Three Tips for Avoiding Fraudulent Freelance Writing Jobs

If you’re going to be a freelance writer, you want to spend your time working on paying jobs. Avoiding scams and other fraudulent writing “jobs” is key. Here are some steps to help you recognize and avoid common freelance writing scams.

Don’t write for free. One common scam is requesting a sample from potential writers. The company will ask that you write an original piece for them, so that they can judge your writing ability.

Be careful! Legitimate publishers don’t expect writers to work for free. If they want a writing sample, generally they will pay for it.

Some legitimate content generation sites ask for writing samples in order to weed out non-native speakers and the like; do your research before submitting anything for free. It should be pretty easy to Google a company and determine if other writers have been scammed.

Don’t pay for job leads. Another scam targeted at freelancers is getting them to pay for job leads. You’ll be asked to buy a membership or pay a subscription fee for a site which promises freelance writing job leads in return. This should be a huge red flag.

You don’t ever have to pay for leads. Ever. No matter how good they make it sound, or how small the amount is, don’t buy it. This scam starts with the site asking you to pay just a dollar or two for a trial period of the site.

But then, either a week or a month later, you’ll suddenly see a charge for a much larger amount: their full membership fee. This won’t just happen once. It’s usually a monthly, quarterly, or yearly “subscription” to their site. And you usually can’t get a hold of anyone to deal with the unauthorized charges. Email addresses will turn out to be non-existent, and phone numbers will simply ring and ring.

If you do fall victim to one of these scams, you’ll need to cancel your credit card or close your checking account. Then file a report with the Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau, so that others don’t end up getting charged too. By closing or canceling your account, you prevent the company from charging your card again before you can get the subscription stopped.

The whole problem starts back with the trial membership. In the fine print of your trial payment is an agreement for the scam company to bill you on a recurring basis. It’s actually all legal, though not ethical.

Avoid this problem altogether by simply not paying for freelance writing job leads, ever.

Make use of your research skills that you’ve honed while freelancing. Don’t invest time or money into any potential opportunity without checking it out first. It should be pretty easy to determine if a site is a scam. A nominal search should turn up information on what sites are legit and what are scams. You just have to take the time to look.

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2 comments
  1. I have been scammed out of articles before, happens a lot and sometimes it’s the price you have to pay. However, if you have anything online like on your blog or something and they won’t take that as a sample then I wouldn’t deal with ’em. Any get rich quick schemes are also very sad to see people get sucked into when they are first starting since I know firsthand how broke being a beginning freelance writer is.

    • You’re right that “real” freelance writing jobs should be willing to look at your portfolio, samples, and self-published content in lieu of a writing sample.

      At the same time, though, every content mill site I’ve ever worked for required an unpublished sample piece before I could join. Some of those were free-form, where I could submit whatever I felt best displayed my abilities (I have a folder of articles ready to go just for those situations), but sometimes I had to write on a topic they gave me. (The best content mill site I know of required that kind of sample)

      Asking for a unique sample on a specific topic should be a warning to research the site further before you waste your time writing it, but it doesn’t mean you should never submit samples that way.

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