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March 31, 2022

Cyber – The lesser known risks of freelancing

Written by Olivia Bufton

Making mistakes is all part of the freelance lifestyle. As a writer, I’m particularly attuned to the idea of imperfect starts. Every first draft I write is messy, incoherent and riddled with grammatical errors. But with the help of a good night’s sleep and in some cases, a professional editor, the words eventually come together in the right order to form something I’m happy with.

I certainly wasn’t immune to this clumsiness in the early days of self-employment. I undercharged for my services, worked with clients who weren’t a good fit and took on more work than I could handle. Cue lots of coffee, crankiness and regret. But while these blunders taught me worthwhile lessons about how I could make positive changes to my business, not every lesson needs to be learned in such a hands-on fashion.

For example, I used to think I had to wait 30 days for all invoices to be paid. I wish I’d put contracts in place and asked for payment upfront from the get-go because it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights. Similarly, I wish I’d set up my pension the day I went freelance. I’d have a little bit extra in the bank and maybe feel a bit more relaxed about my future.

But no freelancer has it all figured out, and that’s OK. Most of us are learning and growing every day, picking up new tricks as we go. But there are some freelance risks that I’m just not willing to take, which is why insurance is essential.

Freelancing risks

With lots of people considering freelancing this year, the economic climate means doing it on a shoestring. While most people have a laptop or home PC to get them started, they often neglect to consider the upkeep of equipment as the years go on. I don’t know about you, but my technology rarely gives me any warning when it’s about to go kaput. [SH1] 

In fact, it always happens with the worst possible timing: the day before a big deadline, minutes before a big pitch meeting or in the middle of editing a podcast episode. That’s why equipment insurance is so darn handy to have and with Dinghy, they aim to get you a replacement laptop [SH2] or cash in your account as quickly as possible, even within as little as 24 hours.

Stolen equipment [SH3] isn’t the only thing you need to be aware of when you’re assessing the risks of going freelance. There’s also the matter of intellectual property.

Imagine you spend months creating a marketing campaign for a client. You’ve come with some eye-catching imagery and a new slogan, only to realise after everything has gone to print that your work is unnervingly similar to that of a competitor. Your mistake was genuinely unintentional, but it’s lost your client money because they’ve had to cancel the campaign and go back to the drawing board. Professional indemnity insurance is there to help you get everything sorted, and allows you to keep working without the distraction of dealing with lawyers or handling an insurance claim.

Cyber risks for freelancers

You might already be familiar with these types of insurance but what about cyber insurance? I’m pleased to say that (touch wood) I’ve never been the victim of a cyberattack, but that’s one freelancing risk I am acutely aware of.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the shift to working from home, with millions of people forced to move their businesses online. This, combined with unsecured home networks, [SH4] left individuals open to cybercriminals who were rumoured to have the ability to start video calls on some devices without user consent.

Freelancers are the new target

Cyberattacks like this are often thought of as problems for big corporations who manage lots of personal data. But many experts say that hackers are beginning to change their ways, now choosing to exploit the vulnerabilities of freelancer workers. Many freelancers assume they have nothing of value for cybercriminals, but it’s just this mindset that leaves you open to attack. How often are you invited to click a link from a prospective client that you’ve never actually met? Or instructed to provide your bank details to the accounts department to receive payment for work completed? Freelancers regularly share personal information via email in the form of invoices and PayPal details. They are likely to work on unsecured networks in co-working spaces and cafes. It’s easy to see then, why cybersecurity should be a top priority for anyone who works for themselves.

Phishing scams

There are a few things that all freelancers need to be aware of when it comes to cyberattacks. The first thing is phishing scams, which occur when you unknowingly pass your personal details onto a fraudster via email. These emails masquerade as trustworthy brands that you probably already use (e.g. Netflix, Amazon) and instruct you to type in your bank details under the guise of customer service or updating an existing subscription.

One common phishing scam is that which relates to HMRC. Victims receive an official-looking email promising a tax refund for the lucky recipient. Fake websites are constructed as a front for the scam, leaving the victim clueless to the fact that they’ve just disclosed their personal information to a fraudster.

Data breach

You could also be the victim of a data breach if your electronic device is lost or stolen. Maybe the service you use for sending newsletters is hacked, leaking some of your customers’ information. If your clients’ personal details (e.g emails, addresses, bank details) are obtained you could be held liable. This might mean paying penalties in addition to any legal costs of your own. As if this isn’t enough of a headache, you may even be approached by the hacker to pay a ransom in order to solve the problem.

Long term impact

The logistics of dealing with a cyberattack are time-consuming. From the initial realisation, figuring out exactly what the impact is, to getting in touch with lawyers and not to mention contacting all your affected clients – it will take a considerable amount of time to resolve. This, of course, is valuable time that could be spent working which can have a ripple effect on your overall income and client relationships. As a busy freelancer, having this level of stress to deal with can take its toll on your mental health too.

The most successful freelancers are often well known in their field and can rely on repeat clients and referrals. But the impact of a cyberattack can tarnish your brand image, even if it’s not your fault. A Forbes Insight report found that 46% of organisations had suffered damage to their reputations and brand value as a result of a breach. The best defence is to make sure that an attack is dealt with by professionals so that your clients receive the best possible outcome.

How freelancers can protect themselves

The good news is that Dinghy’s cyber insurance cover is designed to take the stress out of dealing with the ramifications of an attack. You get access to ReSecure, a dedicated 24-hour helpline and specialist cyber incident report service. In the event of an attack, they will help to determine the cause of the breach, as well as assist you in the recovery of any lost data and the restoration of your systems to working order.

With cyber insurance, you’ll also soften the financial blow as business interruption costs are covered, along with systems and data rectification cost and any regulatory defence and penalties which occur. In the event of a cyber extortion or ransom situation, Dinghy’s policy will help front the costs.

With remote working and technology redefining the modern workplace, make sure that your freelance future is in good hands.

Author Bio:

Fiona Thomas is a freelance writer with work published in Readers Digest, Grazia, Metro and Happiful Magazine. The flexibility of freelancing has had a positive impact on her mental wellbeing and she now seeks to show others that they too can work happily, healthily and have a successful career to boot.

About Olivia Bufton

Read more blog posts by Olivia Bufton

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