So do I. That’s why online writing scams bug the ever-loving somethingorother out of me. Since the advent of Craigslist, lowlifes have been trying to take advantage of people using all sorts of methods. Nigerian check scams, phony escrow services and phishing schemes can put an unhealthy dent in your bank account and leave a black mark on your credit score.
And now the trend of trying to take advantage of people has filtered into the world of freelance writing.
But what can you do about it? Craigslist seems to be the most common place for people looking to score a freelance writing gig, probably because it has the most continuous listing of ads. Because of its ubiquity, Craigslist also serves as the top destination for people who want to take advantage of fledgeling freelancers hoping to land a new client.
There’s something to be said for going out and working in the trenches of cold calling, email prospecting and networking to find new clients. In my experience, that’s where the highest paying freelance jobs are. But for newer freelance writers and those who have a limited amount of time on their hands such as part-timers, Craigslist seems to be the lowest-hanging fruit.
So how can you avoid getting caught in the web of a Craigslist freelance writing scammer?
First and foremost, let’s define exactly what a scam is. My definition is any job posting that tries to take advantage of you. This could include:
- Scam artists just looking to steal your identity
- Multi-level marketing people fishing for new meat
- Someone out to steal your work through the “writing sample” method, or even…
- A legitimate business needing writing but wanting to pay minimum wage rates
That’s right, I said it. Companies who are legit companies but pay rates that force freelancers to effectively work for minimum wage are scams. Those places are easy to avoid when you see them advertise their rates. Just don’t respond. Think about it. If no one responded to those kinds of ads, these businesses would either stop paying such atrocious rates. Don’t feed the beast. By doing so, you bring down rates across the board for all the rest of us trying to feed our families. Just say no.
How about those job ads out there offering you a chance to “build your portfolio” and “gain valuable experience writing”? These kinds of phrases are red flags for “we don’t pay very well” or even, “we don’t pay at all.” Any publication worth putting in your portfolio will be a paying gig, not one that’s looking to fill space on the cheap.
Another way to fish out a scam is by looking for the words “writing experience preferred, but not necessary.” Your first instinct is probably to jump for joy because, hey, your extensive experience is going to float you to the top of the list, right? Wrong. Worst case scenario, someone is out trolling for your information. Best case scenario, you’re looking at another “client” who wants to pay $10 for a 1,000-word article.
Yet another common freelance writing scam is the “send us a customized writing sample” routine. Everyone looking to hire a freelancer wants a writing sample. And it’s not unreasonable for a potential client to ask for a writing sample that fits into the specific job they’re looking for. “Send us a recent blog on personal investing” or “Submit a 400-word health/fitness writing sample.”
But when a Craigslist ad already feels a bit shady, then asks you to submit, say, a 350-word article on the benefits of herbal remedies for lower back pain, your whiskers should start itching a bit. This is what I call “word phishing.” Companies scamming you into writing an article for them, only to have them turn around and use the supposed “samples” as their actual content. Most of these places are SEO chop shops looking to fill space on the computer screen.
That’s not to say that every ad that asks for a customized writing sample isn’t to be trusted. But more often than not, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment by chasing those kinds of leads.
For the best results, follow the age-old mantra of “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”
Have you run into any freelance writing scams? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
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Welcome to my blog
This little corner of the Internet is for anyone who's looking to start a freelance business while holding down a real job, wondering how to jump from part-time freelancing to full-time or looking for freelance writing information in general.
My name is James Patterson. You can learn more about me here.