I’ve done a spot of freelance writing here and there. I was pretty lucky, most of the work I did was with very legit groups and I was later hired on for additional work through people I had known in earlier circles. When I went about looking into getting back into freelance writing, I was horrified by some of the posts. As you put it: they either were vague about who they were; their sites were very 90s looking and basic; they wanted a writing test (not a sample) beforehand; they wanted to argue cost per article vs cost per word, etc. to the point where I felt it wouldn’t have mattered what I asked for — they just wanted someone to write for free.
Just because the word ‘freelance’ has free in it, does not mean the person doing the work is free.
Designing and building websites, for example, is another area where some clients will go out of their way to take advantage of the person doing the work. They hope the developer will add content and make changes for free. “It’ll only take you a few minutes.” Yeah, but those few minutes are mine. When I do any kind of work on a site, I will typically mention any additional work down the line will be priced out at the time the request is made. Like, if while I’m in the process of building the website and they suddenly want a new page or new sections added, they will be charged for it. It was not included in the original quote, therefore, it will be extra.