The internet is great for creatives. Sharing your work online can grant you an instant audience of millions. Working freelance for remote clients can give you access to projects you could ordinarily only dream of. But, with all this opportunity there’s an element of risk too. How do you protect yourself against your work being stolen or clients taking your work without payment?
At Twine, it’s our mission to empower creatives, and give you the knowledge you need to protect yourself. There will always be a small amount of risk that goes with putting your work out there in the public domain. It’s rare, but sometimes images are used without permission, ideas are ripped off, clients can take your work without payment, even code can be stolen. However, the good news is there’s plenty of ways to protect yourself, so get tooled up.
Firstly, it’s good to know that in the UK at least, any work that you create is automatically covered by copyright law. So, as long as you have a way to prove that the work is your original creation, you’re automatically covered. Laws in other countries may differ so it’s always best to check.
On Twine, we recommend making sure your work is protected before you send it to your buyer for review. A good first step is to draw up a contract with your buyer before you start working together. It doesn’t have to be a fancy document, just something that states the copyright belongs to you until payment has been received (assuming that after your client has paid, your work becomes their property).
As we’ve discussed in a previous article, a lot of creatives turn to watermarking to protect their work. Watermarking can’t stop your work from being stolen entirely, but it might go part way to deterring potential thieves. You can take it a step further and be a little sneaky too – for example if you’re an illustrator, artist or designer you could add your logo or name into a small, inconspicuous corner of your work. Something that’s barely noticeable but part of the original artwork. That way you’ve got proof that it belongs to you.
Don’t send the final files
When your client needs to review your work before they sign it off, don’t give them something they could take and use without sending payment. If it applies to your creative discipline, try sending a low res version of the finished project. If you’re a filmmaker, send a few scenes, but not the final cut. If you’re a musician, try using audio tags.
Keep a paper trail
It pays to keep a record of all your communication with your buyer. On Twine, you can see your message history with everyone you’ve chatted with, which can really help if you encounter a problem.
Get a reference
If you’re suspicious or doubtful about a buyer’s legitimacy, check out their past history by talking to their previous clients. You’ll get a good idea of what they’re like to work with and whether you can trust them. Twine lets you see a buyer’s work history and who they’ve worked with previously. You can also get a good idea of whether someone is trustworthy with ratings (coming soon).
Avoid work on spec
Don’t do work on spec, then send the work to the client expecting to be paid. There’s a high chance they could just take your work and use it anyway without paying. If a client asks you for this kind of work, it could be a signal that they don’t value your skills and talent and they’re after something for free. Only work with clients who are willing to respect your creative talent.
Take a deposit
Before you start on a project, ask the buyer for a deposit. It doesn’t have to be much – 5%, 10%, 20% – just something so that the buyer has an investment in you, and will be more willing to see the project through to completion.
Don’t send until you’ve been paid
Don’t transfer those final project files until you’ve been paid. Here at Twine we protect both the buyer and the client at this delicate stage of the process. The buyer sends payment once they’ve approved the final project draft. Payment is sent to us at Twine and we hold it on their behalf. You release the final project files to the buyer, and as soon as this is done, Twine releases payment to you. Simple, and both parties are protected.