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Tips to protect proprietary work as a remote freelancer

Search Remotely Tips To Protect Proprietary Remote Work

While we like to talk about the virtues and advantages of remote freelancing, running an online business from home, blogging, and working as a digital nomad, there are risks.

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Every worker who accepts a remote gig or entrepreneur who decides to provide products and services from a virtual, online platform  faces the threat of  having their digital products stolen. The proprietary processes and procedures used to generate business and add value can be re-packaged without their permission. A single link can go viral, without your consent or attribution.  A popular article can be scraped using artificial intelligence by changing a few key words and synonyms.  They can then call the informative article you took hours to research as their own.

In all of these cases, the small business owner, entrepreneur, blogger, and remote freelancer  can lose a significant amount of revenue and fail to generate any profit related to the costs incurred to build the product, process or even to write an unique article. 

The purpose of this article is to provide tips for protecting the proprietary work of the remote freelance gig worker.

Create a copyrights section

First, we do not give legal advice. However, we would strongly suggest that you create a copyrights section on your business profile of your preferred gig platform. If you operate a website you should post a copyrights notice page. It would prove helpful also by inserting the (c) symbol at the bottom of each of your website page and blog posts. Your copyright section and/or page could be a simple sentence. Or as detailed as you would like to make it. 

Here is a sample copyright section taken from Terms Feed  indicating the terms of use:

Again, we do not give legal advise. You should hire an attorney. Another option would be to visit websites that offer templates. We DO NOT receive affiliate fees for any of the sites listed. We are only providing them as a resource. Please conduct your own independent research.  A few include:

In addition to creating a copyright section and/or adding a copyright page to your website, you should consider inserting an image of a Digital Millennium Copyright Act badge (DCMA) onto your website. The DCMA badge works to track whether anyone makes unauthorized posts of your website’s content.

Exercise caution when explaining project processes and deliverables

If you are just starting out as a remote freelancer or gig worker, it is vital that you exercise extreme caution when asked to provide proprietary details of the specific steps you would take to complete a project on which you are bidding.

Use generalized descriptions

When you are asked to provide project details during the proposal and negotiation stages, be very general in your descriptions of work processes. This is particularly important when you are working in a very competitive field and/or when you may be considered the expert in the marketplace.

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Many nefarious business managers can be lazy. Some of what you know can be considered common knowledge to experts in your field. We can conclude too that there can be specific processes established that are not proprietary. But many may not hold the knowledge you possess. Due to your because of your intimate expertise, you may under estimate your unique skills and abilities. Don’t be caught off guard. Some company officers will use the bidding and negotiation stages to take the opportunity to acquire the knowledge you have, fill in the knowledge gaps that are missing internally at their agency or company, and elect to complete the work themselves. Without you.

I know about this first hand. Do not fall into the trap. A Director of Business Development of a national nonprofit was being forced out by the CEO because he lacked the digital tools with which to generate new business and to build the revenue streams of the business already in hand.

Refrain from leaving materials onsite

If your company is interviewed during the selection process, refrain from leaving materials on-site. Collect all materials prior to your departure.

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But, back to the story. Rather than retire, he issued a RFP (Request for Proposal). When my company responded to the announcement and was interviewed. He and I reviewed together my company’s detailed proposal.

Do not provide sources or resources

Included within my quote was a month by month schedule and list of deliverables. To include the resources I would use.  He brought with him a list of prepared questions. He took copious notes as I spoke. I was as detailed as possible. Boy, did I learn the hard way.

A few weeks later I was informed that not one company was selected. I found out later from an internal contact that the gentleman used the information and processes contained within my proposal to complete the assignment himself. Even though he was able to ‘get out of a jam’ in the short term, just a few months later he was eventually terminated.

Provide list of references rather than details

Almost twenty years later, when we place bids on major platforms, we always provide GENERAL descriptions of our processes and procedures. If we are asked for more information and details, we refer them to our list of references. If they are still hesitant, we decide to take a hard pass on the project. 

Invest in website tools and plugins to block unauthorized downloads

If you and your team have taken the time to build a high quality blog and posted hundreds of articles to your website, the last thing you would want to happen is for someone to take a computer program to scrap your entire website or to automate the process of cutting complete articles from your site and re-posting them elsewhere.

To prevent this from happening, you can invest in website tools and plugins to block unauthorized downloads by both humans and or automated bots. Which ones would we suggest? Depending upon your website platform (Drupal, WordPress, Wix, SquareSpace, for example)  use wholesale comp these data theft prevention tools could be viable options:

Use tools to scan the web to search for your content

Bloggers new to blogging may find it helpful to use tools to scan the web for your content. This can be done by setting up a Google Alert  for keywords that you use most often in your articles. Alerts can be scheduled to be sent to your email daily, weekly or monthly.  The Google and Bing search function can be used to search an entire paragraph taken from your article. If your article has been indexed by Google  or Bing containing the exact words you used in the paragraph entered, it will be revealed.

Bloggers might also consider using Copyscape to do a quick check based upon the url address of the article’s link, not the keyword. Once you enter a link to your blog atricle into their system, Copyscape will scan the entire web and display content from your posts when it appears on other websites.

If you haven’t already, you should also consider using the free web analysis tools from SemRush, Ahrefs, or other SEO (search engine optimizer) to find out who is linking to your site as well.

Affix your logo on all images

So far we have covered steps to take to protect written articles posted to your website and processes and procedures you use to add value for your clients.  Now, let’s talk about protecting your images and videos you have designed. Why protect them? Because social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok and Youtube need media to keep their platforms full of exciting content. If you’re seeking to build your brand, make sure that the content you create includes your logo.

Two simple ways to protect your still images, graphic arts designs, videos and podcasts are to:

  • add you company’s logo to the introductory page or frame for each podcast and video
  • insert your company’s logo within the footer of each presentation slide

Report offenders

After taking these preventative steps to prevent the theft of your proprietary content, you may be able to rest easier. However, if you find that your intellectual property (in the form of website articles, for instance), has been stolen you can do the following:

  • Report a complaint to Google
  • Submit a notice to DCMA
  • Consider taking legal action



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