No doubt, many of us are aware of “Bait and Switch” practices as it relates to car sales or retail. For the unenlightened, here’s a brief explanation courtesy of the New York Attorney General: Findlaw.com: “Bait and Switch sales tactics are a form of false or deceptive advertising, in which a car dealer lures potential buyers to the dealership by advertising one vehicle at a certain price, then tells the customer that the particular vehicle is no longer available before using aggressive tactics to sell a different, more expensive vehicle (or the advertised vehicle at a price higher than the advertised).”
Did you know that this practice is also perpetrated in the publishing industry? Were you aware that, as writers, if we are not wise, we too can be “taken for a ride” in terms of our creative services and professional offerings?
According to author and noted blogger Catherine Nyorani: “Getting caught in the web of a fraudulent client is every freelance writer’s worst nightmare. If you’re a newbie, you’re the easiest prey. There are a good number of scammers out there looking to milk free content out of you by using your naivety and desperation for work to their advantage. That said, well-seasoned writers aren’t immune to these insufferable predators either.”
In my developmental years as an entrepreneur, I’ve been duped a time or two – in various ways and means. And, I’ve mastered a few valuable lessons along the way. To shorten your learning curve, I offer the following caveats.
THE THREE BASIC FORMS OF BAIT AND SWITCH IN WRITING GIGS/CLIENTS AND WHAT TO AVOID…
1. Offer and initial pay structure that changes shortly after signing on the dotted line
2. Changes in scope, range, or nature of the work provided
3. Jobs that require writers to submit a writing sample on a specified topic to complete the application process and qualify for final consideration
HERE’S WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE AND HOW THEY UNFOLD…
OFFER OF AN INITIAL PAY STRUCTURE THAT CHANGES AND/OR CHANGE IN SCOPE OF WORK
Some time ago, I was hired to provide content as a ghost writer for a successful author in the business arena. He and I had a detailed, legal working agreement whereby I would write for a specific fee for a certain word count. Any article that exceeded that word count would be compensated at a higher rate. It started out fabulously with interesting topics and steady work. Months later, he flipped the script; he wanted me to ghost write a piece on a much longer word count without additional compensation. His justification? “The money was just not in the budget.”
Since we couldn’t come to agreeable terms, we parted ways. I’m not running a charity. I’m running a business. Though I have no objection to working with limited budgets, or “cutting deals” with clients, it has to be mutually agreed upon. And, I have the ultimate decision. It should never be a situation of manipulation or perceived obligation. It could happen to you. Beware of the client that cries “broke.”
In another writing-related instance, I took on a high-profiled gig that promised content creators a guaranteed monthly pay. This was enticing because the pay was really good and was not contingent upon clicks or page views. Fast forward. The base pay was eliminated and, instead, pay was tied to performance metrics. Word to the wise: Due to the fact that there is a lot of research, brainstorming, and outlining that typically goes into creating content, writers should never work for meager wages or promises of future pay.
JOBS THAT REQUIRE WRITERS TO SUBMIT A WRITING SAMPLE ON A SPECIFIED TOPIC TO COMPLETE THE APPLICATION PROCESS, AND QUALIFY FOR FINAL CONSIDERATION
I have seen an increasing number of advertised job offers where writers are required to submit a resume along with a free sample of their work, based upon an assigned topic. This with no guarantees of pay for their time and effort upon completion. Don’t take the bait!
If a company or client wants to get a “feel” for your style of writing or topics range, they can assess these things through your website, blog, or links to your online work and portfolio.
Additionally, former clients’ testimonials can also be reviewed by the job poster or potential client to determine a writer’s skill set.
Due diligence is important for optimal success and overall protection of your business. Be sure to research, read reviews, and recognize that there is great validity to the expression “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Jennifer Brown Banks is a professional content creator, award-winning blogger and author. Learn more at her popular blog, penandprosper.blogspot.com.
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Thank you for the useful information!
If you are not submitting an article in reponsee to your query that led an editor to make an assignment for an established publication then you need to get half the fee up front. And spell out exactly what the end product is and how long it is as well as the deadline, all in writing.
One problem that hurts us all is that there are too many wannabee writers who are willing to work for the terms those scam artists offer and then may still renege on.
I have seen the fees that most magazines offer go down over 60 years while inflation has made the dollar worth about 3 cents in those old dollars.
For some folks there are other paying markets, usually business related, that still pay more reasonable fees for the work you have to do.
But again, there are still way too many trying to break into those areas who will compete against you.
Great article, Jennifer! I can relate. We really do need to keep our wits about us. Thanks so much for your insight.