Many freelance writers have a love-hate relationship with CraigsList: they love using the free service to find legitimate work, and they hate using it when they inadvertently run into scams.
I’ve been using CraigsList to find freelance gigs for several years now. I’ve picked up many paying gigs, but I’ve also encountered many fake job ads. I can’t claim that I’ve perfected a way to determine if an ad is a 100% scam or not, but I’ve certainly learned enough to create my own safeguards.
Do these ad headlines sound familiar?
- “Earn up to $2000 a week writing blog posts!”
- “Hiring hundreds of top-notch writers immediately”
- “Writers needed ASAP! No experience needed!”
Any writer trying to break into freelance writing has surely seen questionable job advertisements on CraigsList. Scams are frequent, and it’s tedious to sift through all the information to locate the legitimate work opportunities. Sometimes you can almost immediately judge if an ad is a scam by the headline: if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. I never reply to ads with hyperbole.
Consider these tips to judge if an ad is a potential scam:
Research background information
If the job ad lists a company name, look for background information. Conducting a web search of the company’s name may reveal insight from other writers who have experience with the business. A legit company will have a professional web presence, and it will be easy to find more information about the business. Searching for the company through the Better Business Bureau is another smart move. If the employer is an individual, insist on talking over the phone or meeting in a public place before agreeing to take a job.
Maintain your privacy
Avoid responding to ads that require you to provide detailed personal information upfront. Until you can verify the existence, credibility, and reputation of the employer, he or she should not demand you to e-mail your photo, driver’s license, Social Security number, or address. One of my safeguards is never to e-mail my full resume unless the ad reveals the identity of the employer; and even then I do extra background research.
Don’t work for free
Many scam operations have been known to ask for writing samples on specific topics. They may also demand that the sample be submitted before a “fast-approaching deadline.” The job applicants then hear nothing back after sending in their time-consuming work. Most likely, the CraigsList poster is receiving hundreds of free, well-written articles this way. Valid employers usually ask for more general writing samples and will provide ample time for writers to send in their samples.
Get all the job details
A red flag to avoid is the lack of detailed information in a job ad. An ad for a real position will touch on what kind of writing the employer is looking for, pay scale, and level of experience. Before starting any work, it’s imperative to know how and when the employer plans to make payments and what he or she expects from the writer.
Beware of unrealistic salaries
Does the pay sound too good to be true? It probably is. Ads promising unreasonably lofty incomes for a small amount of writing are usually scams. Look for positions with pay rates that are consistent with industry averages.
Avoid poorly-written ads
Often the tone and grammar of a posting on CraigsList speaks for itself. Professionals are more likely to use correct sentence structure, proper punctuation, and appropriate capitalization. If the posting is in all caps, is hardly readable, or is written in a rude tone, be wary.
Remembering these tips during a job search will reduce the risk of becoming involved with a scam operation. Trust your instincts and past experiences. When an ad doesn’t sound right, look right, or feel right, perhaps the best action is to scroll on by and look for a more promising job opportunity.
About the author:
Brian Scott uses his creative skills to freelance full-time as a copywriter, SEO marketing specialist, and graphic designer. Self-employed since 1996, he’s had the opportunity to work in traditional media (pre-Internet Age) and now online media. Prior to freelancing, he worked in public relations, newspaper copy editing, and mail-order marketing. He founded FreelanceWriting.com in 1997 to share his knowledge with new and experienced freelance writers.