Thursday, June 07, 2007

How to Spot a Scam Website

I got a question from one of my readers regarding a website advertising jobs for freelance writers.

While I can't say for certain this is a scam(thus, I'm not naming the site), there were several dozen red flags that raised my hackles (as a good friend of mine says) when I went to the site.

  • The first red flag was that I had never heard of this site. I admit, I probably don't know every place in the world to secure freelance work, but I have many contacts through organizations and writing boards that make a good living at freelancing - when there is a good site to get great information, network and talk about good gigs, it usually isn't a secret among the top freelancers for very long.
  • The second big red flag is that this isn't a job list board. Freelancers have to pay to be "members" to get all of these great opportunities dropped right into their "in" box. There's a $295 free trial, but you have to scroll down quite a ways to find out if you don't cancel, your automatically renewed at just $29.95 a month!
  • When you hit the "join now" button, it takes you to a page that promises you access to a database and freebies so that you can earn $100,000 a year! Scroll further down and the owner of the site promises you tools that could net you up to $1 million a year!
  • Littered throughout the site are "work at home" and "home based business opportunities." Craig's List doesn't even allow these types of listings on their site for heaven sakes.
  • Once a member, this appears to be one of those bidding sites, which force writers to bid ridiculously low on press releases, etc. to earn the job.

Freelancing isn't a get rich quick scheme. I know some very reputable writers that make 6 figures and none of them belong to this site. It's like any profession. They got where they are from hard work, talent and business skills. Sure, you can go to work for term paper mill companies or join a bidding site and get work for $25 a project, but that doesn't make you rich and does nothing to pad your writing resume.

If you want to become a freelance writer, invest the time and money it takes to attend conferences, take classes, join networking organizations and learn how to set up a business that will stand the test of time.

A couple of great resources are the ASJA Guide to Freelancing, The Renegade Writer and Query Letters That Rock! For new freelancers, the Writer's Market has some great tips and market guides. Look for classes through your community college or online (although beware of classes that promise you a $100,000 salary!) and start reading writing magazines such as The Writer, Writer's Digest and others. Find a writers group, either in person or online, preferably one facilitated by a professional writer who can give knowledgable critique. And start hanging out with writers at conferences and in writing communities. Join organizations that specialize in your genre - there's the Society of Professional Journalists for non-fiction writers and there's organizations for environmental writers, science writers, and organizations for genres in fiction.

Learn the art, learn the ethics of the profession and work hard.

Most importantly, don't ever think you can get rich quick doing this. Write everyday and one day, you might wake up and find that you can actually make a living at this.


Blogger Sue said...


9:56 AM CDT  

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