For freelancers and contractors, the freedom and flexibility that it allows comes at the cost of having to constantly pursue new clients and projects. Freelancers have a lot going on, from pitching and researching, to completing their current projects and making sure they’ve been paid for the last one. When considering the real nature of the job, it seems that the freedom one enjoys as a freelancer can come with more than a little uncertainty—especially when it comes to securing enough work, or the work itself.
Unlike someone who works at an enterprise, or maybe even a small office, freelancers don’t have a dedicated “help desk” that they can call when things go amiss with their Internet connection, or even their machines. Any freelancer who relies on a stable Internet connection knows that losing their work to a computer virus or power outage can mean starting from scratch again, which essentially leaves them with less time to finish the job. As such, what can freelance professionals do to protect their data and communications?
The Importance of Email Encryption
Apart from a freelancer’s trusty word processor, email is everything else. Whether you use the phone to contact your client or use collaboration apps like Dropbox, your inbox still serves as the primary lifeline between you and your contracts. When you run your own show, the simplest and most efficient way to secure yourself against hackers or cybercriminals is to use encryption.
If you’re not familiar with what encryption is, it’s basically a method used to protect your data or communications from outsiders or cybercriminals. For instance, when you purchase an item online and use your credit card, your computer encrypts your banking details so that nobody can see or steal your personal data as it is being transferred. Likewise, when you have sensitive files on your computer you want to keep secret, you can encrypt them so no one else besides the intended reader can access it. Simply put, encryption provides an extra layer of security to protect your assets.
Getting Started on Encryption
Many freelancers are of the creative sort. This means that whether you’re a writer, graphic designer, or a developer, your intellectual property is your most valued asset as a creative professional. You may also be tasked to work on highly sensitive or confidential material for you client, which requires a little more effort to make sure they're secured. Before someone intercepts your connection to steal your manuscript or code, here are a few simple steps to secure your email:
· Install your email encryption program and set it up. Mailvelope is a good encryption software for Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo. In your browser’s security and privacy features, you can find webmail encryption in one of its functions. Simply look for your browser’s app/add-on store and check for webmail encryption—download it, then install GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG).
· Generate your encryption keys. For this step, you’ll be needing a pair of keys—one public, one private (known together as a keypair). These keys are linked together by special mathematical algorithms that make them virtually impossible to figure out. Your public key will encrypt a message, while your private key will decrypt encrypted mails people send to you. You can use the same public and private key for multiple addresses if you want to keep things simple.
After you've made the effort to protect your email’s security, you and your client can now enjoy the full benefits of working in your own space in a safe, secure way!