Worthy Tip: Redefining Work

Four more days for you to send or post your worth-inducing advice and qualify for the Writers Worth Day contest – don’t forget to either post your tip here or email it to me. Remember, it has to be a tip that inspires writers to improve their earnings potential, draw their professional boundaries, or in some way motivates them to work more professionally.

Today’s worthy tip – redefine what is legitimate work. And maybe that’s where the new and frustrated writers are going astray. The offers for $10 articles and articles paying .001 per word seem very much like writing jobs. But they’re not – they’re scams designed to part you with your time and talent. Instead of seeing these as work options, see them as scams. Just because the work is writing-related doesn’t equate automatically to a “writing” project. Once a year the IRS asks me to add, subtract, multiply, and pull my hair out, but that doesn’t make it an “accounting” job. More to the point, if I do it, I’m not an accountant – no, not even for those few, frustrating hours.

So for today, for this week, reassess every single project you consider. Don’t waste any time on a posting that decreases your rate to abysmal levels. Choose the pay rate you expect and hold firm.

What should you say when you’ve applied for a job that turns out to be one of these scam offers? No thank you. While I’m all for telling these fools how ridiculous their offers are, and I have, but I’ve learned long ago that the time and frustration wasted on these people will never be recouped. Spend that time looking for legitimate work.

Writers, what are some of the “offers” you’ve found that are really scams meant to take advantage of your time and talent?

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  • Devon Ellington May 11, 2010 at 11:11 am

    The ones even worse than the $10 content-mill types are the ones who want project-specific samples for free. Those are scams — they scatter different pieces of the project among the applicants, tell each they hired someone else, shut down the original site, set up a new one and publish the cobbled-together material without paying anyone.

    If they can't tell from the attached clips if you're right for the job, they either don't know what they want (and will probably be a nightmare to work with anyway) or they're a scam.

  • Journaling Woman May 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Hi, Lori,

    I saw your name over at Devon's. I'm trying to break back into the freelance writing world after years of not participating.

    I must say I have been tempted by the internet writing scams. I mean who wouldn't want to make money – writing at home. But it sounds too good and that always puts up flags for me.

    I do a lot of technical writing at my job. I was also a proofreader at a local newspaper years ago, so the online writing scams talk to me. But who wants to edit for pennies or write an article for 5 bucks?

    Your information is great. Sorry I don't have any tips or advice to add.


  • Wendy May 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    You’re going to be sorry you asked this one- LOL! This is what really gets to me:

    WORK FROM HOME!!!! (or Work at home or Stay at home, etc.) As far as I’m concerned, this is a common scam that targets people who are really anxious about finding some type of work to do from their home.

    It’s great to save money because bills are high, daycare costs are too much, etc. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to contribute to the family income while performing your job or business from your home office. But, I’ve said this before zillions of times, and I will say it again- Working from home is only where you perform your job at. It is NOT something to negotiate for lower pay.

    I don’t care how important it is for someone to be able to work from their home. It is not, never was, or ever will be-a benefit of the job. It should never be treated as anything but the location of where the job is performed from. Period.

    Can you tell how much this topic fires me up? Grrr….

  • Paula May 11, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Wendy – when you consider the overhead, working from home can actually be more costly. We have to pay for the utilities, insurance, etc…which lowers our net profit.

    A friend who works in an office (unrelated field) was complaining that a temp worker was making more per hour than she was. I asked if she was figuring in her perks. She wasn't. When I listed just a few of the freebies she's accustomed to, she quickly understood that his $100/hour (or whatever he was being paid) was probably far less than she was earning with her salary and benefits.

    My least-favorite scam: potential clients calling and picking your brain under the guise of seeing if you'd be the right fit for their project. They're usually really obvious in their efforts to get professional consulting services for free.

  • Wendy May 11, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Paula, you hit the nail on the head. Some people don’t stop to think about things like that. They see that they can save on gas money or maintenance costs for their car. What they don’t realize, though, is that the money saved from the car costs is just rerouted to taxes and other things like Electricity bills, etc.

    It’s sad to see some of these job ads using the Work from home aspect as a benefit to the job. Even some of the content mill companies boldly market their job opportunity using that as some great benefit. They get by with it, because people buy into it. Yikes!

  • Karen Banes May 11, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    My biggest gripe in this area (at the moment) – publications and websites that promise to pay you in "exposure". Otherwise known as the "we can't pay you but you'll get a link and a byline" brigade. Um, hello… All publications tend to give you a byline and, if online, a link. That's not payment, that's the accepted way to attribute a writer's work. Strangely, these publications often say something like "we're just starting out so we can't afford to pay you, but you'll get exposure". Well, if you're just starting out, who are you going to expose me to? OK, rant over.

  • Lori May 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    I love when you guys rant – you make the case for me. 🙂

    Karen, totally agree. I don't work for paper recognition unless George, Benjamin and his friends are printed on the front. And it's so true – if they're startups, there's no exposure beyond feeling naked in a desert.

    Wendy, you mean the JOY of working at HOME where you have to clean, cook, and field everyone's requests for laundry pickup, groceries, and repair person arrivals isn't your idea of FUN FUN FUN?? LOL

    But I'll tell you, your point is spot on. Home is where you work – it's NOT a perk of the job.

    Paula, exactly. I've had a few people send me photos and ask "If you were to write a caption for that, what would it be?" Seriously? You don't think I can see through that "stealth" detective style of yours?

    Teresa, I think we've all been tempted at one time or another. I signed up for a Guru.com membership once (it only took once to realize the jobs were just more plentiful at the paid level, not better). It's knowing how to consider these NON jobs that helps us stay on the right path.

  • Paula May 11, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    Oh! I spotted a new Demand Studios ad today (on MediaBistro, no less). They tout the standard babble about flexible hours, telecommuting and exposure but skillfully avoid mentioning their exceedingly low rates by saying, "Write short-form 300-500 word articles and expect to earn $15 – $25 per hour."

    Best of all, there's a major typo in their ad: "Demand Studios is singularly focused on creating informative, highly quality articles for its network of industry leading websites and their numerous visitors. To meet this increasing demand, we are looking for experienced writers to join our team of freelancers and create engaging and helpful articles around the topics of their choice."

    Note: Both quotations were copied and pasted directly from the listing on MediaBistro. I did not add anything to make them look bad.

    Highly quality? Really?

    And it doesn't say to earn $25 and hour you'd need to crank out about two articles per hour!

  • Lori May 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Marina, I suspect they'll contend that's their property now that you've posted it on their site. But it stinks nonetheless. I've never been a fan of affiliate marketing for this reason – someone loses, and it's never the person NOT shelling out the time needed for the content. It's the writer. There's just not enough benefit to make it worthwhile.