Red Flags for Writers

Posted by Chika On 12:18 PM

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Last week I signed up for a free weekly email newsletter from Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly, the "highest circulation freelance writing ezine in the world." While the newsletter is for freelancers in general, and doesn't seem to include much about travel writing, I found one great article by Angela that covers writer scams in great detail. I'll post a portion here, but do click the link at the bottom for the full story. And sign up for her free weekly email newsletter.

Last week, I received two letters from readers complimenting us on only running quality job ads. While I do occasionally screw up and get "had" by a bad one, I try very hard each week to avoid the questionable/seedy ads, and only run ads that are for real companies that pay writers real money.

I admit I get pretty upset when I see my writing website colleagues running ads that are obviously questionable or unethical, if not downright scams (pay per click, term paper mills, etc.) and, unfortunately, when I write to them to complain, they usually ignore my emails. One exception is FundsforWriters. Hope Clark will immediately remove any questionable ads to protect her readers. It's too bad that many freelance writing sites care more about how much content they put on their sites than they do about protecting their readers from the sharks in our industry.

I thought it would be a good idea this week to share a list of "red flag" words and phrases that I look for when scouring the job boards. These might help you avoid being scammed when doing your next online job search.

**RED FLAGS!**

"Start-up" - This often means little (or no) pay and, if the new company doesn't succeed, you'll probably never get your last paycheck.

"Employment Ad" which leads to no job ad at all - Watch out for those ads that simply lead you to a for-cost service for writers, such as a subscription-based service that requires writers to pay for actual job listings. These listings are often simply links to job ads already appearing freely online. Running deceptive "employment ads" like this is unethical and writers should avoid companies that play that game.

"On Site Freelance" - On site usually means "employee", not freelance. Companies that require freelancers to work on site may simply be ignorant, or may be trying to avoid paying employment taxes, overtime, and insurance costs for those workers. If you must work at their location, on their schedule, using their tools, you are probably an employee (even if you're only working part-time) and likely entitled to all the benefits of employment, including overtime pay (if you work overtime hours), the employer's portion of FICA and Medicare contributions, as well as medical insurance and other benefits given to their employees. If you believe your "employer" is taking advantage of you in this way, please contact the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor. You are probably entitled to back-pay and benefits. There's a great list of items detailing this subject HERE.

"Project must be completed "ASAP!" - Many writers do work in a hurry for companies that demand immediate turn-around, often for promises of big pay on completion. However, the company never seems to have time to send a contract to the writer. This is a common scam and many of these writers, after pushing everything else aside for this "lucrative project", never get paid at all and never hear from the company again. Don't write without a contract! And, if a company needs immediate turn-around, request a down-payment for your trouble and for your own security.

"Editing/Writing Test Required" - Legitimate writing or editing tests mean taking the exact same test that all the other writers/editors take. Some companies ask writers/editors to rewrite/edit "sample chapters" from books or other items. However, they ask different writers to rewrite/edit different chapters and, before you know it, all those writers applying for the phony job have completed the entire project for the scammer.

"Revenue Sharing" - This is an old one, just like the old pay-per-click scenario. All writers either get a percentage (a minuscule percentage!) of the advertising revenue or they get paid a few pennies or less per click. You can read writers' experiences with these types of firms in my article HERE.

"Freelance Blogger" - First, let me say there are some real blogger jobs out there and there are more each week. According to Richard Hoy (yeah, my hubby), who sets up the blogs for BookLockerauthors, a blog is a running commentary on a subject, presented in "diary" format, made possible through special software that makes publishing the commentary on the Internet easy and quick. Unfortunately, many blogger ads currently appearing online are offering revenue sharing and pay-per-click payments only. This is really no different from the "revenue sharing" scheme mentioned above. If you don't have control of marketing for a company, why should your pay depend on their marketing expertise (or lack thereof)? There are also many blog "employment ads" online now offering now pay, just "exposure." Please don't fall for that one, either.

"Payment in stock / stock options" - Come on now! If a company can't afford to pay you even a few dollars for your work, do you really think this company is going anywhere? I've been in this business since 1997 and I've never met a writer who wrote for stock that ended up being worth anything at all.

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