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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Danger, Will Robinson! (Or: How I Learned to Spot Job Posting Red Flags, Part 4)

This is a continuation of Danger, Will Robinson! (Or: How I Learned to Spot Job Posting Red Flags, Part 1), (Part 2) and (Part 3).

“The compensation will be seeing your name published in a local publication. It will look excellent on your resume!!”

“Compensation: Clips and exposure to millions of readers.”

“No pay but you’ll help the world go green!”

Look familiar? Not exactly paying gigs, are they? But there they are, to be found in abundance on online “paying” job posting boards. I’ve found that many of these come-ons either overpromise what they’re selling or are outright frauds designed to suck you in for nefarious purposes. Sure, there are legitimate opportunities to build your portfolio, if you’re willing to write for free, but like anything else, there are people willing to take advantage of the naïve or inattentive by getting something for nothing. Once you get a few pieces published, though, it’s time to go for the moolah.

The debate within the writing community rages on as to whether you should ever write for free (gotta accumulate those clips somehow) or not (it ultimately cheapens the profession for everybody). Heck, I did it when I was a newbie. But I didn’t delude myself into thinking that I would be “discovered” by some big-shot wheeler-and-dealer who would launch my writing career into the stratosphere, or any other such nonsense. I did it to collect bylines and that all-important experience. But it didn’t take me long to realize that my time, effort and skills are valuable commodities deserving of pay.

So how do you separate the honest, cash-strapped folks (think nonprofits) from the con artists? Sometimes it can feel as complicated and arduous as separating the chocolate from the milk, but pay attention to what the ad is really saying — read between the lines. Beware of any ad that screams:

“New, exciting, up-and-coming national magazine started by technology gazillionaire Tommy Moneypants, with the backing of Fortune 500 companies, seeks writers! Oh, and even though our founder has more cash than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet combined, we can’t afford to pay you. But you’ll get a byline.”

My advice? Click off that page as fast you can.

Agree? Disagree? Want to add to the conversation? Feel free to comment.

1 comment:

  1. Being a freelancer myself, I also have had to keep my antennae sharp for buffoons looking to take advantage of me. When I first started, I used a lot of those freelance job boards. I was startled at how many jobs were out there ... until I started looking at the pay. Too many people out there want something for nothing. It's frustrating.

    For whatever reason, people shopping for a freelance writer are much the same as people who shop for a car. They try to drive the price down, and down, and down and ...

    I am good at what I do, and so are you. We shouldn't have to do a "cash for clunkers" writing special to get business.


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