How I Got Screwed After Writing 50 Articles for a Website by Rachel Woodruff

How I Got Screwed After Writing 50 Articles for a Website by Rachel Woodruff

Writers frequently take jobs that pay little or nothing at all, simply for the love of writing. There are plenty of pay per click sites available on the internet for exposure. However, just as Adrienne Crezo wrote, “Exposure…reminds me of being left out in the cold,” most of these sites that offer exposure also leave the writer out in the cold.

Take my personal example. Reluctantly, I agreed to write for an online magazine after being persuaded by a fellow writer. He told me that this particular site was unlike pay per click sites. In fact, getting involved early with this site, he assured me, would mean not only getting my work read but also a steady income. Since one of my goals is to have a steady income from my writing, I felt that this was a worthwhile investment of my time.

You cannot simply write for this site, though. You first have to go through a rigorous training process. The training takes two weeks and culminates on a Sunday of writing where you produce a minimum of nine articles for the site. I made arrangements for a sitter for the training sessions, and focused on completing the two weeks of training so that I could make money from my writing finally after all these years.

When training was complete, the editors bragged about how much money I could make. I would have to be available for weekly meetings with the editors where we would discuss upcoming articles. My writing would have to stay above par. It shouldn’t be hard, though. Most of the articles I wrote for the site were ranked high in Google. In fac, one article received 20,000 visitors on one day. My friend that introduced me to the site told me that even his articles weren’t receiving that many readers. It shouldn’t be hard at all to make money, right?

One month turned into two, and I had yet to make even a dollar. I had over fifty articles published. They were being read and they had gone viral. But, there was no paycheck. So, I stopped writing and contacted the editor. The main editor who worked with me through training was unavailable. I would find out later she had quit. My friend also wouldn’t return my e-mails. Other editors couldn’t answer my questions, other than telling me to be patient…that payment would come eventually.

How long should a writer wait to get paid? Or, perhaps a better question would be how many articles would you write for free? In my case, it took just over fifty before I decided to stop and wait to see if there would ever be a paycheck. The editor who trained (the one who quit) filed a formal complaint with the Better Business Bureau and with the Attorney Generals’ office. Meanwhile, other editors and the founder of the site tried everything from bribery to outright threats to convince me that pursuing payment for my writing was pointless.

To this day, my articles are still on their site, published under my name, and receiving visitors as well as comments. Two years later and I have yet to receive any payment. Many of the editors, writers, and staff that started with me have quit, and told similar stories of writing multiple articles and never getting paid. The site is still up…and they are still recruiting writers.

How can novice writers avoid pitfalls such as the one I described above? Investigate the magazine or website BEFORE you submit your work, even before you spend time being tested or trained by them. Always use a trusted source for writing jobs and, remember, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have not named this website because the writer says they previously threatened her. The lesson to be learned is this: If you’ve already written one to three articles for a site (or for any firm), DON’T keep writing for them until you get paid in full for the work you’ve already done! This is happening to numerous writers from a variety of websites and firms across the globe. The way to protect yourself is to not allow yourself to get so far in the hole when working for one company. Writers should be vigilant about ALL firms hiring writers for multiple articles (especially content mills). Don’t be focused on the name of one firm because you need to extremely wary of ALL of them. 


When Writers Contribute to a Scammer’s Success

WHO’S SCAMMING GRANNY? Snakes That Prey on Elderly Authors

Top 10 Signs You’ve Been Scammed Into Writing for Free

The Scam That Got Its Dirty Little Hooks In Me

Great Writing Gig Or A Scam? 10 Red Flags!

Rachel Woodruff is a freelance author and ghostwriter. She currently resides in Southwest Missouri with her husband and three children, she holds a degree in Writing from Drury University.

24 Responses to "How I Got Screwed After Writing 50 Articles for a Website by Rachel Woodruff"

  1. Pingback: I Got Scammed!! I Submitted My Articles, and the Publisher Disappeared! |

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  3. Seamus O'Brog  October 10, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Allan Lynch’s suggestion above regarding contracts is absolutely correct. A paper trail showing those elements is all that’s needed to enforce a contract.

    All writers ought to take the time to memorize those elements, or at least keep a permanent copy of his post on your computer. That’s what you do in law school….or the school of hard knocks.

    And speaking of the school of hard knocks……it never fails to amaze me when someone refers to the person who (stabbed them in the back, led them into the trap, won’t return their calls, fill in the blank) as a friend.

    My third comment is that there is no need to name these crooks. As explained above, they are just likely to come after you. That’s why you leave revenge to God, or Karma. All you need to know is that if it quacks like a crook, waddles like a crook, it IS a crook. All you need to know is that you don’t work without getting paid. I know it’s tough to ignore the smell of the bait when you’re hungry, but you’ve GOT to do it.

    And last, that’s the real thing you need to learn: Know them by their fruits. There are NO honest hustlers. Maybe there are one or two, but it’s like winning the lotto: Your chances of winning the lotto are the same whether you buy a ticket or not. (In the real world, a 0.000001% chance equals 0% chance.) In the real world, your chance of getting paid by a hustler is 0%.

    It was either Bob Hope or W. C. Fields who said, “Never give a sucker an even break, nor smarten up a chump. You can’t cheat an honest man.”

  4. Cyndi Perkins  October 10, 2015 at 7:18 am

    We should consider collaborating on naming the sites that do this In a future piece for Writer’s Weekly – because this abuse will continue until the outings occur. Would this be appropo for Writer Beware or Editors & Preditors? I also urge writers who have not been paid to take that excellent suggestion in this comment thread to republish their work as a LinkedIn Pulse or other long-form post. Writers unite! It’s time we called it like it is. Whether it’s a prestige publication or the crappiest of content mills, not paying your writers is NOT OK.

  5. Michelle  October 3, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I’m sorry to hear that happened! What I take away from that, too, is to never trust people who promise performance payments or revenue share down the line. I always work for a flat fee and agree on that fee in writing before any work takes place. If I see any terms like performance payments, revenue share and pay-per-click, I head for the hills. I experimented with these revenue share models early in my freelancing and came up with pennies for my effort. IMHO, the only time you should be dealing with passive income models is for your own websites or books. A real, credible client will talk pay in fixed, tangible and timely terms.

  6. Robert  October 2, 2015 at 10:25 am

    I second all the aforementioned advice. What is the ‘threat’ that this bogus on-line organization might carry out? Show up at your door with two brass-knuckled henchmen? I doubt they’d pursue such threats. The other thing that ought to serve as a giant red flag for everyone who reads this is, never, ever, ever take any kind of lengthy training without some sort of up-front compensation…. whether it’s in the form of a $50 Starbucks card or (preferably) hourly compensation for the time spent. Two weeks training? I’ve taken roles that involved some sort of project-launch call, but it usually wraps up in an hour or two and I’ve only done that when I knew weeks and weeks of paid assignments were ahead. I’ve also taken part in day-long formal training sessions for my current client, which uses four different online software platforms to manage copy and is extremely ‘process-driven.’ Paid training was part of the deal, or I wouldn’t have done it.

  7. Wendy Lou Jones  October 1, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    There is a very simple solution to these types of problems – I simply insist upon 1/2 payment upfront. The story stops right there. I just don’t do it.

  8. By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  October 1, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Kathy, you need to check with your attorney before you do that. While it’s a valiant endeavor, you are going to start receiving lawsuit threats and possible physical threats. I’ve received hundreds over the years and paying an attorney to handle them can get VERY expensive.

    One deadbeat we exposed filed a frivolous lawsuit against us (after he threatened to get our children from their schools!). He also threatened to send someone to our house to “take care of” me. His lawsuit was declared frivolous and he was ordered to pay our legal fees, etc. We never got a dime, of course. Last we heard, he’d been arrested for aggravated DUI. Pursuing him would have be futile.

    After years of personal threats (one woman threatened to come to our house and beat me up – there were other violent threats), as well as spending tens of thousands in legal fees over the years, we realized that, no matter how many scammers we named/exposed, writers kept writing for them because most folks get so excited about the prospect of a few bucks coming in that they make poor decisions (like failing to do their research).

    Since the scammers kept winning due to so many writers failing to do simple Google searches, we could no longer justify continuing to put our children, ourselves, and our business at risk. So, we link to scammer websites now instead, like You’ll find lots of complaints about content mills on sites like that. That firm has far deeper pockets and resources than we do.

    I don’t recommend you shoulder the burden of publishing scammers’ names on our blog because you will get threats and it will get not only expensive, but frightening as well. If you have children at home, double-think what you plan to do because you’ll be putting them at risk, too.

    I suggest, via your blog, that you invite victims to all post to one place, like You can then provide links on your blog to those complaints.

    – Angela

  9. Kathy  October 1, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Per Angela’s response to why this particular content mill has not been named. I totally get your reason for attempting to point that finger away from the writer who got burned and back at the nameless organization. That said, I think by not revealing by name of the content mill(s) that us writers are collectively doing a disservice to our profession. I propose we start a list of content mills that have abused the profession so as other writers don’t get caught up in the same cog. Angela, would you be willing to start a blog thread that writers could contribute to (anonymously if they chose) that lists organizations who have used/abused writers? It could be a go-to resource that helps advocate for the writing profession and the writer. If not, I’d be happy to take the thread to my own blog as a resource.

  10. By Angela Hoy - Publisher of  October 1, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    EDITOR’S NOTE: We have not named this website because the writer says they previously threatened her. The lesson to be learned is this: If you’ve already written one to three articles for a site (or for any firm), DON’T keep writing for them until you get paid in full for the work you’ve already done! This is happening to numerous writers from a variety of websites and firms across the globe. The way to protect yourself is to not allow yourself to get so far in the hole when working for one company. Writers should be vigilant about ALL firms hiring writers for multiple articles (especially content mills). Don’t be focused on the name of one firm because you need to extremely wary of ALL of them.

  11. beejay  October 1, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Hi Rachel,

    I know EXACTLY who you are talking about.
    It’s eerie how your experiences mirror mine.

    My training editor, and the VP left about the time I finished the absolutely grueling training and final test, all successfully. They issued an open letter detailing exactly what was going on and why they were leaving, for all to see.

    I haven’t been paid for anything, not even the 3 articles sent in as TEST 1, for which I was promised a total of $110/-

    This scam has been outed by respected copywriters, but still continues.

    I’m amazed how an out-and-out charlatan can continue to operate repeatedly, in spite of being well-known as a scammer.

    And to make it worse, I realize that what I learnt (I thought at least that would have value), is worthless, as it is geared specifically to that publication, and doesn’t work with any other type of copywriting.

    Is there a reason you haven’t named and shamed them?

  12. Bonnie Doss-Knight  October 1, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Rachel – I feel your pain. I was writing for a marketplace where you post articles for sale. My articles were selling great, but they do not pay and refuse to remove my articles. I don’t mind naming the place – – as they have exploited many of our fellow writers.

    I did do my homework. They were the #2 marketplace when I started with them and no complaints. I think the original owner sold the site, not sure. But, anyway sometimes homework doesn’t turn up any red flags.

  13. tim mcdonald  October 1, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    What good is this if you DON’T NAME the SITE?

    This is useless. You may call yourself a writer, but it’s excruciatingly obvious you’ve never taken a journalism course in your life.

    Everybody has horror stories like this. It means nothing if you DON’T NAME the Site!

    It’s so obvious it’s ridiculous.

  14. Kathy  October 1, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    I am really puzzled why the author of this article is not revealing the name of the website that scammed her for 50 articles. What reason do you have for protecting the name of an entity that “screwed you” and continues to do so to other writers? In your own words, you ask how “novice writers can avoid pitfalls such as the one I described above?”. You know how? By doing something about it.

    You mention how others have tried handling the situation and how others continue getting screwed over, but you aren’t doing the most simple thing you can to stop it from happening time and again. Name the organization who stole your work. This solves two problems 1) you’ll finally get action from them since they won’t like the bad press and 2) you save fellow writers from the headaches and heartaches associated with bad business practices.

    My guess is that the company has found a successful “threat” to keep you from naming the organization, but why honor their terms if they aren’t honoring yours? Shame on you for submitting to the company’s gag order. You are a professional communicator, so use your words and speak up for yourself, and in doing so you propel the professional writing community and warn future writers from getting caught up in the same scam.

    One final note: you mention to always use a trusted source for writing jobs, which is ironic since “your friend” referred you to this horrible company, then disappeared when you tried contacting him/her through email. Essentially you are doing the same thing your “friend” is doing by hiding behind your story and not revealing the name of the scammer.

    My takeaway? This is the perfect opportunity for you to be that trusted source that you are asking other writers to be.

  15. A.J.  October 1, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I got burned a couple of times this way. In one case, early in my career, I did three one-off articles for a magazine, which paid promptly for each one. Then they asked me to do a series, but to submit the whole series at once “to make sure the articles are all consistent.” They had a good track record, so I wasn’t worried. I turned in the series. Not long after, the place later went under. Even with a contract, I got nothing.

    In the second case, which, unfortunately, involved a former friend, I did a lot of work for a marketing website (also now defunct). At first, I got paid within 30 days of invoicing. So over a couple of months, I did a whole bunch of work–in part, because I was working with someone I trusted. I waited four months for payment before the place sent a check for about half of what I was owed–which bounced. Meanwhile, my friend left the business.

    The website owner asked me to stay on. I said “Pay the balance and we’ll talk.” He did and the check cleared. We agreed that I would do one piece at a time, not starting a second one until I’d received payment for the first. Things ticked along well for about a year, and then another check bounced–TWICE. (The website owner was on his honeymoon in Bali at the time.) My cousin the lawyer wrote a stern-sounding letter demanding immediate payment via a bank check or an electronic funds transfer. The owner wired the money; it cleared my account; I quit.

  16. Laura  October 1, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    The best thing you can do is warn other writers away. I think it’s our responsibility to warn others about these bad situations, as you have done. A private client screwed me for over $300 my first year in freelancing and also left me threats on my voicemail. Even when I provided copies of all this to the site managing the escrow, he was allowed to stay, and he’s still hiring people there today. At least I tried. So sorry this happened to you!

  17. SiouxSue  October 1, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Unless you signed some agreement that turned over copyright ownership to the magazine, republish those articles on LinkedIn as “long-form posts” (accessible from your LinkedIn “home” page).

    LinkedIn will suck up the SEO on those articles so that the magazine will benefit less from them. You might not get paid, but you will receive very visible credit for writing those articles.

    You can also consider complaining to Google and Bing, if those articles show up in search results.

  18. allan lynch  October 1, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Contracts don’t mean a thing if one of the signees are dishonest. Most legitimate publications don’t bother with contracts anymore because editors are too stretched for time to add another layer of paperwork. Simply maintaining your emails will form the basis of a contract.

    A contract has four elements: offer, acceptance, performance and consideration. You, the writer, ask for or an editor contacts you to write. That’s the offer. When the person being asked, writer or editor, says yes, that’s acceptance. Performance is delivering copy on time and to specifications. “Consideration” is the payment.

    Your correspondence with an editor should always include article focus, word count, deadline and payment details (how much and what extras there might be: expenses, photos, etc).

    Save all these details. A cyber trail can help you later on.

  19. Gary  October 1, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    Contact the web hosting company that they use and report that they are using work of yours without permission. It worked for me once but it was only one hijacked article. They removed the article but I did not get paid. The hosting company (like Go Daddy) does not wish to appear that it condones this behavior and should have them take down the articles. Here is how to file a DMCA Take down notice with an online service provider .

  20. Karin  October 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    I am a published writer so perhaps my take is a bit different than others. I offer to give a sample of my writing (or they can view it on my personal website). I made my living writing for Fortune 500 companies as well as freelancing until my recent retirement so of course that is reflected on my resume. If that’s not good enough for a company, then I’m not interested in working for them. On the other hand, Angie is correct, never work without a contract.

  21. Knott Kneeded  October 1, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    What’s the website’s name?

  22. Gary Crabbe  October 1, 2015 at 11:47 am

    DMCA. Use it to take the site down.

  23. Karen  October 1, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Ugh, that’s terrible. I don’t think you would be able to share the name of that website here would you? I can only hope that at least you received some valuable information from the training you received that can help you in your future writing career?

  24. Angie PJ  October 1, 2015 at 11:24 am

    Never, ever write without a contract when you’re working with someone new.