I have been very fortunate in that I have not been taken for a ride yet however it is not for a lack of effort on the part of the unscrupulous. Writing scams abound and sooner or later you are going to encounter one.
Bidding for work on eLance and GetAFreelancer is a great source of profitable work and as you would expect, I’m frequently asked to provide samples of my work. That’s nothing unusual and I’m happy to do so, however when a project provider asks for 500 words on a topic they specify as a sample, I shy away. The reasoning is simple, if 10 people bid, that is 10 articles produced and it has cost the project provider precisely – £0! If you’re asked to provide a sample on a specific topic, by all means do so but keep it below 200 words unless they are going to pay you.
A friend of mine, Dawn, writes poems as a way of getting through her daily drudge working as an administrator in a retirement home. Over time she has accumulated quite a collection of very funny poems and I am in the process of editing and arranging them into some sort of order suitable for publishing. Dawn has already encountered the “vanity” publisher who for a fee will publish her work and promises worldwide exposure. Vanity publishers have their place if you wish to publish your writing for use as a commercial offering to promote your company or simply as an off-the-wall Christmas present to friends and family. In the real world, vanity publishers have very little to offer a writer in terms of editing, presentation and most of all, marketing your work. Stay away from any agent or publisher who asks for money upfront!