Traps to avoid if you're a content creator

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All humans who turn writing into a career have one thing in common, aside from passion for the art of the written word – disappointment. It appears inevitably, whether at the beginning (you allow yourself to get discouraged) or as you go along (after you fall prey to the first scams). Unfortunately, no one prepares you for the less glamorous side of the content industry.

From idealism to realism it’s just one step and, in the case of content creators, your identity crisis begins after the first:

"Bro, can’t you write like 40 monthly articles? I’ll pay 1 EURO each.”

„What do you mean you can’t deliver 1000 pages due yesterday? The Indian guys on Freelancer write entire encyclopedias for 1 dollar.”

„What do you mean you don’t want to write for free for the grand opportunity to be on my website so that I can make traffic revenue off of your labor?”

Although for some online writers, passion makes the grind worth it, so much so that the bad parts don’t overshadow the good, today we’re going to concentrate on the less pleasant side of the profession we’ll generically call writer (whether you do copy or content, ghostwriting or freelancing, this is probably aimed at you).

Are you a content creator? Then I’m sure you’ve dealt with at least one of the following situations in your career:

  • You wrote for scraps and pennies. No, seriously, you barely afforded to pay the internet you consumed writing.
  • You found a promising job opening, were ecstatic to receive an answer to your application, then you were asked to write a test article. You work on it, you grind, your fingers get sore, your keyboard sweats alongside you in solidarity and...surprise. You receive the message that you don’t meet the company’s requirements but that said company thanks you, generously (declaratively, no payment) for applying.
  • You worked hard for a project and you didn’t get paid, despite being given a fixed payment date and insisting with e-mails and phone calls
  • You sent texts to some companies/clients who seemed legit but then decided to subtly disappear after leaving you empty handed – no answers on e-mail, phone or any other communication means
  • You’ve dealt with clients who wanted to bargain over 2 cents. Because, obviously, what you do is very simple. Anyone can write, didn’t you know that? You only need two hands and a pen or a keyboard, duh.
  • You’ve dealt with clients who were absolutely certain they could do your job better than you could. Ironically, they still sought you out, but they were very kind to demand absurd changes and correct you constantly...on your work and on your time. No extra money for the trouble, of course.

If you’ve been through one or, God forbid, ALL of the situations described above, don’t go crazy. Whether you’re a fine connoisseur of all things writing or if you’re only now discovering the industry and constantly skimming through professional platforms in search of content writer, copywriter or freelance writer jobs in Romania or abroad, no one is 100% sheltered from such unpleasant incidents.

Here’s what to be on the lookout for next time to stop wasting precious energy and money. I will share my experience of over 2 years of freelance writing and dealing with various scenarios. Hope it’ll help you....

The most frequent traps for a content creator

#1 The test article

Let’s get one thing straight: a test article is not ALWAYS a trap. There are serious, legit companies that demand test articles from potential candidates to assess their writing capabilities, to see if the info in the CV checks out or to assess their capacity to adapt to a certain subject or even field.

It becomes a trap when....

It’s not paid.

Exactly. It is precisely what the scammers are counting on, that they’ll find 20-30 people to sent out different test articles that they’ll use, only the candidates will be told that they’re „not a match” or the materials are „not right” because they don’t „meet the requirements.”

Lovelies, this is the biggest bullshit perpetuated in the Romanian content industry and abroad. A company that takes itself seriously either pays for this article, too, even if it’s not pleased with it and ends the collaboration there, or agrees that the candidate submit a sample from his portfolio.

Sidenote – this alternative is only feasible in certain cases.

For example: a company seeks to employ a content writer who has expertise in the fashion industry. If the candidate has written about this field before, he can submit a relevant sample from his portfolio and he doesn’t have to go through this step anymore (ergo – the test article).

#2 The client comes up with excuses when it comes to payment

Another red flag in any collaboration is the tendency that some clients have to look for excuses when it comes to money. The excuses are as varied as they come: we can’t pay today, we have no funds available, we’ll return in X weeks, we cannot pay an advance because our magic fountain has run out of silver coins etc.

To be clear, I’m not saying that the unpredictable can’t sneak up on you. Such situations are entirely excusable if that client constantly communicates with the content service provider and keeps his word regarding the duration of the payment delays.

However, and I say it with a degree of sadness and bitterness too, in most cases, an attitude like this regarding money is a big red flag. Of course, it’s important to also establish trust between the client and the content writer.

Although I want to encourage you guys, in my experience, such an approach from the get-go is not good news. The chances that you’ve run into a scammer are pretty high.

#3 The client refuses to pay an advance (in the case of lengthy projects)

Paying in advance for a service can be a great risk for a lot of clients. We can understand why, at first, many would not accept this option. Obviously lack of trust is the primary culprit.

However, if a candidate has proven his reliability, passed different tests, proved that he delivers on time and on the agreed quality level and the client still doesn’t accept a payment in advance for at least a quarter or a half of the total value of a lengthy project, to then pay the other half when the other 50% of the project is finalized, we can spot another red flag.

#4 The client seeks to point out mistakes obsessively...even when there aren’t any.

If you’re a content creator, you’ve most definitely met a lot of pretentious clients who always want changes, who aren’t happy with the content, who don’t communicate effectively from the get-go but change their mind as you go along, coming up with more and more demands just to make your work harder.

An important distinction here – I’m not looking to trash all clients or generalize with the description above. I want us to clearly separate the pretentious client who pushes you because he wants it to be perfect (it’s his right and I support it) and the client who just thinks he’s better than you and legit has no idea why he hired you in the first place.

A behavior like that can only wreak havoc on the self-esteem of any content creator and hinder progress on both ends. If you’ve chosen a professional, have faith that he knows what he’s doing and let him do it. The exaggerated need for control doesn’t do anybody any good, it’s an insufferable from of micromanagement.

If you find one such difficult client, it would be wise to back down if you can’t resolve the conflict amiably through communication.

#5 You find someone who’s bargaining like they’re at a yard sale

Negotiation is an important part of any collaboration. Whether you’re hunting content writer jobs, copywriter or freelance writer gigs, you have to be aware of that. However, when clients or companies bargain

I repeat – run.

Why? Because someone who wants to make you work for cheap doesn’t respect your work, wants great results whilst paying scraps and pennies and will manipulate you to get them by minimizing the effort a content creator work entails.

Those types of people will use sentences such as „come on, can’t you produce like 1kg of SEO texts? It’s a no-brainer, you just add some keywords. I have a 1 EURO/350 words article budget. Chop chop.”

If I received that 1 EURO for every time I heard that, I’d have more money now than those people would ever be willing to pay.

So...should we keep writing? Yes!

I hope all of the above hasn’t entirely discouraged you and that, on the opposite, they actually gave you a heads-up and a head-start as a beginner content creator. Remember that, as it is the case with many fields, there are scams in the content writing industry that are as old as dinosaurs themselves, both in Romania and on greener pastures. With a little attention, however, you can graciously avoid them.

Good luck, everyone, if you’re looking for content writer jobs, copywriter or freelance writer gigs. Be patient, eyes open wide and keep letter-ing on!

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