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Red Alert! When You Don’t Want to Collaborate With Someone Online

Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.

What are the warning signs that you shouldn’t work with a client? What warning signs indicate that you are being taken advantage of by a client? What red flags suggest you should stop working with a client? What requests should you refuse on a crowdsourcing platform, and how can you prevent your work being used without payment?

What are the warning signs of a bad client?

What are the warning signs of a bad client?

Signs You Should Not Work With Them in the First Place

Their rejection rate on a freelancing site is over 70%. The odds that you’ll be paid for your work are too low to bother trying to work for them.

They ask for “free samples” of content instead of setting up requests through the website. The risk of this approach is that they may take your content and publish it without paying you, and it is almost impossible to then prove to anyone that you originated the content. Instead, refer the person to any published works you have online.

They ask you to contact them off the platform and do so through said platform. Crowdsourcing sites can ban you when you say yes to such a request. The crowdsourcing site can’t prevent that person from connecting with you on Facebook or your homepage before collaborating offline. However, anyone who requests that you violate the terms of service of the site on that site has revealed such a lack of judgement that you shouldn’t work with them at all.

If they outright challenge the pay rate you offer, don’t bother investing any time with them.

Signs You Should End the Collaboration With a Client

You’ve sent an article and they ask for a totally different one instead. Before you do this, run a plagiarism check to make sure they haven’t already used your content somewhere else. This action allows you to catch many would be thieves before you send a new, different article on the content marketplace that becomes the official submission for the assignment. It also gives you the information necessary to have the requester penalized for publishing your work without paying you for it.

They constantly ask for rewrites of the same article. I’ve seen this method used to get human-spun content for the price of one article.

Nitpicking is often given as a reason to drop a client. You must end the collaboration if they won’t answer your questions with regard to how to resolve their criticisms.

If you give them high quality work and they give you a bad rating, you should think twice before accepting any other assignments from that client. Conversely, if you didn’t know the topic well or didn’t quite meet their standards, you can try to learn from the first assignment before trying again. However, you cannot afford multiple bad ratings from the same client even if they accept and pay for the work. Their repeated poor ratings hinder your ability to compete for higher paying assignments with other clients. Yes, a series of 3 out of 5 stars even if you’re paid the premium rate will hurt you when you try to compete for premium projects with other clients.

They try to abuse the pay rate. For example, the requester pays for a 500 word article and continually demands more length until they end up with a 1000 word article for the price of a 500 word piece.

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The client doesn’t understand that they are demanding a lower pay rate than should be paid for the project. For example, the requirements for citations and meeting the APA style guide added to the time required to complete the project. You didn’t understand the time commitment when you took the first assignment, but the assignment is a contract, so you complete it for the requested pay rate. If you then communicate to the client the level of effort required, they can either adjust the pay rate or see if someone else will do it for a similar pay rate. If they come back to you and demand the same quality of work for the same low pay rate, you need to end the collaboration.

They vague guidelines for the project and never seem happy with the results. You will see better return on the time invested working with clients who know what they want, and more importantly, clearly communicate with you what they need.

If the article is rejected almost immediately after submission, this suggests they did not read the submission. It is a possible indicator they don’t intend to pay you for the work. Do a plagiarism check as soon as you learn of the rejection, and notify the crowdsourcing platform if they rejected the article before using it elsewhere. The crowd-sourcing sites will penalize the requester if only because the person used their platform but didn’t pay the fee for doing so.

If possible, post your rejected article on a site like Hubpages as soon as the rejection hits to protect your intellectual property from being used by others, as long as it doesn't show up already online. Then, if they post the article several days later, the date and time stamp of your Hubpages article shows that you posted it first.

Red Flags That Should Give You Pause Before Working With a Client

A brand new requestor on a crowdsourcing platform should be approached with caution. They don’t have a track record, so you don’t know if they are a good client. In these cases, it is best to do a single article or small project. If they accept the work and pay promptly, do another assignment. After they have a good track record with you, then you can scale up to bigger projects.

Requests to simply rewrite the content of others are plagiarism. Be careful when asked to plagiarize others’ work, since this can hurt your reputation on the platform and hurts other authors in the process.

Not all content curation requests related to existing articles are plagiarism but can hurt you none the less. A request to summarize a long article in a major publication is not plagiarism. An assignment to summarize the article and explain its implications to a particular industry or population is not plagiarism. Writing a rebuttal of an opinion piece or critique of a technical paper is not plagiarism. However, you should be careful in how you write these works to give proper credit to the source to avoid plagiarism checkers saying you are copying the work of others, all without citing the original so much that the plagiarism checkers built into many content curation sites will punish you.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Tamara Wilhite (author) from Fort Worth, Texas on November 16, 2016:

I mostly use Copyscape's premium, sometimes others.

Kenna McHugh from Northern California on November 16, 2016:

Great points! I was thinking it would be good to have a paragraph on what to look for in an honest client.

I am curious. What type of plagiarism check site to you use?

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