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How Can I Tell If A Job Is Legit? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

Hi Anne,

Thanks for your job board. Sometimes I wonder about the writing and editing jobs you post. How can I tell if they are legitimate or if they are a scam?


Hi RW,

You can’t tell if the writing jobs I post are legitimate or not. At least not until you answer one. I do try to check the ones that sound suspicious to me, but that’s highly subjective, and I make no promises.

If, however, you get a response that asks you to go to a website that requires payment of some sort, you can be almost sure it’s a scam. I saw almost because there are a few sites that charge a low fee for jobs and I’m always wondering if I shouldn’t do the same thing.

Of course, asking for payment isn’t the only scam out there.

Google For Scams

You can also google the company or the person if they are listed in the ad. I’ll sometimes put is XXXX a scam? in google. Then I have to sort through the answers, because not every claim that something is a scam is accurate, but such a search can help.

Simply googling writing scams or freelance writing scams can also be revealing.

Whispers and Warnings

Angela Hoy, owner of Writers Weekly publishes a page called Whispers and Warnings. It’s always worth checking there. Under some circumstances, Angela and her team will contact the publisher in question. When this happens, the transaction is logged in her Whispers and Warnings forum.

Although she’s occasionally been off the mark, her research is usually solid and you can trust what she says. And if you have different information, she’s happy to have you post your version

Trust Your Gut

You really have to trust your gut. There’s no point in being overly cautious, but do be careful about what kind of personal information you share, at least until you are pretty clear about what’s being asked and why and what you can expect.

There are scams out there, but most of the jobs I post are not scams. Not all of them pay well, but most of them will pay.

If you run into a scam, post it in comments. We can watch out for each other.


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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • I’ve been scammed a number of times, despite my best efforts. I definitely recommend that no one submit more than a few sentences as a writing sample and avoid anyone who asks for more than that.

    If I’m not working through an escrow-protected job board and don’t have prior experience with the client, I always submit the work as a locked PDF with enough redacted to make it unusable, but not so much that the client can’t tell that I’ve done the work well.

    Still, if they were planning to scam you, that won’t get your money, and you’ll never hear from them again, so you’re still out your time and effort. I now make sure to inform the client early on that I will be sending the work as described, in the hope that they will recognize that I can’t be scammed and decline my services if that’s their intent.

    Sadly, I’m pretty good at spotting the scammers on the job boards, but because so many others aren’t, and the site moderators won’t let me warn them, I can only watch as others get scammed.

    Personally, I avoid projects that are scamming others — even if they seem willing to pay me to help. By that, I mean all the people taking advantage of stupid people to sell crap like bogus health products, affiliate programs, etc.

    And people with stupid business models — I don’t want to contribute, even in a helpful way, to someone’s failure.

    Finally, run from people with crazy expectations. For example, how many times have I seen someone with a less than $500 budget looking for a provider to get them on Oprah. And anyone who wants to pay for results only — as in: write a press release, and I’ll pay you if it gets picked up by major media. As writers, we can only do so much. If their idea is not worthy, great writing is not going to fool any editors.

    • Anne

      Agreed Ron, good points. And, when the project is over a couple of hundred bucks I ask for half up front (or a third if it’s thousands). My theory is that if I don’t get the rest I have at least been paid half my rate, which is pretty high.

  • admin

    Veronica, good idea submitting a published piece or two as a sample… that’s what magazines, for instance, expect… called tear sheets.

    Keep us posted about how this one works out or if you ever hear from them.

    • Be sure to let them know it is a published piece and cannot be reprinted. I had one clueless person try to reprint the piece – even though it was clearly marked with the original publication’s name on it and logo! They sent me an email asking me, “Is this for sale? I like it.”

  • It is getting to be more difficult in distinguishing a scam no matter how careful you are. On October 6th, I applied for a gig and received a response that day requesting an immediate 400 word blog needed by that afternoon. I wrote it but did not hear anything figuring it was not accepted.

    On December 31, I received an email stating that my article did not pass copyscape and I would not be paid for it. Again, I assumed that since it was general financial information on investing, perhaps the contents could have similar wording about economic times and I did quote some information giving credit.

    I have copyscape and ran my article through. Would you believe I found the article that I submitted word for word published on October 14th under another author’s (????) name?

    Now if this person did not contact me to tell me they were not paying me for this article, I never would have checked it out. Now that I did, I have written to them of my findings. I have also written to the website that has the article posted. So we shall see but personally I feel I must write it off as experience.

    This particular person has appeared in other classifieds seeking out buyers besides writers. They obviously found one for my article but gave out a bogus name for the author (no by-line or other info).

    This is the first and will be the last time I am scammed but I am writing this in hopes of others to be diligent with whom they accept offers from. I am sure we will all see more of these phonies creeping about during the recessionary period of 2009. Writers devote much of their time to their craft without having to have it ripped off.

    No more samples – submit a published piece as one instead. After all, it was published; so someone acknowledged that you are a writer.

    No more submissions without a contract and pertinent information (address, contact number, etc) – In other words, make sure they are legit.

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