Friday, September 9, 2016

How to Destroy Scams Like (and Find Competent Writers Without Them)

Gentle Readers, I signed up with about a year ago, on the recommendation of another Blogjob blogger. "She" wasn't much of an e-friend, but "she" claimed the site was legitimate and paid "her."

Funnily enough...that Blogjob blogger who recommended was banned from Blogjob, not too long afterward, for unethical behavior.

However, the site seemed like a legitimate way for Asian online contractors (of all sorts, not only writers) to underbid U.S. contractors, and I hadn't done anything with it...until, in August, a writer/editor in New Zealand posted a request for articles that sounded fairly similar to one of the posts at this blog. I sent her the link. She sent NZ$46 for permission to use the article.

For those new to the idea of "the gig economy"...I've been doing odd jobs all my life, and although I've found a few agents who seemed honest in a certain very limited sense, I've found it to be generally true that all agents are parasites. Some are merely less harmful than others.

A lot of the "employers" at are pretty blatant scammers. Freelancer is the home of those Internet pests who actually pay people to write comments on the titles of blog posts, without ever seeing the content of those posts, just to type a couple of lines into which they can throw a commercial link.

Other employers, who are not blatant scammers, are cheating themselves. I have to feel sorry for people who are so insecure about their language skills that they'll pay an agency that demands payment to "certify" writers' competency in their native language, rather than learn enough of the language--which, in the case of English, most of these people have--to see for themselves which writers are communicating effectively in their language in their country. The Internet makes that easy to do, but these employers are acting as if we still lived in a world where accurate information about people's work skills had to be conveyed by camels. So they're paying these "agents" to cheat desperately poor people in India and the Philippines out of their hard-earned money, in order to certify that these poor people are able to write something that may be recognized as English but definitely sounds "foreign" and awkward in either the U.S. or the U.K...and then these employers don't have enough money left to pay writers who've actually published usable articles, or even books, in the U.S. and/or the U.K.

For writers/editors/publishers who want a lot of different points of view to be represented in an anthology, it's always better to write directly to the people who've posted things you like on the Internet and work out a deal with them--no third parties. That allows you to pay less and the writers to collect more.

Anyway, NZ$46 reached, which advertises that it's located in Sydney, Australia. No problem there.

I received an e-mail notifying me that, after Freelancer had skimmed off the $6, they were willing to pay me NZ$40, which, as of that day, theoretically translated into US$30. No problem there.

The problem appeared when, instead of just collecting the $30 from Paypal as is standard in the U.S., I opened a separate page at Freelancer to transfer the money manually myself. That page, first of all, tried to direct me to spend the money online on Freelancer "promotions" and "certifications"--which, at any legitimate writing site, are awarded on a basis of work experience not payment to the agency.

Writing clients, please be aware that if an agency's "promotions" and "certifications" are based on what writers pay the agency, they are worthless to you. You're better off working with writers who are intelligent enough to ignore that kind of "promotions" and "certifications." If an agency mentions having any system of "promotions" or "certifications," you want to make sure that that system is based entirely on what other clients have reported about a writer's or other contractor's work, with NO payments to the agency allowed.

I declined the opportunity to bribe Freelancer to "promote" my work, so then what popped up was a page demanding not only my Paypal password, but, in addition, a credit card number. I do not have, have never had, and will never have a credit card; I'm a whole-Bible Christian, and the Bible says, "Owe no man any thing."

Freelancer now claims that that page was not supposed to have popped up. Suffice it to say that, by the time they'd made that claim, they were claiming that the exchange rate had shifted so that NZ$40 now equalled less than US$30, and now they weren't obligated to send the payment, since they didn't want to handle sums less than $30.

Suffice it to say that, in the United States, when you postpone making a payment, the creditor is entitled to add "late fees" to that payment...and some people make a business entirely out of charging "late fees" based on a system of compound interest that starts at 18%, sometimes higher. "I don't want to bother with money transfers below $30" can end up costing people $3000. It's called credit card debt. I personally don't want to go there, but our international readers need to understand that, if you want to pay only the amount something is actually worth to an American, you want to get that payment into the hands of that American within 24 hours.

I've seen enough evidence, at this point, to have reached the conclusion that Freelancer is going to go on playing games and making excuses until somebody goes to Australia and physically pries the cash out of their thieving hands. And I say the sooner the better...but I personally am not willing to lose more than $30 on yet another garbagebag of thieves, and I doubt that anyone else is either.

There's a better way to destroy this thieving "agency," and all other thieving "agencies." That's to publish far and wide that these people are THIEVES whom nobody should ever trust with any amount of money, whether it adds up to one red U.S. penny or to less.

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There are still some lines of work in which it's hard for a customer to know which worker they can trust, but...there's no valid reason why anybody needs an agency to find a writer. You go online, you type the topic that interests you plus the word "blog" into your favorite search engine, you open a few dozen blog posts, and you make contact with the writer whose work appeals to you.

If English (or whatever other language) is only your sixth or seventh language and you find it hard to tell whose English writing style sounds credible and readable in a country that interests you, look for active conversations in the comment section. Statistical analyses of blog traffic can be misleading since, at the high-traffic sites, much of the traffic is coming from ads and bots rather than humans reading the actual content, but generally people who've been maintaining an active blog for a few years are going to be competent, not yet famous, writers who can spare the time to work with you.

Of course, a writer's personal/business blog is going to be different from an article, a book, or even a guest post at your business blog. Unless you are writing a book about "the real lives of everyday people," don't expect to find the content you want to pay for already posted on someone's blog! Someone who posts well-informed articles about cars every single day is likely to be someone who's already actively marketing his or her own car-related business, who might regard your car-related business as competition. Someone who could write a well researched, informative, marketing-friendly blog post about cars for your business web site is likely to blog about games, books, movies, grandchildren, or food but occasionally mentions some experience of owning or driving a car. (A few successful book authors are also steady bloggers; for an example of the difference between an excellent blog and an excellent book, compare the occasional posts about verbal self-defense at with The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense.)

If you want something written for the U.S. market, international readers need to be prepared to work within U.S. cultural rules. That means that you have no right to publish the piece of writing until the writer has the money. If, for whatever reason, the writer doesn't receive the money, then s/he keeps the right to his/her work and can prosecute you for violation of copyright law if you try to use it.

I don't plan to prosecute the writer/editor in New Zealand, whose conduct seems to have been blameless and whose publishing plans seem to be not-for-profit anyway. However, some other things that aren't normal blog posts have been posted here and at Blogjob specifically because they weren't paid for; if the people who commissioned them tried to use them, I would prosecute them.

It's safer not to trust any kind of "agent," least of all one who's located in a different country from either you or the writer you've hired, but to communicate with writers directly.