If you decide to take your business into the virtual world, you should be aware that there are certain risks associated with conducting business transactions with people who are in all honesty, strangers.
This doesn’t mean that you should shy away from the Internet; with some due-diligence and other precautions, you may be actually able to acquire a roster of clients who are exclusively Internet-based. As you begin to solicit clients online, here are some things to keep in mind:
Check the email Address: While this isn’t an absolute (after all, if my memory serves me correctly, my initial contact with Families.com violated this rule), you should be wary of contacts whose email address is hosted by free services such as Yahoo! or Hotmail. Legitimate companies typically use their company’s domain name for their email while scammers use free email hosting services. If you find an opportunity with a company that does not use their domain name, try to do a little research before contacting them. Things to look for include a company website, and references on other websites.
Ask for a Contract: Before agreeing to do any work, be sure to get a written contract. The contract should specifically state the work to be done, applicable timeframes and payment terms (rate and date). Be sure to get a name, street address and telephone number for the person with whom you are making this agreement. If your client is reluctant to give you a written agreement chances are they are not legitimate.
Be Patient: As home business owners, we all work hard to honor our commitments and hope that our clients will extend the same courtesy. It is important to remember however, that life sometimes gets in the way of our best intentions and it is possible that your emails may go unanswered for a few days or your payment delayed by unexpected circumstances. If you run into unexpected difficulties reaching a client, give it a few days before taking further action; you don’t want a little impatience to risk the future of your relationship.
As you know, I’ve been at this for nearly four years and am happy to report that so far, I have only been stuck once – for $400. That payment was due nearly two years ago, but I still haven’t let it go. In fact, I think I’ll go send another email right now…