Before Taking on that Freelance Writing Gig: 12 Warning Signs it’s a Scam

Watch out for these clear 12 warning signs

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Photo: Getty Images

1. LinkedIn and job boards: a scammer’s breeding ground

I’ve applied for gigs using Job Boards and LinkedIn in the past, flooding my inbox with fake recruiters and scam gigs. LinkedIn does try to ban the counterfeit profiles, but there are a few that may slip through the cracks. Writers are on the hunt for clients and wouldn’t think twice that scammers would lurk around LinkedIn, posing as supervisors and CEOs of a company offering you writing projects. Scammers understand this, knowing you, the new freelance writer is vulnerable and easy to scam. They know what you are thinking, and that is if you can get ONE client to offer you a gig, you will be all set no matter how low the pay maybe. You are short on cash, and your bills are piling up. Anything, even a penny or writing for exposure to attract more clients will do! Please don’t be a victim. This mindset will destroy your freelance writing career and your self-esteem in the long-run.

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2. Fake email job offer

I receive twenty email scam job offers a week to the point they are expedited into my spam folder. It starts with a recruiter or employer claiming they found your resume or getting back to you about the job you applied for on Career Builder, Monster, or some non-existent database. The scam job positions are disguised as

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3. Requesting newly-written samples

Providing the potential client samples you have previously written for your portfolio, is appropriate for the client to have a clear idea on your writing style. Crafting newly-written samples for the client without compensation is the oldest scam in the book, but new freelance writers fall victim to this trap. Anything newly-written is considered work and should be compensated.

4. Time-wasting writing test

Think of writing a test like this: you go to the grocery store and want to buy a cake. You walk to the counter and say to the cashier, “I want this cake, but I don’t want to waste my money on a product I would not like. Let me test out this cake tonight, and if I like it, then I will pay!”. I bet you a million dollars the cashier will look at you like you have ten heads or, they may even call the manager over to escort you out when you start to become combative!

5. Writing for exposure never paid my bills

Scammers will convince you that to “increase your audience”, or “build your brand”, you would need to sacrifice your precious time writing free pieces. Oh, an extra perk is promising your picture and a short bio of your writing accomplishments being proudly displayed on the front page of their website with as many as 1k followers per day (more like two followers per day), reading your work and hopefully clicking on your site!

6. Paying to view or apply for a job

If a freelance writing platform mentions fees are required for you to view or apply for a gig, look elsewhere. There are plenty of web pages that provide lists of the most current freelance writing gigs for free ( and for example). When I was a new freelance writer, who didn’t know better, I’ve paid for a payment plan on a freelance writing platform, thinking I was going to be in the forefront of top writers. Boy, was I wrong! I’ve wasted money and time at that! Now, I attract clients through cold-emailing, talking to clients on the phone and attending conferences, all for FREE.

7. Paying for training

In high school, I was a cashier, a secretary, and an entry-level pharmaceutical technician. I haven’t ONCE paid for training but my employers paid for my training. I’ve had a scammer who wanted me to pay $700 for training and promised to refund my money once the training was complete. I wasn’t given a contract to sign or anything, so how would I know if he would take my money and run for the hills? I knew this was shady and declined the gig. Legit clients will never ask for you to pay for training. Clients come to you for a need and expect that you have the expertise already to deliver that need. If a client asks for you to fork over money for training, run!

8. Request batches of articles with high word counts

The scammer at this point has signed on as your client, promising long-term and consistent work but would need batches of articles that are 5,000 words each to be completed ASAP. Once you finished the articles and sent over an invoice, you will not hear from the client again. They request large batches of work to get as much free work from you as they can before you figure out this client was a scammer.

9. Interviews: hidden brain-picking sessions

I’m talking about asking too many questions meant to pick your brain. Scammers are master-minds in pretending not to understand the project, squeezing every shred of advice from you then forwarding your years earned recommendations to their marketing team. Their responses are usually “we’ll keep in touch” or “thanks, but you are just not what we are looking for”, wasting your time on a call that led to nowhere.

10. The unusual interview

Having been out of the job market, I assumed using platforms like Google Hangouts to conduct interviews was the norm nowadays. My scammer stated they are responding to my application I’ve applied to on Career Builder for the administrative assistant position (I’ve never applied for this job). The process required an interview through Google Hangouts, and he will send me a check to purchase equipment. The whole conversation was unsettling, so I’ve emailed the company the scammer claims to be the hiring manager. I was contacted quickly by the customer service rep stating the job does not exist, that scammer did not work at that company, and instructed for me to stop conversing with the scammer. Legit companies will not use Google Hangouts for an interview.

11. Attitude changes once questioned

Legitimate companies encourage the potential writer to ask questions and to clear up any confusing information before moving forward. Questioning a scammer usually ends with threats of canceling the gig, finding another writer or making you feel sorry for questioning their authenticity in the first place. The scammer is scared and worried that you would figure out their scheme. You are on to them, and they feel cornered. You caught on to their lies and inconsistencies. Don’t be surprised if they hang up, call you names, or threaten to file a lawsuit. Those are their desperate attempts to try to trap you one last time. Asking questions can save a massive headache for you in the long-run. I wish I questioned my scammers!

12. Using spoofed phone number

Phone spoofing is when someone masks the phone number they are texting or calling from by changing their caller ID. They would hijack the phone numbers, either to impersonate a professional or a business department to get information or money. They may appear to be a legitimate number to increase their chances of convincing their victims. At this point, research is your best friend.

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Ex-Naturopathic Doctor👩🏽‍⚕️❌ | PhD Drop Out 👩🏽‍🎓❌| Art, Business, & Entertainment Blog 🎞🎸👾🎨

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