4 More Reasons to Just Say No When Applying for Freelance Jobs


5 years ago, I wrote a blog post about some common red flags for freelance jobs. In 2020, times have changed and more people are considering freelance work. I thought it might be a good idea to revisit the topic. In that post, I cited some common things I saw while applying for work. These warning signs included:

  • Asking for PayPal info before even having a conversation.
  • Asking for references in the job posting.
  • Very low rates.
  • Unpaid test pieces.

There are several more things that come to mind as the freelance landscape has changed over the last 5 years. Here are 4 more things to watch out for when you’re applying for freelance work.


Pay-to-Play Content Mills

If you need to pay anything to produce materials for unknown clients, that’s a huge red flag. Some websites identify themselves as hubs where companies will buy pieces you’ve published online. The problem is, you need to pay a "membership fee" for the use of the platform and there may or may not be clients buying these articles. While there are legit services you can buy to help you improve your business, you shouldn’t have to pay to work with the promise of some future money.


Impossible Response Times

While this isn’t as much a scam as it is an undesirable client trait, it’s still something to consider when accepting work as a freelancer. How soon does the client demand that assignments are completed? Do they want a same-day turnaround? If so, there are some concerns about the quality of content that you’ll be required to provide. These types of jobs are often low-paying as well. Suggest to the client that the quality will be better if you’re given time to self-edit before turning it in. If they refuse, they’re probably not a great fit.



Another personality trait that isn’t consistent with freelancing is micromanagement. We’re all aware of what that means in a corporate environment and some of us decide to deal with it when being paid a salary. But for freelancers, the working relationship is very different. You’re not an employee of the client company, you’re a vendor or a service provider. They are not legally able to manage you the same way they would a permanent employee. If they insist on micromanaging, it may be time to step away.


Lack of Communication

If you have to pull teeth to get feedback from a client, they may also not be a great fit for your freelance business. I had a situation once where I submitted articles regularly by their deadlines. I would follow up with the project manager asking for feedback and when I received none, I moved on to the next project already assigned. A few times, they asked for revisions several months after I had already billed and been paid for the article. In those cases, I billed for the revisions as well and was paid. Eventually, the company said they never should have paid those invoices and demanded I pay them back. I refused. The entire situation could have been avoided if they had communicated with me as assignments were completed.

Do you have questions about freelancing? I’m happy to help so ask questions in the comments or on social media.


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