Freelancing is about freedom and flexibility. But working freelance and being a digital nomad means everything – absolutely everything – is your responsibility. Keeping track of your finances, deciding where to work from and when, finding clients, and meeting data privacy requirements … it’s all down to you. That includes undertaking sufficient due diligence to keep you safe when doing business with new contacts, whether they’re customers buying your products or clients engaging your services.

Thankfully, when it comes to keeping safe at work, there are a few simple steps you can follow to ensure you know who you’re doing business with.

1. Get Googling

Start with the basics. Use Google (or your preferred search engine) to check out the person calling you. Look for the individual on LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media sites. Most people (not all, but certainly most) have an online presence these days, so if you can’t find your new contact online, that’s a red flag.

2. Check phone details

One of the easiest ways to ensure your new contact is who they say they are is to use a phone lookup tool. With the reverse phone lookup tool, for example, you can enter the number of the person who called you to check if it’s a real number. The tool aggregates data from open sources so that you can find out the country and carrier, whether it’s a mobile or landline number, and whether it’s connected with any social media profiles or messenger apps.

3. Find the company

Once you’ve done your due diligence on the individual, it’s time to check out their company. Start with the company website. Ensure it’s well written and more than just a homepage – it should have a terms and conditions page, a privacy page, and detail the company’s legal details. Those include its VAT number and its company registration number.

Next, head over to Companies House. There, you can search the register of companies to ensure the business you are dealing with is genuine and that it has filed documents such as its annual accounts in a timely fashion.

After that, check out the company’s Google Maps details and reviews. An established business should have photos, reviews, contact details, and more on display. You can look the company up on Glassdoor too, for good measure. Ultimately, the more you search, the more you can assure yourself that you’re talking with a genuine representative of an established, reputable company.

4. Study your sector

If you’re aiming for a particular type of client, invest some time in getting to know that sector while you advertise your services. Let’s say you want to work with startups. Crunchbase explains how you can monitor funding round news to know which companies are established enough to be attracting investors’ interest. Investors will have done their own, extremely thorough due diligence, so you can be reasonably assured, if you’re chatting with someone from a newly funded company, that they are in a position to honor your contract.

5. Travel back in time

Startups aside, you should be able to trace the history of most companies online. This goes deeper than simply checking to see if they have social media profiles. Look at each profile and start scrolling. Find out how long the company has been using each account. If you can’t find anything that dates back further than a couple of weeks, it might be time to listen to that internal alarm bell.

As well as running due diligence on their social media, check out how active they are on LinkedIn and who they are connected to. It’s also worth looking them up on Glassdoor and thoroughly reading their reviews.

The same applies if the client has approached you through an online freelancing platform. Check out how long they’ve been on there, whether they’ve got any reviews, whether their payment method is verified, and so on.

If you can, it’s also worth trying to find someone who has worked for your potential new client. Ask for their views on the company and their experience of working there, including any insights they may have about how the business treats its freelancers and other contractors.

6. Be on your guard

Be on high alert at all times when dealing with new clients. Many corporate employees undergo regular, repeated cybersecurity awareness training with multiple delivery methods. Freelancers? Not so much. As such, you need to be on the lookout for scams (a sad indictment of modern society, perhaps, but important nonetheless).

Criminals use a wide range of techniques to convince you to hand over your personal details. Don’t drop your guard at any point.

7. Buy in legal support

If a new client wants you to sign a contract, a non-disclosure agreement or any other document, it’s worth buying in legal expertise to make sure you’re crystal clear on what you are committing to. Yes, legal advice costs money. But mistakes in contracts or legal disputes can cost a whole lot more. Unless you happen to be an expert on contractual law, it’s worth getting a view from someone who is used to dealing with legal paperwork for freelancers and other digital nomads.

With keeping safe at work taken care of, all you need to do now is choose where in the world you fancy working and start enjoying the more positive aspects of being a digital nomad.

Gergő Varga‘s fight against fraud has been going strong since 2009. Working at various companies, he’s even co-founded a startup. Today, he serves as Product Evangelist at SEON, where he continues to disseminate his insight and expertise across the company and beyond. He has authored the Online Fraud Prevention Guide for Dummies and hundreds of other articles and guides. Based in Budapest, Gergo enjoys reading, tech, and philosophy.

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A fraud deterrent with an open data approach: Digital Footprint Analysis