IN ACCORDANCE with the Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) Employment Insurance System, the number of unemployed cases in Malaysia peaked at 67,068 on July 31. With the second wave of conditional movement control order coming into play following the spike in Covid-19 cases, many are beginning to feel anxious about the possibility of being laid off.

As the nation witnessed a switch in the working trend amidst the pandemic, freelancing has emerged as one of the preferred modes of income. In accordance to the World Bank data in October 2020, 25.15% of Malaysia’s workforce are self-employed, with a portion attributable to freelancers. Freelancing appeals to those who want to explore different industries or acquire new skills and knowledge. This gives people the chance to pursue their passions and be entrepreneurs without abiding by the stringent 9-to-5 working hours.

Self-employment is a double-edged sword. While freelancing in Malaysia has been incredibly empowering as of late, every wrong step has a price to pay. This is because scammers are constantly looking to take advantage of eager gig workers. Although having the freedom to make decisions and to determine your working environment may sound tempting, it is crucial not to neglect the risk(s) i.e. miscommunication associated with it.

Receiving constant and prompt payments is one of the few struggles freelancers face. As some freelancers do not get to meet their clients or employers face-to-face, this creates the opportunity to be “ghosted” by their clients – making it difficult for freelancers to track them down for overdue payment.

Gigworks CEO and founder Glenn Tay shared that freelancers are often misled to work for free, hence are easily deceived by attractive rewards.

“Sketchy job listings are commonly sighted, and unfortunately, without warning labels. Though self-employment is extremely alluring for the money, it is important to be vigilant of the ‘red flags’ associated with the job,” said Glenn.

These are some ways to identify credible freelancing job listings to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of fraud:

Sign a contract

Contracts are legally binding agreements that allow both the business and worker to deliver and clarify their roles in the deal, preventing miscommunications and disputes from arising.

Regardless of who you are doing the work for, always sign an agreement that establishes the work, fees, and the time and mode of payment.

Avoid fake job postings

Be aware of fake job postings even on official websites. Take your time to scroll through their profile and only accept jobs from employers with a verified rating, as this determines that the client is genuine. Additionally, you may search for reviews online to determine if your client is able to meet their contractual obligations.

Suspicious payment methods

Freelancers often offer various modes of payments to attract more clients. Such payment methods include direct deposits, cheques and credit card payments. Scams may occur via unusual payment systems such as vouchers, gift cards and other forms of goods and services instead of cash. The best way is to limit yourself to the payment methods you are familiar with.

Avoid contacting clients outside official channels

Freelance sites are often equipped with integrated communication systems that allow both parties to communicate without divulging personal information. This provides privacy protection for workers, preventing fraud and allowing paper trail. If deals are being made outside these platforms, it is advisable to create a business email address to record every agreement being made, as this enhances the credibility for your job opportunities.

Do not pay to work

In uncertain times like the pandemic, freelancers are worried about their job stability. They become blinded to the contentious criteria, i.e. payment to the employer, just to secure a job. Legitimate freelance job listings do not oblige you to pay for an interview. Do not fall for false promises made by companies such as securing plentiful tasks after paying an entry fee. More often than not, these clients do not have the integrity to keep their promises.

Now that you have some insights on what to look out for when searching for freelance jobs, get started to establish your portfolio. Take the opportunity to build a career that will provide a living during this pandemic. Remember to follow these steps to avoid being a victim.

This article was contributed by Gigworks.