Rogue traders: how to spot them

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Rogue traders: how to spot them

Let’s face it – they are everywhere and in all industries

You’re working hard on your dream and you’ve arrived at a stage where you need to look for outside, expert help take you to the next level. You find someone with a great website, listing testimonials and relevant qualifications. A chime goes off in your heart that says, “Hire this person!” 

You contact them and they seem to know what they are talking about, but a second chime goes off when it seems that they are more interested in when their invoice is going to be paid than actually winning you over as a new client, impressing you and giving you, the buyer, the confidence that they are who they say they are.

I call this second chime the million-dollar chime; if you hear it, there’s a chance that this person you’ve hired is a rogue, and they want something for nothing. The reason they focus more on the money than on providing you with a service is because they know they cannot do the job. Some are clever and they do the job in a half-hearted way; they know they are not really qualified or equipped, but they also know how to play the game.

What is the game?

They get you into a contract with them over email – yes, email… did you know that when you hire someone over email, it’s legally binding? Well, according to ICAEW law it is, so be careful what you say or agree to over email.

They tell you they can do the job, so you ask them for a sample. If they react badly to this request, you should get your third warning chime. If you’ve got this far and didn’t run away on the second chime, things might be about to get tricky!

So they (knowingly) do a job that is not fit for purpose. When you say you don’t like what they’ve produced (by now you see that they are not who they said they were), then here comes the biggest con… “Well I kept my end of the bargain, here’s my invoice!”

Make your agreements clear

You refuse to pay for something that you cannot use and you reluctantly take the case to the small claims court. To avoid this kind of unwanted drama, make sure you get your agreements signed, and that the wording on these agreements is clear. Ensure you have some sort of protection clause that clearly states that if the work carried out cannot be used or is not fit for purpose, you do not owe any money. It would be unfair (and very costly) to keep paying people to produce work that doesn’t fit your requirements.

The rogue’s magic formula

What these rogues play on is that they did the work – whether you think it’s great or fit for the trash can, that’s their magic formula and they can earn quite a bit in this way. I spoke to a person who wishes to remain anonymous, and they shared with me that they have a black list of more than 250 self-employed freelancers. This just goes to show how many rogue traders there are out there.

Breeding holes for the rogues

Unfortunately there are so many freelance sites where these people can seek their prey. Just because you can upload a picture online, you are not a designer; just because you can put a comma in the right place, you’re not an editor or proofreader. The same goes for people who claim they are writers – after they submit their first piece you wonder how they ever get work!

The intelligent and fair approach would be to not advertise yourself as qualified and experienced, but rather be honest and say, I have none of these but I am very keen and talented and would like to try something new to help me build my portfolio. It may be harder to find initial takers, but at least if you do, their expectations will not be so high, and if you are talented, you’ll quickly build up your experience. With this type of honesty, then it is up to the buyer or employer to decide whether they want to spend time training someone. At times, people without qualifications even turn out to be better than those with them.

It’s a 50/50 street

You should both have an agreement and stick to it – if you are the buyer or hirer, make sure you stay within your budget as when you do find a good person, you’ll want to keep them.

There are rogue traders out there, and it’s good sense to be cautious. If your gut tells you something isn’t right, take extra steps to make sure this person is who they say they are, like asking to see their portfolio and ensuring they sign a clear contract. There are also lots of great freelancers out there who can help you take your business to the next level – good luck finding the right person for you!