Here it is: I am extremely annoyed with freelance writers who will do anything for a buck.
All right, at the moment I'm mostly ticked off at myself for falling for a scam facilitated by the skills of a freelance writer. But the scam got me thinking about some of the immoral freelance writing jobs I've encountered since deciding to earn my living this way.
First of all, THE SCAM:
It was around 10:30 p.m. a couple of weeks ago. I was on my laptop while hubs was watching T.V.
"Oh, hey," he said, looking over at me. "If you're online, can you order me that Super Amazing Diet Product (SADP) I was telling you about?"
"What was it again?" I asked absently.
He described the news article he'd read online about SADP. "The reporter included her journal entries for four weeks. She was really impressed by how effective it was at helping her lose weight and feel healthy."
I did a search for the article. Sure enough, a nice, little news story written by a "Channel 6 News" reporter, her picture was by the piece and everything.
"Free trial! Sure, I'll order it—there's nothing to lose… Nothing to lose, nothing to lose... (Can you hear the echo in here?)
So a few clicks and credit card numbers later and his free trial was on its way. In retrospect, I can't believe we fell for it. We are plenty old enough to know if something sounds too good to be true, it is. I'd like to blame my gullibility on the late hour. Blame it on my hubby. But alas, I can't. The next day, I mentioned it to my mother, my personal wise woman of all things nutrition related.
"Oh Holly, that's just a big scam," she said. "I tried the real stuff from the health food store and it didn't do anything. I think that article is a scam, too."
In the light of day, I found the article again. Unbelievable! I spotted something critical I'd missed the night before. In small print at the top of the page was the word "Advertorial." Barely noticeable with all the "Channel 6 News" logos and network television symbols decorating the page. (As was SADP's intent.)
NOTE: For my non-writer readers, an advertorial is essentially an advertisement in an article format. Advertorials are a common form of advertising and not intrinsically bad, but I feel this one was shady as it simulated an actual news story written by a reporter.
I buzzed back to SADP's website and read the fine print of the Terms and Conditions. The program is set up to begin charging unsuspecting free-trial users $80 a month, plus shipping and handling if they don't cancel within a specified time period (conveniently, often before they've even received the trial product.) The website had an "easy button" for cancelling online. Great, I clicked it. "For an additional $20 in stuff, you can cancel right away," it said. No. Flippin'. Way. I called customer service instead. The automated system disconnected me. Three times. In short, every way the company "offered" to let me cancel, didn't work. Even their contact address was an unclickable link!
I finally sent off a blistering e-mail announcing our official cancellation of their slimeball product and letting them know I'm monitoring daily and if they try to stick one measly penny on my credit card, I'm disputing it.
After spending two hours messing around with this ridiculousness, I fumed, thinking about the writer who'd been hired to compose that lying-pile-of-horse-hockey article.
How could he or she sleep at night?
I locate writing jobs, including legitimate advertorial projects, through a variety of reputable sources. Yet I've still come across some pretty pathetic stuff. One company I encountered hired writers to write high school and college students' term papers! I was horrified. I know seasoned professional writers are aware of this. But if you're a newbie, I'm telling you now, don't do it. It's not worth it. It's better to hold out for the legitimate jobs. They really are out there. And at least you'll be able to sleep at night.
Image by: _gee_