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Avoiding Deadbeat “Employers”

avoiding cheating writing employersHi Anne,

how do you deal with cheaters? I responded to one ad. The guy told me to write a test article and said he would give me bigger projects if I passed the test.

How do you make sure that people are not going to cheat you?  I do not want to spend 2 weeks to do the project and be cheated again!I have already been cheated a couple of times. for someone like me who is straightforward, it makes me hopping mad!

Una, in comments, who blogs at http://www.everydaylifeproblems.blogspot.com/

Hi Una

I’m sorry you didn’t get paid. It happens. I wish I knew how to stop it, but all I can do is try to inform freelance writers how to protect themselves.

Rarely should you ever write for free.

In my opinion every “employer” who wants a writer to do a “test” article is a scammer. Chances are if you ran Copyscape or some similar service that checks for duplicate web copy you’d find your article has been used even though you didn’t get paid. And it may have been changed just enough so it’s next to impossible to tell for sure. Besides, even if it’s 100% what you submitted, the chances of ever collecting what I suspect was a small fee is hardly worth the effort.

The answer is don’t do test articles, period.

You can submit a link to articles you’ve already published and to your list of writing credits, and move on. (One reason I believe every writer should have their own website or blog.) If, by some chance, the ad is legit the company may contact you and commission an article.

As your writing skill improves and you develop some credits and begin to move up to better paying clients you can begin to ask for a deposit, even as much as half the fee, up front. You’ll be setting your own rates by then and asking for money up front is the truly professional thing to do.

The reason these schemes work is because people continue to fall for the scam. If all freelance writers truly valued themselves and just refused to even apply for this kind of gig there would be fewer cheats.

On my part I’ll work harder to eliminate scams from the job postings, although I can’t afford to take time to apply myself. So if you find one of the ads here leads to a request for a ‘test’ article or something similar, ask for a deposit and post your experience in comments.



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{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Hi Uma, I’ve written it twice on here, but don’t know where. Basically, you can’t just lock a PDF, those are easy to break. I actually take a screen shot of the content and lock the JPEG in the PDF. Even if they unlock it, they can’t cut and paste your content.

    but, they can still retype it. so, I black out significant portions of the content in Photoshop or Paint – leaving enough that they can see I’ve done the work and that it’s good, but not enough that they can use it. Then I lock that in the PDF.


  • uma

    Once you are confident about the company or person, then, it is smooth sailing all the way….I am part of a few writing teams, mostly thanks to you! I can understand how difficult it must be to weed out the scams to post the genuine ones. But, it is OK, Anne. Don’t worry about it. You are already helping by posting the job links. I do not check any other writing links. It is mainly yours. Thanks for your hard work!
    uma recently posted..Analyze your writing- I write like websiteMy Profile

  • uma

    But, if the company or person says that he will pay for the test articles, it is normally OK. That is based on my personal experience. It is not easy, Anne. I remember passing a test and working on a project. After I had submitted all the required articles, the guy refused to pay me. I got this offer thru GetAFreelancer. When I sent the first few batches of articles, he commented that they were excellent blah blah. In other words, it is really hard to know who is genuine, especially if you are dealing with an individual. I think that it is important to do some check on a company or individual to verify the comapny ‘s or person ‘s authenticity during the initial stage.
    uma recently posted..Analyze your writing- I write like websiteMy Profile

  • I’ve done a test paragraph before and won a good paying job. Otherwise, no.

    Anne, you should provide the info I’ve posted here a couple of other times on how to protect yourself (i.e. locking images of your work with some portions blacked out in secure PDFs – such that the customer can see the quality and that you’ve done the work, but has nothing usable). Dont have time to post again today.

    • uma

      Let me start out with , “Sorry for the late reply”. I did not realise that you posted my comment in this link!
      Thanks, Anne for your excellent advice. I nearly got cheated again. But, this time, I searched for the company name in the worldwide web and I could not find it! I checked the phone number, location and company name in a free directory. It is not listed under said co. name!I was asked to do an initial test, which I apparently passed. Then, I was given this so-called search project and was asked to submit after two weeks. I have not!
      I already have links to published articles as a ghostwriter. Normally, I give those as samples. It works with the legit. companies. So, yes, you are right about that!
      uma recently posted..Analyze your writing- I write like websiteMy Profile

  • leah shepherd

    I agree with what Anne said — all “test articles” are a scam. And I’ve fallen for it myself once or twice. I won’t do it again. No one would ever ask their dentist to do a “test cavity filling” for free. No one would ever ask a teacher to teach a “test class” for free. So it’s disrespectful to think the freelance writer should write or edit something for free. Of course, this is different from the deadbeat clients that commission an article and then simply don’t pay. That’s happened to me once, and from then on, I’ve been determined to be more careful about taking on new clients, understanding who they are, and getting more information about the parent company (if there is one). I’m staying away from any clients that appear to be shoe-string operations or individuals running a publication out of their home. It’s better if it’s a publication with a parent company with an accounting department and supervisors that you can talk to if your editor isn’t returning your calls.

    • uma

      You are right about taking jobs from a company with supervisors and so forth. But, I think that it might be important to verify the authenticity of the company before you actually start working for them..The internet can help you at times!
      uma recently posted..Analyze your writing- I write like websiteMy Profile

  • I got to a non payer by contacting the hosting company that carried their website. They changed hosting companies three times and I kept contacting the web site host and told them that the party was cheating writers.

    After the third time the lady paid me.

    I will send clips, but not test articles and I have told many that I do not write for free.

  • Melanie

    I don’t do test or sample articles unless the employer states I will be paid for them. However, I recently did a job that took a solid two days, and then simply didn’t get paid. I sent in the work, and the “employer” never responded. After three more emails, I gave up. The scams sometimes make freelance writing discourgaing, but I love what I do.

    • Anne

      Please, post who the employer is so others are warned.

      • Melanie

        His name was Jeff Walton, and he claimed to work for the website, constant content. He used the email: thewritework@gmail.com. I was also given the email: writersupport@netbusiness.com.

        He advertised through Craigslist, and after I received no response to my emails, I went back to Craigslist and flagged the ad. the job was for writing reviews, and he claimed to pay $10 per review.

        • uma

          Hi Melanie,here is the link,http://www.constant-content.com/
          Just apply directly. As far as I know, this company is not scam…I am not part of its writing team. I do not think that the company deals with reviews.
          uma recently posted..Analyze your writing- I write like websiteMy Profile

        • Leila

          This guy, Jeff Walton, is back and he’s still posting ads on Craigslist. This time, he’s offering $20 for people to sign up for different sites and send a review.

          From what I have read, he’s a scammer. People, please stay away from him.

        • Steve

          Jeff is on the roll again.

          I almost fell for it, but luckily, I decided to google his e-mail address first, that’s how I landed on this page. Thanks for sharing his info, Melanie.

          Perhaps someone should make a regularly-updated list of scammers; it will get indexed by google and less people will waste their time working for nothing.

          Once a freelancer learns about existence of such lists, he’ll be using it to prescreen all of his future offers.

          It might even help him get paid. No one wants to end up on such a list.

          Someone mentioned reporting scammers to their hosting providers. That’s a good tactic, I’ve heard about cases where it solved the problem. Maybe you won’t get paid that way, but at least you’ll return the blow.

          If you don’t know how to do that, here’s what you gotta do:
          1. Go to http://who.is/whois/ and enter their website address. Press Whois Lookup
          2. On the results page, take a look at the part with the namespaces. It will usually contain something like ns1.bluehost.com or ns1.hostgator.com or, in case of this website (aboutfreelancewriting.com), it will be ns1.inveniadesign.com .
          3. Now just take the root domain name, eg. bluehost.com / hostgator.com / inveniadesign.com, or whatever it is, and visit that site. It will take you to their hosting provider.
          4. Click the contact button, or find their e-mail address, and tell ’em a few words about their client… and how it’s unhealthy for them to be associated with him. Be detailed.
          5. Don’t be afraid to message them again. Messages can get lost, deleted or ignored.

          That should cut it.

          Similar procedure for his affiliates. If someone would contact each of them and tell them a couple of words about Jeff, perhaps even direct them to this page, I’m sure they would kick him out of their network.

          Good luck, fellow writers.

          • Editors and Preditors – http://pred-ed.com/ – has been doing something like what you suggest for a very long time, which doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done differently or better. Take a look.

            Craigslist also tries to filter at scammers, but needs help. http://www.craigslist.org/about/help/flags_and_community_moderation

            Good description of tracking someone down through whois, thanks

          • Melanie Williamson

            I’m glad you saw this post! I was actually just thinking about it because in the last two days I’ve seen ads from the same guy on Craig’s list for 3 or 4 different big cities. I have flagged them every time I see them.

            • I just flagged one on twiter – it’s really up to all of us to force these jokers out of business. Or get them to straighten up.

  • RIGHT ON, Anne! Most “test articles” are scams. Just move on.
    Carol Tice recently posted..How I Became a Freelance Writer — and 7 Tips on How You Can Do It- TooMy Profile

    • Anne

      Carol, I’m thinking maybe “all” test articles are scams… rarely use “all” but…

  • KathleenL

    I will echo Fred’s words… Perfect response, Miss Annie!

    Una – I don’t respond to those folks who want “test” articles. It is insulting to us as a family of writers.
    I have published clips and a full Work Listing that shows the publications I’ve been published in and the dates. If that is not enough I tell them – just because the title of our profession is Freelance Writer does not mean it is done for Free. I put good hard earned money into my craft. And I not only need to put food on the table, but I need to pay back my student loans. – And I decline to write for them

    • Anne

      Love it when others agree 😉

      • uma

        Hi Kath, I love your comments about the “insulting and freelancer parts”. I might mention the same thing to people who ask me for test articles. You are right. I have links to published articles and I am part of a few writing teams. To date, I have already written hundreds of articles, covering all sorts of topics. My portfolio should be more than sufficient. Worse comes to worse, the company or person can request for revision of articles during the initial stages. But, no, I did not have any such problems when I first joined the writing companies. Anyway, thanks for your comment and advice. Best of luck in paying back your student loans ASAP…
        uma recently posted..Analyze your writing- I write like websiteMy Profile

  • Perfect response. While putting a new employee through a series of editing or paragraph writing challenges can be appropriate for some positions, the idea of requesting ‘the first one free’ is a waste of time for both the legitimate employer as well as the freelancer. If you have a portfolio then your ability to write is self evident.
    Fred H Schlegel recently posted..CHANGEMy Profile

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