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Never Pay For Freelance Writing Gigs, Well, Hardly Ever

never pay for freelance writing gigsYou and I should never pay for freelance writing gigs! Never? Well, hardly ever.

I was wandering around the ‘net this morning and stumbled into yet another company that promises to find you an unlimited supply of freelance writing jobs. First, you have to watch about 15 minutes of a video to determine that yes, you will pay and that you will pay a discounted fee of about half their normal cost.

Note, you’re not paid to watch the video, and a brief search for reviews will reveal they’ve been offering the same “bargain” for at least several years. This one at least claims to be charging a one-time fee. Many others will bill you monthly, and some will take a percentage of your pay.

Sources are often unclear

What usually isn’t made clear is exactly how they get their job listings. Most scoop up at least some, if not the majority, of their listings from places that charge the employer but charge the prospective employee or freelance writer nothing – like Indeed, ProBlogger, Craigslist, Morning Coffee, etc. etc. etc. In other words, you can find probably 90 percent or more of the jobs on your own.

In some cases the jobs are stale – that is they went up a day or even a week ago which makes them darn close to useless. Employers often receive 100s if not 1,000s of applications. Most aren’t equipped to evaluate that many so start throwing them out or ignoring them after the first day or so.

All of which leads me to say never pay for freelance writing gigs.

But wait, there’s more!

These programs claim to offer efficiency through filtering, which actually reduces the number of offerings you get to look at. While some general filtering like ‘part time’ and ‘remote’ can be helpful, trying to narrow your search by industry and other choices is likely to eliminate too much.

You are the only one who truly knows and can recognize what kind of freelance writing gig you want and can do.

For example, I’ve been hired to write about real estate, which I do have a background in, and about custom build steel tanks, which I definitely don’t. The filters would have eliminated the latter, yet that led to all sorts of industrial writing gigs that paid quite well. I knew could do it when read the job description and was able to convince the prospective employer to give me a chance.

Another negative is that to find out what they charge and how they actually work these folks insist you give up your email address – and it isn’t always easy to find out how to unsubscribe.

Never Pay For Freelance Writing Gigs, Well, Hardly Ever

Okay, what do I mean by the ‘well, hardly ever’ phrase, other than a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore? The ‘hardly ever’ is the recognition that there are some occasions when it may be appropriate to pay someone a finders fee as it were.

Legitimate literary agents are one example. If an agent sells your book to a trade publisher they will earn 15 percent of your income on the book. But, if they aren’t successful they get paid nothing. (Please, read any contract with an agent carefully, and make sure you get all your questions answered before you sign.)

Once in a while you may run into someone who has solid contacts with people who hire writers. Many of these are happy to let you use their name or will offer to introduce you for nothing but good will. A few may request a finders fee. Over time I’ve paid a couple of these. In each case it was five percent of what I earned. In neither case it led to long-term repeat business and I’ve turned down such opportunities since. It’s a straight judgement call. It may be perfect for you, or not. Trust your gut on this one.

If you never pay for freelance writing gigs, how do you find them?

You find freelance writing gigs by having your own website with samples and by marketing yourself. And yes, using job finding lists like the one here can be an effective marketing tool. Like all marketing, you’ve got to use them for them to work for you.

Have you had experience, good bad or indifferent, with paid job marketing site? Tell us about it in comments.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Wow, I never knew that some companies try and get writers to pay to see writing jobs. I’m a part-time writer myself (more out of passion than a desire to make a career out of it), but I do engage writers on a regular basis on a number of the platforms you mention.

    I have found great writers for my startup Task Pigeon and to be honest if they weren’t coming direct from the source or had a killer profile I could instantly see I wouldn’t engage them anyway.

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