As a solopreneur, every important business decision from what equipment to purchase to which clients to work with falls on you. The choices you make can heavily impact your bottom line, so it’s important to do your research and be informed. There are lots of scams and dirty business tacts out there that are designed to part you with your cash.
Some companies create inferior products or make it difficult to cancel your subscription to increase their profits at your expense. Potential clients may even try to get free work out of you during the hiring process. Here are some shady business practices to keep an eye out for so you don’t get burned.
Making It Hard to Cancel
Instead of providing superior service, some companies will try to keep your business by making it hard to cancel your subscription. They usually do this by hiding the “cancel my subscription” button deep in their website and making it impossible to find.
Some companies go a step further and require you to set up a meeting to cancel your subscription. Once they get you on the phone they’ll waste your time by trying to convince you to stay.
As a busy entrepreneur, you don’t have time to spend an hour on the phone with a pushy sales rep. Before you sign up for a subscription service, make sure you read reviews to see if cancelling will be a huge hassle.
When you’re purchasing equipment for your company, watch out for dirty business tactics like planned obsolescence. Some products are designed to stop working after a couple years to force you to buy a new one.
Companies that engage in this shady practice hope that you’ll purchase a replacement from them, which will increase their profits. Instead of selling you a computer every eight years, they’ll be able to sell you a laptop every five years by designing their products to break down earlier than usual.
You can protect yourself from dirty business tactics like this by doing your research. Read online reviews and only purchase from brands that have a reputation for producing long-lasting products.
Asking for Spec Work
As a freelancer, it’s normal for clients to ask you for a portfolio with samples of past work. But if they want you to put together a detailed proposal or create a custom sample before they hire you, it’s wise to be wary.
Some companies are just looking to get free ideas without having to pay. Once they’ve heard your concept, they’ll use it without your knowledge and tell you that you didn’t get the job.
So if you want to prevent your creativity from being stolen, don’t complete hours of unpaid work for a client before being hired. Try to keep your discovery calls short and don’t give away too much strategic advice without charging a consulting fee.
If you’re committed to sustainability, you may try to lower your company’s carbon footprint by purchasing eco-friendly products. But not every company that claims to be environmentally friendly really is. Some companies spend more money on marketing their products as sustainable than they invest in protecting the environment.
To avoid paying a premium for products that aren’t actually green, research the company to make sure it’s eco-friendly. Most reputable, sustainable brands will have certifications that prove their status. Whether you’re shopping for building materials or electronics, here’s a list of environmental certifications to look for.
Although you operate your business with integrity, not everyone else does. That’s why it’s important to be aware of dirty business tactics and scams so you can protect your company.
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.