For freelance writers (or, any sort of writer) “plagiarism” is a contemptible word. Unfortunately, the world of writing is nothing if not exceptionally competitive, and some try to use this despicable tactic for their own betterment. Then again, with so much being written these days, it’s easy to unknowingly plagiarize content. There are a number of ways that freelance writers can safeguard their existing work, and create consistently unique content.
How the Plagiarism Game Was Played
Back in the days when freelance writing was really starting to become a source of income for people, it was easier for would-be freelancers to have their work compromised. After all, there wasn’t much content on the Internet, so it didn’t seem as wrong to write one or two new articles according to a potential employer’s guidelines as part of a job application.
And so, the plagiarism door was wide open. Sure, some employers really did want to see writing samples, and nothing more. However, there were others who weren’t really employers, but instead people who needed content for their websites and weren’t about to spend the time writing it themselves.
So, innocent freelancers would send in articles and never hear back. Yet, if they kept those articles and decided to search for a sentence or two of said work, they might find that their content was now on a website under someone else’s name. It could even happen after actually being hired for a job – “editors” would consistently reject an article, yet that article would still be posted with “word spinning” software changing the article to go unnoticed by plagiarism detectors.
It’s nice to see that the majority of postings for freelance writing jobs ask that prospective candidates send links to published work. Or, some employers have an initial screening process in which candidates are asked to complete a paid test article or two. Once in a while, there is a job posting requiring an unpaid test article that really is just a way for employers to evaluate how writers can adapt to their house style. However, it’s still better to avoid any preliminary writing that doesn’t offer payment.
Internet search engines are constantly updating their requirements so that content can rank well. If a would-be plagiarizer takes a freelance writer’s existing content and attempts to make it their own, chances are that it will be found and be discredited. Regardless, freelance writers should always thoroughly read the conditions of any contract. Non-disclosure agreements might actually say that the content is to be ghostwritten, and that once it’s submitted, the author has no rights to whatever happens to it.
So, what about a scenario in which a freelance writer is working on a project for a client, yet unintentionally plagiarizes content? If it’s quoted content, then that might appear as plagiarized via software scans – that sort of content should be OK, though, provided it’s properly cited. To save time and avoid rewrites, it’s important to regularly check content for plagiarism as it’s being written. Copyscape is, perhaps, the most widely used software for this purpose, with more features being available for paid subscribers. I have found the Plagiarism Checker by Small SEO Tools to be a great, free alternative.
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