Beware of work scammers.

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Are you a freelancer, developer, designer, marketer, or someone active in the startup community? Let me share a scenario with you. A very important scenario that I can almost guarantee will happen to you if it has not already.

I want to share this with you because I want you to learn from my mistakes. Don't give into this scam as I have in the past.

Here is the scenario.

I get an email from someone interested in my freelance services to build an Android and iOS app. This is how the conversation begins.

"Hey, Levi. I am going to jump right into it. I have an idea for an app that is going to make millions. I thought of it last week and it's going to be huge. After you sign an NDA I will share it with you. I would like to partner up with you on the project instead of pay you for it. Let's talk business, Joe Blow.

There is a formula for these messages that is always the same:

  1. Zero information can be shared with me until an NDA is signed.
  2. There is little to no pay in the project. In fact, they like to use the word "partner" sometimes which is a fancy word for "no pay".
  3. The message revolves around the idea. As though all it takes to build a successful business is the idea (this is not at all true).

This is a scam.

Think about it. All they have is an idea, they expect you to do all of the work for free, and the intention of the entire project is for them to become a millionaire. That is a scam.

They do not care about me. I simply have a skill that is needed to get the job done. They don't trust me with the idea and they don't even want to pay me. In fact, they don't even care about the business itself. They are only looking for the potential payout so they can live on a beach in Costa Rica (which I guarantee will not happen when all you have is an idea). All at the expense of you. The bait.

Difference between a real opportunity and a scam.

I work with startup founders who require a signed NDA to work together. I work with startup founders who are looking to become millionaires. I work with startup founders who are bootstrapping and have a small budget. If someone approaches you with 1 or 2 of the traits mentioned earlier...

  1. Zero information can be shared with me until an NDA is signed.
  2. There is little to no pay in the project. In fact, they like to use the word "partner" sometimes which is a fancy word for "no pay".
  3. The message revolves around the idea. As though all it takes to build a successful business is the idea (this is not at all true).

...it does not mean it's a scam.

Here is how I tell the difference. I read the email sent to me and I ask myself this question:

If I decided not to work with this person and I gave them 6 months, would this idea move any further in that 6 months without me?

If you are dealing with a scammer, the idea will not move forward an inch. In fact, he/she has probably moved onto another idea by this time or tried to scam a few others besides yourself.

Ignore it.

When I was in college, I gave into a couple of these scams from individuals looking for a co-founder. In my freelancing, I gave into scams from new clients. I have been approached with this scenario dozens of times in the past few years.

In the end, follow your gut. When you get contacted by someone who you feel is trying to wrap you into one of these scams, simply say, "Thank you for the offer, but I am not interested.". Usually, he/she will come back and ask you "Why on Earth would you ever pass up an opportunity like this?!" and ask for an explanation, simply repeat, "No thank you." You have to cut the conversation and move on. You will be asked a hundred questions if you allow it. They don't need to know any reason for why you decline. From my experience, it's best to cut it and move along.

Follow your gut.

It is completely natural to have ideas. We all do.

It is fine to have million dollar ideas in your head. It is ok if you do not have very much money to invest into building your idea. There are times when NDAs provide value.

In the end, follow your gut. You will feel uneasy when these opportunities come to you. We all need to be aware that scams do exist and we need to do our best to not allow them to move forward.

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