When to Turn Down a Writing Gig

Every day I look around the Web for freelance writing jobs to post to AllFreelanceWritingJobs.com. I usually find a few that baffle me, and a few that amuse me... especially when the hiring party is particularly clueless. I ran into a good example of that today. Here's more on what I came across, and some tips to help you decide when to turn down a writing gig:

The posting I came across was for an article rewriting gig. The part that I found amusing was where the client said writers have to alter 50-60% of the original content, and that "all deliverables will be considered "work made for hire" under U.S. Copyright law. Buyer will receive exclusive and complete copyrights to all work purchased."

What's the big deal? You see that kind of thing online all the time, right? You sure do. And this is a perfect example of the kind of gig you shouldn't waste your time getting involved with. In this particular case, it's impossible for the writer to transfer the copyright to the buyer, because no rewriter technically has the copyright to begin with. There is no set percentage of an article that can be changed in order to legally separate it from its original creator's copyright. You'll see all kinds of BS numbers around the Web, saying "if you change it this much, you're fine." Wrong! That's simply not the way it works. This is actually the kind of person I'd love to see sued for infringement. So as a writer, don't get yourself caught up in potential legal issues (since you'll technically be the one violating the original copyright) because you're trusting in a client's ignorance. It's your responsibility to know how the law applies to your work.

On that note, not every writing gig is worth taking. Some can get you into legal trouble, hurt your professional reputation, or simply be a waste of time better spent elsewhere. Here are a few signs that you may be better off turning a gig down:

  1. A client is asking you to "rewrite" work that they don't personally hold the copyright to.
  2. The pay is so little that you'd simply earn more writing for yourself, or spending that time marketing your services better elsewhere (remember to crunch the numbers).
  3. The client blatantly says they don't care about quality (such as an example in the writing forums recently about writers being asked to misspell on purpose for SEO... unless you're exclusively an SEO writer who only focuses on keyword optimization, you risk damaging your reputation and simply looking like an idiot).
  4. You have some reason not to trust the client, whether from your own past experience with them, or that of colleagues.
  5. You have moral or ethical problems with the work (such as having a policy of not writing adult content), or writing about a certain subject or for a certain client would be a conflict of interests.
  6. The gig has no added benefit or potential in comparison to other potential gigs lined up (if you're at a point of being able to be choosey, choose work that may lead to more work, referrals, etc.).

What other reasons might cause you to turn down a writing gig?

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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3 thoughts on “When to Turn Down a Writing Gig”

  1. I’m glad you brought this up, Jenn. Just last week, I was reading the U.S. Copyright Office’s website on fair use. Even if a work is rewritten 100%, you cannot claim copyright unless the owner has not given consent.

    I only find a discrepancy with number one on your list in the case of PLR articles, where the client has rights rewrite the work, but not to claim copyright. Rewriting to alter the content from its original form is different from rewriting in an attempt to claim copyright.

    There’s definitely a fine line, but I fear that if writers stop offering rewriting services, clients might stop buying PLR articles.

  2. I agree that there’s no problem with rewriting PLR content. So maybe instead of “copyright” make sure the client has legitimate rights to the work. Honestly, if someone asked me to rewrite PLR content, I’d require proof of purchase first, with a copy of the rights bought. If they can’t provide that, it’s the writer often taking on the legal problems for copying the work if it turns out they didn’t really have the rights to begin with. So I’d suggest the same to anyone taking on rewriting work.

    I sell PLR articles too, so I feel your pain. But at the same time, my primary concern is making sure writers know what they’re getting themselves into if they’re putting their career at risk. Any way you cut it making a career of rewriting others’ work isn’t exactly a “safe” job. I don’t really worry about it in the sense of them not buying PLR content anymore though. There will always be writers who will write anything for a buck, so they’ll never run out of rewriters. 😉

  3. I also turn down clients who have a history of late payments. The rate might be good, but that doesn’t help me if I have to spend hours chasing for payment.


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