Red Flags to Watch Out For When Looking for Freelance Writing Jobs

Updated: 16 hours ago

This is what a bad freelancing experience taught me about finding the right freelance writing job.

I recently wrote a blog post about how I found my worth as a writer. The post details how I joined and worked for a company where the expectations were high and the pay was non-existent.

Seriously. I worked 60-hour weeks for two months and never saw a dime.

If you haven't read the article, the lesson is this: You may be a beginner writer, but no gig is worth your emotional stability and self-respect. You work hard to create content, and you deserve to be paid for it.

That's a lesson I learned the hard way, simply because I didn't listen to all the red flags.

My goal with this post is to help you know what red flags you should watch out for in your freelance journey. Some red flags you only catch once you accept a gig, but all will help avoid or get out of scammy gigs.

Had I known then what I know now, I would have saved myself two months of hardship. Here are some of the red flags I should've noticed.

No online presence

The first thing I did when I was contacted by the founder of the company was to look it up. I had never heard of the company before and its name didn't give me any indications as to what the business was about.

The red flag came when I noticed just how difficult it was to find any information related to the company. No social media presence, no reviews on Indeed, no profile on LinkedIn. Nothing. All I found was a half functioning website that simply stated their goal: to create good content.

No clear vision

It's been months since I quit, and I still have no idea what the hell we were doing. Which is to say the company had no real vision.

Founded at the very beginning of the pandemic, the owner of the company only stated that our goal was to create content that will get traffic to our website, and thus, money.

We didn't know who our audience was or what we were working towards. We only knew we had to push out tons of random content every day and share share share it with everyone we knew.

Vague explanations (or flat out lies) about payment

When I first came upon this position on Indeed, it was presented as a entry level position that only required 1 year of experience, was fully remote, and payed $40,000-$50,000.

Without realizing it was all too good to be true, I practically threw my resume at the company.

But the story changed after the initial interview. A PowerPoint presentation on how the business worked explained a complex system of percentages where authors would get 40% of ad revenue their articles made, while editors got 10% of the ad revenue their writers made.

It also mentioned that the role was for people who didn't need a steady paycheck.

The owner of the company explained that payment would fluctuate depending on traffic, which kinda made sense to me at the time. So I accepted.

Here's the kicker: It wasn't until I accepted the role that I found out the company wasn't making any money, and thus, no one was getting payed.

This should've been the point where I ran in the opposite direction, but alas, I stayed.

High turnover rate

During my time with this company, I met some really awesome content creators. They put in the time and effort to create content that was extremely high-quality.

Unfortunately, most wouldn't last more than 3 weeks with the company. It was hard to see such talented writers and editors walk away, especially since I knew it was the company's loss to see them go.

Each had their own reasons for leaving, but all reasons centered around some form of payment issue. The turnover rate was so high that, in my role as editor, I'd wake up every morning, wondering who would quit that day.

Job responsibilities constantly change

The longer I spent working for the company, the more my responsibilities changed. Where I began as a content writer my role expanded to editor, manager, and social media marketer.

I wasn't good at setting boundaries, so my boss was able to give me more and more responsibilities (again, for no pay).

This also shows the deceptive and manipulative nature of these types of gigs.

The role was initially presented to me as a side hustle. As long as I met a content quota, I could work and contribute on my own time. But by the time I left, my boss had changed the story and demanded we put in full-time hours if we wanted to get paid.

Avoid sketchy gigs at all costs

Had I been more aware of the scammy nature of my job, I would've never joined in the first place. But I did join, so all I can do now is tell my story in the hopes that you don't make the same mistake I did.

Months after quitting, I can look back at what happened and see all the red flags. Between desperation for work and low self-esteem, I made a perfect candidate for an employer that never intended to pay me what my work was worth.

So take it from me: if you don't notice the red flags on time, you might find yourself overworked and underpayed.

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