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The Content Writer's Top Ten #1 Rules of Online Commerce
1a. Any client that insists you send a personal photo or enter a social network relationship is out of line.
Ever wonder why it's so easy to manufacture driver's licenses and fake passports in foreign countries? All someone has to do is copy and print your avatar photo or Facebook image and voila they can print up an entire set of fake documents with your data. If you have been billing them or someone has conned you out of address data (or gotten it from WHOIS data from looking up your websites) they can have someone outfitted with a profile of yours and documents in minutes.
Does a web client really need your Facebook info links and to know where you went to high school? Background checks for this stuff are very cheap nowadays. Those reference names and lists you use to manufacture resume data and credit references? Social networks are a goldmine for this stuff. If they mine enough data in a few weeks you might have a credit line at a European bank you never heard of. Try proving legally you don't know anything about it.
1b. Work on every website by name must be noted on any billing if possible.
This stands for even a one-paragraph article has been delivered to a designation and a country of use. You might accept a gig writing one sheet articles for a Russian sports team. Do you know how to Copyscape a Russian site or in all sites for all countries that speak Russian? Make sure such a company faxes you a signed copy of the work agreement into an email account. This can be used to provide documentation for a Paypal challenge or claim response.
If a webmaster hired you to write for Russianbearathletics.com and later claims your "original" work surfaced on another website, the Latvian site www.Latvianwrestlers.com, how can your prove they didn't put it up there to invalidate the deal? If they institute payment chargebacks the time alone and the headache will absorb all productivity of yours for weeks. For a fax, the originating fax number should match the WHOIS data for that site domain.
1c. Payment periods and payment methods for work performed must be stipulated in negotiation emails and agreed upon before delivering work.
Use a spreadsheet to calculate start dates on every piece of content work you have. Keep encapsulated versions or dates of delivery for deal memos and emails. Use formulas to assess aging and non paid article and content writing work. Note the dates you received final confirmation on rate, payment terms, and scope of work to be done. Not until the date all of these items are confirmed can you start the clock on your turnaround.
A client who mopes through the commitment process on a project then assumes it will done overnight after they finally agree in writing to the rate for the job is no good. A client that does not track reasonable time for completion or pressures you for work well before its due date is fishy or pushy or smelly or all three.
1d. Deal with Principals Only
Emails from third party sites, contractors, and project managers must not be treated as work until you get a signed letter from the principal with their website or domain name, telephone number, email address and text legally confirming their payment arrangement for work submitted to the third party. Without this documentation you are simply volunteering content work while the hiring customer maintains deniability.
Verify through a boilerplate contract with your contact that they have right of approval, the work is not for secondhand approval form a person or bureau not part of the scope of work description or project details communication loop.
The second tier online management gig really deteriorates when these reporting relationships only become disclosed after you have accepted the job. Can you find evidence that second or third party operators have any history with someone you can email? Are they total zeros in a Google search?
Watch for geological hopscotch. If party A from Sweden hires you for massage techniques content articles, but you only see a site they have about antiques, and they have no WHOIS record of any such massage site, and they still require a third party from France for a mystery name site development, take a pause. There would be little you could do if crossed on this deal. And since when do either of these originating countries have no native residents who can do the ent contwork?
1e. Never Take On Large Jobs Without Financial Commitment
Knowledgeable domainers and online writing clients know no writer can afford to do freelance ebooks or dozens of articles or days of research without compensation. Unlikely clients will ask for "groups" of work to be met before answering payment demands. Split up work into managable sections. Without a long term relationship and solid payment history with a client, do not assume they will be around when you get around to inquiring about overdue invoices. Develop a piecemeal approach to billing, (for example, an invoice for every three documents delivered, or half up front.) By revealing your enthusiasm for a project, unscrupulous clients may feel your 'contribution" is acceptable for free or as can be reworked through deferred advertising percentages.
1f. Charge for Consulting
Writing content for online clients does NOT obligate you for endless consulting about everything and anything a client or contact demands to know about. Peremptory emails demanding explanations or discussions about online concepts, advertising or website development services, and marketing products, especially when the information is online, is a demand for free consulting. Put this stipulation into your service agreement.
Meet this email "request" with a restatement of work scope terms, or indicate your charges for hourly or concept based consulting. If they want an answer, charge them for it. They are free to look elsewhere for bullpuckey sessions or online chat partners.
If a confidentialty agreement is required, the client should say so before commiting the content writer to the project. Such agreements are sometimes warranted, but not for the purpose of obliging a content writer to clamp their lips no matter what happens.
Clients asking for Yahoo messenger. AIM or Facebook ID's are simply trying to trick you into babysitting/entertaining them all day. Your time is valuable and if you are not being compensated you have other paying content work. It's that simple. Clients trying to deliberately snow you with a dozen emails or obfuscate work performed or by mixing website business between domains and through volumes of emails will break you. Stop the cycle before it starts, or you will be contributing twenty hours a week to a client who barely feels like paying you content fees for even one.
1g. Never Trade Services or Account Passwords
While you will need FTP or Hosting account password for certain functions, make sure your agreement includes limited liability for passwords exchange. If a domainer has ten people playing around with their hosting accounts and no user log access, the content professional has little way to prove a directory didn't get unprotected on their login or a blog database didn't get copied and offered for sale on their watch. Urge the client to change the hosting password on their timeline and then change it again after the work is concluded. Any sniffing will then be pointless.
1h. Keep Apples and Oranges separated by Church/State service lines.
If clients want you to upload your content text contarticles or design work, instill a online editing fee with service increments per quarter hour. This service must be agreed upon up front. Content writers are not obligated to undertake the burden of unknown hosting accounts, HTML troubleshooting, billing for same, advertising code responsibilities, or hosting administration and application installation. These are separate skills with separate rates and issues.
If you bundle content delivery services, make allowances for partial performance of work to collect in a predefined period. A scope of work document will spell out what needs to be done within the bundle. If the content writer has 15 deliverables projected for the gig and ten have been accomplished, then a piece rate or hourly segment of time will determine billing. The rest of the bundle performance and competion should wait until the billing has been honored.
1i. No Free Samples
The "Free Sample" concept is like the definition of pornography, you may not know what it is but you know it when you see it. Ask for keywords or article types (reviews, opinions, blogs, image files) and submit example from your portfolio of content and textwork.
Clients unable to determine from your 300 writing samples, ten sites of articles, four blog sites and independent writing projects whether you can get the job done may often need a "free sample". If this free sample is an assignment, and no rules governing its use or non use online are agreed upon for compensation, and no stipulation for rights if unpaid are negotiated, you have just performed content work for free.
1j. Get an Internet Attorney
By finding an online content consiglieri or business rabbi, you can feel comfortable that everything possible will be done to conserve your legal rights doing business online and trading content services via e-commerce.
Getting with an online attorney well-versed in Internet commerce, you can check with this contact well before online issues and relationships reach critical mass. Many online domainers of very good reputation will not foment illegal deals or act inappropriately because they have too much ethically to lose. But content writers can't guess which are which.
An internet attorney will know which countries have which escape clauses and lapses in ethical business laws. Such "Swiss cheese" laws do exist in some countries that offer windows of terms to get clients out of paying or cost too much to bring charges or enforce copyright violation. Try finding an attoney to partner with for referral marketing or web composition services. You can probably find them work very easily from your domain contact community.
Last edited by myst woman; 07-12-2009 at 10:38 PM.