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Ask HN: Freelancers - how do you find clients you trust?
8 points by woodtrail 1581 days ago | hide | past | web | 5 comments | favorite
I'm new to working as a freelancer, and I've been applying for jobs on oDesk and Elance. I've managed to find what looks like a decent job, but I'm not sure whether I can trust the client.

I don't know much about him, and googling his name turns up nothing. He has a LinkedIn profile, but not much information on it. Also, the work is for an e-commerce type site that has little traffic.

This client has offered to pay me well to do some design work. He also said he's going to send me the access info to his server. I'm wondering if this sounds a little odd, and what my liabilities/risks are. How should I handle this, as a freelancer? I'm not sure whether I can trust my client, and I'm also not sure if I feel comfortable just logging onto his server with respect to liabilities.




You have managed to find one client and your worry is finding clients you can trust?

Get clients first, then start worrying about getting screwed over when you actually start getting screwed over. At this stage, getting screwed over isn't so much a problem when you are new and looking long term.

However, it's never fun to work for free. On Elance and Odesk you can do the hourly option where your invoice is auto pulled from the buyers CC every week. You could do a 30 / 30 / 40 scheme where you get 30% down payment before you get started. You could get a down payment and then send an invoice weekly. With these schemes, even if you get screwed, it won't be for much.

Personally, in six years of doing freelance web development I have never been screwed over. A larger worry is generally the payment / headache ratio. Some clients are so great to work with that you feel like it's the easiest money you could possibly come across. Other clients are such a pain that you feel like you have to claw and grind for every billable. In some cases, it's better to get screwed over by a bad client and halt the project rather than grind it out for weeks / months and be burnt out by the time it's over.

While you will likely not have to deal with getting screwed over often, slow payments will be a much bigger problem and can hurt you as much as non payment. The same payment schemes apply. If a payment doesn't come through, then pause the project.

As for server access, this is very typical. Most clients will hand you their server access. Again, I have never had problems with this. An overall better method for handling development is for the client to give you access to a repo which is hooked into some sort of deployment scheme. In this case you wouldn't touch the client's server. However, not everyone will know how to set this up, so perhaps you could offer this setup to the client as part of your gig.


I'm not worried about payment right now.

I'm worried about how you would verify the legality of the client's business, or the client's identity. I've only talked to this client over the phone. I've googled his name, but found nothing.

His LinkedIn profile also has little info.


If you're not worried about the payment then what is it that bothers you about the legality of the client's business or his identity? Provided he's not selling illegal firearms, performing scams or distributing child pornography I don't see any reason to worry about it. On top of that you will see his site, so you will know what kind of business he is in from the start.

It's not like everyone is googlable or should be. I'd say being able to google somebody's name and get tons of results is the exception rather than the rule (and thank $DEITY for that).

Your concern for getting direct access to his website is valid though. If the customer is not using any VCS I'd suggest to him that he starts doing so - there are plenty of options.

If the client can provide you access to a testing/dev environment, where you can safely play with things without breaking production, I'd pick that option as well.


Thanks for the response. His site looks like a normal e-commerce site.

My parents are new to the idea of freelancing, and they're worried that the site might somehow be a disguised site for selling illegal products.

My parents might be a little paranoid.


Since you're just starting out, most of the projects you'll get will be no-name clients who are looking for someone who will work for cheap. The sites you design may not even make it past the design stage and most won't be around in a few months.

Its not something to be worried about, and as long as you get paid it shouldn't affect you. Not being able to Google a client doesn't mean there's anything suspicious about him or her, it simply means that they aren't all that active on the web.

I've been a freelance designer for about five years, and most of the clients I worked with in the beginning had very little footprint on Google. Some of them were simply inactive, while others used other channels that are less common (obscure username on some random forum).




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