If you know me, you know I’m on a one man mission to blow up all of those nasty freelance writing scams. Every once in awhile, I spend a little time here detailing the latest and/or not-so-greatest techniques being used to rip off writers. In the spirit of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, I thought we could talk a little bit about fine-tuning your freelance writing scam sensors.
Those baddies are always cooking up new ways to use and abuse writers. If you want to advance through the online freelance writing world without getting ripped off, you simply must develop the ability to see a scam coming.
Here are a few hints you can use to fine-tune your sensors, making you less likely to get robbed by some online evildoer.
Billions and billions… If the person on the other end is yapping and yapping about how you can make more money than the Denver Mint can churn out in a week, realize that you’re probably the target of a lie. You can make a nice, fat healthy income writing online but there are no real schortcuts to riches. If someone is promising you the moon and the stars, be prepared to get little more than a kick in the butt while you’re staring toward the heavens.
Qualifications, schmalifications… If the hiring party is trumpeting the notion that the gig is so simple that anyone can do it, beware. Anyone who’s serious about their business is going to want to deal with writers who have some basic qualifications. That doesn’t mean that you everybody in need of an article will require the assistance of an Iowa Writers Workshop attendee or that you should be able to provide proof of your Pulitzer prize in order to snag a content job. The qualifications for some deals might not involve setting the bar too high in the sky. However, when someone seems just a little too eager to deal with anyone who happens to have a pulse, your scam sensors should be beeping a little.
The sample… If someone wants a free sample from you, run away. No, really. Run. They are probably evil monsters who want to feast on your brains without paying you a single dime. We’ve covered this one before.
Top secret identities… The person or outfit doing the hiring doesn’t really name the names of those involved. They don’t have a readily discoverable physical address or telephone number. If you get a little curious and run a WHOIS search, you discover that they’re working with an anonymously registered domain. There are good reasons for keeping a low profile on the web, in some cases. One bad reason for being secretive, however, is that it makes it that much easier to screw freelance writers. Be wary of those mysterious types.
Failing the quiz… Before you decide to invest a big chunk of your life in something that might turn out to be a scam, take a little time to ask a few questions of the person who’s looking for a writer. Get an idea of what they want, why they want it, and if they seem capable of answering some fairly basic questions about their expectations. This has a few advantages. First, most of the really scammy types won’t bother answering, allowing you to deftly dodge their perverse schemes. Second, when someone does answer, you begin to get a better idea of what they want and how to work with them (or if you really want to work with them in the first place). If someone fails the quiz, back away…
Google is your buddy… Google. It’s your buddy. Google the name of the hiring party. Google the name of their business, when applicable. See what turns up. If you get fifty pages of people griping about how Consolidated Content Consignments of Capistrano fails to pay writers, it’s probably a good career move to avoid CCCofC. It’s amazing what you can learn from doing a little homework. You don’t have to become a crazed cyberstalker, just take a few minutes to see if you’re setting yourself up for a rip-off.
It takes awhile to develop well-tuned freelance writing scam sensors. They tend to improve with time and experience. Applying these principles is one way to start getting your scam-avoidance “technology” into operating order.