Being a freelance writer can be an empowering career path. You have the opportunity to pursue a creative activity you love while also keeping a schedule suited to your lifestyle. However, as with any business owner, you also have certain responsibilities to your clients. The need to keep clients’ data safe and secure is one too frequently overlooked.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, you interact with valuable data assets. Unfortunately, data breaches by cybercriminals against businesses are on the rise and the methods they use are continually getting more advanced. When data gets stolen, your clients are likely to experience severe financial and reputational losses. As such, the steps you take to keep data secure are essential to safeguarding clients’ businesses and retaining their trust.
We’re going to dive a little further into a handful of ways you can help keep clients’ data safe during your freelance activities.
1. Keep Accounts Separated
Setting effective boundaries plays a key role in various areas of your freelance writing career. This is no different when it comes to data protection. Particularly when you are just starting out, you may not see any harm in aspects of your home and professional life blending. But this can soon become an organizational and cybersecurity nightmare. You need to make sure there is a distinct separation between the online tools you use in your personal life and those you use for work purposes.
This isn’t just relevant to work and personal email accounts. It should also apply to cloud storage platforms and document creation tools like Google Workspace and Microsoft 365. Wherever possible, make certain you also establish separate work folders for each client and assign specific sharing permissions only to relevant clients. This helps to make sure your clients’ data and assets aren’t inadvertently shared or accessed by unauthorized parties.
2. Exercise Password Protocols
One of the most basic forms of cybersecurity is often one of the most overlooked. Exercising responsible password protocols for all your accounts helps to make sure any data related to your clients is stored and handled safely. When you start freelancing full-time, you don’t always have the same cybersecurity structures and reminders in place that you would when working as an employee. You have to take responsibility for these yourself.
The simplest method is to set a monthly calendar reminder to change your passwords for all your work accounts. These shouldn’t all be the same password and shouldn’t be versions of a password you previously used. Use a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
However, you may find it easier and more effective to utilize password manager software. This stores all the passwords for your accounts, allowing you to create strong and unique options for each without struggling to remember them all. (Editor’s Note: At DIY MFA, we use LastPass for this)
3. Consider Your Family
It may be the case you’re pursuing freelance writing because it allows you to spend more time with your family. But it’s also vital to consider how your work’s proximity to your family’s activities can pose data security risks. This is particularly the case when all family members share devices you use for work and even are all connected on the same network.
You need to make cybersecurity a regular point of discussion with your family members. Talk to your children about methods for safe internet behavior, particularly surrounding sharing personal information and passwords. This will help keep them protected online and reduce the potential for external parties to gain access to your clients’ data. If you’re sharing devices, it may be worth using parental locks on apps you use for work.
4. Review Your Portfolio
A great portfolio will be key to your continued freelance writing success. You need to keep this up-to-date and it’s only natural you’ll want to fill it with your best work. That said, it’s not unusual to overlook how this simple self-marketing tool can result in a breach of client data.
This is especially the case when you’re a freelance writer of technical manuals or internal documents. Featuring these items in your portfolio may well constitute an inadvertent leak of your clients’ valuable intellectual property. As such, it’s vital to talk to your clients first about what they’re happy for you to share and even if there are any elements you need to redact for the sake of privacy.
It can even be worth keeping these sections of your portfolio behind a password-protected section of your author website. Your clients may be happy for you to share examples, but only with prospects not connected to the same industry. This private portfolio allows you to share it only with those in approved sectors.
5. Utilize Security Tools
While your secure behavior is important, it’s not the only way you can keep clients’ data safe. Investing a little extra time and money in cybersecurity tools can prevent breaches. This should begin with the basics of regularly checking for and installing security updates on your devices.
It’s also worth utilizing a reliable virus protection platform. There are plenty of free versions on the market, but these will often have limited features. Where client data is concerned, you need to protect against malware and ransomware. Subscribing to a specialist antivirus platform can minimize the potential for exposure here.
Alongside antivirus software, subscribing to a strong virtual private network (VPN) platform may be appropriate. If you occasionally work from a coffee shop or a coworking space, using public and shared networks can leave your device and client data vulnerable to breaches. A VPN creates a secure connection that is protected against external attacks. It also allows you to share data through an encrypted tunnel.
Your freelance clients have a reasonable expectation that you’ll keep their data secure. As such, it’s important to maintain secure behavior to minimize your vulnerability to cybercrime. These efforts shouldn’t just be targeted at your own behavior but also consider the actions of your family and the public. These security elements can take some time and effort. But they keep clients’ data safe and demonstrate you’re a trustworthy and responsible contractor.
Indiana Lee is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest with a passion for covering workplace issues, social justice, environmental protection, and more. In her off time, she enjoys hiking with her two dogs. You can follow her on Twitter @indianalee3, or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org