10 Freelance Writing Job Ad Red Flags

Unfortunately, there are a lot of writing scams out there, and with free job posting sites like Craigslist, it can be challenging to weed through the garbage to find the legitimate freelance writing opportunities.  As the interest in working from home using a computer has increased in recent years, the number of writing scams has also grown.

For example, there are many freelance writing job ads that promise paying opportunities, but when you reply, you learn that access to those opportunities is only available if you pay a fee.  Furthermore, some of these scams require that you purchase “training” materials to learn how to write for the company.  After you pay for those materials, the company cuts all contact with you.  A good rule of thumb to follow is this — never pay for a writing job.  It should work the other way around — you should get paid for your work.

Another scam involves requesting original writing samples to gauge your ability to follow directions, match a writing style, and so on.  The “company” that requests the samples publishes them without paying you and never contacts you again.  This is a common scam that has grown in popularity as content mills continue popping up around the world.  A good rule of thumb to follow is this — provide clips from your portfolio or start a blog where you can point to your writing samples.

This post offers you 10 things that you might find in freelance writing job ads that should raise red flags.  I’m not suggesting that all ads that include one or more of the elements below are scams or not trustworthy.  However, these are ten of the most common things that are found in questionable writing job ads.  If you see one of these things in a job ad, proceed with caution.

  1. Fee required to apply, view writing job ads, or acquire resources of any kind such as training materials (which may or may not be included in the job desicription)
  2. Request for an original writing sample about a specific topic and at a specific word count.
  3. Poorly written job ads, which might include excessive grammatical or spelling errors.
  4. No company name or a company name that cannot be verified via a Google search.
  5. A website that leads nowhere or to a parked domain or a site filled with ads.
  6. Compensation ranges that vary significantly.  For example, “you could make $10-$10,000 per month.”
  7. Claims of being legit or similar attempts to prove the job is not part of a scam or unsavory effort.
  8. Offers that are too good to be true.  If an ad says you can make $5,000 per month for a few hours of work, it’s probably too good to be true.
  9. Phrases like “startup”, “grow with us”, or similar language that might mean the publication is very new.  In these cases, you might not get paid or the publication could disappear before you get paid.
  10. Language of any kind that seems questionable or shady.  Follow your instincts.

What red flag elements have you found in freelance writing jobs that you can add to this list?  Leave a comment and share what you’ve found, so other writers don’t fall victim to the same problems or scams.

Image: stock.xchng


7 responses
  1. Simon Williams Avatar
    Simon Williams

    Great post, and all 10 things listed should be ever present in any freelancer’s mind when applying. Sadly, the ratio of scam to genuine gig on Craigslist seems to be growing exponentially in the former’s favour, and I’ve struggled to find anything legit in my fields of expertise for quite some time.

  2. John Avatar

    Websites that say they can’t pay you now, but eventually they’ll be able to start paying. Stay away. Potential pay ‘maybe’ sometime in the future means actual volunteer work until further notice.

  3. Mollee Harper Avatar
    Mollee Harper

    Great article, Susan! I am a freelance writer and have seen my share of bad practices in this field as well. Please advise if there is a writers forum or site ranking best and worst studios to write for. I am curious to learn more about the two studios I regularly write for now from other writers perspectives. Thank again for the helpful hints!

  4. Debra Stang Avatar

    I got sucked in my a scam just the other day, and I’m still kicking myself over it. I am printing these ten red flags and hanging them over my desk as a reminder to look before I leap next time!

  5. David Delony Avatar

    A big red flag I see occasionally is jobs for writing research papers. I don’t believe in helping people cheat, thank you very much!

    1. Shannon Avatar

      To make matters even worse, the enablers of these cheaters want to pay almost nothing for work which involves consierable research.

  6. Robert Wave Avatar

    Nice article thanks for this information personally I like this post because the details are in step by step which it is easy to understand.

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