For freelancers that are just starting out, stepping back and getting an idea of just how -many- freelance writing sites are out there may feel a little like being in Time Square for the first time. There are more than a handful competing for your attention, and if you’re using gmail – and you should be – you’re likely being bombarded with them in the side ads that google automatically places based on your email and search text. How is a newbie to navigate this wealth of choices and avoid getting burned?
Though I’m loathe to cast a wide net, foreign sites are usually bad news. These sites are used to paying local writers at wages so low that a US-based freelancer couldn’t buy a sandwich on a typical day’s pay. Much like door-to-door sales and pyramid schemes, they will boast loudly about the “potential to make” and “rates as high as” – but pay attention to that language, which is usually little more than a carrot on a stick. Other red flags include:
*Strange pluralization, specifically “texts” and “works”. These are an earmark of overly formal / badly translated text, a sure sign you’re dealing with a foreign site.
*Payment terms that offer options like moneybookers or wire transfer, or give writer prices in foreign currency.
*Lack of a contact phone number, or a contact address under a free email account system, such as hotmail or yahoo. Individual clients with these issues are fine, but if a freelance writing site is presenting itself as a business and doesn’t take the time to set up legitimate contact methods, it could mean trouble.
*Extensive “tests” to prove your worth. No site should ask for more than one piece of writing to vet your skills, and there should be a disclaimer that they won’t use that piece of writing without pay, whether they take you on or not. If you read the guide and are taking my advice on emailing yourself every piece of work you finish before submitting it, you’ll have this “intro” piece to research later. If someone is using it without paying you, send the site a DMCA notice through Google.
Speaking of Google, there are few precautions as tried-and-true as simply searching the name or .com address of a site – try Google-searching “(site name here).com scam”, quotation marks intact, for more specific search results. If the majority of results are complaints or paid-for testimonials, steer clear. These methods aren’t foolproof, but they will help you filter out the worst trouble as you search for freelance writing sites.