Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Before You Respond to an Online Job Listing

By Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Debbie Ridpath Ohi

The Internet contains a wealth of information and can be a boon to the freelance writer looking for work. However, it's also home to countless scam artists hoping to take advantage of hopeful writers, especially on job boards where anyone can post for free. Be sure a listing you're responding to is legitimate.

Clues that should make you cautious about a job or market listing:

  • Misspellings and grammar mistakes.

  • Fees to apply or to submit your work.

  • Recommendations to use a paid service (e.g. editing).

  • Buying a copy of the publication is required to see your published work.

  • A contact e-mail address that is not a primary domain. For example, if a company called "Foobar Press International" uses a Hotmail address.

  • Requests for personal financial info, like bank account or Social Security numbers.

Do your research

If you're concerned about the legitimacy of a company, ask other writers whether they've heard of it. Check the Writer Beware site, run by A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. Do a Google search on the name to see what comes up.

Here are some other useful resources:

Avoiding Writing Scams: Advice From Those Who Know By J.A. Hitchcock

How To Sniff Out Literary Scams

By Marcia Yudkin

Avoiding Online Job Scams


Other tips

Even when you find what seems to be a legitimate market listing, be sure to find out the following:

  • What rights are they asking for? If you're not sure what the terms used mean, check out Moira Allen's article, Understanding Rights and Copyright. If it's a work-for-hire project, for example, be aware that you're giving away all rights to your work, including your copyright. The publication will have the right to edit, alter, reprint, or resell your material, and may also choose to run the piece without your byline.

  • How much payment are they offering? Don't assume they're paying cash; some publications "pay" in contributor's copies or a percentage of advertising income instead.

  • Make sure you have contact info for the market or company other than just an e-mail address. That way you have another means of reaching them if things go wrong (if you're not paid, for example) and the e-mail address stops working.

  • Get a written contract, or at least save any e-mails detailing obligations of both parties. Never rely solely on a verbal agreement, no matter how much you trust the other party; one of you may innocently forget some of the details. I usually send a follow-up e-mail after a phone call or series of discussion e-mails to confirm the terms of our agreement. That way, if any question comes up about what was and wasn't in the agreement, I can just forward that one e-mail.

Good luck with your job hunting!

Debbie Ridpath Ohi