Writer Beware! 5 Red Flags in Content Writing Job Descriptions

Samantha McNesby
Feb 10 · 4 min read

“This is an easy job for someone who knows what they’re doing”

“I can’t pay much now, but rates will go up over time”

“MUST be COPYSCAPE FREE I WILL CHECK AND I WILL NOT PAY…”

Looking for work? It can be tough to get started as a freelancer, and the sheer number of fake jobs, scammers and “clients” who want content at third world rates is shocking. How can you weed out those questionable jobs on sites like Upwork? Any of these statements is a clear sign of trouble:

“Writing this article should take you about 20 minutes”

“Lots of work available at this rate”

“Easy job for someone who knows what they are doing”

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Put on the brakes, this job is going to be a problem!

One of the above quotes in a job description is a “red flag” that often makes an experienced freelancer pass over the job, no matter how appealing it sounds. More than one red flag? Run far, run fast, you’re about to have a terrible experience!

Here’s a breakdown of each statement — and why it should worry you:

“This is an easy job for someone who knows what they’re doing”

Why you should run away: The assumption is that the project is so easy that it shouldn’t take much time — if you’re good enough. As a writer considering this project, you’re immediately put on the defensive; of course you’re good enough to complete this task quickly, and you’ll feel like you need to prove it.

You’ll likely find yourself justifying your writing rates with this buyer — and the time you spend on his project if you work by the hour. This statement also indicates a buyer that does not value the end result — it’s so “easy” anyone can do it, therefore it should not command regular industry rates.

“Writing this article should take you about 20 minutes”

Run away: Someone who doesn’t write professionally likely has no idea how long something should take. This statement is almost always followed by outrageous pay rates, particularly for clients who want to pay by the hour. Expect to see this red flag accompanied by single-digit hourly rates, and don’t be surprised if the potential customer wants you to bill in 15-minute increments.

“I can’t pay much now, but rates will go up over time”

Proceed with caution: If you hired someone to work for you, and you were pleased with their work at the rate they agreed to work for, would you automatically raise the pay over time? After all, things are working out great for you — you’ve got someone you like, you’re getting the work you want, why change something that obviously works?

While you can occasionally convert a lower-paying client to a (slightly) higher-paying one, most will simply seek out another provider to do the work at the agreed-upon rate, and the cycle will begin all over again. Prepare for an uphill battle with this customer; you may be able to get them to make incremental jumps of a penny or two per word over time, but be wary if the rate is substantially lower than your comfort zone.

“I pay $2 per 500-word article, and have thousands of titles for you to write. Isn’t that awesome?”

Run away, quickly: This statement is absolute poison for two reasons. First, it is an insanely low rate for writing, and you can do better. Second, if you tie up your time working for Mr. $2-a-page, you won’t have time to look for a better-paying group of client. You’ll be too busy churning out page after page for pennies, and likely burn out very quickly — leaving no time for better paying work.

“I need your Social Security number/credit card/password/a deposit to verify who you are”

Run away, quickly: While some big companies will require you to complete a W9, an individual who is hiring writers usually will not. You should never have to pay to be hired for a job — or reveal your Internet passwords, credit card or other personal information. Not only is there likely no job here, you may end up losing money instead of making it.

Those first few jobs are difficult to land, but falling for one of these schemes is just going to take up your time and could even end up costing you money. Legit jobs are out there — and recognizing the most frequently used scams allows you to rapidly weed out the losers.

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Samantha McNesby

Written by

Writer covering travel, lifestyle and business for a variety of publications. I also write about the business side of freelance writing and blogging.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +720K people. Follow to join our community.

Samantha McNesby

Written by

Writer covering travel, lifestyle and business for a variety of publications. I also write about the business side of freelance writing and blogging.

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +720K people. Follow to join our community.

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