The internet is rife with freelance writing jobs, but unfortunately, not all of them are created equal.
While most of them certainly are legit, offering real money for real talent and services, others are rip-offs, looking to trick unsuspecting writers into handing over custom content free of charge.
Sadly, it can often be hard to tell the difference between the real and the fake jobs – especially if you’re new to the freelance writing game.
Many scam job offers look similar to legitimate freelance writing jobs, and if you’re not careful, you can end up putting in lots of time, work and energy, only to have your content commandeered without any sort of payment.
Do you want to make sure you’re only applying for (and accepting) legitimate freelance writing jobs? Want to steer clear of scammy, rip-off job postings and pitches from potential clients?
I’ve got some tips that can help.
Finding Legitimate Freelance Writing Jobs
The real key to finding only legitimate writing gigs lies in where you look.
Focusing your searches on sites like Craigslist or Upwork – sites anyone can post to – puts you in definite danger of scam offers. I’m not saying to avoid using these sites. Finding jobs on these sites can be super helpful, but you need to make sure you know what you are doing.
I used Craigslist early on in my career to snag great freelance writing jobs and build my client base. Through trial and error, I discovered how to weed out the scams. If you want to learn more on how to find freelance writing jobs on Craigslist and avoid scams, check out my related articles here:
If you are concerned about freelance writing job scams, I recommend using only vetted, admin-controlled sites.
This means sites that have an admin combing through job postings, verifying them and approving them before they go live. It also includes sites that require payment in order for employers to post.
These are both methods that ensure job postings are legitimate and real before they’re exposed to the public. Some examples of these sites include the ProBlogger job board, Media Bistro, Journalism Jobs and other similar industry websites.
Working your connections and past clients is also a great alternative to user-controlled sites. Simply post to LinkedIn, check in with your connections or send an email to previous clients and ask if they know of any potential leads. With this method, you’re getting jobs through your own professional network – people you already know, trust and have worked with. They’re familiar with your skillset, can give you real job leads that meet those skills, and will even vouch for the employer and the job being offered once they find one that fits.
I talk about finding jobs on LinkedIn in this blog post: The DOs and DON’Ts of Attracting More Writing Clients on LinkedIn
If you do choose to use sites that are more prone to scammy posts, always try to contact the employer directly, instead of through the site.
Research the company mentioned and head to their website to find contact information for a marketing director or other person you can email or call directly. You can also use their website contact form. Just make sure the company is legitimate, has real employees and looks able to pay. If it doesn’t, move on to the next post, because it’s NOT worth the risk.
Avoiding Scams and Rip-offs
Even the most careful freelance writers can fall victim to scams (even me!), so in addition to knowing where to look for jobs, it’s also crucial you know how to weed out the scam artists along the way, too.
There are three methods I’ve found that almost ALWAYS help me spot a scammer before it’s too late. These include:
- Being wary of sample seekers
Sometimes, after getting in contact with a client (or them contacting you), they’ll ask you to produce a sample – an example of what you would write for them should you be hired.
While logically, this makes sense on their behalf, it is actually a waste of your time and talents, and it gives them the ability to simply take your content and run. If they like what you do, what’s stopping them from just taking it, posting it to their site and using it immediately? Are you going to call a lawyer on them for one blog post or article? Probably not – and they know that.
Your options in this situation are either to…
1) Avoid writing free samples altogether (which is a good policy should you choose to do that!)
2) Put hard limits on your samples. Limit them to only a few hundred words, and never, ever let them amount to a full post, article or final product. Don’t give them the chance to use your work for anything other than a cursory evaluation of your talents.
- Asking for a deposit
This method ensures both you and the employer have “skin in the game,” so to speak.
If you’re concerned about a client, simply tell them it’s your policy to get a 25 to 50-percent payment up front and a 50 to 75-percent payment upon completion. If they’re legitimately interested in employing you, they can’t argue with a fair 50-50 agreement; it makes sense for both parties! If they are uneasy about this, consider it a red flag and turn away.
I took 50% upfront for all of my gigs and I never had a client question it. Great clients understand that this is how it works.
Note that this strategy doesn’t always apply to freelance writing jobs where the company lists its rates in the ad. This applies more to when you reach out to a company directly pitching your services or vice-versa.
- Verifying their identity
Verify the identity of your new clients.
Go to their website, learn about their employees and services, and check out their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages to make sure they’re legit.
Check the Better Business Bureau to verify they don’t have any major complaints, and if you’re ever in doubt, ask the client about scheduling a phone call or Skype meeting for an initial consultation. Scam artists will avoid this type of interaction every time!
Succumbing to scams doesn’t just pose a financial threat, it can put your reputation and career in jeopardy, so be extra careful which jobs you apply for.
Do you have other tips for finding legit jobs and avoiding the rip-offs? Let me know in the comments.
And be sure to check out my Ultimate List of Freelance Writing Jobs and 100+ Paying Websites. This is a comprehensive freelance writing job-finding resource. Enjoy!