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Freelance Writing Week II: How to Tell Whether Freelance Writing Job Offers Are Legitimate

Welcome to the final day of Freelance Writing Week II!

So far we’ve covered:

Now finally to one of the most important freelance writing topics out there:

How can you tell whether freelance writing job offers are legitimate?

One of the hardest parts about being freelance writer searching for work on the Internet is deciphering when a job offer is legitimate and when someone just wants to get something for free–or worse.

Here are some tips from separating the wheat from the chaff, as Willym said:

  • Don’t answer blind advertisements.

I rarely, if ever, answer blind advertisements, i.e., those that don’t offer the name of the client seeking writers; I can’t imagine many situations in which a potential client should have to be a secret. If you had a solid name and reputation, wouldn’t you want to put it out there so potential writers knew they could trust you?

But if you think you’ve found the perfect job and simply must respond to a blind ad, pay special attention to their return email address, so you can….

  • Google!

Check out any websites or names attached to the job offer. Most legitimate freelance writing job offers will come from people who already have *some* sort of online presence, so if nothing at all turns up, I’d probably start to be suspicious.

With so much social media out there these days, it’s highly unlikely that reputable clients have no online presence whatsoever.

  • Ask writer friends.

One of the best ways to find out whether something is too good to be true is to ask around and see if others know anything about the client. If you don’t have writer friends you feel comfortable asking, scour writer message boards and forums.

Included here is my recommendation to keep up with “Whispers and Warnings” in Angela Hoy’s Writers Weekly newsletter, which names clients who haven’t paid writers or are otherwise being difficult regarding payment.

  • Trust your instincts.

If something sounds fishy, and you just have a feeling you’re never going to get paid, don’t think twice about turning down the job offer.

Now believe me, I *know* how hard it is to turn down job offers particularly when you’re first starting out, but if something feels off to you, it probably is—and you’ll be saving yourself a lot of hassle by avoiding the situation entirely.

And this concludes Freelance Writing Week II. Thanks so much for reading, and as always if you have more questions you’d like me to address, leave them in the comments!

Do you have more advice on how to spot legitimate freelance writing jobs?

For those of you in Italy, Happy Liberation Day for tomorrow!

Buon weekend a tutti!

Freelance Writing Week II: How Do Freelance Writers Get Paid?

Welcome to Day 4 of Freelance Writing Week II!

So far we’ve covered:

Next up is some information about how and when freelance writers can expect to be paid.

How do freelance writers get paid?

Freelance writers usually get paid in one of three ways:

  • Check: The client sends you a check and you have to cash or deposit it.
  • Direct Deposit: Funds are deposited by the client directly into your bank account; usually only an option if you work a lot with a client and under contract.
  • Paypal: Hands down the most popular method of payment for online writing gigs. Fee for accepting money but you can transfer it to your bank account without paying a fee.

Some clients give you the choice of how you’d like to be paid, but many only pay one particular way; be sure to know how they intend to pay you before accepting work in case you cannot accept their payment method.

Special Payment Considerations for Expat Freelance Writers

Writing Desk by ~Prescott on FlickrFor those of you who are expat freelance writers, PayPal is probably going to be the easiest way to get paid as you can then transfer the money to your bank account (unless you can get someone to deposit checks for you in the United States).

But if you open an account at, your bank account *must* originate from the United States. There are different PayPal sites for other countries, though, and by using them, you can link your foreign bank accounts (but not your U.S. bank account!) to your foreign PayPal account. See the list of countries for which this service is available at PayPal Worldwide.

For instance, I have a PayPal account with (Italian site) hooked up to my Italian bank account so I can transfer money between them. And for those of you in Italy who aren’t so sure of your Italian, you can also select English as your language of choice at

When can I expect to be paid?

One of the biggest stresses of freelance writing life is clients who don’t pay or those who take a long time to pay.

Some writing contracts will provide that you will be paid within a certain amount of time (often between 30 and 45 days from the date of invoice), but generally clients should absolutely pay you within 60 days; if they’re paying you through PayPal, you will likely get paid much faster than that.

If the timing of payment is not specified in a contract, be sure to discuss this with the client *before* you start working. This way there can be no dispute later as to when you or the client thought you were supposed to be paid.

And don’t be afraid to send reminder e-mails to clients who are delinquent in paying—you did the work and you deserve prompt payment. Period.

If you do have trouble collecting payment, one of the best writers’ resources out there is Angela Hoy of Writers Weekly. Hoy personally fights for writers who have been stiffed and nearly always (if not always!) gets great results.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for
“How to Know Whether Freelance Writing Jobs are Legitimate!”

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe through an RSS feed so you don’t miss a single Freelance Writing Week II post.

Also free free to bookmark, Stumble, and share these posts with friends via email, your blog, and Twitter. The more people we have reading them, the more ideas and suggestions we can come up with in the comments. We freelance writers have to stick together!

Do you have freelance writing payment tales to share?

Freelance Writing Week II: The Right Pay for Freelance Writing Jobs

Welcome to Day 3 of Freelance Writing Week II!

So far we’ve covered:

Now, let’s move on to:

What is the “right” pay for freelance writing jobs?

Writing Tools 3 by avianto on FlickrIn my best lawyerly voice, I respond with a straight face: “It depends.”

Basically this is something you’re going to have to decide for yourself, i.e., whether you’re comfortable with the amount being offered or want to negotiate. Rates are all over the place, so your best bet is to do lots of research before committing to a price.

One thing that is absolutely certain, though:

Be sure you know what you will be paid for an assignment *before* you even start.

To be clear, pay is usually offered in two ways: by the word or by the blog post/article. Print publications often have set rates that aren’t *too* negotiable (although it doesn’t hurt to ask), but you’ll probably have more wiggle room with online venues.

As stated above, rates vary widely, but it doesn’t hurt to look around to similar publications or blogs and make sure the rate you’re being offered is competitive.

Sometimes pay is also offered by the hour, so you should be prepared with a number for that as well.

How do I set freelance writing rates?

Many factors should be considered when deciding how much you should get paid for a freelance writing assignment, including but not limited to:

  • Your experience
  • Your expertise on the subject matter
  • Length of the finished piece
  • Amount of research required
  • Writing time required

For more specific details on this, I’m directing you to Anne Wayman at About Freelance Writing, who recently posted:

Setting Freelance Rates

Final note about freelance writing rates

If you’ve been writing for a publication or organization for a year or more and your rate has stayed the same, don’t be afraid to ask for a raise.

I did this with one of my regular clients and now make four times more per piece than when I started–and have a much smaller required word count as well. It never hurts to ask!

Also, on the subject of earning money as a freelance writer, check out:

Not Earning Enough as a Freelance Writer? You Have Only Yourself to Blame by Jennifer Mattern at All Freelance Writing. Jennifer gives *excellent* advice that is sure to get you motivated to find well-paying freelance writing gigs.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for
“How and When to Expect Freelance Writing Payments!”

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe through an RSS feed so you don’t miss a single Freelance Writing Week II post.

Also free free to bookmark, Stumble, and share these posts with friends via email, your blog, and Twitter. The more people we have reading them, the more ideas and suggestions we can come up with in the comments. We freelance writers have to stick together!

Do you have advice about setting freelance writing rates?

Freelance Writing Week II: Should Freelance Writers Ever Write for Free?

Welcome to Day 2 of Freelance Writing Week II!

Yesterday’s topic, in case you missed it, was:

How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?

No Soliciting by greefus gone fishin on FlickrNow from a rather tame subject to an extremely volatile one. How volatile you ask?

Well if you’re ever at a party and want to break the ice with a freelance writer, just ask:

Should Freelance Writers Ever Write for Free?

And then stand back. Far.

Many experienced freelancers will say you should never accept non-paying or extremely low paying assignments with the reasoning that, hey, this is your *job* and no one expects the plumber to come over and fix your toilet for free! And even if freelance writing isn’t your full-time job, you should still be compensated for your services.

On the other hand, beginning freelancers, i.e., those without any clips, generally don’t see anything wrong with accepting jobs with no or low pay because hey, how else can you get started?

So who’s right?

I say they both are–at least to some extent.

Don’t Write for Free!

Generally, you should avoid writing for free as you are not only devaluing your own work (and telling potential future editors that your writing was worth nothing), but you’re also making it difficult for your fellow freelance writers to ask and receive a decent wage for their hard work.

This principle, by the way, also applies to extremely low-paying jobs ($5 or less for full-length articles is extremely low-paying in my book).

Is it *ever* OK to write for free?

I do think there are some excellent reasons to write for free, but the list is *extremely* short:

1. To Compile Clips (Maybe)

If you’re just starting out and haven’t been published anywhere, you *might* consider writing something for free just to get a clip or two under your writing belt.

But (and this is a *big* but) don’t make a habit out of it. It’s easy to get into a rut accepting non-paying or low-paying jobs, so set goals for your writing career and check in with them periodically to make sure you’re moving forward and not hovering in a bad place.

Even better than writing for others for free just for clips? Start yourself a blog and write “samples” of articles you’d like to eventually send to potential clients. It may be writing for free, but at least you’ll still own your material.

v2.569: May 8th (Broke!) by Phoney Nickle on Flickr2. Charitable Organizations

If your church or local community center needs a press release, flyer, or other written materials and you’re feeling charitable, this is a great way to give back  and also hone your writing skills along the way.

Something like this may also lead to future paying work, so if you have the time and inclination, writing for free in this situation is a glaring exception to the “Don’t write for free!” rule.

3. Exposure

To be perfectly clear: I am *not* talking about all those job ads that say “We can’t afford to pay now, but you’ll get great exposure by writing for us!” Run from those. Fast. If they can’t make ad revenue to pay you, how do they possibly have enough readership to give you great exposure?!

What I mean is that if the New York Times calls you up to write an op-ed for free, you should seriously consider doing it, assuming you’ll get a byline (and preferably a link to your website!). If the publication asking for your free services is “important” enough and will, indeed, pay in exposure, it might be worth it to write for free.

If you’re a blogger, another example might be guest-posting at Darren Rowse’s Problogger; the link love and clicks over to your site alone could make your free writing worth the effort.

4. Promotion of Your Work

If you have written a book, for instance, and you can promote it by writing articles or blog posts, this is a good time to write for free–so long as you’re submitting to places who also cater to your target audience.

That’s my abbreviated opinion on the matter, but if you Google the topic, you’ll find lots more opinions, including:

Be sure to come back tomorrow for
“What’s the ‘Right’ Pay for Freelance Writing Jobs?”

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe through an RSS feed so you don’t miss a single Freelance Writing Week II post.

Also free free to bookmark, Stumble, and share these posts with friends via email, your blog, and Twitter. The more people we have reading them, the more ideas and suggestions we can come up with in the comments. We freelance writers have to stick together!

So what do you think about freelance writers writing for free
(or clients requesting that they do)?

Freelance Writing Week II: How Much Do Freelance Writers Make?

Welcome to Freelance Writing Week II!

If you’re just joining us, be sure to go back and check out the first Freelance Writing Week during which we discussed:

Eat Money by wai.ti on FlickrAll this week we’re going to talk about money. Coincidentally, the subject of the April newsletter of WOW is Money Matters so be sure to check it out for more great information on financial mistakes writers make, planning for retirement, surviving a recession as a freelance writer, and more.

First, the most important thing to remember is that freelance writing is a business, so be sure to treat it that way.

Your clients depend on you and expect you to deliver your assignments on time; you should expect to be treated fairly and paid on time as well. Just because you’re not sitting in an office doesn’t mean you’re not responsible for your work product or that a client doesn’t have to treat you with respect.

So, keeping in mind that freelance writing is a business, later in the week we’ll also talk about

  • Whether you should ever write for free;
  • The “right” pay for freelance writing jobs;
  • How and when you can expect to be paid;
  • How to tell if a freelance writing job offer is legitimate.

Today, though, I want to address something upfront. Although freelance writing has many advantages (e.g., working from home, the freedom to scheduling your own hours, choosing assignments that interest you), if you’re aiming to be a millionaire, well….

How much do freelance writers make?

Giving an “average” salary of a freelance writer is difficult, although there’s a great interview with Deb Ng of Freelance Writing Jobs at in which she discusses the issue. Deb quotes $1,000 to $2,000 a month as a common wage of many freelance web writers she knows; that’s about what I would think as well (keeping in mind, as Deb notes in the comments, that this interview was a few years ago so average wages may be a bit higher now).

So will I get rich freelance writing?

Six-Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-EngerUm, probably not. I’m a firm believer that anything is possible, but quite simply, a freelance writer making six figures is rather rare; some freelancers are in that income bracket, but they are the exception.

Now don’t get me wrong: you can make a good living doing freelance writing and even support a family on it, but it takes a lot of work, commitment, dedication, and patience. And for many of us, the quality of life that freelance writing allows and the satisfaction of doing what we love and getting paid for it helps make up for the pay.

Can I expect that $1,000 to $2,000 a month from the get-go?

Unless you’re *extremely* fortunate, probably not. It can take years (that’s plural!) to build up to earning that amount per month depending on the kinds of credentials you have, so if you’re planning on eventually freelancing full-time, most people will recommend you keep your day job while you’re starting out and establishing contacts. Or, of course, have a generous savings account.

When I was testing the freelance waters 6 years ago, I did legal research and writing work in the meantime. I didn’t keep my day job per se, but I did continue doing similar work, only as a freelancer instead of an employee. To be clear, though, I’d *really* rather not relive those years again from a financial standpoint, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I had to support anyone in addition to myself.

I definitely would’ve had less stress had I just gotten a “regular” job and dabbled in freelancing, but for me personally, I didn’t want to waste any more time. I was ready to jump in and sink or swim. It took a while for me to swim, but overall I’m happy I did it this way.

Your road, of course, may look very different, so you’ll have to decide for yourself how to proceed.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for:

Should Freelance Writers Ever Write for Free?

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe through an RSS feed so you don’t miss a single Freelance Writing Week II post.

Also free free to bookmark, Stumble, and share these posts with friends via email, your blog, and Twitter. The more people we have reading them, the more ideas and suggestions we can come up with in the comments. We freelance writers have to stick together!

If you have money-related freelance writing questions, please leave them in the comments!

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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