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Why Do You Say “Be Careful”? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

Hi Anne,

Next to one of the writing ads that asks for samples you had written, “be careful.”
Can I ask why? Are you thinking they would just go ahead and use the samples without giving the writer credit?
Thanks,
AM
 
Hi AM,
 
Exactly. Now to be clear, I have no indication that any particular ad poster is planning to rip writers off. And asking for a single sample might be okay – sort of like the way magazines do it.
 
A magazine will often ask for an article on spec; if they like it they’ll pay and publish, if they don’t they simply return it to you.
 
But I do know of the occasional case where a writer writes several samples, never hears from the prospective employer and later finds those articles published both without credit and without pay. This seems to happen most often when the employer offers two or three bucks for several articles and insists on multiple samples – hence the warning.
 
Another writer asked about this in another way at: Free Sample Writing? Ask Anne The Pro Writer

[askanne]

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Hi Anne, I love your blog, tips, and all of the knowledge you share and look forward to your emails.

    I was wondering if freelance writers should charge for meetings? I have a client whom I regularly meet with weekly, which is fine, but recently she’s been asking to meet with me three or four times a week, and they tend to run long and often not need me for much (when they also involve others); this is time I’m losing from other projects I’m working on. What would you do?

    Also, the same client has me writing and sending daily e-mail blasts–including weekends, which was simply assumed that I would do. I know it’s my own fault for not clarifying what “daily” meant in the first place–on my own part, I had made an assumption that daily meant week days!–and making it clear that I don’t want to be up at six AM every single day sending these things (especially on holidays), but I’ve been doing it for a couple of months now and don’t want to be a jerk about it! What would you do in this situation?

    Thanks Anne, you rock!
    Sara

    Sara Schmidt’s last blog post..May is Save the Wetlands Month

  • You know, until I really started looking for new freelance work online, I never had encountered the “provide a sample on XYZ topic with your application” phenomenon. And then I started noticing that request frequently. I always wondered what happened to the sample articles….

    Jennifer L’s last blog post..Goodbye, Dean Cleghorn

  • It definitely pays to stay informed.

  • admin

    You know what? I think the scammers are pretty far and few between… it pays to be careful, but not to drive yourself crazy imo

  • I have seen all of the scams mentioned in the comments. I’ve only actually written a free sample once, and was told I didn’t get the job (neither did a bunch of other people I talked to). I expect I’ll see that sample on some website soon. Oh well, you live and you learn. I agree that if you can’t get a feel for my writing style when I send you links and past articles up the wazoo, then you probably don’t even know what you’re looking for.

    Autumn’s last blog post..Info for Gamers

  • A fairly devious scam that preys on samples:

    The poster of the ad has an affiliate account with an online dating site or casino. He posts an ad looking for writers, offering good pay. When contacted, he asks the applicants to join the site he is affiliated with, which is free, and write a review about it. He collects the reviews and disappears forever – because he got paid by the site in question for the members he delivered to them.

    Rinse, repeat.

    Benjamin Hunting’s last blog post..How To Protect Your Car From Mice

  • It’s happened before — a year or so ago, a whole bunch of people answered a post on a job board for a company. The company contacted individuals and said we were part of the “final six” and requested a “test article” to see if we were the right fit, in spite of the samples and clips sent. I refused; later, I received an email from another person approached who’d come across several of us discussing this ad on a board and knew others who responsed, put together a list, and it turns out 48 people were sent the email stating we were in “the final six” — well, final five, once I pulled out! 😉

    No one who sent the “tests” ever heard from the company again. And yet, lo and behold, a few months later, on a totally differently named site an article cobbled together from the “tests” appeared under another company’s name. No one who supplied the “tests” was paid, the address to which they were originally sent was disabled, and there was a good deal of legal wrangling.

    Another example: An ‘aspiring’ novelist posted an ad for an editor. Several other freelancers and I answered it. We all got a request to edit 5 pages so the author could see if we were a good fit. I emailed back my rate for such a test, and never heard from the person again. Three people sent in edits and were told they didn’t have the job. Later, when a group of us got together to catch up, the rest of the members found out everyone was sent different pages to edit and all were told they didn’t have the job and wouldn’t be paid– in other words, Ms. Aspirant set it up to get it all done for free.

    Both of those are reasons I don’t do unpaid samples. If you need something project specific, we negotiate a special rate. If you can’t tell from my clips if I’m what you need, you either don’t know what you need or you’re a scammer.

    My experience.

  • Great advice, Anne. I’m always very iffy about samples for this reason, and as a rule only send them if:

    – The company/potential client is reputable (and I can find something that tells me/shows me that).
    – I already have a sample I can send, OR, in the case of having to write a new one (which I seldom do unless it’s a job I really, really want), it won’t take very long.

    Bottom line: Protect time and property 🙂

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