As an employee of a business, trading compliance is probably not going to keep you up a night (unless that’s your actual job). However, when you’re a self-employed freelancer, you’ve got to protect your livelihood and professional reputation.
As a one-person band, the onus is on you to ensure that you’re always toeing the line when it comes to tax deadlines and Trading Standards. But what exactly does Trading Standards means for you?
What are Trading Standards?
Trading Standards, as we know them today, are a government service which sets out to safeguard consumers against any trading of goods or services that is:
They hold businesses and service providers accountable to the legal standards which they must adhere to. If they don’t, customers are within their rights to report them to Trading Standards.
What do Trading Standards do?
Trading Standards were originally known as the Weights and Measurements Department. This was because the department was responsible for ensuring the consistent integrity of commercial weighing and measuring.
Over the decades, the department absorbed more responsibility, dealing with more Acts, Orders, and Codes of Practice as time went by. The department expanded as a result, and began working more closely with other regulatory bodies, eventually becoming the Trading Standards we know today.
Can a freelancer be reported to Trading Standards?
Yes, anybody offering goods or services to consumers can be reported to Trading Standards if the customer feels that there’s a reason to do so. Common reasons why somebody might report a business to Trading Standards include:
- Feeling misled – If a customer receives a product or service that doesn’t align with what was advertised to them, they may feel misled into purchasing under false pretences.
- Being left in danger – Customers left in danger or at risk of physical harm as a direct result of your product or information can complain about you to Trading Standards. This is also true if you do not complete a project and this means the customer is left in a compromising situation.
- Fake or counterfeit goods – Where a customer purchases branded goods that they believe will be authentic at the time of sale but what they actually receive are counterfeit or fake.
- Undue pressure to purchase – Because the customer feels unnecessarily pressured into purchasing goods or services against their will or better judgment.
Tips to avoid trouble with Trading Standards
Staying out of trouble with Trading Standards is mostly down to common sense and being reasonable. But where your business and livelihood are concerned, it can never hurt to be cautious.
Don’t overpromise or exaggerate
When trying to get a new client over the line or win a new project, it can be tempting to say whatever it takes to seal the deal. Overcommitting or inflating what you can offer will only leave you open to the risk of customers feeling misled or undersold though.
Avoid too many hard sell tactics
Again, when trying to secure or retain clients, try to avoid overly persuasive sales and marketing tactics that could be misconstrued as forceful or pushy. If a client says no, respect their decision and move on without trying to twist their arm.
Be open, honest and transparent
The best way to avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding that might lead to a Trading Standards report is to be authentic and honest with your clients. As long as you remain genuine and true to your word at all times, you shouldn’t find yourself running into any trouble.
Put contracts in place with clients
As well as having honest communications with your customers, it’s also best practice to get any agreements down on record. Having both parties sign a contract helps you manage expectations, and will be a valuable resource to refer back to in the event of any queries or issues.
Never leave a project incomplete
This one goes without saying but to avoid any disgruntled customers making a beeline for the Citizens Advice Bureau, always see every piece of work through to completion, even if you hit some hurdles along the way.
Now that we’ve demystified the topic of freelance work and trading standards a little, hopefully you can continue providing your (fair and legal) services with utmost confidence.
Visit our information and resource hub for more freelancing tips and advice, including how to deal with your accounts and tax.