Give me my money! That’s what most freelancers want to say when they have done a piece of work but have not been paid. When you freelance, there’s always the chance that you might fall victim to a seasoned scammer – there are lots of them about.
Three Freelance Writing Scams
Here are some of the potential scams:
- The ‘sample’ scam
- The ‘this is urgent, so work with me’ scam
- The ‘I’ve got plenty of work and you’ll get a better rate later scam’.
1. The Free Samples Scam
The free sample scam is one of the most common. If you apply for work through a bidding site or Craigslist, then this is the one that might affect you most. I often see job postings that say that applications without a sample won’t be considered. If someone asks you to provide a sample, you might feel like you have no choice, especially if you’re new to the game.
Some ‘clients’ ask several writers for one free sample each. This is a way for them to get all the articles they want free of charge. Frankly, it stinks! If you want quality writing, then you should be prepared to pay for it.
2. The Urgent Work Scam
I’ve fallen victim to the second scam before. My bad. The client approached me via my website, gave a payscale that wasn’t great but was acceptable, and gave a time within which I would be paid. So I wrote the article. (Note to self: you KNOW better. ALWAYS ask for a deposit.) I don’t know why I broke my own rule, but I didn’t get paid for that one.
3. The Wait For Rates Scam
The third one is where clients try to persuade you to write 100 articles for $100 (or less!) with the promise that there will be more, better paid work later. Don’t hold your breath. They will move on to find someone equally gullible for the next batch of articles.
Avoiding Freelance Writing Scams
So what do you do to avoid falling victim to a scam and ending up out of pocket?First of all, beware of the client who wants you to write a large batch of articles without payment. If you are going to do a lot of work, you should get paid.
My policy is to ask for a 50 per cent deposit up front. Clients who are not willing to pay this usually melt away. I might lose out on a job, but it separates the clients who value my work from those who don’t. Once a client becomes a regular, then I can afford to be a bit more flexible.
However, clients are within their rights to ask for proof that you can do the job. I approach this in one of two ways. Either I use something that I have already written and mention that it has already been sold, or I write a fresh sample and post it on my blog. That way I can use it to promote myself, even if I don’t get paid. (Incidentally, that’s what I plan to do with the last article I didn’t get paid for.
Sending In The Heavies
No matter what you do, there’s always the odd client who manages to escape your ‘con artist antenna’. If you fall prey to one of these people, then you have a couple of options. You can chalk it up to experience, you can report the client to Preditors and Editors, or you can ask Angela Hoy, who publishes Whispers and Warnings, to help you. This is the writing equivalent of calling in the muscle. Angela wrote to a client who owed me last year and he paid up straight away, so I’m a big fan.
Last Word: It’s Not All Bad
One final note. If you’re a newbie, you may be worried that there’s a scammer around every corner. I don’t think so. In the last three years, I have only lost out on payment for two articles, and only one of those payments is still outstanding. With a bit of care, you can avoid most of the scammers. And remember, if a job posting raises your BS antenna, then listen to your intuition and avoid it. Anyone care to chip in with their tips on avoiding freelance writing scams?
Note: This may look familiar to Writing Lab News subscribers, who got a sneak preview of a much shorter version in the January issue.