Writers beware! | You know it’s a scam when…

As writers, we’re always looking for a little bit more to fund our passion. What better way to fund our writing than to – well – write? When you have a knack, you may find yourself writing about almost anything for just about anyone, and still loving it. Getting paid for what you love and do well is the best of all worlds.

But, freelancers, we must be very careful on the web!

In my prior posts, I have spoken mainly to potential customers about the quality of the writers they may hire. Yes, you absolutely get what you pay for. Today, we’ll look at the other side.

You get what you get paid for

Some blame the economy, but it does seem that lately there are a LOT more scams out there – particularly trolling for freelancers. These lowlifes can smell desperation and they’re taking full advantage of it any chance they get. How do you know when a gig that sounds too good to be true isn’t? Following are some pretty simple ways to tell:

Red flag #1: It sounds too good to be true.

Yes, if you are pulled in by an offer of immediate work with no experience necessary, it’s a scam. A genuine employer is going to pay you to represent them. OF COURSE they want experience, and OF COURSE your pay will be based on that experience.

Red flag #2: They ask for too much personal information up front.

Have you ever been asked on a date and the other person wants your social security number, Paypal information, and mother’s maiden name? Yeah, huge flags would go up. Your hackles should similarly rise when you get asked these things from a prospective employer you’ve never heard of that isn’t offering you an EIN in return. Anyone can slap up a website and post on Craigslist. It doesn’t mean they are a real business paying real money. Do your homework.

Red flag #3: No one else has ever worked for them.

While you’re doing your homework – and this is true for ANY type of job, really – don’t just get testimonials from customers. Get them from current employees. Can’t find any? BINGO!

Red flag #4: Their own content stinks to high heaven.

When you go to their site, is it professional, clean, and well edited – as you’d expect a legitimate employer’s site to be? Does the “About” page look as if it were typed by someone who speaks English and has made it past the seventh grade, or does it look something like this:

A so-called professional artical writing service

An actual screenshot from a "content provider." Name has been smudged to protect the guilty.

With a site this poorly written and maintained, it’s a wonder they would ever get a customer. They certainly aren’t getting any decent freelancers.

Red flag #5: The pay is stupid.

You know how much you normally get paid an hour. If you don’t, you’re too green and need to do some research. What is the going rate for your niche. Per hour? Per project? Be armed with this knowledge.

If your prospective employers are offering an insane amount – too much or too little – they aren’t legit. Sorry, kids. Oh, and make sure you check not only what they want to pay YOU, but what they want their client to pay THEM.

For instance, the imbeciles above try to say that they will pay you $2,000 or more per month for your services. They fail to offer any information as to what those services actually may be. Poke around on their site for a minute or two, and you find that they offer a basic package of 200 “posts” for  $25.

Huh?

That’s 25 cents PER POST – and that’s what they’re getting paid. What do you think you will actually see?

A “post” better be a single word, my friend, and even that will be slave wages.

 Red flag #6: They don’t care where you get your information.

Legitimate resources want to know where you got your facts. Period. Wiki-anything doesn’t count.

Seriously, do your homework.

If you are a professional writer you already know this: writers read more than anyone. You read about your craft. You read what others in your genre have written. You re-read the works of your heroes. You read all the time: it’s chronic. You are well-informed, or at the very least, you know where to find the information you need at a given time. Use this to your advantage.

Happy writing!

Mélanie Hope is a professional speaker, author, and coach who travels the world teaching greater communication skills while making as many people laugh as possible.

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