It Sounded Too Good to Be True…and It Was By Julie Engelhardt

As many of us know, there are times when a writing opportunity comes along that seems too good to be true. Generally, we’re the ones (or at least I am) knocking on editors’ doors, pitching ideas or letting them know why we’re the best for a particular assignment. A couple of weeks ago I thought my luck had turned and I’d been given the opportunity of a lifetime, and the best part about it is that I really didn’t even have to look for it – it came my way.

This past holiday season I started a small Santa letter writing business as a way to make a little extra spending money. It turned out to be a great experience, so much so that I’ve been trying to come up with different ways to do some fun, creative writing. One idea that came to me was to offer a service where I would write wedding vows and toasts for the reception. I placed my ad online, not really expecting much, but I figured it was worth a shot.

While reading my email one day I received a letter from a woman who lives out of state saying that she is a magazine editor and she wanted me to write articles for her new specialty publication. I was thrilled. She wasn’t paying much, but it was more than I was making by just answering advertisements. She had me contact certain people for interviews for the magazine, and I diligently worked away at this. But then the roof fell in.

Several days ago I began receiving calls from my interviewees, people who had or were going to not only buy ad space from this woman, but who were also going to be vendors at a show she was coordinating. One vendor had received word that this person wasn’t a magazine editor, and that she was not putting on this program. She was a fraud. The information came from another editor of a similar magazine who had gotten wind of what this woman was doing – how she’s duped people out of money – then disappears.

Shoot. I thought this editor was on the up and up. She sent me a lengthy contract to sign, as well as a W-9 form to fill out. She wrote back telling me how much she loved my articles – they were great! But as the week passed, I began getting calls from other vendors, either wondering if I was a part of this scheme, or to warn me about this person.

When I first received the assignment I wrote to Angela and submitted a success story for her site. It was during the time I was excitedly writing my article for her that this awful experience began unfolding.

I’ve learned many valuable lessons from this whole ordeal.

First, I should have done thorough research about this ëmagazine’ before accepting the job.

Second, I’ve learned how important it is to let your interviewees know that you are a freelance writer for the publications you’re working for. That’s one thing that saved my hide – the people remembered that so, even though they were skeptical at first, my candor about my position made them trust me.

Third, it’s great to have people in your corner, those who will work with you, help you do research, and reach out to let you know when something like this occurs. Although writers do want to, at times, maintain a professional distance, I’ve found that my friendliness and willingness to share something about myself has worked in my favor. It certainly has this time.

Julie Engelhardt is a freelance writer based in Central California near the Monterey Peninsula. She specializes in articles about home and family, travel, parenting, weddings and unique honeymoon location. She has been published in Family Fun Magazine, and in regional magazines such as The Wave in San Jose, Ca, and 65 Degrees Magazine in Monterey.