Out of 1,308 freelance writers surveyed by Content Wonk in 2017, 40% admitted that they had been scammed by their clients at least once.
Freelance writing job scams are among the biggest problems content writers, especially newbies, face. If you’re a freelance writer or aspiring to be one, the chances that you will fall victim to a fraudulent writing scheme is high.
There are many ways freelance writers get scammed.
This post is meant to reveal some of these ways and give you tips on how to avoid them.
As you learn how to write the perfect job proposal, do not forget to be vigilant and look out for the following freelance writing scams:
When you’re a freelance writer, you mostly work online with clients you have never met and will probably never meet. Most of the time, you can only hope that the client you’re about to deal with is loyal and will live up to their promises.
Clients taking too long to pay might or might not be scammers. Reports from Content Wonk shown in the graph below reveal that some clients might take more than two months to pay their writers.
However, not all of them understand what you have to go through to craft a masterpiece.
Some will act nice with you to hype up your optimism and win your trust until you submit the work. After that, everything goes south pretty fast. You send an invoice with a smiley face, but it goes unanswered.
The client will ignore you and shut down any form of communication. Any emails you write reminding them of your agreement with the hope that perhaps they forgot will also go unanswered.
Before you start work, ask the client to send a percentage of the total pay. Most trustworthy clients will rarely turn down the request, especially after you prove beyond any doubt that you are a competent writer.
Sometimes the freelance client might demonstrate the willingness to pay for your work through a payment processor that you cannot access. This might be a genuine request if the payment method in question is native to the client’s country.
The problem arises when they insist on using that particular method even after the writer has stated that for some reasons they cannot use it.
Clients might take advantage of this situation and withhold the payment claiming that it’s your fault. While some might be genuine, others will insist on a particular payment processor with the full knowledge that you cannot use it.
You might be pressured into registering with the payment processor only to realize later that you cannot access your funds.
Before commencing work, make it clear to your client how you want to receive your payment.
If they suggest a method that you cannot use, nicely ask them to consider one that you can both use. If they can’t, do not work with them. You can ask the freelance client to send a commission to be sure that they can use the agreed upon method and prevent future excuses.
Legitimate and professional freelance clients will encourage the use of a contract any day. Fraudulent clients prefer a verbal or casual agreement that does not involve a lot of professionalism and legal issues.
As a freelance writer, you are always advised to use a well-drafted contract before taking any writing job. You can employ the services of an attorney to help you write a good agreement with terms that should be agreed upon by both you and your client.
If the freelance client discourages the use of any written agreement, you should be wary of them. Such clients are more likely to default on their promises and avoid paying you.
The point of refusing to use a written contract is to make you defenseless when they decide not to pay.
You might take them to court, but if you have nothing to prove that you actually worked for them, you have no case. They might tweak your work a bit before using it so that you can’t use that as evidence.
Always make sure that you have a contract that clearly states the terms under which you will work and how you will be paid. If the client does not want to use a contract, chances are, they are looking to con you.
This has happened to me. It happens all the time, and most writers think it is the right thing to do. It is not. If you’re already writing and have worked with clients who liked your work, there is no point doing it for free again.
It’s quite common to see job adverts that demand a free, well-written sample before giving you the job. Most writers who are desperate for quick cash will quickly fall for this bait.
You spend your time researching and writing an article to perfection; content that you’re not going to get paid for in a bid to impress the prospective client.
What you don’t know is that this is actually a freelance writing job scam. Legit freelance clients rarely ask for free samples.
This is how the freelance writing scams work.
After you submit your free sample, you’ll not get any reply from the so-called employer. As a rational thinker, you will be under the impression that maybe your sample did not meet the expectation and the client did not like it. Y
ou then frown a bit and promise yourself to write better free samples next time.
The truth is these people are not interested in employing anyone. The advert is merely a method they use to collect many samples which they tweak a bit using your research and that of other writers who fell for the same bait to make an original article of their own.
Do not write free samples. If the prospective client asks for a sample, let them pay for it, or direct them to some of your published work. If they agree to pay for the sample, include the agreement in your contract.
According to The Huffington Post, only 10% of people who do a business involving a contract actually read it before signing.
Some clients might agree to the use of a contract only to use it against you in the future.
Many writers don’t take the time to read the contract. Or if they actually decide to read it, they might rush you into signing it. They do this in the pretense that they need the work started immediately and there’s no time to read the contract.
You will verbally agree on a certain amount for the job which you believe has been stated in the contract.
However, after you submit the work, you’ll be hit by the hard reality that what you agreed on and what is reflected in the agreement are not the same.
You will end up being severely underpaid because the amount you verbally agreed on is just a fraction of what is stated in the contract.
If the client is hell-bent on scamming you, there is no much you can do in this case. If you sue them, they will simply produce the contract which you signed, and your accusations will be null and void.
Always read the contract to the end and understand it before signing. Even better, you should write the contract yourself.
Legit freelance job listing websites will not ask you to pay before seeing the jobs. Think about it, what is the point of paying to view a job you might not even get?
There are a lot of free, legit freelance writing websites that will not ask for a dime from you.
If there is going to be any fee, it won’t have anything to do with being able to access job listings. Most of the charges asked by legit freelance websites are usually for premium membership, in which case it is optional.
Take iwriter, for instance. It is a legit freelance writing website that’s absolutely free to join, but they have the Fast Track Program, which enables Standard writers to become Premium or Elite writers in as little as one day by paying a small fee.
Aside from that, you don’t pay to view the jobs.
Any site that collects a fee before giving you access to the job listings should be red flagged. You might pay, only to find that the jobs are not even legit. You will simply be a victim of freelance writing job scams.
Legit freelance writing websites need nothing more than your skills and competence. If they ask you to pay before viewing the jobs, it’s a probably a scam.
This might seem like a genuine concern, but that is not always the case.
Some clients will act like zealous perfectionists only to wear you off and make you get off their way without a pay.
While asking for revisions is quite normal in the content writing industry, some clients take it to the extreme to make it look like they have a genuine reason not to pay you.
These clients will ask for too many revisions no matter how good your work looks. Some will even demand a full rewrite.
That’s like spending the same amount of time on one article you would use on two or three without getting any extra pay.
The point is not usually to get you to write a perfect piece, but rather to demoralize and force you to take lower pay or cancel the job altogether.
Doing a genuine revision is acceptable, but too many unnecessary revisions or rewrite requests are a waste of your time and energy. Make it clear in your contract that you will only commit to about two revision requests per article. The client should pay for any revision requests above your set limit.
Some clients will not ask you for a revision but will blatantly reject your work, claiming of poor quality. These won’t even give you a chance to re-edit your work.
They want to get rid of you as quickly as possible by acting disappointed. They even make you feel like you really suck at what you do.
After they get rid of you, they will ask someone else to rewrite your work for a much lower fee. By doing so, they will spend less than what they would have paid you.
One way of preventing this is by only taking on tasks you’re good at. If the topic is unfamiliar, you might write a not so good piece, and your client will leverage on that weakness to avoid paying you. Focus on a specific writing niche and perfect your skills.
This is another type of freelance writing scams.
When you start working for a client, they pay you peanuts with the promise that you’ll get more work and a pay raise in the future. However, after submitting the first few articles, the client will disappear into thin air and cut off any form of communication with you.
Some, especially those with large projects like writing ebooks, may promise to pay you more after they start selling their ebooks. You will render your services, for example, editing; then they disappear after paying you an insanely low amount.
Be clear on your writing rates and never take anything that is grossly lower.
Established writers or those with an online presence are the most common victims of these writing job scams.
Let’s say you have a website where you promote your services as a freelance writer. A fraudulent blogger talks you into writing a free guest post for their supposedly popular blog promising to get you a ton of exposure.
Since you’re hungry for more well-paying clients, you quickly jump for the deal without taking the time to analyze the blog in question keenly. The blogger will promise to give you a free backlink to your website.
However, when they post the article, you realize that there is no single attribution to you.
No link or contacts.
The post has also been re-written to make it a bit different from the original. The blog owner ignores your inquiries.
If you decide to report the post to search engines, say Google, you’ll have no way of proving it’s yours.
If you are a good writer, you don’t have to be desperate for cheap exposure. Every client you write for has to pay you unless otherwise. Excellent bloggers do not go around asking for people to write guest posts for their blogs. People ask them for a chance to write a guest post.
Scams in the freelance writing industry are common. However, if you’re vigilant and always watch out for scammers, you will reduce the chances of falling prey. Employ the above tips to single out the scammers from genuine clients and enjoy a more productive freelance writing career.
Hi, I’m Mercy Mmbone. My mission is to help beginner freelance writers find success online. Even if you don’t have a degree, becoming a successful freelance writer is not as difficult as you’d think. The most important thing you’ll need to get started is self-motivation.
I’m honored to have worked with many popular companies including Ring Central and Freelancer FAQs.