be somewhat tricky at times, never write your passwords down, as that alone can pose quite the security risk. Consider using phrases as your passwords for easier memorization (just don’t forget to combine them with numbers!).
Learn How To Spot Scams
Scams are increasingly common on freelance websites, such as Upwork, but if you know what to look out for when searching for your next writing gig, you shouldn’t have much of an issue. One of the main things you need to be on the lookout for are job listings that are extremely vague in description and include an email address for you to respond to even though it’s listed on a freelance website that has its own messaging system.
It’s not too uncommon for potential employers to give you their email address after you’ve already applied for the job, but if it’s in the job listing, it could be a scam. Check to see if the person who listed the job has any reviews and unpaid invoices or if they’re previously hired and paid other freelancers. Sites such as Upwork will display all of this information.
Unfortunately it can be a bit harder to tell if you’re finding your jobs elsewhere. When you’re freelancing, applying for new writing gigs can be kind of a hit or miss situation, as scammers frequently target those of whom they don’t need to interact with face to face. Most importantly, never send out money in order to get started on a new job or give a little too much personal information.
For more information about how you can spot some of the scams that are commonly targeted at freelancer writers, check out this article.
The internet can be a dangerous place, and even if you take the proper precautions, there’s still a slight chance that your data could become compromised. However, by using security software, creating strong passwords and reading up on what you should look out for online, you’re work will be much safer overall. It would be wise to keep backups of your work as well, which you can do by just by transferring your files to a thumb drive (or Dropbox).
Most importantly, approach prospective employers with a bit of caution. Since it’s likely that you’ll be working remotely and meeting potential employers online, it’s much more difficult to get a feel for whether or not they could actually have malicious intentions. It’s also nearly impossible to track them down if they do decide to scam you and take off with your articles without compensating you for your time.
About the Author: Cassie Phillips is a blogger and freelance writer who has decided to put her knowledge to use in order to help others protect themselves online. If you could use some extra tips, she recommends that you visit www.SecureThoughts.com to learn more about how you can maintain your privacy while working remotely.