How to avoid projects that aren’t worth your time

Thousands of potential writing projects are posted daily around the web. Some of these are potentially amazing and some are outright scams, but most fall somewhere in between. The in-between is home to the listings that while legitimate, aren’t necessarily good projects. These are the ones that often pay poorly while asking for everything, or pay somewhat well, but cause much more stress and frustration than the money is worth.  Make searching more efficient and avoid the headaches and hassles by learning how to avoid the ones that aren’t worth your time.


Filter them out of search results

Utilize search filters on freelancing sites. For hourly projects, exclude all listings that offer a range of less than your minimum. Whenever possible, that minimum should be greater than federal minimum wage in your area. Make sure to limit the search to clients who have attached and verified their method of payment. Other possible search filters can include limiting to only those who have made at least one previous hire and a client feedback score of at least 4 or higher when available.

Skim the listing before clicking through

Most site search engines display an excerpt of the job posting plus other relevant information about the project and client. Use this preview to quickly check listings to see if they are worth further consideration. Click the down arrow to see an expanded preview that sometimes can display the entire description, depending on the length. This will help to discard a lot of junk postings. Look for laughably low rates of pay ($.50 per 500 words and the like) and other verbiage that indicates a project that is not up to standard. If either the work itself or any demands relating to the completion of it make you feel uncomfortable or uninterested, discard and move on to the next one. Open any promising leads in a new tab for further vetting.


Look at the client’s background

Some client information is also available in the search results and includes things like payment method verification, client name and location, and overall feedback or spending score. Look at the client’s history on the site. What is the ratio of projects posted versus the ones actually hired for? A lot of completely unfilled positions means a lot of credits left languishing at best, and a client who is looking for free work or to hire outside of the marketplace at worst. Note that some clients interview through one post, but hire individuals to a separate, private posting. Take a look at their job history. If it is full of low-paying, often repeating-number projects ($1.11, $2.22, etc), move on to the next one. A history of terrible pay almost never bodes well for a writer’s request for a reasonable rate.

Just one of many real-world examples of poorly paying projects that just aren’t worth any freelancers time. That’s less than $1.50 per six hundred words or 1/4 of a cent per word…

Feedback works both ways

Feedback can make or break a freelance writer’s reputation on most sites.  Building this reputation takes time and hard work, but can be wrecked with one negative feedback. Many clients won’t hire writers with a marred record, even if their history is otherwise stellar. If this happens to a writer on their first project, it can end that line of income before it really gets going. Take note of the feedback left to contractors.

Some clients will never leave a five-star rating, even if their accompanying comments proclaim them to be extremely happy with the work received. Other clients are never happy, and rate everyone poorly. A few bad experiences are feasible, but twenty low ratings are a red flag. Steer clear of both of these types, even if everything else about the project looks great.

Some sites allow for contractors to leave feedback for the client. Definitely take the time to read through these and note the comments and ratings. Evaluate the feedback in and of themselves and relative to the others. A single disgruntled contractor may not be cause for concern, but a pattern of negative comments is worrying.


Evaluate the listing

Filtering and skimming search results should eliminate most of the biggest time wasters like the ones that offer $10 total for 25 articles with a minimum of 1000 words. Words and phrases to look out for include “lowest bid wins”, “cheaply as possible”, “do not bid more than $x per hour”, and similar. The worst penny-pinching offenders sometimes reject legitimate applications that ask for a normal rate as spam. This can lead to suspended accounts and delayed or lost access to pending earnings.

Another category of time-wasters involve the ones that want to break the marketplace’s terms of service. These are the ones who want to make all contact and sometimes hire offsite. While many clients are legitimate and there are no problems, moving communications and/or pay offsite forfeits the protections that the site provides.

There is no contract, no official record of time and messages, and no guarantee of payment. If a dispute arises, the site will be mostly unable to assist in the resolution. Never include external contact information in the initial application. It is permissible to exchange this information once an invitation to interview through the site has been extended by the client.

Clients often ask for a work sample to determine if writers are a good fit for the project. A link or attachment to an existing sample piece on a related subject should be sufficient in most cases. Beware any listing that requests a newly created article on a given topic unless compensation is offered. There are clients out there who attempt to take advantage of job postings to gather free content for their websites.

Protect yourself and profit

Taking the time to check out a project may take a bit longer at first. Once you know what to look for, it becomes easy to quickly discard the projects that don’t meet your standards. Eliminating these listings from consideration frees up time and credits for projects that could be the perfect fit.


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