Freelance Writers: Beware the Scammers (The GLV Experience)

Person in a hamster wheel

There are a number of websites that advertise for “Freelance Writers.” Of course many do not come out and call these aspiring writer’s freelance. Some, like the site I stumbled across almost two years ago, just asked for writers who wanted to be paid for their efforts. Like any rube at the county fair I was suckered in, and it took me a long time to realize that the promises made were never going to match reality. So potential writers should beware the scammers.

A freelance writer and blogger, Carol Tice; wrote an expose on the Guardian Liberty Voice, the publication that caught me in its opportunistic web of half-truths, full-out lies and “black-hat” practices that got the site hammered by Google repeatedly.

Her article came out in 2014 at a time when I was living in the same house as the publisher, DiMarkco Chandler. Carol did not shirk her duties in doing research and contacting members of the site. I remember walking past Chandler’s office and seeing Carol on the big screen monitor asking him questions. Rather interestingly, the two people who had been with Guardian Liberty Voice the longest, the chief editor and myself, were never asked to take part in this rebuttal to her investigation.

No other writer or editor came near my output on the paper. I wrote nearly 1,900 articles for GLV and worked very hard to give the publication a credible Entertainment section. Attending fan conventions, film screenings and doing interviews with professionals from the entertainment community. Since I was an editor who did not recruit, I was never interested in building a team, my focus was on writing and developing a good reputation as interviewer and scribe. That probably explains why I was never asked to add my two penny’s worth of experience to the Tice “attack” (as DiMarkco called it).

I wrote a little about my experience working for GLV in a prior post. I mentioned no names and only do so here because the referenced article by Carol does.

During an emergency meeting last year, DiMarkco urged that no one in the GLV fold should answer any of the “allegations” made by Carol or to stand up for the paper. I was too busy setting up film screenings, attending events and doing interviews. I was also writing around 50 to 70 articles a month while trying to establish television show coverage for popular scripted TV rather than the reality rubbish covered by the publication.

It was only when things began to fall apart and my pay continued to be less than promised that I started reading the comments. Too late I realised that DiMarkco’s version of events was always given in a way that made him look good and everyone else look conspiratorial. In one case, the other temporary “crazy” roomie in the big house in Vegas, to be fair the guy did come across as some kind of nut, (He sniffed Prozac for Christ’s sake!) did turn out to be off kilter. But, initially this guy came across as  normal until his meds (Prozac) came in and then he flew out into left field. As he had the room next to mine, I slept with the door to my bedroom locked and with a computer table wedged against it.

Around the same time that  DiMarkco was arrested for domestic assault, he  braced me after I asked him, quite reasonably I thought, to not move “my shit” without telling me. This 57 year-old one-legged man came up to me ready to resort to fisticuffs and he cursed me out while claiming that I was two-faced.

A former Prison Officer, I didn’t react the way he expected me to and it confused him. I looked him in the eye, as I moved closer (as a Prison Officer when threats are made we were taught to escalate and dominate if we could not calm the prisoner down) and asked him, “You want to fight? What? Are you 10 or 12?”

This slowed him down but he did not talk to me for three days after the incident. This little event soured our relationship of trust; which never did get back to its initial state. Later, when he was talking to me again, I took him aside and explained that bracing me like that was not wise. I told him, truthfully, that I would not attack, but my defense would put him on the floor crying. “10 years of training in the prison service, mate.”

He never acted up again, but that “circle of trust” was broken and only lack of money, and faith that my hard work would eventually rectify the dollar situation, kept me at the house and at the publication. That and the fact was I was having a great time meeting film and television stars, going to Comic Con in Vegas, and the Star Trek convention.

I was actually doing my dream job, writing and getting paid for it. Sadly, I was too busy to realize that I was being paid abysmally for my hard work. While turning a blind eye to the various things that were occurring around me; massive turnover, editors fleeing like crazy, and stories from DiMarkco about how all these new folks were trying to “take over” the company, I kept writing and trying to get my health sorted out.

While the penny dropped about the state of reliability of my “boss” fairly early in 2014, my financial situation kept me prisoner at the GLV and the house. One clue was Chandler’s claims of ill-health. I was told: That he had been diagnosed with cancer, had a tumor, a failing liver, a hernia operation that was done multiple times and deadly high blood pressure. I finally realised that he was massively stretching the truth after being told that he could no longer climb up the stairs due to the hernia.

Two weeks after being informed of this, he sprightly shot up the steps to the second floor to ask me a favor. My jaw dropping did not register with him as he’d obviously forgotten his claim of two weeks prior. Perhaps a little explanation is required here in my role of gullible village idiot.

I always take everyone at “face value” until they prove that their word cannot be trusted. To me, broken or “delayed” promises did not immediately equal dishonesty. Many people promise more that they can instantly deliver, so these claims did not register as dishonesty or scamming.

They should have. Still, once I realized that the man was just another greedy snake oil salesman, I had to get away before I got caught up in the “con” as patsy. I was staying alone in a three bedroom, with pool, house. He was living somewhere else, buying a new car and setting up another “scheme.” All this took place while telling me and everyone else that the company was going under and broke.

Meanwhile the steady stream of “investors” who used to come trooping through the house, I met most of them, suddenly stopped. Whenever these men and women came in, money was made by DiMarkco but no one else. Gifts were made, a big screen telly was put downstairs after one visit, but no extra pay was laid on.

As Publisher, Chandler kept everything segmented, a lot of the editors had no idea what others were doing. There were complaints. One “high earner” fell out of favor after complaining too regularly about being left out of the loop. DiMarkco’s way of handling anything he dislikes is to ignore it. He will stop responding to phone calls, Skype calls, emails and texts.

He will designate someone else to handle the “problem.”

Finally, after accruing enough credit to do so, I made my escape. My main excuse was to come down and look after my parents (which was, in part, true) and I left. Shortly after arriving in Arizona, the only other editor who’d been at GLV longer than I, left.

I read Carol Tice’s 2014 article then and realised that I should have read it sooner. Although to be honest it would not have helped too much as I could not afford to leave the publication or the house. Reading it again today made me wonder just how many other folks have been taken in by the scammers out there in Internet-land.

For the novice freelance writer, like I was back in 2013, the Internet can be an arena full of landmines. Searching for paid work is difficult. I’d already had one unhappy experience before hoisting my flag with the Guardian Liberty Voice, née’ Guardian Express, so I knew the playing field  can be fairly dodgy. My experience at GLV has left me a little wiser and poorer, but I can impart some advice.

HEART-FELT ADVICE:

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. This adage has been around forever and applies to this situation, even if the sales pitch doesn’t seem too far-fetched (the GLV pitch certainly didn’t at the beginning) look at it cautiously.

The minute something doesn’t add up, get out. When two plus two end up equaling more or less than four, it’s a clue that this is shady business; so turn around pick up your laptop and get out.

If English is a second, or even third, language of many who work there as writers. Same deal, grab that laptop, PC or MacBook and get out.

Quantity is more important than quality? Get out, it’s a content mill and they will leach you dry. Enough will never be enough and your rate of pay will not equal your output.

Overall, any place that caters to people who cannot really write, should be avoided. At GLV there were many who will never get a job writing for any reputable company. Sad but true and many editors were driven mad by having to rewrite entire 500 word articles and consequently left disgruntled and disillusioned.

The advice to start one’s own blog for money is good, if you can write. I’ve always said and repeated this the entire time I was at the GLV, “if you have no talent in this area, no amount of training will teach you or make you a better writer.”

One last bit of hard-earned advice. It is hard to navigate the world of freelance writing and even harder to find any site that wants to pay writers anything that can be called significant. This is not just prevalent to the Internet; I met a critic who wrote for a “real,”  but small, printed publication who only got $10 per review. So here is the last bit of my “heart-felt” advice: As the old joke goes, unless you’ve gotten a real break? Don’t give up your day job.

Yet.

5 February 2015