10 Freelance Scams that you Should Avoid


The freelance industry is vast and lucrative, but there are also many traps and scams that lurk within the industry which must be avoided. These scams not only consume the freelancer’s time but also pose great financial risks, and therefore, you should acquaint yourself with scams and the growing community of scammers.

There are many variants of freelance scams such as Guru scam, Freelancer scam, writer scam, desk scam, Elance scam and whatnot. Each scam is laced with some enticing offers, but if you want to get the best out of your freelance career, you better learn to detect and avoid them.

In this article, we have shortlisted ten of the many freelance scams which you should necessarily avoid:

1. The Unique Sample Scam

Charting at number one on our list is the unique sample scam. It is the most common form of freelance scams circulating in the freelance websites. This scam requires the users to submit a unique sample of their work. You will often find them in the following format:

Employer: The company needs a hundred articles, each of about 500 words, for a budget of $3000. Please submit a unique sample of your work as part of your application.

Now, where is the scam? The scam works like this: you submit a sample, the employer rejects your application, and he/she publishes your unique article. This is an easy to solicit work without paying a single penny.

In order to detect this scam, take acue from the huge budget set for the purpose of attracting applications. Once you are sure of the scam, report the job posting immediately. Many freelance websites, as a part of their policy, prohibit requirement of free samples.

2. The low pay scam

You must have often come across job postings like the one mentioned below:

Employer: We require a writer for a content website. It is a long-term project, and to begin with it, you must submit 20 unique articles for the purpose of assessment. The Budget is $10, but if the employer is satisfied, the pay will increase.

In this scam, freelancers are being fooled to sell their work at lower prices. You will submit a huge batch of 20 articles at a meagre rate of $10. Quite often, the employers would turn down your application, but they have anyway managed to get articles for a cheap rate.

How to detect the scam? Well, look at the pay rate—if it is amazingly low and is accompanied with an ambiguous message talking about the possibility of earning more in the future, then you know the trap.

If at all you are applying for such jobs, state your normal pay rate. If they agree, fair enough; if they do not, don’t care and leave. There is no compulsion to work at a meagre rate, and to keep yourself protected from such scams, always keep yourself updated about the prevalent pay rate in the market.

3. The infamous membership fee scam

The membership fee scam is one of the most common scams in the online freelance industry. You will know there is a scam when you see a post like this:

Employer: We are stuffed with a lot of work, and we need people skilled in every kind of areas. Sign up now for just $10 and we will get you access to job details

Never believe in these messages, as they are intended to solicit money fraudulently. They will get some money out of your pockets and disappear as if they never existed in the first place.

You can get hints from the ambiguity the messages keep regarding the areas where employees are needed.

In order to avoid being scammed, you need to undertake a thorough research on the credentials of the websites posting such messages. Unless you are pretty sure that the website is genuine, do not pay. Report the website as soon as you have credible information regarding the fraud being perpetrated.

4. Newbies, SAHMs and WAHMs

This scam targets freshers, Work At Home Mothers (WAHMs) and Stay At Home Mothers (SAHMs) by coming up with attractive messages such as the one mentioned below:

Employer: We have an ideal job for the freshers and Work At Home Mothers without any experience.

On the face of it, the message seems genuine, but you cannot impulsively apply for the job without investigating. There is a reason why freshers are targeted—the pay rate is low!

You know there is no reason why a fresher should work at a low price when he/she is as capable as any other experienced freelancer. Of course, you cannot name exorbitant pay rates, but you cannot be forced to compromise too much.

The only thing you can do about this scam is to ignore it. If you are interested in the job, bid your normal pay rate. You will have to make this point clear that just because you are new or work from home, your work is not less valuable.

5. The revenue share scam

Employers often tend to employ when they are at initial stages of advertising their websites. Once they have attained considerable consumer base, they end up terminating contracts.

You can detect a scam if you come across a message like this:

Employer: We need a rewriter for a fashion blog. Post the content on our blog and we will share 50 percent of the site revenue.

The message sounds like a sweet invitation but it is a sweet trap. You will end up writing a lot of articles, but ultimately, the employer will throw you out of the organisation once the website grows big.

Beware when you are approached by someone running a new website and you are offered only a revenue share.

6. The dangerous personal information scam

One of the most perilous scams out there—you should seriously watch out for this one.

Employer: we require a content writer for a long-term project. The budget is $4000, and we shall pay 30 percent upfront by bank transfer.

The scam is that the employer is seeking your personal details so that they can use the information for criminal purposes such as identity theft.

One major clue hinting scam is the requirement to send personal details as part of the application. If they insist on your personal data, you know they are bad guys.

If you have second thoughts about the legitimacy of the employer, ask him/her to pay you through a secured medium such as Paypal. If they refuse, ask them to pay by cheque. Again a no, then you better chicken out.

Yes, one more important thing—report them immediately!

7. The direct contact scam

You may come across a message where the employer tries to contact you directly. Once you are selected for the job, they would ask you to send them your e-mail address so that they can work off-website and avoid the fees payable to the website.

The scam is that there is a high possibility that the employer would disappear without telling you. There shall be no accountability and you will be left with nothing but loads of disappointment.

In order to avoid being scammed, ask the employer to pay through the website. If they refuse, you tell them you will only work when things happen through the website. If they agree, it is good; if they refuse, chicken out.

8. The no-contact scam

This one is restricted to big projects with low pay rates. The scam usually starts when the employer hires you but does not press on the need to have a contract.

The problem with such engagements is that you will never know when the employers will disappear. You will have no instrument to enforce your rights, and this is something you will not like at all.

If you want to test the employer, ask him/her to arrange for a contract. If there is legitimacy, a contract would materialise. If there is are fusal, you know you better leave the job.

9. No-escrow scam

There is a class of employers who commend the job throughout until the day of payment. When the question of payment comes up, they have all kinds of problems. These employers do not use escrow and pay directly.

When you would ask them what the problem is, they will come up with all kinds of excuses such as the Paypal is not working and whatnot.

Sadly, it is difficult to detect this scam. But, there is only one thing you can do—you can protect yourself. Insist on being paid through the website’s internal system, and you might not encounter many problems.

10. The Captcha entry fraud

You will often come across a message like this:

Employer: We require people to do Captcha entry. We will provide you with Captchas and you solve them. The Budget is $2 per 2,000 entries.

While you may end up earning a lot, you might become a part of nefarious activities such as spamming, hacking, etc.

If you wish to avoid the scam, you should know no one really requires Captcha solutions barring the company itself.

Here are, few tips for things not to do while searching for a freelance job.