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Signs of a Scam Writing Site

When I talk about scam writing sites, I use the term "scam" loosely. It means that yes, your work might get published. You might even get paid. But, somewhere along the line the site will lose integrity and you as the writer will feel the effect of it. Below are some red flags that a site may not be all that you expect it to be.

No TOS or Contract: Most freelance writing sites have a Terms of Service (TOS) that you agree to or a contract. These are the places where your rights are spelled out as far as copyright retainment, reprint rights and so forth are listed. If you find a site that doesn't have one of these, that's a good indication that it isn't a professional site. For instance, one poorly run site that offered no TOS or even a loosely formatted contract was WritingbyCyndi.com. On the upside, that means that every article sold to the site can now be sold for reprints. The downside is that writers and clients alike can expect that lack of professionalism to cause problems down the road. (Hint: Google isn't all that fond of complete reprints.)

Lack of Writer Reviews: When you look into working for a new site, be sure to Google it and learn about the experiences of other writers. A lack of reviews can mean that the site is too new to have any reviews yet, so tread carefully. You don't want your finances wrapped up in a fly-by-night sort of site.

Avoidance of Direct Answers: Lots of sites are too busy to answer every email. But, if you have a question about payment or the details of the writing and your email is ignored or responded to without actually answering the question, there are one of two things happening. Either the owner is avoiding the question or they don't even know the answer. I'm not really sure which is worse.

Payment Under Different Names: Again, WritingbyCyndi.com comes to mind. On that particular site, the payment comes from the owner's boyfriend rather than the owner or the site name. There are two things to consider here. What happens if the other person decides to take the money and run? You have no contract with them. Why doesn't the owner have their own account or the site itself have one for that matter?

Late Payment: There are some sites I write for that don't always pay on the exact day they are due. Sometimes this is because of a holiday or even a backlog. If payment comes within a day or two of when it's expected, this isn't always a big deal. After all, we've all had deadlines that were stretched because of a power outage or other technical difficulty. The problem is when it becomes a habit for the site to pay late or emails regarding payment are met with hostility. Unprofessional sites like this always go under. It's simply a matter of time.

Call Themselves Your "Employer": When a writing site starts taking out taxes and paying unemployment insurace, they are free to call themselves your employer. Until then, you are a freelance writer contracted to do specific tasks.

In short, it's always a good idea to get some background on online writing sites before you put too much effort into them. Unless you enjoy writing for free, do your homework to avoid online writing sites that are really just scams. Below is a list of places that is updated as I receive information about sites that offer insight into online writing site scams. Remember that a site that is listed even once as a scam has burnt at least one writer. Don't let your own name be the next one to get burnt.

Accentuate Writers Forum
Writers Beware

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Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

Good guidelines. What an ordeal you have faced with a certain site. Terrible! The owner of that site and her behavior seem to be casting a suspicious shadow on others. So unfortunate!

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