The Sad Tale of Your Worst Writing Job Ever [An Essay Contest]

The sad tale of your worse writing job ever [An essay contest].

Ask any writer about their worst writing job — and they’ve got a story to tell.

If you’re a freelance writer for any length of time, some gig will go sideways on you. That’s just how it is.

The key is not to see that worst-case experience as an indicator of your skills, or a referendum on your future potential as a writer.

It’s just…business. Things go wrong. Misunderstandings happen. Everybody has a bad day.

Because so many writers seem to be devastated when they bomb at a gig, I thought it might be useful to collect worst-client stories and let writers compare notes. I thought we could collect them in the comments on this post.

So I’m having a contest! Details are below. But first, I thought I’d kick this off by sharing my own worst writing job stories.

I’ve been at this so long, it’s hard for me to pick an all-time worst writing job. I’ve got five nominees — maybe you can tell me.

  1. The brushoff. One of my first business writing clients agreed to $600 for a brochure — then decided to simply not pay me. “I feel really good about my decision,” she blithely told me. It was the ’80s. Feelings were big.
  2. The blowhard. Was it perhaps the guy who wanted to shout all his instructions to me on speakerphone, while he walked on his treadmill and listened to Rush Limbaugh at full volume? (This was a short relationship.)
  3. The tech-picky. Or maybe the woman who fired me from a Microsoft-contractor writing gig when I told her my home scanner was broken. (“You don’t understand how I need to work,” she told me.)
  4. The scope-creep kings. Then there’s the company that told me they wanted the same sort of blog posts I was doing for Entrepreneur — but turned out to really want posts that were twice as long, in which I ghostwrote for them in the voices of several different team members. When I suggested the fee should be quite a bit higher, they stopped returning my calls.
  5. The non-starter. Finally, and most recently, there was the company who wanted a quality-of-management research report for $3,000. These involve developing hundreds of leads you contact, and getting at least a half-dozen of these former employees of a publicly traded company CEO to tell you what they thought were the business leader’s management strengths and weaknesses. They approached me last summer. I’d done these before, and liked the work.I worked on this for over a month, and couldn’t get one single person to talk to me. None! Total loss. The company was understanding, and nice enough to let me keep my deposit because they knew I’d put in about 80 hours of work on it, and I offered to share my notes so the next writer wouldn’t waste time calling the same no-talkers I’d hit.I felt…awful. I never say die on an assignment — I always keep going and get the job done. And this one defeated me. Did I mention that they courted me for three months before we finally inked this deal? Yeah.

If you were thinking that seasoned writers never have writing jobs go bad, now you know. It happens to us all.

The contest: Tell us your worst writing job stories

Now that I’ve got you rolling, I want to hear your worst writing job stories. Here are the contest rules and prizes!

  • Post your worst client story here in the comments or on my Facebook page.
  • Only one entry per person.
  • Limit 200 words.
  • Contest ends: Monday (January 23, 2017) at midnight Eastern. I’ll come back and post the winner in the comments on Tuesday.

What can you win with your wretched tale of your most awful client ever? Here’s the lineup:

Grand prize: A 30-minute mentoring session with me and copies of ALL 9 of my currently available ebooks.

Runner up 1: A 30-minute coaching call with me plus all 4 Freelance Writers Den ebooks.

Runner up 2: A 30-minute coaching call.

Good luck, everyone! And here’s to great clients to come.

UPDATE: The Winners!

I’m back to announce the winners of this contest. Thanks to all for some amazing stories, and great lessons in what NOT to do. 😉

Grand prize: Esther Copeland, for her horrifying tale of working 1.5 YEARS without pay and being stiffed to the tune of nearly $80,000.

Runner up: Samita Sarkar, who entered on my Facebook page, for her story of the client who turned into a stalker.

2nd Runner up: Lana, for her tale of the client that freaked out over how fast her great post was indexed on Google…and ended up winning a refund through her payment processor, despite all work being done to the client’s satisfaction.

P.S. If you’d like a lot better clients, you might want to check out the free training video featured below:



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55 comments on “The Sad Tale of Your Worst Writing Job Ever [An Essay Contest]
  1. Alvin leong says:

    People tend to think writing is a way to riches but only if you’re the next stephen king or jk rowling, most writers should just be happy to make a good living out of it.Just like the illiterate real estate developer who wanted someone to do his book, a well lettered man does not ensure a life of wealth and fame.

  2. Susie Rosse says:

    I don’t have a story since I’m new to freelancing but I have a question: Why don’t writers just ask for all of the money upfront? You can’t make a contract asking for 100% upfront? That doesn’t seem like a common strategy, but when you order almost anything online, you pay upfront, so why not do the same for virtual work?

  3. I am an absolute newbie of a writer. Understandably , I got no stories of misery to share. What I do have is, of course, like any other newbie, butterflies, big ones, in my stomach at starting out .

    Here’s a playback of my worst nightmare . I am hoping it gets to enter the contest , maybe in a category of its own , something like Paranoid Projective NonFiction

    It was a time when my writing mojo was at an all time high.An year into writing, I believed I had learnt the ropes well enough for things to be getting really interesting . Though I was doing mostly flat pieces for local dailies and pamphlets, I was happy and expectant .

    Then I got this call. Warm Sunday morning in India, I was lazing around half expecting to sulk the day through when “The Call” came through.( As it turned out , it did have parallels with the more famous one that the Backstreet Boys had back in the 2000s).It was an offer for a film script, from one of the top production houses in Bollywood . No point even trying to say how I felt . Well , one thing led to another and very soon , I was penning away , burning the midnight oil , ready to “make it” , finally .

    I submitted the script (it was strange they kept me aloof from the rest of the team , but I was too high to complain ). It was a period drama, touching on some sensitive political issues. Well, I was all set , waiting for the theatrical release. What I did get was indeed a release, though not in a theatre, but in a tabloid . Turned out, they set me up to cover up for someone who had already published something highly objectionable. My script was to really get me into the game and make it real.

    I ended up being fined a sizeable share of my pre writing savings. So that was the worst I had.

  4. I used to work for a Content Mill that paid us $1 per 100 words. It was my first time ever doing freelance writing, so I was really excited about all our fun and geeky assignments.

    The main editor eventually approached me a few days later telling me I was doing a great job, that I was one of their best writers, and asked if I be interested in another one. I was psyched!

    And then he’d ask if I could add another project onto my plate… again… and again… and again… examples including:

    * An e-book where I had to interview people… without a raise.
    * 250 word news articles… 64 (!?) in total PER MONTH. At first he said EVERY. WEEK. (?!)
    * Could I pleaseeeee write 25k words in one night (!?)

    I started burning out so fast, I got sick! I eventually resigned for health reasons. But why didn’t I turn them down? My younger self thought I had to keep putting my best foot forward since there was always the promise of “better paying assignments” and bonuses… that never came. I had to chase them down for around a year to get my final pay.

  5. Surprisingly, the worst client I think I’ve had was extremely agreeable, never once criticized, and, in the last months of our relationship, paid me a monthly retainer for doing virtually nothing. Their only fault was ignorance about how to work with freelancers OR content:

    For a long time, they insisted I submit “invoices” that were identical to employee time sheets–not just paid by the hour, but wanting exact hours accounted for.

    They set a maximum per-week payment, which never matched up well, per-hour, with the widely varying amount of work they asked for. Some weeks, I spent two hours on “research” of my own invention, just to feel I was giving them *something* for their money.

    They never supplied clear parameters or feedback.

    They asked repeatedly for a blog or social-media thread, then repeatedly stalled on both because (seriously) their board was afraid of being sued for tempting followers to post personally sensitive information in reply.

    Some writers with a gift for consulting might have found this client worth the time, but I’m one who much prefers someone else to set the basic parameters, and this job drove me crazy.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’ve always hated make-work, low-info situations where there isn’t enough to do, and no one seems able to tell you what’s needed. When I was a secretary at MGM, I used to scour the halls if I ran out of things to do, asking if other people had overflow work. Sitting like a lump and having to try to ‘look busy’ or justify your job to me is the worst possible scenario.

      And…I got into freelancing to get away from all that! NO freelance job should have this problem.

  6. Kaitlin Morrison says:

    I was assigned an article for a magazine about a significant event, several months after it happened and after everyone already forgot about it. I interviewed the source, then submitted the article.

    My editor didn’t get back with me until two weeks after I submitted the piece. She said the topic was stale, because the event happened too long ago. She then asked me to rework the story.

    I did. She said it was too long ago, so she no longer had a place for it. I had promised to pitch her ideas for new articles, but I decided not to after this experience. Several more months passed, and she emailed me to ask if I’d ever invoiced her for the article.

    I emailed her back, saying I’d assumed it was killed and no, I hadn’t invoiced her. She never emailed me back.

    I’ve decided she’s way too disorganized to merit more of my time. She also doesn’t pay well, always asks for a lot of rewrites and often assigns me leads that don’t go anywhere when the sources she gives me decline interviews. My very first client was also like this, sometimes assigning three rewrites only to say “I don’t like where this is going.” I dropped him, too.

    Now, all my clients are high-paying, don’t ask for half a dozen rewrites, pay on time and are easy to work with. Unfortunately, you have to be willing to lose a few bad clients to move forward and find the good ones.

  7. Constance says:

    I don’t know if this experience truly counts but I have been writing a lot lately … about everything. Since this is such a fun and simple contest, here goes …

    My worst writing assignment was when I worked in Corporate America. This was back in the days which were pre email and internet which means paper memos were constantly circulating the office.

    As a new college graduate, I was eager to please my manger and wanted desperately to move ahead as quickly as possible. We were told that one way to do this was to write as many memos as possible. The thought process was to get your name recognized to other managers and other departments. Writing memos about important topics was a way to do this so the first time I saw an issue and resolved it, my manager suggested that it was something important enough to share with the entire department.

    Since I was an English major I figured this was a no brainer. I wrote my 500 word memo, edited it, re-read it and had a colleague read it. When it came back to me I was absolutely crushed by the amount of red marks I saw on the one page. I had never even seen that much red on some of my 25 page papers in college. It took me the entire day to even look at all of the comments that were provided in between all of my regular daily responsibilities.

    This first writing assignment had set a very bad precedent and and seriously lowered my self esteem! I had a really difficult time going into my manager’s office to discuss what was wrong with the memo as thoughts of my English degree hanging on my wall at home ran through my mind. Basically I was told that my writing wasn’t fit for business. It was the first time that I realized that I would have to adjust the way I presented things on paper depending on what type of audience would be reading my work. Her judgment actually made sense considering that all of the writing I had done in college was either critique, creative, research or historical.

    The woman who critiqued my work was a particularly difficult manager. Over the years I worked for her I had seen many a person leave her office teary eyed and there was always a story about her circulating the department where she cut someone else down to size and sent them on their way. She made me write this dreaded memo 4 times before she said it was acceptable. Fortunately I learned many a lesson from her harsh ways so in the end I suppose it was a blessing in disguise to be managed by her. But the thought of that marked memo coming back to me is one I still remember quite vividly 20 years later.

  8. Alvin leong says:

    It seems like dealing with the clients are tougher than the job itself..rather work with nice clients with prompt payment but earn less than the all the drama

  9. Lana says:

    I thought I did things the right way. I had worked with the client before. I requested and received a deposit. I got clear guidelines. It still turned into a nightmare.

    The client asked me to research and write a long, technical article for a small company that would be published as a guest post on another website. I did all the research and wrote an article they loved. It was also my responsibility to get it published as a guest post. I got it approved and published on the website the small company picked out. Then, the nightmare started.

    Without telling me, the small company apparently complained to the website owners because they weren’t happy with how quickly the article was being indexed by search engines. I had no control over this. The website owners got angry and deleted the article. Then, they refused to talk to us and blocked us. The small company went berserk and refused to pay my client.

    The client lied to me and went behind my back to demand a refund from the payment processor we used. I had proof of publishing the article, but he still won and got his deposit back.

  10. Tom Bentley says:

    Years ago, I had a long-term contract as a copywriter and researcher for a business that offered insider information for frequent flyers. Decent dough, work at home, fairly interesting assignments. For months, things went pretty well, though the boss could be quite full of himself. Over time, I’d been given a lot of praise for the work I’d been doing; there were no indications that anything was awry.

    Wham! The office manager told me I’d been fired, but couldn’t tell me why. I called the boss and left multiple messages, but he didn’t call me back. Finally, I reached him, and he couldn’t tell me why I’d been fired either. We had a confusing conversation where he told me several times, “It’s just business, Tom, just business.”

    Toward the end of our call, he said, “And I’d like you to return the money I’ve paid you.” I laughed, thinking he was joking. He repeated it, and I laughed again, and he said he was serious. I named the major projects I’d done for him, told him he was crazed, and said goodbye. I later heard he fired the entire office staff.

    Needless to say, my money stayed with me.
    Tom Bentley recently posted…Joel D Canfield: Speak Softly and Carry a Big KeyboardMy Profile

  11. Summer says:

    Here’s my very worst freelance writing story. I found a client from craigslist who needed several web pages written for his startup business. Normally I don’t seek customers from craigslist, but I needed the cash very badly, and this was immediate work. He wanted to speak with me at his private home, but I insisted we meet at a coffee place. In person, he looked like a mafioso: thick-necked, baseball-hatted, hulking, somewhere between Tony Soprano and Vic Mackey from “The Shield.” He described the job to me: write four marketing web pages for his startup business. We agreed on a price: $200. I was still trying to work up the nerve to request a deposit — when, to my great surprise, he removed a wad of cash from his pocket as big as my fist, peeled two hundred-dollar bills off the top, and handed them to me. I think I was still staring at the bills speechlessly when he said “there’s more where that came from.” He added that he “always has work.” He wanted me to work in his office doing “odd jobs,” citing an unreal 6-figure annual salary. When I questioned the nature of the work, asking if it was writing/marketing work or… well… what kind of work WAS it anyway?!?! he repeated that he “always has work. It might be writing, admin, social media, or whatever his needs at the moment. He repeated the sky-high salary that aligned with no admin job EVER. I was getting weird vibes from this guy, so we shook hands, and I departed, cash in bag. I was just settling down at home to write the four web pages when he texted me about whether I could take the office job. Diplomatically, I responded, “it sounds intriguing,” so he followed-up with four kissy-face emojis. GAME OVER. I finished the 4 web pages, emailed them, and never talked to him again.

  12. My first book. She was my baby. I toiled over her with sweat, tears, pain, and ice cream. When the third draft was completed I sent her to an editor I had handpicked from oodles of recommendations. This editor would do right by my work. And she was Wiccan to boot. A match made in Summerland. The price. $3000. It would be worth every penny.

    Six months later the book, The Summer of Annah was published. Riddles with grammatical errors and typo. My bad. I should have read through the galley. But I was fearful of my writing and every time I read my words I changed them. I trusted the editor to do her job of of copy editing and line editing. Goodness, she didn’t even catch that the car was red in chapter three and blue in chapter ten. Or that my heroine was a vegetarian but I had her nibbling on a chicken wing.

    All my fault. I accept blame. However, I was a virgin writer and self-publishing was new to me. I needed help. I was willing to pay for help.

    Well, I paid. With money–and embarrassment.

    For my second book I used a different editor. Less money, better quality, and a great experience.

    Hindsight, damn you. Why can’t you be foresight?

  13. Sarah says:

    I had been working for a new client in a SE Asian country for just a few weeks, with nothing but praise. Keep in mind it started as just writing, then sourcing a “couple” of images, then sourcing up to ten images, small added things that took time but for no extra pay. I just took it on the chin. From out of nowhere one day came a profanity-laced email asking did I think he was f***ing stupid, was I f***ing stupid, did I think he wouldn’t notice my bull***t work, did I think I could con him because he wasn’t a native English speaker, I was a greedy c**t, and so on. I checked the latest piece and as confused to say the least. Turns out he was seeing a fair bit of red underlining in the Word doc. Because … he’d managed to change his spellchecker to US English (he wanted it written in UK English) plus some place names weren’t recognised. So, yeah, I was f***ing useless because HE couldn’t use a spellchecker. Hmmm. He did apologise, then refused to pay, then used the piece anyway. I just ran! (Though it did actually make me laugh at HIS stupidity!)

  14. Kelvin says:

    Last year, I pitched a digital marketing agency. Pitch was accepted and the first job was to write a 1000 words article.

    I labored hard to ensure the job was perfect (since it was my first job with them, I wanted to impress).

    I confidently submitted the job only to be told the article did not pass across the desired message. After doing three major edits with the same result, I realized that the client either didn’t know what he wanted or he simply wasn’t interested in paying my balance and wanted to frustrate me.

    To save myself further stress, I refunded his deposit and moved on after wasting two weeks on one article.

  15. Raquel Stone says:

    I am still an extreme newbie. I figured I would gain my experience writing for content mills and take it as a learning experience. I have written two articles to date, one of which I am still waiting for payment, even though I was told payment is received in 3 days. I know it is not a horror story being owed $3.80 for writing a 380 word article, but it is super discouraging. Especially since the amount owed is pennies, AND the fact that I was jumping up and down because I would actually be getting paid.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think being paid $3.80 for an article IS the horror story right there, Raquel.

      I meet SO many writers who think this, “I can get experience writing for a content mill.”

      Sadly, the ‘experience’ you get in this environment doesn’t do much to prepare you for writing for professional-rate clients. And often, you can’t even use the clips in your portfolio! Wish I could convince every new writer out there that this is NOT how you start a successful freelance career…it’s how you waste time and get ripped off. As you found.

      • Raquel Stone says:

        I am slowly figuring that out. I do not understand how anyone can make a living writing for content mills.

        It is also extremely depressing when you work your butt off and only get paid pennies.

        Where would you point a newbie towards to gain some hands on experience?

        • Carol Tice says:

          Real first clients you find yourself, Raquel — see my Step by Step Guide ebook for all the details on how to build a portfolio that helps you really launch a freelance writing career.

  16. Rob says:

    In 2010 I was broke and living in Cambodia. I found work on a bidding site. I made a whopping $10 for 500 word articles, but it was better than nothing. Then I got a job for a dating site. I wrote articles from both a female and male perspective. The editor complained that I wasn’t meeting my deadlines. “I submitted my story three days ago,” I told her on two occasions. “Sorry,” she replied after she found them. The articles were about 1200 words long and I got $50 for them. At the time, it seemed like decent money. I’ve learned a lot since then.
    Rob recently posted…What’s better, success or happiness?My Profile

  17. Cherese Cobb says:

    When I first started writing, I sent hundreds of pitches to pet and conservation magazines. Within days I got a bite from a “big” pet magazine in the U.K. The editor loved all of my ideas. Yay! The only problem? Her magazine couldn’t pay. Well, I went ahead and said that I’d write one story for free. After they published it, the editors kept sending me emails with ideas for more free stories. When I said that they would need to pay me, they still didn’t stop sending requests for free work. So, I had to block every email address from that magazine.

  18. Janine Harrison says:

    I’m very new to the game and don’t have many horror stories yet. I started out like so many slaving for content mills in the belief it would lead somewhere better. I gave my best to every job even though the pay was almost non-existent. After working on an article for over 6 hours on my precious day off from my day job the requester claimed it was plagiarised even though it passed Copyscape. They refused to pay me and a couple of weeks later I found the post on a website. I informed the content mill and they said they would ask them to take it down. Eventually they did but I have never been paid. It was a bad experience but a good lesson about the perils of content mills.

  19. Blood, sweat, and tears and over a year of my life is what I gave them. Weekly commutes two hours each way to pick up documents and do work that they should have done, all in vain. I was a grant writer for an organization that agreed, in writing, to pay me $40,000 for a year’s work. I gave up my job to facilitate the demands of the assignment. 365 days later, after getting in to debt writing their grant, which was a $300,000 annual grant, and having it funded, they don’t talk to me and I am owed close to $80,000. I was never paid a penny, but I kept hoping they would do the right thing at the end. They didn’t.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Esther — you worked for an entire year without an up-front payment or any milestone payments along the way? For TWO years? My heart is breaking here. I’m hoping you never do that again! And that if you have a contract, you’re taking legal action against them.

      No writer should work AT ALL in hopes that the client will ‘do the right thing at the end’ — don’t work without a deposit! Ever.

      • Esther Copeland says:

        Thank you Carol. No one has shown me any sympathy towards my plight, you are the first, and I thank you for acknowledging my pain. I can’t believe it myself. I got into writing their grants, because their president was an old friend, who is no longer a friend. They are enjoying their grant, they have grown, and completely ignore my calls and letters. I have been told to let it go, but I do want to get an attorney involved. Yes, I was so naive! Never again do I do any writing without money up front. This experience has taught me more than anything I have been through in my 42 years of life put together! It has far from discouraged me from pursuing my goal of writing, thank God. I am teaching currently, and working on making my writing my sole source of income. Thank you for your encouragement!

  20. See how many mistakes you can spot in this one. I refer to the client’s as well as my own.

    A LinkedIn contact hired me to write a white paper on AI. I didn’t know the topic well, but I was willing to give it a go. Her company would provide the subject matter expert. She promptly paid 30 percent down.

    Her deadline was ASAP and the angle of the white paper was vague. When I got her to agree to a actual deadline, it was clear we’d have no time to come up with an outline before writing. I said I could do the white paper if she provided the outline by X date. She missed the deadline.

    I followed up with her, trying to nail down requirements, and she said needed the white paper ASAP (that again). She also sent me a link to a post written by a freelance writer on the topic. Maybe we could use his help to write the white paper, she said.

    It finally dawned on me that this client didn’t know what she wanted, what a deadline was or how to work with a freelancer. I could choose to educate her or walk away from a nightmare. I chose the latter and refunded the payment. What a relief!

  21. Lilla Ross says:

    About 10 years ago, I got an email from a business editor friend of mine that a businessman she knew was looking for someone to help him write a memoir.
    The wealthy real estate developer told me that he and his wife spent 6 months a year living in Paris, and he wanted to write a book about it.
    He was a good ole Southern boy, educated at the Citadel and Emory University. It seemed like a good gig, so I said yes.
    Then reality set in. The guy couldn’t use a computer, could barely send an email. He insisted on mailing me his notes written in long hand. His handwriting was barely legible, but once I’d figured it out, I had a real shock. He was illiterate.
    He eventually admitted he didn’t know a noun from a verb and couldn’t spell — really basic stuff.
    His 70-something secretary, who had worked for him for four decades, had covered for him all these years.
    Not only was he illiterate, he didn’t really know much about Paris either. But he wanted a book to impress his rich friends.
    And so I cobbled one together, taking a heavy hand about the content. But I gave him something he could show his friends without embarrassing himself.
    Lesson learned!

  22. Michelle says:

    This was my third client ever or so. They posted to Journalism Jobs looking for “news writers.” They paid $12 an hour, which I thought was pretty good when starting out. I got through the review process, was accepted in as a news writer. Only to find out they assigned dozens of assignments via a Google docs sheet. And I had a narrow time limit in which to complete the work.

    Many of these assignments required verifying real estate listings with the actual realtors. I very rarely heard back from these folks directly, and got stuck on all sorts of reality spam lists in the process. It took forever to chase anyone down. By time I completed the work, I was averaging one cent per word, since I was paid hourly and only approved for so many hours per week.

    While talking to an employee there via Skype, I noticed something weird. While speaking perfect English, my main contact lived in South America. And I could hear chickens in the background. At first I assumed someone made an exotic life choice and just really loved South American culture. But as I was averaging a penny per word, I realized the truth. Working for these people, I’d never be able to afford to live in the states.

    I don’t work hourly anymore.

    • Michelle says:

      I just wanted to clarify: by “speaking perfect English,” I meant no accent, not that people from South American can’t speak perfect English. He also didn’t have a South American name. It was clearly someone who moved outside of the U.S.

  23. Karen Vargas says:

    I was hired to write ed. assessments for a company that promised great $$. Two months in, strange things started happening: I was asked to resubmit invoices, W9, my contract, multiple times…THEN payments started being delayed. When I asked where my payment was in process, I either got no response or an apology along with the classic, “Check’s in the mail.” After waiting over two months for a payment, I decided to reach out to one of the other writers. Sure enough, she was experiencing the same thing. Spoke with a few more writers and found we were all getting the same poor treatment. When I mentioned to our Team Lead that I knew I wasn’t the only one getting the runaround, we received a group email saying, “Don’t talk to each other!” – like we were a bunch of fifth graders! THAT was the final straw. I emailed the Director saying, “Unacceptable! PAY ME NOW.” This story does have a happy ending, though: I was finally paid in full and they put their program on hold (half the writers quit!), but WOW, what a big fat waste of time and energy, having to fight for what was right!

  24. Evan Jensen says:

    Worst client story…

    Dear Mr. Alternative Medicine Man,
    I’m wondering if you’re really selling snake oil. That’s right. The smarmy-take-your-money-and-run kind of snake oil.

    It’s bad enough that you’ve managed to skim the wallets of thousands of people who desperately need relief from allergies, diseases, and auto-immune disorders.

    But ripping me off after promising $100 per post? It makes me feel sicker than the time I had chronic diarrhea on a road trip.

    Not even a thousand doses of your homeopathic remedies can cure the disgust I have for your change-at-will guidelines, total disregard for medical science, and lack of payment.

    The assigned blog post I wrote, “Nickel Allergy Linked to Skin Rash, Health Problems,” is based on medical research, data from the National Institutes of Health, and anecdotal evidence from patients treated at the Mayo Clinic.

    So I was surprised by your response: “This post is pretty depressing and nobody can relate or wants to read such a sad story. I have a hard time reading it. I am sure most will be the same.”

    Last I checked, having an allergic rash wasn’t exactly the kind of thing people want to post selfies of on social media or talk about at a dinner party.

    Your random guideline changes, refusal to discuss a rewrite, and lack of payment is a sign you have a sickness for which there is no cure.


  25. I once had a client who I worked with on a monthly basis for about six months. At first things were ok, despite some payments that were a day or two late. One month, her payment was well over a week late – with no explanation. I didn’t want to bother her, but I really needed that money (freelancing is my sole source of income as a single mom). I emailed her and received an automated reply that she was on hiatus, would be gone for an unknown period of time, and could not pay anyone until she returned.

    I then reached out to the person on her team who often served as a middleman. I just wanted an update on when my client would be back at work and able to pay her creative team. Her response was a bit snippy, telling me that I’d get paid when I got paid and that I shouldn’t bother my client asking for a specific date.

    Eventually, I did get paid, but the experience left a sour taste in my mouth. After that experience, I started charging the full amount up front and am more selective about who I work with.

  26. Pinar Tarhan says:

    A client found me through LinkedIn. I thought “Amazing! The first client to find me! I must be doing marketing right.” She was relocating to Turkey, and she seemed to love my background as a business major. We talked on LinkedIn and then met twice to talk about details. I was to write detailed posts on career management for the high-aiming finance professionals. I had to do some research, but I was looking to get into the niche. It would allow me to use my network and expand on it, learn interviewing…It was only 75 USD per post, but it was some years ago. It wasn’t a bad rate. Until she pretty much was disappointed with everything I wrote. She didn’t give me clear style guidelines. Named one website to model my writing after, and I did. She didn’t like my writing, didn’t approve of my experts. She didn’t pay. I feel so bad for not having spelled things out clearly, asked more questions or used a contract. I spent too many hours to write two articles I can’t really use anywhere because they were too specific. But I did learn many valuable lessons. So, yay? Thankfully, the second client to find me on LinkedIn was easy-going and paid.
    Pinar Tarhan recently posted…On Happy Endings and Why I Rarely Kill My Characters in my Stories (And Why Black Mirror Isn’t My Kind of Show)My Profile

  27. Sue Chehrenegar says:

    One woman asked me to write a nine part story. She planned to use one story a month in newsletter for school children. After I had completed all nine parts and sent them to her, she told me what sections had to be re-written.

    I tried to re-write those sections using the format that she had used, when sending the request. My editing job did not suit her. She told me that she could not pay me. Then she explained what other writing job she had on her list.

    I did that for her, and got paid a low amount for it. She never told me what was going to happen to my nine part story. Since then, I have avoided taking any assignment that seems to put lots of emphasis on the editing of text.

  28. Emma Murphy says:

    I was commissioned to write a listicle on the worst countries in the world for women. The only guidance I was given was that the piece should be 2,500 words and feature 15 countries.
    At the end of the month, I sent in my invoice but I didn’t get paid, so, I contacted the editor.
    When she got back to me, she said that the piece couldn’t be published as it contained words like ‘rape’, ‘sexual assault’ and ‘female genital mutilation’ which apparently affected its ability to be promoted on Facebook.
    Now, if you follow any human rights charities or news organisations on Facebook, you’ll see that they are able to use those words, so I don’t know why it would have been different for this site.
    Regardless, I’d think that an editor might have given those instructions prior to assigning this piece because… did she expect me not to mention these things?
    She said that I would be paid once I’d amended it but removing these words would have basically meant a complete rewrite so I asked her if we could increase the pay for the article. She never replied.

  29. Felix Abur says:

    The time I thought I landed my very first local (Kenyan) client with a huge work order. We spoke lots on phone, facebook, and email. That was back in 2011. She convinced me to hire 3 writers to assist me and I’d get a commission on all their work. I wrote more than 20 articles and supervised the other 3 for a total of 107 articles. Client refused to pay and I had to pay the writers out of my own pocket, believing she would one day pay up. To date, I’m still waiting. And the 3 writers will probably never work for me again unless I pay upfront.

    • Molly says:

      That says a lot about your integrity. I’ve had too many people who subcontracted work to me and then said, “Well, the client didn’t pay me, and I can’t afford to pay you, so you’re out of luck.”