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I almost got scammed... here's what I learned & how you can avoid this

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

I am sure everyone reading this has been a victim of someone trying to scam you. Whether you just deleted the phoney text message, hung up on the apparent ‘free cruise’ you have won, or if you have fallen for it…I’m sure that in this day and age that you have encountered some sort of scammer. Well, a few months ago I got an email from a potential client looking for a website to be designed for their business. They mentioned their high budget and interesting business ideas, which made me super excited. Little did I know that they were trying to scam me into giving them free services.

I have heard horror stories about scammers, and I have watched videos about how important it is to have contracts and deposits in place for your business. Although, I did not expect someone to try and do this to me… Since this did happen to me, I feel like it would be a wasted opportunity for growth and learning if I didn’t share my experience and give some advice to any other freelancers / designers out there!

Okay…so what actually happened?

As I previously mentioned, this potential client reached out to me through email, which is not uncommon since I have my email posted on my business instagram, facebook, and website. Immediately after reading the message I felt a little off about it. This woman was speaking in a strange manner, almost as if she was using Google translate. Although it was a little strange, I moved on to asking her questions about what she was looking for. She had linked her current website, which looked pretty legitimate, so I assumed the strange messages were because English wasn’t her first language, or that she wasn’t very tech-savvy. Later on, I sent over a ton of questions to help get some more information about her business and what she was looking for (as many brand designers do). She ignored every single question in my list, and then went on to say that she is a woman, how old she is, how much she makes a month in her business, and how much she is willing to spend?! I immediately thought this was so odd, so I pressed a little further to see what other information I could get about what she wanted in the project. She then went on to explain how she is in the hospital, so she needs me to purchase a domain name for her new website, and that she needed me to start the project immediately so she can have it done for when she is out of the hospital. This seemed a little too fishy for me, so I used my 48 hours skills and looked into this woman online.

I looked up her company, her name, and searched for scams using that name or company as their front. I quickly found various people saying that this company was used as a front to scam them out of money and free services. I found through a simple google search that this was a common scam directed at new creative freelancers, web designers, and graphic designers. My heart sunk…I felt a combination of disappointment that this wasn’t really a high end client who wanted to work with me, and sadness for everyone who had fallen for it before. Thankfully, I was able to use my intuition and knowledge of effective freelancing to my advantage so that I wasn’t scammed like many others have been before.

So, now that you know what happened to me…I am going to share some of the processes that I follow in my own business that saved me in this situation…and that will help you avoid anyone looking to take advantage of you and your business!


After watching hours upon hours of youtube videos about successful freelancing and graphic design videos, I quickly learned that having a contract in place before you even start on a project is ESSENTIAL! Having a contract for each project will make sure that you cover all of your bases, will hold both parties legally accountable, and will make sure that the client treats you seriously and pays you every single penny! If I did not know about the importance of this before, I may have just fallen for this scammer and worked for hours on a project that I would never get paid for! So, if you do not already have one…PLEASE create a contract for you and your client to sign before you start on your freelance projects. And please, DO NOT start on any work until you have put a contract in place. A quick YouTube search for freelance design contracts will help you create a basic contract that will help give you peace of mind.


As soon as I read the first email from this scammer, I had a gut feeling that something was off. I proceeded with caution, although I kept this feeling in the back of my mind. The more we emailed back and forth, the more I knew something was wrong. If I had totally ignored these gut feelings and trusted everything she had said to me, I may have been working on a project for free and paying out of pocket for her domain name! Trust your intuition and do not ignore these feelings. The beautiful thing about being a freelancer, is that you can choose who you do and do not want to work with. If you feel that something is off, doesn’t quite align, or if you do not feel comfortable working on a project, you do not have to do it! Plain and simple.


Another thing that helped me in this situation is that I DO NOT, under any circumstances, start any design work until I have been paid a deposit. In my contracts, I have myself and my client agree upon a percentage of the project to be paid at the very beginning as a deposit for my time and work. Once I am paid the deposit in full, I begin my design work. If I did not know about this process before, I very well might have purchased the website domain name for her and started the project without getting paid. I’ll admit it…I didn't always used to do this. But, once I started rising my prices and doing bigger projects, I looked into other designer’s processes and saw that this is a step that is so essential and that shouldn't be left out…EVER! This step is so crucial, even if you know this person isn’t a scammer. Even if this person is your friend or dream client, this is your business and you should be getting paid for your time! A deposit is an amazing way to make sure that you have something upfront to cover your basic costs and time of the project as you work on it.

I hope that these tips are helpful to you in your business and that sharing this experience helps keep you at the top of your game when dealing with client inquiries! Thankfully, I learned these steps in my process before they happened or I very well could’ve fallen for this scammer. Good luck out there everyone!!

Holly Grassl


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