It’s not unusual for established publishers, of magazines, books, and even websites to ask writers new to them to initially write on spec or speculation. It often works like this:
- You send a query.
- The publication says they’re interested and asks to see the piece.
- You send your writing knowing that if the editor likes it you’ll get paid. You don’t fear they will use it without paying you or even giving you credit.
- Or, you may send the whole manuscript, secure you won’t be ripped off.
Enter online job postings. Most online job postings placed on services like Criaigslist, Monster, etc. are placed anonymously or close to it. Often legitimate writing and editing gigs are placed by individuals or by tiny organizations most of us would never have heard of if it weren’t for the ‘net.
It’s generally impossible to tell from the ads if the advertiser is legitimate or not.
Some are obvious potential problems, like the ads that say one way or another, “we’ll need to use x number of your articles before we pay you.” Those are to be avoided like the plague because there is simply no way to guarantee they will ever want you to write for pay.
But what about an ad that asks for one or two sample articles? Is this a scam or is this someone who has a legitimate opportunity but doesn’t know how to ask for clips or tear sheets? Beleive me, lots of websites that need articles have been started by people who haven’t a clue about publishing terms.
The safest thing, of course, is to ignore those ads entirely. Another approach is to send a link to articles you’ve already written and been paid for, although this isn’t exactly what they asked for and you may just be ignored. Finally, you can send one or two short articles knowing you may be ripped off.
Trust your gut. If you decide to send a sample be willing to let it go, knowing you can use it or a version of it elsewhere. There’s no point in getting caught up in a “they didn’t pay me” lament – that’s just wasted energy.
Write well and often,
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.
Image from http://www.sxc.hu