Red flags in freelance job adverts

More and more often recently I’ve been noticing ads for freelance writing jobs in which the applicant is required to submit some kind of “test” along with the usual resume and clips.

I came across two of these today: one for a copyediting job, in which everyone who replied had to edit a “sample” few paragraphs of text, another for a content writing position for which each applicant had to submit 250 words on a specified subject.

Now, excuse my cynicism, but take the copyediting thing, for example. I’ve seen this one before, and here’s how it works. Each applicant is sent a “sample” page to edit – a different page for each person, mind. Say 100 people respond (and trust me, with most freelance writing jobs, that’s probably a conservative estimate): the “employer” just got 100 pages edited for free. In other words, a scam.

As for the content writing, the same thing applies. If everyone who replies gives them 250 words, that’s quite a lot of free content they’ve got there (and yes, I know this example is slightly different because they haven’t paid for it so they technically can’t use it, but unless you’re diligent in your searching, they could change a few words here and there and you might never know your work had been used).

My apologies to all of the genuine employers out there who use tests, and who have the best of intentions in doing so. But I have to say, it’s one of those things that puts up a red flag for me as soon as I see it.

I really hope I’m wrong.

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