4 Freelance Writing Job Ads You Should Avoid Like the Plague

Freelance writing job boards get a bad rap for being a hive of low paying job ads, cheap clients, and underqualified writers, and it’s mostly true. I spent a large part of my early career on these boards, and I’ve taken many jobs that I’ve since regretted (“volume discounts” of $1 an article, anyone?).

But even in a flea market environment like that, there are still job ads that you should run away from the moment you encounter them. Not just coz they’re low paying, or difficult, or whatnot, but because they’re actually harmful for you.

1. Article Spinning

Article spinning

More like “100% unethical”

Sorry, what? They want me to plagiarize someone else’s work? Oh, they want me to hire a team of people to plagiarize someone else’s work? Do I need to explain why this isn’t a moral thing for writers to do?

Sure, they might claim that these articles are theirs and they have the right to do whatever they want with them, but I highly doubt they’re the one who wrote them. The author is pretty much the only person with the right to make that kind of request (and even then, I wouldn’t do it).

Ummm….. no.

2. Guest Blogging

Guest posting

Can you do a guest post about “butt monkeys”?

Guest blogging is awesome. It’s the equivalent of doing the graduation speech at a friend’s high school. Paid guest blogging is awkward. It’s the equivalent of someone handing you money and saying “get that high school to have you do their graduation speech. And do that for 10 other high schools. Oh, and make sure they’re top-tier high schools with lots and lots of rich students.”

There’s absolutely zero guarantees that this will work. And yet my pay depends on it. Do I still need to explain why this is a bad idea?

3. Profit Sharing

Revenue sharing

“Zero” divided in two is still “zero”

Tell me that job ad doesn’t make your skin crawl. Seriously? They want me to write a f***ing book for you, but they’re only going to pay me after they start selling it? What’s to stop them from claiming it doesn’t sell at all and leave me hanging? If I was going to write a book and wait for royalties, I’d write my own book, thank you very much.

4. Sample Collectors

Sample articles

Because ALL CAPS makes this job ad MORE LEGITIMATE.

This is a scam I’ve written about before, and I’m sad to see it still proliferating. Basically when guys like this float a job ad and want you to write a sample from scratch, chances are they aren’t interested in hiring you at all.

Let’s do the math: They plan to pay the winning writer $20 an article (itself a bad rate) and 50 people respond. 50 x $20 = $1,000. Why would they pay these writers, who just sent in free stuff, anything? Just claim “nobody’s good enough” and run!

If they want me to write a sample article, then pay me for it.

I’m sad to say that these aren’t the only examples of bad jobs out there. Maybe I’ll do a part 2 to this post sometime.

In the meantime, I hope that the next time you encounter these jobs on the Internet, you close the browser window and sprinkle your laptop with holy water. If you want to send the job poster a little piece of hate mail, too, then by all means!


Odesk and Elance are Merging, and I am Sad

At the end of 2013 I learned that Odesk and Elance are merging. For those that aren’t familiar with these two markets, here’s a brief background (those that already know can either skip the following two paragraphs or read and complain in the comments about how I got it wrong).

Elance.com is a job site where freelance writers like me get work (there’s work for other kinds of freelancers too, but we’re not talking about them). There’s good jobs to be found there, but the pay is usually lower than what you can get than if you went out and found clients yourself.

Odesk.com is the same thing, only the asking rate for these projects is much, much lower than Elance (if that were possible). How much lower? I’ve seen people post $1 blog post jobs on Odesk. One. Freaking. Dollar. At that rate, I would have to write 3 articles to afford one cup of McDonald’s coffee.

Soooo worth it.

Soooo worth it.

And now the two companies are merging. Not so good news for freelancers who still use the two sites as their main source of income. This detailed post from Carol Tice explains the many reasons why. To me, it means that two entirely separate and distinct markets—the borderline-reasonable-budget jobs on Elance and the bargain-bin/flea-market shoppers on Odesk—will be merging into one messy pile of job tickets.

Oh, Elance and Odesk deny this of course. They say they’re going to keep the two sites separate. And they probably will. At first. But as Carol pointed out in her post, one of the sites is probably going to get the axe. So where will the evicted freelancers go? The other site, crowding an already overpopulated marketplace. A good paying project on Elance usually gets dozens of bids, and it’s always a struggle to get noticed. Add in the Odesk people, and you’ll have a Black Friday crowd attacking every project.

This could be you, company owner.

This could be you, company owner.

The market is moving away from these types of bid sites, and they’re struggling. Businesses are starting to realize that junk content isn’t going to win the Google ranks anymore, and more freelancers are beginning to charge the rates they deserve.

Me? Well, there’s no way I can say “I’ve moved past these sites, and I’m earning better money” and not sound arrogant (at least none I can think of at 2 in the morning), so f*** it.

I’ve moved past these sites, and I’m earning better money.

I’m still grateful to Elance and Odesk. I might kick myself for not going straight to clients sooner, but the money from these sites helped me keep my family’s finances above water during some pretty tight times. I met one of my best clients on Elance. And the time I spent writing $5 blog posts helped me improve my writing for the better-paying clients I’d meet down the road.

But I look back at Elance and Odesk, where I first learned to price my own work, where I first learned to talk to clients, and where I earned my first dollars as a writer, and I am sad. It’s the sadness of seeing your first car sold or junked, even though it was a POS that you cussed at every day.

The world is moving on, and where you’ve been is no longer relevant to where you are now.

I need a beer.