1. Careers
Send to a Friend via Email

Discuss in my forum

Allena Tapia

Freelance Writing Job Scams

By February 23, 2009

Follow me on:

Do you know the red flags of freelance writing job scams? Have you ever fallen for a scam job?

Me? I'm not sure I've fallen for an out-and-out scam per se, but I have taken on jobs that were ridiculously low paid, in which I had underestimated the work. I think of that as more a beginner's mistake then the client actually meaning to pay slave wages!

How about you? Ever fallen for a freelance writing job scam?

February 23, 2009 at 12:49 pm
(1) Robert Palmer says:

I’ve never fallen for a scam but I did come across a reletively legitimate looking ad on Craigslist that sounded just a little to funky for me to persue farther. The add was an open call for a submission to a new magazine. All you had to do was “send a small sample with your name, address, telephone number (landline only!), email adress” . . . why would a magazine setting out an open call need all of your vital stats?

Sounded like fishing to me. I passed it by.

February 23, 2009 at 3:36 pm
(2) Angela says:

I see more and more ‘buyers’ or ‘employers’ looking for each applicant to submit a sample ‘on one of the following topics’. Given that there may be anywhere from 20 to 100 applicants, they could feasibly complete the entire project with samples and never have to hire anyone. I only submit re-written samples and refer the client to my work profiles online for more examples.

February 23, 2009 at 7:26 pm
(3) Rhetta says:

I actually responded to an ad on Craigslist and wrote not one, but TWO articles for a “so-called” magazine out of Atlanta. This was last April and I have not received payment for the articles yet, nor have I received a copy of the finished and published magazine. The editor keeps saying “the check is on the way” however, nothing has ever come of it and it’s been almost a year.

February 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm
(4) Wordssmith says:

I am from India and I work as a freelance technical writer and content provider. What the scamsters do here is promise high wages to begin with and these would be given in installments, as per the work progress. The first payment is given on time and we feel that its ok and continue to write. The next few payments get delayed, all on one pretext or another. Finally when the work is completed, I was told that the customer did not accept it, there were too many mistakes, blah blah. The vendor has got his moneys worth and I am left with nothing but only complaints.

February 23, 2009 at 10:14 pm
(5) Melissa says:

Yep. I wrote an article for a “new magazine” called Just Green Magazine. I found them on Craigslist. They were pretty pushy about getting the article by a certain date, and specific about what they wanted – an article on green transportation. Once I sent them the article, which took several hours of my time with online research, I never heard a peep out of them again. If it was a legit deal and they thought my article was crap they would have at least had the common courtesy to say so! Craigslist has been scratched off my list for writing gigs.

February 24, 2009 at 7:02 am
(6) Glenn Robinson says:

I have come across many business situations that look real, but they always ask for money and they always promise the buyer some crazy amount of money that thecompany is not going to pay. Most of these marketing scams are based on the ponzi scheme format, where a user has to recruit more and more folk into a scam in order for whatever product they are trying to hawk to work; those at the very top are the ones, who parasite off of everyone else at the bottom. Free-lance writing seems like the best way to earn extra monies. I would stay away from any site, company, etc…. That promises something, but in reality they are looking to parsite off of the unsuspecting buyer.

February 24, 2009 at 11:19 am
(7) Martika says:

Glenn, could you please explain the details of this sort of scam a little more? And Angela, what are rewritten samples? I’m just starting out with freelancing so I would greatly appreciate the advice.

February 24, 2009 at 12:15 pm
(8) deborah says:

I have never fallen for a scam like this, but, I have replied to many of the craigslist jobs, some of which I am well over-qualified, and NEVER get an answer. Very frustrating to take the time and effort to do so, and then to get no reply for your efforts.

February 24, 2009 at 12:44 pm
(9) Henry Butler says:

Interestingly, you have an ad on your same page that has scam potential…Viva Travel Guides wants you to pay your way on a Travel Writing “Boot Camp”, and then promises “get published and get paid for it”. It would be interesting to know where you will be published, perhaps as a contributor to their guide, and how much you will be paid, perhaps less than you paid to come to their “Boot Camp”.

February 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm
(10) freelancewrite says:

Good point. For the record, I have not checked out most of the companies in Google ads, even the ads on this page. I don’t choose them nor have control over them. Be just as cautious with them as any other ad!

February 24, 2009 at 4:04 pm
(11) Jennifer L says:

I haven’t ever completely fallen for a scam, as in I’ve never completed a project for someone and had them disappear. But I’ve certainly applied for a few jobs, that upon closer review, seem to be scams. Last week, I got an email from one outfit I had applied to, telling me that I had to pony up a certain fee to even be considered for a writing gig. Um, no. You pay ME for my work. Not the other way around!

February 24, 2009 at 4:52 pm
(12) freelancewrite says:

@Wordsmith– I don’t know if I should be sad or relieved that the same things happen in India! Best of luck to you in avoiding that stuff.

February 24, 2009 at 4:54 pm
(13) freelancewrite says:

Rhetta, RObert, Jennifer L– Looks like the same things are coming up- Craigslist, and looking legitimate. Should you avoid Craigslist altogether then? Hmmm

February 24, 2009 at 4:57 pm
(14) freelancewrite says:

I’ve heard this complaint quite often. It’s likely because you’re competing against 500 other applicants. :(

February 24, 2009 at 7:55 pm
(15) Tim Thompson says:

Yes, I fell for a scam – but it had a twist: the scammer posed as a writer. I answered an appeal to help an ‘overworked freelancer in search of qualified writers to help’ with easing the workload. The freelancer asking for help was woman who then demanded 300-500 pieces for ‘hypothetical client requests’ along with pricing structures and justifications for the fees. At the time I was really pressed for work and so responded fully. I later discovered my ‘hypothetical client requests’ repurposed all over the Web with another person’s byline. I’ll never fall for that one again!

February 24, 2009 at 9:34 pm
(16) freelancewrite says:

Tom- NICE! That’s awful. I guess the signs are the same, though. Was that on Craigslist?

February 25, 2009 at 12:41 pm
(17) Tim Thompson says:

freelancewrite – Maybe that response to Tom is actually to Tim? If so, yes, I believe it was off Craigslist. Also, the original comment should read: two or three 300- to 500-word pieces. Can’t resist being an editor, even on a blog comment. ;-)

February 25, 2009 at 12:44 pm
(18) freelancewrite says:

oops, yup, Tim Thompson. Sorry. So, they wanted more than ONE, even? THE NERVE! These comments are giving me the willies. I think I’m started to get paranoid about getting scammed!

February 26, 2009 at 5:58 am
(19) swanprincess says:

what about those freelance job sites that offer great opportunities but ask for an entry fee ? I would like to get some advice before I fall for a scam !!

February 26, 2009 at 8:20 pm
(20) Trever Wellund says:

It is unfortunate that there are so many people looking to take advantage of writers. I am currently looking for a writer/editor for seniors-discount.com – I placed an add in Craigslist – we will see how it goes.


February 26, 2009 at 8:22 pm
(21) Trever Wellund says:

For easy click through to the site –

February 27, 2009 at 10:06 am
(22) Lamont Williams says:

I’m relatively new to freelance writing. I used Craigslist before and I have come across scams before. I “tested” one of the jobs of Craigslist with a crappy article. They accepted it and never got back with me. It was only 150 words with many premeditated mistakes.

March 5, 2009 at 2:29 pm
(23) Yani says:

I found this blog about landing freelance jobs on Elance.

Best advice I’ve found on the net.



April 16, 2009 at 11:19 am
(24) Ben Tyers says:

An informative article, thanks

August 23, 2009 at 11:00 am
(25) Bernard says:

If you make the mistake of responding to a Craigslist ad, just be sure you are sending your work to a corporate email address, not a freebie. Always look up the person sending the request and call them on the phone number on the website to see if the ad is legitimate. Also, be very careful with CareerBuilders because someone is duplicating their logo and sending badly-worded scams. Finally, never get sucked into citizen journalist sites that offer “royalties” rather than real pay. When I was starting out I got $10 for sixteen articles.

February 27, 2010 at 5:34 pm
(26) wordwright says:

I have been scammed I believe. First, after approving the work in progress I was told that it was inferior and not written by a native speaker. Then the buyer’s credit card expired the same day. O wonders. So there have been weeks of placating emails to fend me off. Now I have said that I will put the articles on the market again. This person now threatens me with being hunted down with legal action, says the articles are posted and those servers would be involved. If the articles have been posted and unpaid I think that this is out and out theft. And the audacity of legal action against me! Where does a writer turn in a case such as this?

March 2, 2010 at 3:13 am
(27) brownbagger says:

? ?

July 6, 2010 at 1:10 pm
(28) A. Simon says:

Hi, I responded to these people, http://www.freelancer.com/users/1289413.html AKA “thewritepreneur” who posted a CL writing gig ad on Tuesday, June 28th. They wanted two re-written articles-I looked up their profile on getafreelancer.com and read a great review, so I contacted them, sent my writing samples and received a message from “Dan” who wanted to hire me on the spot. Yes, I know-naive me. I wrote the 1st article, got great feedback, wrote the 2nd and heard nothing. I have not received any communication from the company for over a week and now have to put my articles through Google to see where they may be posted. I did research (should have done so before agreeing to do the work) and heard from two other writers who were similarly ripped off.

August 6, 2010 at 10:16 pm
(29) Kevin says:

So far, I have not fallen victim to a scam job. I don’t think I have anyway. I’ve recently began work with Academia-Research.com and I hope they’re legit. Does anyone else have experience with them. So far I enjoy it and pay day is coming soon. I’ve love to hear more about them for precautionary reasons. Thanks!

September 9, 2010 at 12:51 pm
(30) Elia says:

I applied for a paid per article Ad, communication was via skype, yahoo messenger or msn. They asked for a sample Article of 400-500 words and hired me right away. I was told I will be given just the title and keyword and provide them with the article within a couple of hours, the article will be checked through copyscape, assuming it passed (of course it’s an original article) I will be given the next job. They (the scammers) work in tandem, one will be the boss and tells you that a project manager will oversee and provide all the work. They’re very nice and welcoming at first. Then the project manager mysteriously disappears come Monday so I was left wondering. Two days passed so I finally messaged the “Boss” and asked politely where my project manager was, I was told that he was fired over the weekend and I was no longer a writer for their company. I told him it was unfair that I had to suffer the same fate as my so-called project manager without doing anything wrong, his response was that he wasn’t doing his job and that my articles came back as being plagiarized. I was flabbergasted! I told him to just pay me whatever amount he owed and he has the audacity to accuse me of plagiarism when clearly I wouldn’t be able to get more jobs from them without my previous articles getting accepted. I was tempted to give him a piece of my mind but decided to take the high road. I was never paid and thus ended my Freelance writing career.

December 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm
(31) Kyle says:

Suite101 and Digital Journal severely underpay. In 2 months, I made nearly 20 bucks from both. I could get job at McDonalds that would pay me more in four hours. For the most part, all the freelance writing jobs are cons, due to the fact of how much they pay. It would be impossible to feed ants by working on there, never mind your family.

June 11, 2011 at 8:14 pm
(32) Michelle says:

I fell for the good ol’ “please submit a sample article” scam.  It was for a company that claims to write articles for health care companies and they said they needed an article based off of one of three topics.  It was a definate “hindsight is 20/20″ moment.  I had just graduated with my BA in English so I was desperate for writing work.  They must have been looking for someone like me because it was advertised as an entry-level job.  I wrote a complex article requiring direct sources and never heard from them.  I called to ask the status of the article and they were always “still reviewing.”  A year later, a similar job post is still up.  

July 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm
(33) Abdul says:

The worst thing is to see your articles in a website under a another name and you never received a single cent for them. Am not racist, but Indian employers are notorious for scamming freelancers all over the platforms. Gosh! They are allover the place. You know you are about to be scammed when you start getting paid promptly and then you are told that something came up if you would be willing to continue working you will be paid later. If you make the mistake of continuing you are in for the long haul. I wish I can name names…

August 29, 2011 at 1:11 pm
(34) Lost says:

So….basically you’re all saying it’s hopeless?

September 24, 2011 at 11:42 am
(35) freelancewrite says:

Not I!!

September 21, 2011 at 2:38 pm
(36) br says:

So you have all shared the “bad” stories – does anyone have a “good” story? Any reputable places out there with which you have had personal experience?

January 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm
(37) Lisa says:

I have a CL success story! I actually responded to a “start-up magazine” call for submissions. I sent a query for an article idea; the publisher liked it and hired me to write it at an agreed upon price. It was accepted and published in the premier issue (a quarterly glossy mag on farmstead cheeses). Everything added up from the beginning: the publisher had documents (writer guidelines, writer agreements/contracts, and a fully-developed, professionally designed and programmed website for the magazine. I believe this is an ANOMALY for Craigs List. I have also been scammed (re-writer needed…please re-write this sample article….. If they get 50 people a week to fall for this, that’s a pretty good amount of content they are getting for free via their “you’re hired, but first re-write this sample article as a test of your abilities” routine. I believe it is all about timing: check the site every day for new, truly unique-sounding, legitimate entries and ignore the detritus.

January 2, 2013 at 7:17 pm
(38) freelancewrite says:

Thanks for your input, Lisa. I agree, there can be a gem or two in there….

January 2, 2013 at 6:08 pm
(39) Lisa says:

P.S. I’ve also done quite a bit of work for Demand Studios. Short web-content articles, easy process for selecting/assignments and pay is regular. It won’t pay all the bills, but if you have a few hours a week available for quick, brainless writing, it’s worth the money.

January 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm
(40) freelancewrite says:

…Except I understand that DS has moved past “easy” 30-minute articles; that these no longer exist. Yet, the pay model hasn’t changed. That’s what I’ve heard anyway.

January 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm
(41) freelancewrite says:

Thoughts/recent experiences, anyone?

March 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm
(42) Kim Morgan says:

I just answered an ad for a writing position on Craigslist promising $550 a week and possible relocation to Brooklyn. They liked my resume, etc. and asked me to send two articles, which I did. What sent up a red flag was they “hired” me on the spot, stating that I was the writer looking for (what, no other writers applied?). They sent me a detailed list of what they wanted, but I could tell that whoever was writing the email, although a great grasp of English, the English language was not their first language. So, to protect myself, I asked for the name of their new start up magazine, their physical address, and phone number, and to please send me a contract. Instead, I got an email back saying that they did not want to devulge this info yet, as they didn’t want anyone out there to steal their idea, that they could not provide an address because they did not yet have a web site or an office and were currently working out of Jacksonville (what happened to Brooklyn?). They said if that was a problem, not to bother answering the email. More red flags — an online magazine but no web site? No mention of a contract, which of course would have to mention an address. Then they again went into detail what they needed and decided to sweeten the pie by offering to send me a check before my first article is written, with health insurance after 4 months. But of course they needed my full name, address, phone number and zip code. I’m trying to figure out what the scam is, unless it’s that they now have two of my articles in their hands — or need my information so they can steal my bank account or identity. In any case, the ad is on Craigslist and is currently using the address deanjane251@yahoo.com. Don’t know if it’s a coincidence, but in my attempts at researching who this could be, I discovered that there is a $2 million condo for sale in Brooklyn at 251 Dean St. (their email is deanjane251@yahoo.com).

April 3, 2013 at 4:53 pm
(43) freelancewrite says:

Very very interesting, Kim. Do you mind if I turn this into a blog post to see if anyone might know what the potential scam is? I’m wondering if they were hoping to grab tons of free content from you… But then, the part where they offer to pre-pay…Weird.

April 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm
(44) Kathleen Novak says:

Kim this is really weird because I thought I was the writer Jane was looking for. I too have received the exact proposal as she gave to you. I submitted my résumé which has links to writing samples. I totally assumed scam, but what were they scamming from me?? And I was just as confused by the vague descriptions, no website, upfront payment and relocation to Jacksonville! WHAT DID HAPPEN TO BROOKLYN? This needs to be investigated.

April 20, 2013 at 7:14 pm
(45) Gabriella says:

I was an idiot and sent my name and address to Jane Dean . Re: an add on Craig’s List for Experienced Writer. I followed the same scenario that the above writer went through but I went a little further. Now I am worried big time.

This is clearly a scam but nothing ever really came of it. I would start getting letters addressed to “Dear Employee” and then some reference to a check for over $2000 sent to me (they were only supposed to send me a check for $550), but their email said I was to give the $550 to the copywriter. I AM the copywriter. So I wrote back and said this is screwy. it’s a SCAM. T

i certainly don’t sound “experienced,” do I? Yet I am highly published. Just in need of work. I was willing to see what would happen but I demanded a certified check. before I told them off. Of course it never came, even though they said it would arrive “today.”

Let’s do something about this!!

July 30, 2013 at 9:08 am
(46) WordsWorks says:

Re: Jane Dean scam

Sounds to me like this cam here is to send you a check for way more than what’s owed to you. You will then be instructed to deposit the check and mail (or PayPal) back the difference to make things even. The only problem is that the original check ends up bouncing, and you’re out the difference.

I’ve actually picked up a couple of good jobs off CraigsList. They were for some pretty hyper-specialized magazines (in aviation), so the work is out there.

But there are no end of “Send us a sample” or “Rewrite this” or Edit this” scams as well. My response to those things is that I’ve got 35 years worth of published material out there, so Google me and then decide. Just because I’m a freelancer does not mean that I work for free.

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.