Is Freelance Writing a Sure Thing? Scam Alert

Scam Alert: Is freelance writing a sure thing? Makealivingwriting.comDo you think freelance writing is a sure thing?

If so, there’s a newly minted online writing ‘expert’ who’d love to take your money.

You may have heard that if something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.

Well, if someone tells you that freelance writing is an activity even a “broke, jobless dummy” can for-sure earn a middle-class income with, because “anyone can write” and “earn a safe, secure income” from home (all quotes from this pitchster’s website)…please be wary.

Here’s what I recently learned about the wild promises being made to online writers about the easy riches that supposedly await them…

Promising the moon, delivering heartbreak

I’ve written before about how to bust unqualified faux experts online by asking basic questions about their expertise…but in the past week, I was sent an email that set new records for spinning tall tales about how easy it is to be a well-paid freelance writer.

Yes, easy to earn — in a career that’s been called “the most difficult way to earn money quickly,” by experienced coaches including Diana Burrell.

Here’s an excerpt from the pitch I got to sell this total stranger’s offer (I’m omitting identifying details, since I wouldn’t want to inadvertently lead any writers who read me to this site):

Hi Carol,

Do you have any interest in doing some cross promoting a writing product for a big commission? If so, here’s what I have for us: I recently release a book called “TITLE.” It’s a guide based training program on how to become a home based writer. The book sets a target of $5,000 a month with several action paths to get there (and beyond).

I figured since we’re in the same niche, we could be a great fit to work together.

Here is the link to my website, you can check it out: [LINK] and let me know what you think!

All the best,
Freelance Writer XXXX

Now, I never affiliate sell products or services that I’m pitched by total strangers. I only affiliate sell products and services created by people I know — usually, ones I’ve used and benefited from myself.

But this guy’s angle sounded just weird enough that I went to take a look.

What I saw really made my jaw drop.

When you assume…

There’s a common problem with people who want to hop into selling how-to-write products without any experience working in the writer community and talking to struggling writers. They make a very basic, bad assumption.

They broke into freelance writing fairly easily, and have been able to earn a living with it.

Therefore, they conclude, everyone can.

But that is a faulty assumption. One person’s experience cannot be extrapolated to all, or easily duplicated by others.

Every writer, their abilities, and their life experience, is different! This isn’t widget assembly, but a creative career.

If it were super-easy to earn $5,000 a month as a freelance writer (the claim this ‘expert’ makes), I wouldn’t get emails every week from writers who are literally starving and desperate to figure out how to earn anything beyond a pittance online.

So this guy’s sales angle — that this is a “safe” and “foolproof” career, really made me see red.

Reading the red flags

Besides the ridiculous pronouncements about what a cinch freelance writing is, what were the “tells” in his website copy that made me suspicious he was selling snake oil?

  • His story includes moving to Thailand two months into his freelancing career to cut his expenses by 70% (why is that needed, if it’s so lucrative?).
  • He names no freelance clients he’s worked for, and includes no portfolio.
  • The testimonials for his book have no head shots or website links, so there’s no way to verify they’re not fictitious.
  • A tiny footnote reveals he’s using a pen name! Do you trust a coach who’s hiding their true identity?

I called him on what seemed like obvious flaws in his claims with this note:

“[NAME], if freelance writing were a safe bet, EVERYONE WOULD BE DOING IT. You have very scant experience with the marketplace if you think this is a sure thing. And maybe it’s safe if you’re a young, single guy with no expenses. What about safe for women with children to feed, who live in a developed country?

“Sounds like you lucked into a few gigs. That doesn’t qualify you to teach others.”

This was the response I got:

“Writing is a safe bet, I stand behind that.

“I had no writing experience starting out (I have a finance degree and mediocre English grades). I just emailed companies, cold called, and got jobs.”

To repeat: Just because something happened to you, does not mean it is a foolproof career path for everyone who’s ever dreamed of writing for a living. But over and over, you’ll find freelance writers who’ve had a flush of initial, personal success online promising they can teach you how to replicate their success.

The final straw with this scammy site — he claimed to have statistical proof that writing is a no-fail career that you’ll earn $60K a year at. So let’s take a look at that claim.

Lies and statistics

This book-seller’s site has a top headline that screams: “2 out of 3 writers work from home and earn $60,000 on average.”

Where does this figure spring from? It’s from a career thumbnail on writers’ and authors’ careers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wow, that sounds incredible, doesn’t it? Gotta be too good to be true?

Well, in fact, that IS exactly what BLS has to say about the career of writers and authors:

Freelance Writing - bureau of labor statistics

So — does that prove that it’s a sure thing for all interested writers to make $60K a year? Hardly.

Let’s look a bit deeper into these federal figures about writer jobs — so you can see why the claim made by this charlatan is deeply false.

Median pay, for those who don’t know, is the point at which half of respondents make more, and half make less. It doesn’t mean most writers make $60K, or even that the average pay is $60K. Many make more, and many make less.

It could be that every writer on the downside of that figure makes $1,000 a year — that would still be the median if it’s #68,250 in sequential order of earning least-to-most, of their 136,500 writers they’re tracking.

BLS says two-thirds of these writers are home-based. That means one-third of them have staff writing jobs.

There are 136,500 of them in all. So that leaves roughly 90,000 home-based writers that BLS is tracking.

BLS estimates 90,000 people work from home as writers and earn something from it.

Writers who earn nothing? Not counted here. Writers who earn a little on the side and don’t report it on their taxes? Not counted.

Which would be many, many writers.

The figure BLS doesn’t supply is how many people would like to write from home for a living (or the people who’ve tried and given up, either). The people for whom this would supposedly be a ‘sure thing,’ if they followed this guy’s book.

No stats are readily available on that, but after a decade of coaching writers, I’d have to say that aspiring writers number easily in the millions. And BLS says there are 90,000 of them that manage to get paid.

Finally, let’s look at what BLS says about growth of the writing career. Essentially, there is none. It’s a flat market.

When US population is growing roughly 1% a year, and the career is forecast to grow 2% a year, not a lot of jobs are being added.

By contrast, there are nearly twice as many civil engineers, and 8% forecast growth. They earn more, too. Now that’s more of a sure thing.

Who knows freelance writing?

Let’s look at the next big problem here: How does BLS get its data? From a monthly sample of payroll records. Translation: BLS’s expertise is employer data, not freelancer data. It’s out of its wheelhouse here.

Also, BLS data is only completely updated once a DECADE. So the agency tends to be deeply out of touch with current market realities, and slow to understand how employment is changing. If you’re looking for stats on niches such as freelance blogging, for instance, you’re out of luck.

Assuming BLS has a clue about who’s writing from home, that’s a very tiny number of people earning a good living at writing. With the outlook that not many more jobs will be added, in a country of 322 MILLION people.

How can freelance writing be a ‘sure thing’ when there are only about 90,000 positions, in a country of 322 mililon people?

Easy: It can’t be.

There are not that many freelance writing gigs. Most who try — especially, most who try without advice from coaches who really do know the marketplace — will fail.

Remember, as Mark Twain so wryly noted, statistics can be made to lie, or to prove anything you like, if you misuse them.

If it sounds too good…

Please writers…do your homework before you buy. Look for:

  • A teacher using their real name
  • Testimonials with pictures and/or website links
  • A portfolio of proven freelance work with links you can check
  • A substantial timeframe of writing experience
  • Coaches who don’t paint blue-sky pictures of how easy it will be

I don’t think I have once, in a decade of coaching writers, ever told anyone this is an easy career. It’s a wonderful one, and a rewarding one, but it takes work.

Those of us who’ve done it know that delivering solid writing on deadlines, week after week, year after year, is no walk in the park.

Beware of anyone telling you freelance writing is a snap — if only you’ll pay them to get the details.

Seen any writer scams online? Let’s discuss in the comments.

MAKE MONEY WITH YOUR BLOG! Small Blog, Big Income: Advanced Ninja Tricks for Profitable Blogging. 90 Tips to Make Money Blogging. By Carol Tice

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71 comments on “Is Freelance Writing a Sure Thing? Scam Alert
  1. Jon Lee says:

    Riannon,

    We certainly DO all have different learning styles, experiences and blocks. I will say that I still believe that “success leaves clues” (not my wisdom, but I WISH it was), as does its opposite.

    So, if someone’s success is attributable to their actions, as is most often the case, those actions should be traceable and hopefully, repeatable.

    Its failure to pass this test is why I’m so cynical about Upwork and all the claims that it’s a great gateway to freelancing stability. I read these claims all the time, but I’ve yet to find anyone able to demonsrate a repeatable process by which they’ve made this happen – circa 2016.

    I was reading through an otherwise pretty useful blog when I found a video of an Upwork brand advocate talking about its advantages. Along the way she noted that she “understood” the criticism that it was a gateway for a race to the bottom, but noted “it’s a great way to fill out otherwise unused time with paying clients.” Have a look at some of the VERIFIED employers and what they generally pay out per hour on average. Sometimes three star clients — meaning they are supposedly willing to pay a premium for quality — are averaging as low as $5.00 per hour.

    Pretty hard to prosper at that rate, let alone working for the one- and two-star clients.

    • Carol Tice says:

      But pay close attention to what she said about who their ideal writer is — someone ‘looking to fill out otherwise unused time.’

      NOT a freelancer looking to earn a full-time, middle-class living. This is what I have heard from every bid site platform and content mill exec I’ve ever interviewed — their vision is you want an extra $50 a week to go out to a nice restaurant or something, not that you’re trying to bill $5K a month or more.

      I wish writers would really LISTEN to what these platforms are intended for, and not use them if they have other goals than a little pin money.

  2. Thanks for covering this! Personally, I don’t belieive any career course can be a for sure thing. Everyone has different learning styles, experiences and blocks. One path can’t be replicated by everyone for successful results.

  3. Carol Tice says:

    Just had to come and say I had someone crawling all over the comments of a more recent post, stuffing links to his own posts about how easy it was for him to make $800 a week as a writer ‘right out of the gate.’

    Of course, he’s been a freelancer for less than 2 years, but he’s here to teach you how easy it is to earn big money immediately. Beware!

  4. Enyum Patrick says:

    Hi Carol,
    Sometimes, I blame copywriters for this; I am a copywriter and I know what I’m saying. Many clients will give you a project to write a sales letter on a product that you as the copywriter, will be damn sure it is not feasible.

    If you take on such jobs, you will be obliged to come up with words that will sizzle the reader and push him or her to action.

    Maybe there should be a campaign for copywriters to become ethical.

  5. Marte Cliff says:

    I wonder if I just heard from the same scammer who wrote you. It was a promotion for a writing class. Here’s part of his claim:

    Need some cash for a vacation? Come up with a promotional idea, write the copy for it, and put your copy in front of your audience!

    Tax man knocking at your door? Write some copy making a compelling offer, send the email, and watch the dollars flow into your inbox.

    Want to increase your income dramatically, without increasing your ad budget? Write a new piece of copy that converts browsers into buyers…and your bank balance fattens up like magic.

    Just need cash FAST? Write copy for someone else and pocket $3,000 or more for writing a simple letter like this one! (I’ll show you how to get these clients.)

    If you just sign up for this class – you’ll be rolling in $$ in no time!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Actually sounds like a different one! The woods are full of them. Sure makes it sound easy, though.

      Anyone who promises fast cash from freelance writing should trigger RED ALERTS for any writer. It takes time to build a business.

  6. Norm says:

    Hi Carol,

    I hear you, I have so many friends who are not internet savvy and always falling for these so call “Get Rich Scheme”.

    Though I am not a freelance writer,a freelance web developer with 15 years experience struggle with getting clients on freelance jobs.

    Especially if you are starting out, sometimes it is like staring into abyss of despair.

    On a side note do you know whats the best place to hire a freelance writer/copywriter? I have decided to look for a writer for my business as I know blogging / writing is not my strong point.

    Thanks
    Norm

  7. William F Walles says:

    I’ve been saddened by the torrent of programs offering the path to six-figure and seven-figure writing lifestyles. How can you trust what appear to be well-crafted online programs by those who appear to be well-respected writers and coaches when the intro copy throws around “Win the Lotto” pitches. I’ve considered copywriting which thousands of businesses are begging writers to provide. But two programs, which would be happy to take a large chunk of my meager retirement income, offer “guarantee” sounding language. We’ll be here to help. Learn all the secrets to dynamic copywriting that will drive clients to you. If I fell into a gold mine, I wouldn’t shovel it away. But with limited time and money, I’d rather look at bettering my odds with hard work, coaching, coterie support, and wisdom from helpful pros like you.

  8. Marte Cliff says:

    Haven’t we all heard since childhood: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true?”

    And doesn’t it follow that, knowing that, we should use some common sense? People who believe you can make a six-figure income while lying on the beach and writing for perhaps an hour a day are simply fools.

    Of course, copywriting isn’t the only career that people go into thinking it’s going to be “easy and effortless.” I write for real estate agents so talk with them and read their blogs all the time. I was also a real estate broker for many years and became acquainted with dozens of agents who didn’t make it through the first year. Those were the agents who got into the field thinking that it would be easy and they’d have plenty of free time to play. When they realized that WORK was involved, they were gone.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, you know, if you work at this long enough, you hit a point where you CAN earn well and efficiently. But to tell folks there is a ZERO fail rate, that it is a SURE thing…hopefully most writers who see that will smell a rat right off.

  9. Elly Grace says:

    Interesting post Carol!

    I find it absurd that people are marketing courses and books to aspiring freelance writers that entail such.. Well, lies! It gives newbies (Like myself) the wrong impression and I fear in some cases, causes future freelance writing connosuers to quit before they even hit their lucky break.

    I myself have just started to stick my nose out into the industry, but because of a stroke of luck, I managed to find your blog before ever testing the waters. Allowing me to have a reasonable outlook and perspective so that my fragile little heart doesn’t/didn’t get crushed into a million pieces.

    Knowing how lucky I am because of bloggers and writers like yourself I can’t help but feel horrible for the people that get misled like this. I honestly worry about all the poor souls that get drawn into these scams, and end up losing all hope of ever getting a realistic writing gig. It’s really not fair that those seeking money disregard the dreams and aspirations of their customers – causing them to fail because of poorly researched advice and just plain lies.

    • Elly Grace says:

      connoisseurs* Oops! What an embarrassing spelling mistake. Oh well, the plight of being a writer who’s too lazy to spell check her comments before hitting send!

    • Carol Tice says:

      A lot of them end up in my Freelance Writers Den community, after losing a lot of time and some of their money trying to follow silly advice like “Just get on Upwork!” (A real tip from a course from someone I know who started selling her wares in the first month she was a full-time freelancer!) So then we have a chance to help them do better. 😉

  10. Kevin Casey says:

    I think the assumption that every writer needs to take an expensive course to succeed is just as flawed as the idea that every writer is working toward a 6-figure income. I have (a) never taken a course, (b) have no degree and (c) have zero interest in earning six figures.

    Last year I had my most lucrative year as a copywriter while only working 7-8 months of it. The rest of the year I traveled the world – snorkeling with manta rays on the Great Barrier Reef, playing digital nomad in Cordoba, Argentina for 5 weeks, exploring Tasmania for 2 weeks, photographing wildlife in the jungles of Bolivia for a month and enjoying part of the summer in Spain, Italy and Portugal. But a lot of writing work had to happen in between (and sometimes during!) these adventures to pay for it all.

    We all have different priorities, life situations and reasons why we become professional writers. I think Bob Bly is amazing, for example: it’s hard to argue with the efficiency of a guy who earns $700,000 a year as a writer. He’s one of my copywriting heroes and has achieved amazing things in his career – but do I want to work 5 days a week, 12 hours a day for 34 years in a row (and counting) like he has? No way.

    As The Jet-setting Copywriter, I get to regularly interact with both aspiring writers and location-independent entrepreneurs, which is an interesting mix – and I can assure you, this idea of ‘it’s so easy’ is quite prevalent in the would-be digital nomad world as well. The problem is, ‘living and working from anywhere on earth’ (like writing for a living) isn’t for everybody either. Not everyone can do it and not everyone wants to do it. It’s definitely possible (I’m living proof) but finding consistent, high-paying clients is still the priority and always will be, whether you write from your living room in Michigan, a beach house in Ayampe, Ecuador or an AirBnB apartment in Milan.

    There are plenty of travel bloggers out there who take 6 full years to break even financially (if at all), and lots of people who try to combine writing, adventure and travel and end up returning home broke within the first 12 months. Others somehow manage to make it all work.

    I get a kick out of the old ‘laptop on the beach’ cliche, too. In the real world, sand gets blown onto your keyboard, your Mai-Tai spills over everything, the hot sun fries your electronics (or reflects off the screen so you can’t see a thing) and your expensive laptop attracts every petty thief within a five-mile radius.

    And if you want to ruin your neck for life, try writing for 4 hours straight while scrunched up awkwardly in a beach hammock… 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t think any of us mentioned earning six figures as a goal here, Kevin — the site I mentioned talks about $60K as the income goal.

      But this one sentence makes my point: “Plenty end up returning home broke.” And THAT’S my point. If it were a sure thing, that would never happen, right?

  11. Marte Cliff says:

    Even AWAI makes some pretty outlandish claims about earning a six-figure income while relaxing on a beach somewhere. It disturbs me when I see that, because I think it puts them in a class with your scammer.

    I knew that “easy money” pitch was nonsense and took their courses anyway – a move that gave me the knowledge and confidence to go ahead and launch a writing career. I don’t write their kind of “big promise” promotions, but got the benefit of learning the basic structure and the “rules” that must be followed for successful marketing.

    It worked for me because I was determined – not because it was easy!

    • Jon Lee says:

      Interesting post, Marte.

      It’s probably worth pointing out that AWAI was the brainchild of an internet marketer (and a fairly renowned copywriter, to be fair), Michael Masterson (aka Mark Ford, aka Mark Morgan Ford).

      Just like the newsletters he puts out (Palm Beach Letter and formerly Early to Rise) there are often some fairly valuable kernels of wisdom and knowledge embedded among more transparent (and sometimes oddly heavy-handed) marketing. Nothing wrong with making money, mind you. I think all of us have that end game in mind.

      It’s just that it seems inevitable that, somewhere in the process, that the line between useful content and marketing gets blurred. In the process, assertions are made that just don’t bear out under scrutiny.

      Whenever I see any kind of money making opportunity advertised (copywriting, Kindle Publishing, YouTube monetization, affiliate marketing, Amazon FBA, etc.) and it leads with the easy and abundance with which affluence will soon result, I generally head in the opposite direction.

      Again, nothing wrong with them trying to make money, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be MY money unless commensurate value is there.

      • Carol Tice says:

        I’m with you — I prefer to buy from people who’re honest with me, and say, “This isn’t for everyone. Here’s how much work this will take. Are you in?”

      • Marte Cliff says:

        Jon – Even though I didn’t believe the claims of “easy money,” I thought they had something of value to teach – and they do.

        They really are focused on teaching how to write magalogs and promotions for things like financial newsletters, health supplements, etc. I figured out pretty quickly that I didn’t want to write that kind of copy, but believe that once you get the basics they teach, you can take it any direction you like.

        For me, AWAI was worthwhile. I even attended a couple of their Bootcamps and gained valuable insight from some of the many well-established, well-known copywriters who spoke.

        I used to read Early to Rise and think it interesting that Mark Ford predicted the housing crash well before it happened. He’s a smart man.

        • Jon Lee says:

          He is a smart man. I can’t argue that point at all.

          I do think he is a bit “reality challenged”, however.

          Over the years, he has predicted a LOT of things. Some have happened, some have not. Most predictions seem to tie in nicely with some product that he is affiliate marketing — a secret report, or a product a ‘friend’ of his ‘stumbled upon’.

          I have heard the same thing from a number of people regarding the course. Yes, it does appear to have value and, in the scheme of things the $497 (which is what I THINK it costs at present) isn’t ridiculous.

          On the other hand . . . and this is where the conflict between real, actionable content and internet marketing comes in . . there always seems to be this backdrop of ever-increasing enlightenment that comes into the equation. Buy this option and you will be THIS much more successful.

          It kind of reminds me of Scientology, though again, the value of the course itself has been reiterated by a number of people.

          • Carol Tice says:

            I think what they teach — writing magalogs and direct mail sales letters — it’s just a dying niche. How many of those are you getting in the mail these days? They need to join the modern era in terms of where the market opportunity is.

    • Carol Tice says:

      AWAI…don’t get me started. With their $10,000 level of success?

      Let’s just say I’ve built my whole Freelance Writers Den platform to be the opposite of their daily hard-sell environment. It’s not for me.

      My understanding is they have a target audience — well-off retirees who’re bored and want to do something in their leisure time. It’s a great audience because they a) have money and b) if they don’t make it big in copywriting, they probably won’t much care.

      My audience is more career-phase writers who need to pay bills, feed kids, with their craft. And results DO matter. So I don’t make any promises that aren’t real.

      • Marte Cliff says:

        The hard-sell environment is not for me either, but learning the basics they taught allowed me to build a career writing an entirely different kind of copy.

      • Joan says:

        Carol, I wish I had found you before I bought into: Can you write a simple letter? If you can, then you’re well on your way to a six figure income.

        If you have a mentor named Michael Masterson, you can go from bagging groceries to a six-figure income.

        Well.. that was then this is now.

        I’m waiting for your Advanced Ninja Tricks for Profitable Blogging 🙂 which I pre-ordered.

        • Carol Tice says:

          We’re hoping to have it for you Monday!

          • Joan Margau says:

            Carol,

            Thanks, I have the book and read it, and will be reading it again. Love the way you write and tell it like it is. That’s the kind of advice that’s needed.

            You give the would-be profitable blogger the thread of hope. You paint the correct picture based on your experience.

            Thank you for writing the book and giving me hope to get going and make it happen.

            • Carol Tice says:

              Thanks, Joan! I DO hope I offer an alternative to the whole ‘how to go wildly viral and make millions’ hype that’s out there. I’m proof that you DON’T need a massive audience to earn a living with your blog, and I’m happy to teach others how that works.

  12. Kevin Casey says:

    Thanks for this post, Carol. ‘Easy’ has never been a word I use when describing making a living from writing.

    Although I now make enough to fund all my assorted overseas adventures (I just had a great podcast with Ed Gandia on this very subject), my first few months as a copywriter were pretty tough.

    Thanks to a couple of steady, long-term, high-paying clients in my early days (thank you Linkedin, the insurance industry and the app development firm that took a chance on a guy who knew nothing about apps!), I managed to get my career off to a great start – but there are certainly no guarantees in this business and everyone’s path is different.

    Just as irritating as the ‘it’s so easy, anyone can do it’ BS-ers are the freelance writers who have been in business for less than a year themselves, yet are already trotting out expensive ‘How to Succeed as a Writer’ courses! Yes, you too can pay $397 for the benefit of some newbie’s vast (cough) seven and a half months of money-making expertise. Or not…

    One thing I’ve noticed about freelance writing is that even when you think you’ve finally ‘made it’, reality has a thumping way of reminding you that success is temporary and you’ve got to work at it every single day. Complacency is so dangerous.

    Well, gotta run – those three dozen cold emails to prospective clients aren’t going to send themselves…

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yes, the ‘instant experts’ who want to sell you a course the month they quit their full-time job because they’ve had one $5K month and now think they can teach others how to have one are another real favorite of mine.

      I want to say — please be a freelance writer through at least one major economic downturn. Then, come back and tell me you know how to sustain a freelance writing career.

      When I started in 2005-6, life was easy. Then, in 2009, every single one of my clients dried up and blew away. And THAT is when I really learned to be a successful, sustainable freelance writer. That’s another big question I always want writers to ask — have they done this through an economic upheaval? If not, there’s probably a ton they don’t know about how to find new clients and keep existing ones.

  13. “Writing is a safe bet, I stand behind that.”

    Ha! Writing for a living is the craziest, nonsensical, riskiest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve been doing it for years, and it’s still not safe.

    • Carol Tice says:

      The only thing safe in this life is…being dead. You’re totally safe then. And I agree! One misstep as a writer can ruin your reputation. Or the economy tanks and the work dries up.

      I was just appalled by this scammer’s blind attitude toward market realities. Hope nobody falls for it!

  14. Great post. The “red flags” section rang very true to me – I’m getting better at recognizing them. It certainly takes a while but it saves a lot of time when you learn how to spot them from a mile away. You see so many of these in job ads too, usually the ones that are “seeking the next writing superstar” etc. It’s amazing how many “experts” claim that you can make it without putting in the hard work. As you point out, there’s no way to escape the hard work and consistency. Thank you for another valuable post!

  15. Jon Lee says:

    There are scam artists in virtually every niche. Kindle Publishing, YouTube monetization, Amazon FBA courses….and on and on.

    In all likelihood, there have been for quite some time, but our fairly recent “conversion” as it were, to the “freelance/gig economy” actually fuels this fire.

    To be fair, there are more than a few that position themselves (and profit from) the notion that freelance writing represents a fairly smooth road to appreciable income.

  16. I met an editor once who tried to sell me a copywriting course that cost about $3000. She mentioned one writer here in Sihanoukville. I happened to know who he was and where he lived. I told her it was a cheap apartment in a poor location. If he was making $6000 a month working just a few days, why was he living there? She was stuck for an answer and realized she had been conned by him. Fortunately, I still got assignments from them and she paid for dinner, so it turned out okay.

  17. Mai Bantog says:

    I wanted to ask what the site address is, but that would be bringing unnecessary traffic to this scammer.

    As someone who entered the freelance writing world during the SEO/keyword spamming days, I used to tell friends that this job is easy, as long as you can string decent English sentences together and insert grammatically incorrect keywords in a slightly tasteful manner.

    But the landscape has changed these days – and all for the better. Now I tell people who ask about my job that though they always see me traveling, that doesn’t mean my job’s easy. And it certainly does not pay for itself. You just gotta ask the bottom feeders on Upwork how much they’re earning. Even in developing countries, the pay can be measly. And it’s just sad (and mean!) that there are people taking advantage of these clueless newbies.

    Thanks for writing this post, Carol. Sharing this, as always.

  18. Steve says:

    I’ve made $150.00 in freelance writing in the past two years! That’s a whopping $6.25 per month! No BS! It’s a sure thing. Sign up to my writing class today! 😀

  19. emmiD says:

    On your red alert fraud ( great list btw) you have this:
    If it sounds too good…

    “Please writers…do your homework before you buy. Look for: … Testimonials with pictures and/or website links

    I recently came across a website’s series of testimonials. Among the list was an obviously female name attached to a man’s photo. (Yes, he could have been a transgender.).

    With several “typos” also on the site, this website’s credibility plummeted with me. I backed out as soon as possible. So, a caveat: if the testimonials don’t seem to “fit”, don’t trust the website

    • Carol Tice says:

      I see SO many sites where the testimonials look made up — no last names on the people and what look like stock photos. Beware! If you’re curious, ask them if you can TALK to one of these people.

      I’ve done that in the past — just handed out emails of past students willing to chat. They should be willing to do that!

  20. Joan says:

    Right on target with this kind of “promise.” I shared the article on Google+. Spread the word and tell the world.

    Thank you Carol for writing about it.

    The happy smiling faces. Success stories. Too good to be true.
    The online sales “push-buton” writing is loud.

    The one that triggered it for me was: “Hiring managers will beat down a path to your door and grab you for their next project after you have finished the course.”

    Of course, in real life, there are many successful writers.
    You have to be in writing for a living for the long haul. It just doesn’t happen quickly.

    The problem comes when you’re vulnerable – you’ll believe it and fall flat on your face. I know… it happened to me.

    Enough!
    It’s time to say so.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for sharing! And sorry to hear you’ve been the victim of this sort of baloney.

      And yeah, that sentence is incredible! Note to all: Hiring managers DO NOT beat a path to your door. You go out and find your clients. Even those of us who’ve been doing it for years, I’m lucky to get a decent few inbound leads a month, or referrals. I just find it unconscionable, how he portrays this like he has some secret knowledge and presto, you’ll reliably earn big. Because it’s a sure thing.

      Ugh!

  21. Michelle says:

    I’ve been serious about freelance writing for two years now, doing it full-time for about a year and a half. And this isn’t including the time I floundered with content mills in 2011, learned a ton during a publishing staff gig and studied freelancing and business on the side for a year while I had a day job. Plus the bachelor’s degree in writing and the internship with an online publication.

    After all that, (knock on wood) I average what I was making as a publishing staffer. Which, believe me, is nowhere near $5,000 a month. And as you can see, it was a YEARS long process. I’ve been on this path for a good decade, longer if you want to include writing my own picture books when I was 6, school creative writing assignments and writing club newsletters as a teenager. The word persistence would be an understatement, and on top of that, I’ve had a TON of support from family all the way. It’s not an overnight venture and no one exists in a vacuum, no matter how lonely writing can feel sometimes.

  22. I understand your indignation at this scam. I also applaud your willingness to confront falsehood when it stumbles its way to your door.
    Many people would have just clicked delete and stated to themselves that “its not my problem”
    Thanks again for shining a light.

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, I actually WAS just going to leave it at responding to him personally…but talking about it with one of my writer-coach friends, she urged me to write a post on it. And I’m glad we talked about it, and I reread his stuff, because it was only while writing this up that I noticed he was using a fake name! Which to me is the capper on the whole thing.

  23. Junvi says:

    Ugh, the pen name, the moving to Thailand to cut down majorly on living expenses, the lack of a portfolio or names of actual clients…It’s pretty appalling that he feels as if trust is owed to him, when his missteps are oh-so-sketchy!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I was impressed that when called on his b.s., he was like, “It’s a sure thing. I stand by that.” What leg are you standing on, as you stand by that statement? Levitating, maybe? Because nothing is certain in this life…except DEATH. Meant to put that in the post!

      But perhaps there is a bright future for this guy in bridge sales…

  24. Robert Blake says:

    These types of promoters relies on one of the lowest character traits of human nature….being lazy. So they make sure their offers are loaded with “easy”, push one or two buttons”, almost overnight”, etc. Why? Because it works and they don’t give a damn whether what they are selling works or not because some buyers are too lazy to even file a dispute for refund with Paypal after their requests for a refund from the seller are ignored.

    This fungus will remain among us regretfully.

    I like that building a writing/copywriting practice is not easy because it weeds out the lazy competition. What I do not want is for it to be nearly impossible to gain a foothold into. Hence why I joined your Den, to make my path easier and to run into less brick walls on my way to success as a well paid writer.

  25. Martha Mayo says:

    Carol,

    Thank you for a great example of how to write a well-researched article filled with fabulous information and links.

    You have the determination to pull the shades back covering these shady characters and protect your Den members and blog readers.

    Much appreciated,
    Martha

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks, Martha. I keep hoping at some point I’ll be DONE pointing out stupid scams like this — but new ones just keep emerging. This one to me was in a class by itself for all-time chicanery. And nearly every week, I seem to hear from some newbie ‘expert’ who quit their job to freelance last month and now wants to sell you a course on how to do it.

      • Jon Lee says:

        Human nature being what it is, I really doubt there will be a time when this sort of thing just falls by the wayside. And, to be honest, there several fairly respected people in the freelance writing niche that have transitioned more into the ‘internet marketing realm’. I look at ANY potential expenditure under the guise of education and betterment as an investment. Simply put, “If I buy this course/ebook, etc. will I get a return on my investment?” It’s not a failsafe approach, but you can tell a lot by who stands behind their products and who doesn’t. I’ve had occasion to purchase access to a webinar from a fairly well known freelance expert (already mentioned in this thread). I didn’t get the result I wanted, but he DID stand behind his product.

  26. Diane Ziomek says:

    Thank you Carol for another informative post! I have been writing online since 2010, and have yet to make $5,000 per month doing so. Granted, I have not given it 110%, but it would leave me no time for anything else. I have learned some hard lessons along the way, with one of them being this isn’t an “easy” job. Early in my writing career I made the mistake of writing for sites that paid very little per word (not an amount a Canadian can survive on anyway). Once I realized I was worth more and started charging as such, my earnings per gig went up but number of gigs went down.

    My advice to new writers: you’re better off blogging than to sign up with some of the sites, as at least you can link to articles you have written. (I wrote countless articles and am unable to take credit for any of them, which doesn’t give my portfolio any boosts.)

    I got frustrated with the article-writing and have been putting my efforts into books and patterns (I’m also a fiber artist); plus have started teaching online which appears to be a lucrative endeavour. At the end of the day it all ties into my writing, so I am happy – just not rich. 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      What? But…freelance writing is such a sure bet. Oh, right. That’s a L I E.

      And I’ve worked with too many writers who spent YEARS writing ghosted posts for mills, only to realize they still had NO portfolio and no way to move up. Glad you moved on from that!

  27. One more for the WBFIIWST file (Would Be Funny If It Weren’t So Tragic). I remember a luncheon speaker who was all gung-ho about her “think and grow rich” method and wanted everyone to buy her book that laid out in detail how she did it. I also remember that the book couldn’t be bought (or previewed) through any other channel I could locate; no public library had a copy; and the speech and all other promotional material were entirely about the great things that had happened to her, mentioning no specifics of the “how” and giving no evidence that this offered anything that wasn’t borrowed from any number of widely available sources of “how to use the law of attraction” information.

    To me, one of the biggest red flags is the refusal to make ANY of their how-to secrets available free of charge. If they’re so great at making money, why should they be afraid of the window shoppers and uncommitted post readers that come with the territory for any legitimate business?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, I think my e-books aren’t in any library, either. But I agree with you that you ought to be able to offer a free taste of what you’ve got, before I buy. Every training or ebook I do usually comes with free excerpts, table of contents, free live training. Then, if you want more in-depth details, you can buy the rest.

      But what you describe is the top complaint I hear — that people buy, and these books are basically, “And then this magical thing happened to me, and then this one,” with no concrete details on how YOU could also do that. It all just seems like amazing coincidences unfolded because they thought positive or something. May I say, “bullcrap”?

      People who’ve read my upcoming Small Blog Big Income sequel e-book (Advanced Ninja Tricks for Profitable Blogging) — that’s the one thing they all said: “I’ve read 10 books like this that taught me NOTHING about how to actually DO this, until this book.”

      As this scam artist so utterly failed to understand, one person’s stumbling into a freelance career easily does not mean you can grasp or impart a system others could use to get there.

  28. Janet Tilden says:

    Carol, you are doing a huge service by alerting people to the false claims of this scam artist. Thank you!

  29. Harish Desai says:

    hi Carol,

    this post and the other post about non-native English speakers written by you earlier have opened my eyes and I have started teaching as an avenue to supplement my content writing income. matters have come to such a head that my teaching income now crosses my content writing income. i am still not able to recover my operational cost of business in my writing business but i have already started investing for future profits in my teaching career. and to mention that my teaching career is just four months old. thanks Carol, once again for continuing to write your blog and open the eyes of people like us.

    • Carol Tice says:

      That’s terrific news, Harish! You know, many writers only do it part-time, and have other passions they pursue as well…and more power to it, if that’s what makes you happy.

      • Harish Desai says:

        I have to thank you for this idea. As I said, I am a regular follower of your blog and your emails, when I saw that you had started teaching content writing and giving tips to your writers through it, for an adequate compensation, I also decided that, that was the way to go. I am an engineer and I looked back at what subjects I could teach well and I came out with Maths and Science as the answer and that is what I do now. I am surprised at how much money parents shell out to ensure that their children get good marks on the 10th or the 12th standard exams. (Please note that in India, both are board exams, after which they have to decide their field of study and obtain admission in it on the basis of the marks secured in the boards). I am really thankful to you Carol. Please, please, please keep on writing your blog. It has taught writers like me a lot.

  30. Diana says:

    Thank you Carol for pointing this out. There is so much misleading information out there and most of it will convince you to part with your money based on false information. I will definately take your advice and do my research before trusting blindly at what I read online.