Finding work as a freelance writer is hard enough. It’s an endeavor fraught with rejection, competition (India at $2 an hour…) and incredulity from potential clients (“How much for a newsletter?!?”). It’s not an easy way to earn a living. Hell it’s not a way to earn a living if you can’t find clients! The aforementioned factors have sent me trawling craigslist at least once a day on the odd chance there’ll be a decent gig posted. Recently I’ve learned that it if looks too good to be true, it is.
Of course, by too good to be true I mean that it looks good. Or looks okay. Or even looks like it might, maybe, somehow, be a real job. But it’s not. The truth is, that unless there’s a recognizable company name, it’s probably a scam.
And there are all kinds of freelance-gig scams. There’s the one where someone’s looking for copywriters for a variety of projects. They pay $25-30 an hour. Less than average but enticing for a newbie. They have a long list of requirements, they spell everything correctly. After you apply, they send you an email telling you that some other company is their recruiter for freelancers. The new company charges a one-time sign-up fee of $45. Yee Gads! Important rule in working for yourself: if it’s not the local Chamber of Commerce, never pay someone to find you work. Good recruiters charge the client a fee, not you. Further investigation reveals that this “recruiter” makes fraudulent charges to your credit card after you sign up.
The next scam is the “send us your best work ” scam. Now this one isn’t always a scam. Spec work (speculation) is abhorred by many, but can be the only way to get your foot in the door and build a reputation. I’ve done some spec work. I didn’t know it was spec at the time, but after a client decided not to pay I choose to look at it as thus. The danger with this type of anonymous spec work is that you have no idea who is really collecting your writing and what they’re doing with it. I’ve heard stories of freelancers coming across work they sent in on spec being used as another copywriter’s sample.
My least favorite scam, because it requires only that you respond once, is the one that takes your email address and sells it. Within 24 hours of applying for what looked to be a legitimate job, my Junk Mail count tripled. Of course I never heard about the “job” but I do have lots of options for increasing my…pencil…size.