It’s a tale as old as time: artist loves his work, local “prestigious” man notice, and takes the artist for all he’s worth. Yes, the writer’s dreams and goals are to succeed and write for a living. Yes, publishers and agents can make this harder or easier, but there’s more than that. Scam artists can also be added to the list of obstacles.
How does one avoid such scams? How do writers branch out, make connections, and advance their careers without being taken for a ride?
Little to No Detail
First rule of thumb is to ask questions. When a potential client or employer gives you all the project details at once, they have nothing to hide. Things like sharing files, offering instructions, and being available to discuss all project details, are good signs. The opposite is true when it’s a scam. Little to no detail usually means there is something wrong, or at the very least, your client is disorganized and unreliable. Either way, run for the hills!
Scams Start With Short Interviews
Have you ever applied to a job, or been contacted about a potential job, and been through a short and simple interview process? It may sound like a fantastic dream, but it’s actually a dangerous reality. Real, serious, valuable positions require people to sit through an extensive interview, and involve rigorous testing of your knowledge. At the very least, your portfolio is looked over, dissected and questioned to your face. Sorry, but to land the good gigs, you need to impress. What do you have that the other 100 applicants don’t?
If someone boasts that their job is a good stepping stone, and then gives you the job without much of an interview process, then something is wrong. Either their standards are low, because they’re desperate for readership and fresh content, or they’re looking to scam.
Contracts On Hold
This happens when you work freelance through a recruitment agency of some kind, like Upwork. It’s rare for this to happen, but when it does, it’s best to be wary. When a contract is put on hold, the freelance writer cannot, or rather should not, write anything else. Stop in the middle of a sentence, if you have to. The reason for this is because Upwork has noticed something shady on the client side of things. Before the contract can continue, the client needs to resolve matters with Upwork.
No further details are provided on the issue, since the writer has nothing to do with the problem. However, the possible circumstances could include uncertified payments or account issues. If at any point the recruitment agency/site thinks that they, and you, may not be paid for the work completed, they will put the contract on hold.
Indirect Answers Related to Payment
Normal job interviews end with the “what are you looking to be compensated” question. When a client or employee is serious about the project, and your potential part in it, they will be forward about payment.
Now, if you ask the question prior to this, because they’re not bringing it up at all, you should at least get a solid answer. When you don’t, they are scamming you. Even if it means a low payment for your services, that still constitutes a scam. For instance, if you get offered a work for hire position with a publisher, where you write an entire novel, but get little reward out of it, you’re being scammed. Writing a novel is hard work, there’s a reason they’re not doing it. You need to be earning more for that work than, say $40 – $100.
“Big Deal” Without A Contract In Sight
Chances are most writers you know have been in a position where there’s a big deal client in the picture. Your writer friend is ecstatic, thinking this is the big break. Only, there’s no contract! That’s a major red flag, because for a “big deal” special laws and legal documents are required. Written statements that protect the writer at hand. Without that, the writer runs a risk of being scammed, with their work being stolen for profit.
Remember, there has to be a contract, and it absolutely needs to be read. If at any point there is something not to your liking, speak up and have it changed.
Scams are everywhere in the writer’s market. Writing is an art form that takes time to craft. Years and years of training and creating stories from nothing. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t put yourself in positions out of desperation. It’s better to be simple and safe, than wreckless in this business. Measure your steps out carefully. Keep an eye out. Do your reseach and avoid a scam.