Five Creators Share Their Experience Getting Scammed

As wonderful as being a creative may be, it’s not without its risks. For this week’s Creator Stories, we talk to five different creators and freelancers who have experienced getting scammed or cheated by a client to learn about their experiences and how to avoid making similar mistakes.

We have Nonso, a Creative writer; Adesuwa, a freelance content-writer; Ugo, a Reviewer/Editor and Writer; Sogo, a Creative Director; and Peace, a Designer. 

Let’s dive into their stories!

Tell us about your experience. What happened?

One August morning, a writer who had published several books contacted me on Twitter and said he wanted me to edit his novel because he saw that I was a good writer. I agreed and started editing and expanding on the novel. He paid 35% and promised to reimburse the 65% after. When I sent him the updated manuscript, he said thank you and never replied to my messages again. It’s been a month and three days since he hired me, and I’ve sent about four messages he has ignored. — Nonso.

Last year, I was hired to write for a company’s website. It was supposed to be a one-time project. I told the client my rate, and they agreed to pay me when the articles got “approved”. After I submitted the final revisions, I asked about my payment, and that’s where the trouble started. The client kept stalling and eventually stopped responding. It was even worse when I discovered that my work was used anyway. When they eventually responded, they only paid half of my due payment and promised to complete the balance. That was a lie because till date, I haven’t gotten anything, and this happened December last year. — Adesuwa.

A notable public speaker hired me to ghostwrite a memoir to mark an important milestone in their career. They allowed me to create a pitch document, draw up a list of questions, interview them, and even draw up a contract on my terms. The project was to earn me about 100k in the first phase. After co-signing the contract, I got to work. From long recordings, I transcribed, fleshed out and delivered two chapters of the book, as agreed. And then the ghosting began. I waited for a week and followed up with a WhatsApp message. 39 days after that, I wrote to them to formally request my pay for the delivered chapters. My emails were ignored. I finally wrote to discontinue writing for them, and that email was ignored as well. The client still goes about their daily life on social media. It’s been a year and three months. I’m only hurt that a contract couldn’t protect me. — Ugo.

I was hired for a graphic design project by a marketing agency abroad. I was to design social media graphics for four social media accounts/ businesses. The first month was good, I got paid in dollars. The 2nd month was when everything went downhill. The client began giving excuses. She told me that she was not being paid by the companies she worked for. She kept saying this for two months until the 4th month, when I realised I could no longer access the Slack account. When I tried calling her, she declined the call and did not respond to my texts, but would still post motivational quotes on her WhatsApp status. It really be the people who give so many motivational quotes that be dishonest. Till a few months ago, I still sent her emails reminding her of the payment, which amounted to $450-500. I had to give up eventually because it wasn’t a healthy way to live. — Sogo.

I was hired to do branding, packaging, and web design for a food-producing and export company based in Nigeria and the UK. We signed a contract stating that I’d get 30% of the payment upfront and the balance as soon as work was done. During the course of the project, they asked for several revisions, and there were lots of unnecessary delays. I finally got the work done and have been waiting for a confirmation and my balance to be paid ever since. — Peace.

Were there any red flags or warning signs, and what actions did you take when you realized things weren’t going as planned?

The only red flag was that he never mentioned the editorial process being structural and never talked about ghostwriting (because I added about 15k of MY SENTENCES! to make it well-rounded). But oh well. –- Nonso

There really weren’t any red flags other than the fact that said client had known me since I began writing as a teenager. A year or two before they approached me to work on the project, they spoke about how much they admired my work ethic and creativity. Now that I think about it, perhaps their piling praise on me was a way to take advantage of my skill (which they succeeded at). I wrote emails following up on the client, but an NDA I signed dictated that I couldn’t disclose the details. Or else, I would have called them out. — Ugo

They had a low budget, they were disorganised and inexperienced, and they asked for ridiculous design requirements. — Peace.

How has this experience affected your work, finances, or overall well-being?

I fell sick while doing this job. Writing requires thinking. I was thinking a lot while I was sick, ensuring I fleshed out the characters and plot. I thought the money would recompense. But, sadly, here I am. I’m not sure I can freelance anymore. I do this rarely. Some have been successful; others, like this one, a scam. The reason why this one is painful is because of the hard work and thinking it took. — Nonso.

I learned a lot from that experience, and I promised it would never happen to me again.  I’ve since recovered, and now it’s just one of those unfortunate experiences I had in my early freelancing days.  – Adesuwa.

At the time when I began the writing project, I gave up so many beneficial work opportunities because I was going to be committed to a long-term writing project. I had just begun to take up roles in reporting for documentaries, and I turned down a travel opportunity that would have been pivotal to my career. Since this gig would pay me almost the same amount, and I had committed to it first, I wasn’t moved. Now, I regret it. Also, at the time when I submitted the first two chapters of the writing project, I was in dire need of money to buy a new phone because mine had been stolen. I was working on a laptop and borrowing a friend’s phone to speak to my family. The hope of that pay kept me on edge. I was waiting for a silver lining that never came. I was depressed — Ugo.

What advice do you have for other creatives to avoid similar situations in the future?

Demand a contract and secure your payment before you start work — Adesuwa.

Please, get a lawyer — Nonso.

Charge 60-70% down payment. Put yourself first. — Peace.

Don’t be afraid to change the terms of the agreement so that when the client breaches payment, you can always recover either in kind or cash. If you weren’t good, they wouldn’t hire you, so change the terms of the agreement if you feel it’s exploiting. — Sogo.