When you troll the job boards every day you learn a little about the tactics many shady or very low paying employers use to find freelance writers. As someone who has been reading freelance writing job ads every day for over a decade, I can tell you some things haven’t change. The good news is that after all this time it’s easy to spot poor opportunities.
Perhaps you’ve come across these red flags:
Top 10 Freelance Writing Job Ad Red Flags
1. Perfect for Work at Home Moms, Retirees or College Students
Jobs are perfect for writers, not situations. The only reason a potential client will tell you something is “perfect” for someone else is usually to justify low rates. They’re saying because you’re retired, in school or work from home, you shouldn’t expect the same rates as higher paying companies.
2. Lots of Exclamation Points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Sometimes the people who write ads are enthusiastic and have a flair for the dramatic. I’ve never seen a “Work at Home!!!!!!!!” job that wasn’t scammy. If you come across one of these opportunities, ask why they’re working so hard to catch your eye. Sure, it can be a terrific opportunity, but it can also be a clunker. Proceed with caution.
3. Earn “Up To….”
I have news for you. It’s very rare you’ll make thousands of dollars a day working at home. You might earn thousands each month, and I know some bloggers who earn thousands each week, but to earn $15,000 a day isn’t happening. Not even for John Chow and Darren Rowse. Trust me, if it sounds to good to be true, it is.
4. Hundreds of Ads – Every Day
Some very legitimate and worthwhile companies advertise on all the different job boards each week. When they start hitting every city in every state, on every job board, every single day, one starts to wonder. It’s understandable that popular content sites are going to advertise often to find writers. When they start spamming it leads one to wonder. Is the turnover rate so high? Is the pay rate too low? Why are they so desperate for writers?
5. Different Names and Email Addresses for the Same Company
Sometimes a business is flagged so often on Craigslist everyone knows to stay away. We remember the business name and all the players. The business owners change tactics by using different email addresses and the parent company name instead of the name used in the original ad. Ask yourself, why are their ads always flagged, and why are they taking such pains to look like they’re another company altogether?
6. Asking for Money
You should never have to pay to work for someone. Ever. Period. Done.
P.S. There are job listing sites on the job boards they may request money. It’s one thing to pay to find a job on a membership-only job site and a whole other story to pay to work for a client. The client should be paying you to work for him and not the other way around.
7. Vague Ads
Ever wonder why certain employers don’t put any information in job ads? Because once you “inquire within” you learn you wasted your time. Again, not every vague ad means the client has something to hide. However, most employers will at least let you know a few details about what the job entails in order to attract the right type of writer.
8. Free Samples
We discuss free samples often. Again, this isn’t necessarily a sign that a client isn’t a good one. Some clients want to make sure you’re a good fit and don’t know it’s not quite ethical to ask someone to write a sample on spec (and not pay for it). Other clients want something for nothing and take your sample and use it without compensation. Before you submit a sample, find out what will happen if the sample is not accepted and paid for. Will he use it anyway? Or do you get to retain the rights and submit it elsewhere?
9. Quantity Over Quality
Ads saying they’d rather you were prolific than talented are sure to be low payers. Anyone who doesn’t care about the writing, doesn’t care about the writer. He’s only interested in stocking his site with content to earn money.
10. May Lead to Paying Opportunity
Does this look familiar? “The job doesn’t pay now, but it may pay in the future.” My response to that is, “contact me when it pays.” Our landlords don’t allow us to maybe pay the rent. Our grocery stores don’t allow us to maybe pay for the grocieries. Writers shouldn’t maybe write for anyone.
Deb’s disclaimer: I’m not saying jobs with these red flags are always poor opportunities. Indeed there are some good jobs asking for free samples or using exclamation points. However, the spammy stuff tends to over sell in their ads or do their best to appeal to the people who are inclined to accept lower paying opportunities. Use what is posted here to proceed with caution. There’s nothing wrong further investigation. If a job appeals to you, by all means, apply. Always read the fine print and make sure the end justifies the means.