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How To Beat The "Send Me A Sample" Scam

Updated on March 20, 2011

Beat The Criminal Thieves Of Your Work At Their Own Game!

I warned writers on my Hub on the Freelance Slave Market about avoid getting suckered into working for pennies an hour, but now a new and completely shameless scam has come to my attention. It sounds innocent enough: It's the sample.

Many of the people asking for bids on the various freelancer bidding sites (with accent on free) ask to see a sample of your work. That is quite acceptable as it is obvious that the person who is going to contract with you as a writer wants to make sure that you can spell, construct a sentence and have some sense of the English language. There is usually no problem with providing a sample, as long as it is of your previously web published work!

A sample that already exists on the Web and has been properly Googled is perfectly fine to send. It shows that you are already publishing on the internet and demonstrates that you possess all of the relevant skills.

It's not always that simple though... There have been some recent attempts at ripping off writers wholesale. Here's how it works.

The request for bids carries a substantial budget, significantly more than the pennies per hour average. When you read the description you learn that this is a long-term position, it is fairly easy, and with some good time management skills, could be pretty lucrative for you. Watch out for the coming zinger, though. At the very end of the post, there is a mention that a sample needs to be submitted for consideration, so every bidder will be given an unique subject and asked to write a 600 or so word essay.

Did you catch the scam yet? Well, here's how it works: Since the request for bids is significantly more lucrative than average, a flood of writers bid to win the contract, sometimes well over one hundred. Each one of them, regardless of bid amount, is asked to write a full essay on a particular different subject that must be completely original, pass copyscape, etc. etc. At the end of the process, the winner of the bid is always... the person's cousin!

No one gets the contract. However, the shrewd criminal has now accumulated over a hundred original articles on the exact subjects they needed, and they have paid absolutely nothing to anyone. Taking advantage of the fact that writers don't spend all day copyscaping their own sample essays, they will now be blissfully published and the criminal has saved themselves a thousand dollars of writers' fees or even much more. Imagine if the criminal has a blog that they want to fill. Innocent sucker writers have now provided them with six months of material for free!

The bottom line is to never ever ever send in an original sample. If you are absolutely desperate and think that this is the one opportunity you'll come across in your lifetime to pay off your mortgage, then adhere to this technique:

1) Write your essay.

2) Format it so that it all fits on your screen, as legibly as possible.

3) Press Print Screen.

4) Go into Photoshop or other image editor, crop out the borders and save as a .jpg.

Now you can send the image file with some tranquillity in the knowledge that if they are going to steal it, they will likely have to run OCR software, fix mistakes, etc. In the vast majority of the cases, your image file containing your text will simply be discarded and the criminal will go off to prey on the suckers who have sent him easily liftable text formats like .doc, .rtf, .txt, etc.

Beware of the criminal scammers of naive writers. They're everywhere!


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    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 8 years ago from Toronto

      Yeah, don't hold your breath getting paid! Almost no one ever does! :(

    • profile image

      Jason 8 years ago

      Yeah, i ended here by googling "viscape" and "scam". I think another aspect of these scams is that they want you to sign up for the site. That lets them clakm more users, which makes them more attractive to financers, etc. I was trying to work for a site called Same deal, sign up, use our service and at some point we'll bring you on board and pay you. Guess what?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Sending existing pieces is an excellent tactic as well, but some publishers keep insisting for original bespoke articles, and those must NEVER be submitted no matter what carrots they dangle in front of a writer!

    • Victel profile image

      Victel 9 years ago from Breda, The Netherlands

      Nice hub, I've actually thought about this before. I've never written a sample piece, only sent existing pieces so if they wanted to use it somehow, a major rewrite would be needed.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Hmm... please please PLEASE tell me more... I smell another great investigative Hub coming up! :)

    • profile image

      Lisa 9 years ago

      Thanks for posting this. One of the problems: Once you give the content away and it's posted on their site, you can't use it elsewhere., the new travel site that is posting writers wated ads all over creation, is notorious for doing this. As such, she has an entire site filled with content, but one must wonder if she's actually paying any of her writers.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 10 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks for the props! And keep on being careful, because there's a scammer behind every URL! :)

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 10 years ago

      I always felt mildly guilty, as someone who writes for a living, to not make the effort to write spec samples. I never stopped to think the requests were scams. Valuable information! Thanks!!

    • profile image

      Dalene 10 years ago

      Excellent excellent advice, and a clever tip on sending work as an image file. I would even go so far to say that anytime anyone requests an original piece of work without an agreement of compensation in advance should be avoided. Walk away. No one should be that hungry for work because it is at that moment you become vulnerable to exploitation.

      If you are a writer, point to other published work already on the web and if you do not have any, start a blog and publish some of your writing in your blog and point to that as a way for a potential client to get an idea of the type of writing you can do. This approach has always worked for me, and I have enjoyed a fulltime income as a writer providing web content for several years now.

      If a legitimate publisher cannot afford to pay you a respectable fee for your work, you as a writer should not be able to afford to do any work for them. They need to be in a different business with a better budget. And internet scammers cannot thrive if writers set higher standards for themselves. I hope you continue to write these columns, they are spot on.