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Freelance Writing Jobs That Wave A Red Flag

freelance writing jobs that wave a red flagWriting jobs that wave a red flag should warn you away.

Freelance writing jobs that wave a red flag include ones where the prospective employer says in the ad something like “I require frequent meetings.” This came from an actual ad.

What galls me is that, based on the rest of the ad, there is no reason for such a requirement. The fellow, and somehow I’m sure it’s a guy in this case, wants a newsletter written – a page twice a month. This could be an ideal freelance writing job, but, well, read on.

Yes, according to his ad he’s got products and I assume he has product sheets or other information. He promises either information or a first draft for each issue. And he asks for frequent meetings. Then he adds insult to injury by saying “You can do this work at home.”

In my mind requiring frequent meetings and working at home are totally conflicting messages. Or maybe he doesn’t understand how to use a phone and email. Or doesn’t get how a freelance writer actually works.

The desire to control often makes writing jobs that wave a red flag

I tend to stay away from ads that indicate the prospective employer is a control freak. Control freaks, in my experience, are time sinks. I’d have to triple my rate and it still probably wouldn’t be worth it.

While meeting with a client who is close or who is willing to fly me to wherever, pay for my tme and provide meals and a decent hotel, can be fun and even informative, it truly isn’t necessary.

More freelance writing jobs that wave a red flag

There are all sorts of freelance writing jobs that wave a red flag, including:

  • Another version of the same problems is the ad that claims it’s a freelance writing job but insists I be available on instant messaging all the time. No way. When would I write? And who wants to be on call 24/7? Not for a writing gig thank you very much.
  • Anything that indicates to me requires approval of the writing will require two or more people. I’ve written for committees and it’s awful. I’ll suggest they assign one person I work with, and if they balk I tell them about the job I turned down when they bragged their committe had managed to approve a book mark in just over a year – true story, I promise.
  • Any job that wants an original, unpaid sample. I might have done this once or twice in the beginning of my writing career, but now I’ve got more samples than anyone could possibly want. I will sometimes give ideas in my response. Ideas can’t be copyrighted and they do show I have some talent. And once in awhile someone will want a couple of sentences or a short paragraph as a sample. I will do those for free if they’re easy.
  • Any gig that offers me a percentage rather than actually paying me my fees – I’ve sometimes won when I’ve taken my regular payment plus a percentage – that’s a bonus. Now I won’t even consider it… well, if they have a contract and a marketing expert I might reduce my fee and take a healthy percentage, but probably not.
  • Any writing job that requires me to write in a belief system I can’t work in. For example, it’s unlikely I’d be able to write well for the National Rifle Association, nor would I want to.
  • Any writing job that just doesn’t feel right to me. I’ve learned to trust my intuition.

I also recognize that it can seem difficult for employers to pick the right writer. That’s why my website is complete and I’m more than willing to answer questions when we get to the interview stage. Over time I’ve had too much success writing for folks I never meet in person to feel the personal touch is necessary.

What are your favorite freelance writing jobs that wave a red flag?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer



Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Oh boy, this is a fave topic of mine…

    Anybody that promises anything in the ad other than money is a bullsh*tter in my book. If they say things like, ‘You’ll get exposure,’ I feel like I’m the one who decides whether that’s any good or not. And the promise of future work is one of my favorites, especially when they’re cheap as hell. It’s like, ‘Cool, more future substandard pay? I’m in!’

    I fell for the free sample thing once and when the person didn’t reply to my emails, I posted the article on my blog. I hope they got busted trying to sell it.

    Anne, I have a client right now who likes lengthy Skype discussions where nothing gets done. It drives me crazy when I see a Skype message that says, ‘Are you there?’ But I came right out and told him I have limited time for meeting.

    I also have a Japanese client that likes unproductive Japanese-style lunch meetings. I just told them it’s alright, but I charge for time and train fare. They want to have drinking ‘meetings,’ another Japanese-style time suck, and I just told them thanks but I don’t mix business with fun.

    Whew… that felt good. Didn’t realize I was so frustrated!

    • Hey, Greg, good to hear from you… you’re on the right track, either increase your rates so meetings don’t hurt, or bill them for ’em… I tell folks I can talk now for 10 minutes, will that do? Often they say yes, and we may go for 15, but if we aren’t doing something productive I tell em I have to move on to the next client.

      I like the rest of your comment too 😉

      • Setting a time limit is a good idea. I always mentally do that, but I should tell them, ‘I’ve got X minutes…’

        Anne, I’m trying to get back on the forum a bit. I’ve been doing stuff other than writing lately and have been out of the loop.
        Greg recently posted..Get Action!! – Film ReviewMy Profile

  • “Hiring” without any communication.

    I got “hired” just this morning to write a blog post about noise cancelling headphones. That leaves a bunch of ‘what ifs’ unanswered. What if I am too busy or don’t care to write about it?

    • What do you mean, Paul… who sent it? Anyone you know? Did they state pay? Is it from a real, answerable email or a no-reply addy?

  • I turned down a business plan gig, once. It gradually became clear, after seeing the input material, that the entrepreneur had zero chance of doing anything but spend any money invested. A well-written business plan would have camouflaged his lack of experience. The money was okay, but I would have felt creepy accepting it. I’ve done business plans before, but this one was a little off in other ways, as well, and clearly several others had already worked on it.
    .-= jorgekafkazar´s last blog ..Tenirax, Ch V =-.

    • Anne

      Good for you, Jorge. I’ve turned down clients for similar reasons.

  • Ah yes, the dreaded “you can write this 1,000 word article in 45 minutes” people. Love those.

    I also avoid academic papers – I had to write my own papers through college, and it’s just unethical to write “sample” essays for others to skirt through their academics.

    The ones asking for a free writing sample are also big no-nos. I broke down a few years ago and did a free “sample” test transcription for a company, and surprise, surprise, never heard a word from them again. Hope they enjoyed their free work at my expense! Lesson learned!

    • Anne

      Kelli, many have fallen for the same thing… as long as you learned the lesson… and thanks for sharing it.

  • Meg

    “Perfect for stay-at-home moms” seems to always mean underpaid article spinning, so that’s a huge warning for me.

    And Sonal is right, any variation on “it won’t take you long” is a red flag, it’s just setting you up to hear that you can make huge money if you can crank out the “quick” $2 articles.
    .-= Meg ´s last blog ..Eufloria Reviewed =-.

    • Anne

      Meg, I’ll bet you’re right about that one too… sigh.

  • admin

    I don’t worry much about the ad posters writing ability… that’s what I’m for… im lingo is new to me. I know I’ve ignored ads that insist on availability via im… not because I don’t im, but because I don’t want to always be available to anyone

  • The ‘It won’t take you long to do’ line.
    The ‘No pay, but plenty of publicity’ line.

    Sonal Panse’s last blog post..Sketch Book – Pashupatinath

  • JMS

    Yep, poorly written ads that have few or no details, especially if they use IM lingo (“I need sum1 2 rite n article 4 me.” Yes, I’ve actually seen one similar to that.).

    And, like some have already said, posters with ludicrous expectations. I recently saw an ad for a job that needed to be done within 24 hours. It involved doing complete rewrites of 20 500-word articles, I think. The pay? $35. I wish I were kidding.

  • A meeting in person… No thanks! 🙁 If interested in that I’d be going to dating sites. Nothing a phone call or e-mail can’t fix. 🙂

    Michelle Kafka’s last blog post..What Key Factors Can Inventors Teach Freelancers?

  • Lynne

    Typos, grammatical errors, and people who expect me to do their homework. No thanks.

  • Sorry for the typos but I am angry this morning about being jobbed on a job.

  • My pet peeve is people who tell me that 3 800 word articles should only take an hour to write.

    Or worse yet is the client that negoiates a price for the job with a definite payment date and then does not keep their promise. You have to keep a steady email stream going to get paid.
    That is processed hay by a bull as far as I am concerned.

    Many ads have no conseption of waht it takes to write and article that you have to research to write. They seem to lowball the work involved.

  • admin

    Joy, that’s also a good approach. Ample pay is the only reason I’ll even try to work with a control freak.

    Brooke… I recognize those people! They are the ones that drove me to freelance in the first place.

  • I also stay away from the control freaks, including the one who wanted me to promise that I would work for a specific length of time, then take a break of a specified length. (I tried to tell him that’s not how a freelance editor working out of a home office does it.) Others to be avoided: anyone who wants a 100% perfection guarantee or guarantee of outcome (i.e., usually publication) or who wants to meet so he/she can “explain” the work to me (either it doesn’t need explanation so that would be a waste of time–or it does need explanation, meaning it will be a nightmare to edit.)

  • Joy

    I’m willing to take meetings, as long as I’m paid for my time.

  • admin

    Great comments everyone… a bunch of articles I can do here… Cuirie, definite red flag, maybe a dozen. I actually leave out ads that ask for women only or girls, or photos… your looks have nothing to do with telecommuting, period.

  • I’m with you, Anne. Plus, in the instances where the employer wants meetings and it’s actually a legit contract, I factor in quotes for the meeting time, the travel time, and any travel expenses. I’m not paying for it — the client pays for it.

    Red flags for me — if they want me to already own specific stoftware — look, you want me to do something with specialized software, you provide it; demands for IM or constant phone contact — I check messages twice a day and return calls. The rest of the day, my phone is turned OFF. And I hate IM’ing, 90% of it is a waste of time. Writing someone else’s academic paper, query letter, or admission essay; very LONG ads with complicated instructions — if I get bored reading the ad, I’m the wrong person for the job; and, a topic that we’ve discussed here this week, project specific samples for free. I negotiate a rate for those, or I pass. Oh, and being “on-call” when they offer pennies per words.

    Devon Ellington’s last blog post..Wednesday, March 25, 2009

  • curie

    i don’t know if this is a red flag or deemed appropriate…a prospective employer wanted me to chat with him via webcam. as much as possible, i stay away from jobs which entail webcam communication (but then his ad didn’t say anything about this). i said my apologies and asked if we could just have simple IM chat. he then asked me to send him a picture. i was thinking, will the way i look be instrumental in my getting the telecommuting job?

  • Here’s my list Anne:
    -ads that have spelling mistakes in them.
    -ads that are extremely vague (“I need a writer to help me.”)
    -ads that say they want some editing help on a draft of a document, but then by the end of the ad say they want you to actually write the whole thing. If you want me to write the whole thing, just say so up front! (In fact, see my recent post Job Fail: Why Doing the Job Yourself is More Important for an example of this one.)

    Julia Borgini’s last blog post..Job Fail: Why Doing the Job Yourself Is Important

  • Great post.

    Posts resembling academic papers turn me off instantly. I don’t want to do something I believe to be unethical.

    Revenue-share is a big red-flag for me, unless there is also a flat-fee involved. And even then, it’s a big “unless.”

    “You will be compensated in experience and a by-line.” Yes, but those don’t pay the rent.

    “Writer needed to write my New York Times bestseller.”

    Greg’s last blog post..Getting Things Done: Someday/Maybe

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