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Archives for April 2008

Advice for Freelance SEO Writers: How to Negotiate Rates When Clients Want You to Go Lower with the Promise of More Work

Last week, I received the following email from a freelance writer who bought my ebook on SEO writing. She was landing clients at one rate (after only a couple of weeks of marketing), and wondered if she should go lower for this one client who promised steady work….

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Freelance Writing Scam: One Freelancer’s Tale of How He Got Cheated Writing SEO Articles — How to Avoid a Similar Fate; Also Other Freelance Writing Job Scams Discussed

Freelance SEO writer Roy Daniel DSilva sent the following (very long) comment to my blog post entitled, WARNING: New Scam Job Site Targeting Freelancers. I’ve broken up my comments by adding some tips on how to prevent this from happening to you with notes entitled, “My Take.”

Be careful accepting online writing jobs everybody. As freelance writers, we work hard enough without having to worry about being scammed.
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Mr. DSilva wrote:  

The Biggest Cheat There Ever Was, Is And Will Be – Elliott Leee

I am sure what I am going to say now will shake off the socks of every content writer present in the world. This is the bitterest experience anyone can ever have, so be warned. I have been mightily cheated by Elliott Leee, and I call upon everyone to be very vigilant about this person. Here’s my story.

I am a freelance writer and this Elliott Leee contacted me through one of them (job site). His username is richuser2008 there (later I found out he has one more username richuser2009 also, on the same site). Okay, he contracted me to do 100 articles in 2 days for him. The articles were of 500 words each, and on various topics. The payment decided for them was $600.

Normally, freelance sites allow for escrow, and I prefer that mode, but this Elliott Leee said he will not escrow because he didn’t have funds. Still, I needed the money, so I accepted the work. I have a kid aged 1.5 years and parents aged 61 and 73 years to look after. So I accepted. That was my mistake number one.
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My Take:
The poster is right, this was a huge mistake. What should have clued him in: (i) the large order; (ii) the crazy turnaround time (2 days for 100 articles – come on!); and (iii) the buyers inability to escrow (ie, follow prescribed guidelines as outlined by the job posting sites).

Scammers often use job sites for two reasons: (i) it’s the easiest way to target a lot of freelance writers quickly; and (ii) a lot of writers who use these sites are accustomed to working for pennies (no knock to the freelancer). Writers who charge more tend to stay away from sites like this (I know I do), or at least not waste their time responding to orders like this one.
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I put all my other work on the backburner and started his articles. It was unreal work, but I knew I would do it. He was bombarding me with emails. He wanted 10 articles every hour. I employed my wife and brother on the job too, and between us, we did the 10 articles in the first hour. I mailed him those. He accepted, said they were good, and said he wanted the next 10 within the next hour. I kept on sending, and with every mail he only said ‘Send me the next 10 asap’. There was no thanks, no decency in this person, he was only swallowing the articles without a burp.
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My Take:
Second mistake. If you’re going to work on spec and for such low wages as this, at least make them pay up after a few have been sent. This would have showed good faith. In this instance, a good idea would have been to send say 5 at a time, receive payment, and then do another five. That way, if you don’t get payment, at least you’ve only spent time doing a few articles.

And not for nothing, if this person seemed “indecent,” or unprofessional, that’s a big red flag. Most professionals don’t operate like this. There are so many thank yous flying back and forth between me and my clients that it’s a virtual lovefest.
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After 50 articles were done, I indicated about the payment. I asked him to pay at least $300, which was the amount for the work completed. He refused outright. He said he would pay as soon as the 100th article was submitted. I had no option but to plow on.
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My Take: Fifty articles in, I can understand the inclination to want to continue. But he should have stood his ground. Professionals understand upfront payments (heck, he’d completed half the job with no upfront payment). And honest client would have gladly paid something at this point. Reputable clients just don’t operate this way.

Red flag! Red flag! Red flag!
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Anyways, I will get to the end now. I finished the 100 articles in the stipulated 2 days. This guy was awake day and night, and didn’t allow me to sleep either. He wanted articles every hour, and would allow only a few hours sleep. But, he refused to give me any chat ids. Email was our only conversation.

So, 2 days, 40+ emails and 100 articles later, I asked him for the payment. His emails suddenly stopped. After about eight hours, he emailed me about a problem. He said that some other writer had fallen sick or something and could not complete her articles. He said her 29 articles were pending. And since those were completed, he could not send the articles to his client and his client would not pay. I told him this was unfair. He was almost like a dictator in his reply – do these 29 more, or there can be no payment. Really, he was so brutal. I had to do those 29 more articles.

I took one more day to finish, not a whole day though. And I sent him those 29 also. The dues were now $780 and I was waiting for them. After a few repeated reminders from my side, I got an email from him.

He said he has paid on PayPal. I got a confirmation email from “PayPal” too. But the money did not show on PayPal. I waited four hours, thinking it might take time or something. But the money never came. And then I minutely scrutinized the “confirmation email”. It was a carefully planned out hoax. The email was a spoof. I reported it to PayPal immediately.

And then Elliott Leee stopped responding. No further communication occurred. In my last mail, I only told him how he was a criminal, and how I will expose him. He never replied to that. Three days later, I was checking my freelance account where I first found this fellow. I was shocked to see the site had deducted $30 from my account for this project with Elliott Leee. I opened a dispute ticket with them.

Let me tell you also what PayPal and the freelance site did (or rather, did not do).

PayPal never replied to my report on the spoof mail. How can they not even be concerned about someone spoofing their emails? What’s the security for us then, when the biggest online bank of the world is so laidback about such crime? A couple of days later, I only got an email from PayPal saying that there’s no transaction of $780 on the said date. And they gave me a litany of preaching on what I must do to avoid phishing. Fat help!

The freelance site obviously did not help. There was no escrow, and that was their excuse to wash their hands of the whole affair. No escrow, no help – that’s the brutal dictum of these freelance sites. They replied about the deduction of $30 in 3 words – Project was canceled. Yes, you guessed it right – after making me slog like an aboriginal slave, after killing my sleep and appetite for two days running, this Elliott Leee took all the articles and canceled the project.

I got no justice in all this, and the infrastructure of the Internet is such that I will never get any justice. People like Elliott Leee will rule. And we honest hard workers will always lose.
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My Take: Honest, hard workers will not lose, if we are smart. Don’t ever, ever, ever start work without some form of payment being made first.

In my case, I break this rule, but let me explain. First, I don’t use bid-for-pay sites. The pay is too low and the time spent formulating queries is just too time consuming. By the time I do that, I could have sent out 50 email queries from contacts I’ve found on my own.

When I query clients online, I’ve been to their site. While this doesn’t guarantee a thing, at least I know they’re less likely trying to scam me b/c I approach them first.  Furthermore, I propose rates to my clients, not the other way around. With bid-for-pay sites, most of the clients post what they’re willing to pay for a project.

Finally, it’s just a gut instinct I use. I’ve been doing this long enough (since 1993) to get a feel for clients. I’ve only been burned once – and that was by a lawyer (go figure!) and it wasn’t web writing.

To avoid all of this, or at least until you develop that long-time freelancer “gut feeling,” just ask for 50% up front before you start on a project. It’s industry standard and if a potential client balks; then you walk.
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Long live the phishers and scammers! The world’s online banks and freelance sites are there to help you do your thing.

PS: There is much, much more coming up on Elliott Leee as I am discovering more stuff from him. I have recently found out (without proof) that Elliott Leee is an alias – he has some other name. In fact, he has many other names. If anyone of you wants to discuss Elliott Leee with me, and even take a look at our email convos and things like that, get in touch with me. I won’t take you at your face value though. There are other instances of us getting cheated on my blog.
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My Take: While phishers and scammers do stink up the internet with, this medium is full of opportunity. Don’t let a few rotten apples spoil what is an absolutely wonderful way to make unbelievable amounts of money. The key is to market smart, and trust ye ole gut!

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Why a Recession is a Good Time to Start a Freelance Writing Career

This article continues on the ideas expressed in this post on Inkwell Editorial’s blog, which was about why a recession is a great time to start a freelance writing career.

I was a little light on details. As I had I had some free time over the weekend, I took the time to flesh the topic more.

Why Freelancers Thrive in a Boom/Good Economy

Freelancing is wonderful because it thrives in a recession, or in a booming economy. It just thrives for different reasons. In an expanding economy, it thrives for all the obvious reasons: companies are spending money – on advertising, marketing, consulting, etc.

This means work for everyone – full-time and freelance professional.

3 Reasons Freelancers Thrive in a Recession

In a recession, the freelance industry thrives for three reasons:

(i) Because companies are laying off. BUT, work still has to get done. As there are fewer full-timers around, the services are independent contractors (freelancers) are relied on.

(ii) This also saves companies on employee overhead (ie, office space, healthcare, etc.). And,

(iii) Disenchanted, laid off workers start businesses. Many take severance packages and pursue a long-held dream to start their own business. Or, they just may be so fed up with being laid off “yet again,” that they vow never to work for anyone else again (been there, done that).

And, as they can’t afford to hire full-timers, many of these entrepreneurs turn to freelancers. To make a go of any type of freelance endeavor, you have to market, market, market.

I’m regularly billing between $1,000 and $2,000 in JUST SEO writing work (I do other types of freelance writing and blogging as well).

So, if you’ve been wanting to take the plunge, do some planning and jump on in. The freelance waters are always warm and welcoming! For more reading on this subject, check out How Will a Recession Affect Freelance Writers?

*FYI, SEO stands for search engine optimization. I apologize to more tech savvy readers; but every time I write an article using the acronym SEO, I get an email asking me what it is.

Best,
Yuwanda

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coverP.S.: Get the ebook that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hi Yuwanda,

Just wanted to say thank you – as a result of the advice in your SEO writing e-book, I got my first order within 12 hours of sending out my first batch of 10 marketing emails.

P.P.S.: Want to start a successful career where you have the mobility to live and work where you please? Visit our freelance writing bookstore for a ton of opportunities (freelance writing and internet marketing) to get you started.

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