Copy and Paste “Freelance Writing”

To kick off the new year, I wanted to address an important issue regarding copying and pasting information from the internet and turning it in as “freelance writing work.” I am absolutely appalled by the fact that this is even a matter that is necessary to mention, but alas, there are some so called “writers” who believe that it is perfectly fine to copy and paste and get paid for it.

Freelance writing consists of research AND writing. This means that when you find the information you are looking for, you write about it. You don’t just steal what someone else wrote and try to write a few of your own words around it. You need to write it all by yourself. This is simply the ethical thing to do, and it would be even better if writers cited their references more often. In school, we all learn that plagiarism is wrong, but I guess that message just doesn’t seem to stick with some people.

The least freelance writers should do is use some talent and creativity and put their own phrasing to the information that they find. Add your own angle or twist…use a thesaurus for crying out loud! If you like they way someone else stated something, put it in quotes and cite the source. It’s that simple.

Copying and pasting is not freelance writing, and I consider it a supreme insult to the honest, hard-working freelance writers who make an effort to write original work and adhere to the copyright laws of the United States (you know who you are and I applaud you).

I hire help from time to time, and I will fire anyone who sends me something that they found over the internet rather than writing it themselves. I greatly appreciate websites like DupeCop.com and CopyScape.com because they make it easy to spot copying. Clients often use these services to check the writing work done for hire, and they should. You always risk losing a client and gaining a poor reputation when presenting someone else’s work as your own.

If you truly want to be a freelance writer, do the writing. End of story.

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Sources are Crucial in Freelance Writing

If you want to be successful as a freelance writer, you need to produce quality content. Having valuable sources is an important part of producing quality content.

How do you find good sources?

Network and build bridges between yourself and people who are well versed in the subjects that you write about. Ask friends and family, ask around in chat rooms and forums (to find out who experts are, don’t use a chat room as a source), and search online. Interviews make for good articles and associating with experts will boost your credibility.

If you primarily use the internet as a source, make sure that you favor the sites of experts with credentials, government websites and .org sites that tend to be educational. See if you can contact the experts behind the websites via email or phone.

Go to the library. Do not underestimate to quality of hard copy information. Some facts change over time, so it is best to show preference to later additions. You may be able to fact-check online to make sure the information you are using is up to date, but don’t be afraid to crack open a book.

Using Sources Properly

The way that you use those sources is vital as well. An improperly used source can be worse for a writer’s reputation than not using any sources at all. Remember to always cite your references, particularly if you spoke directly with them. Be sure to use quotes and researched information within context. Always record interviews (unless the source totally objects) to ensure that your quotes are accurate. Make sure that if you paraphrase, the words still carry a similar meaning to what was originally stated.

A “References” or “Sources” list at the end of a short online article may suffice. If you are writing for a magazine, make sure you follow their recommended citation process.¬† Mentioning your sources within the content will strengthen your points. Familiarize yourself with a variety of citation styles and stick to one that you are most comfortable using.

Defending Your Copyright

Have you ever had your writing stolen? With the internet copyright infringement and plagiarism have become easier and more prevalent. It is important to know what to do in case someone violates usage rights for you work, or simply steals your content. I read an extremely helpful article on WOW (Women on Writing) by Moira Allen titled “Someone Stole My Article! What To Do When It¬†Happens To You

You can read all about copyright infringement and remedies on the US government website under Copyright Law Chapter 5. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with your rights and the proper actions to take if someone steals your work. Protect yourself!

Someone Stole My Article! What To Do When It
Happens To You

Freelance Writing Legal Issues

There are only a few legal issues that freelance writers will have to deal with. Thankfully, these are a little bit less than a small business or corporate office would have to deal with. Even if you outsource work on a contract basis, you really only need to be concerned with your legal responsibilities as an individual. Here are the legal issues that freelance writers should be aware of.

Business/company registration. If you want to have a writing company, and hire official employees, you will need to register a name either with your local county office, state, or nationally. As a freelance writer, you will most likely just be in business for yourself, and therefore coming up with a company name is unnecessary. Use your own name as a company name, and you will avoid trademark issues. Even though you are an individual, you are still considered sole proprietor of your own business, for tax reasons. You must register your business on the state and federal level.

Taxes. Any self-employed income that exceeds a profit of $400 is taxable. In the U.S. you are required to pay taxes on an estimated and quarterly basis. Since taxes are not automatically taken out of your pay by an employer, you have to figure it out on your own. Understanding profit and loss is really important. I suggest visiting irs.gov and learning more about tax law as an individual business owner. Hiring an accountant is a good idea, but you really should learn as much as you can on your own, since not everyone is honest.

Copyright issues. This is two-fold: you should know how to protect your own intellectual property rights, and you should be intimately familiar with knowing how to avoid infringing on other people’s copyrights. Copyright.gov is helpful on both fronts.

Copyright Law

One issue that freelance writers need to be clear on is copyright law. In the United States, there are pretty clear cut rules when it comes to using material that other people wrote. I found a good article that explains the do’s and don’t of copyright law, that any writer can use as a guide when debating about how they are using research and writing from websites and other written materials. Check it out here.

For the outline of the U.S. government copyright regulations, go here.

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