16 September 2009

Ethics and Freelance Writing

by Cheryl Santa Maria

We freelance writers wear many hats.

In my two-plus years in the biz I've written company profiles, how tos and medical excerpts. I've always found this befuddling, as I'm not qualified to give advice on any of the aforementioned topics. A freelance writer needs to eat, though, so when an obscure assignment comes my way I do what many great freelance writers have done before me: I take a deep breath, roll up my sleeves, and spend the morning collecting information on Wikipedia.

I'm at the bottom of the writing totem poll which means I'm one step above broke, so I was pretty excited when an offer for a paid assignment appeared in my inbox. Without even reading the description I hastily accepted, promising that the piece would be completed as quickly as possible.

The freelance job itself was pretty easy - I was asked to write a couple of profiles about an “up and coming” health food distributor. Having never heard of the company or their products, I ran a quick Google search. The reviews were not good.

After spending an hour reading about the countless ways the company has swindled, deceived and stolen from their trusting clients I've come to the conclusion that this “up and coming” company is nothing short of an epic scam, and I've decided not to do the assignment.

I'll write about just about anything, but knowingly promoting a company that steals from people is wrong. Freelance writers provide a valuable service and we shouldn't have to compromise our morals for a measly buck. It's important to research prospective jobs and clients before agreeing to take on a job. Promoting a company with a shady reputation is more than unethical; it also damages your credibility, which can in turn damage your career. It's hard to turn down jobs when you're starving, but in the long run, it's worth it.

You can't put a price on a clear conscience.


  1. I agree with you. Good choice. Swindling can make a career and it'll still be wrong.

  2. I get eager about jobs in my field, too. It's a shame when people misrepresent themselves, but sometimes if it's only one or two bad reviews, it could be the work of an ex-partner.

    I try to keep that in mind before I turn somethings down. However, if it is about a product and there are numerous bad reviews, well, that's certainly to be avoided.

  3. It is important to have morals, because the deeper you dive into uplifting bad companies, the quicker your morals will disappear because the money will be so good. It's always the bad companies that pay so well. Such a shame.