With more and more people becoming freelancers and the majority taking on freelance writing for blogs and websites, I have discovered that a vast percentage of these writers have never formally been taught proper writing ethics.
Just as journalists must use ethical means, so should freelance writers. As a matter of fact, if a freelance writer will follow the journalist’s code of ethics, they will be well respected.
Straight from the Society of Professional Journalists, here is the Journalist Code of Ethics.
I suggest that you take a copy of it and put it in front of you as you are writing.
Now, here are 13 MUSTS to be an ethical freelance writer:
When we write anything of non-fiction, we must check and double check to make sure that we are telling truth.
Unless you are writing a piece of fiction, the readers want to know the truth.
If you tell anything other than truth, you will quickly lose respect and trust.
2: Be Respectful
Even if you disagree with a person’s stance or you just do not like the person, as a freelance writer, you should show respect for any, and everyone.
The fact is: if you want to be respected, you need to show respect.
3: Gifts for Favored Articles
As a freelance writer, this is a difficult ethical area…and questionable.
So an author sends you a free book for you to review. Is that wrong?
As long as you are honest in your review. If it is good, Good; but if it is bad, you say it.
I would say that this ethical stance primarily stands for journalistic areas. If you are writing a piece and someone gives you a gift to make them look good in the article, you will be breaking this ethical stance if you favor them.
Just use common sense and you should be fine.
4: Do Not Defame
This is a code of ethics must that I see broken often.
When you defame your fellow writers, you defame our profession. If you cannot win bids without shooting down other freelance writers, maybe you should go push carts at Walmart.
5: Don’t Allow Sources To Edit Your Article
So you interviewed a source and they ask you to send them a copy of the article before it is published.
They send it back saying they want this and that changed.
That is unprofessional!
You can ask them via the phone if they meant this or that, but never send a completed article and allow them to change it.
Only clients that are paying for the piece have the right to edit it.
6: Be Humble
The fact is that no one really cares for a person that thinks they are better than everyone else.
It is okay to point out your talents and abilities, but doing so in a humble way.
7: Spinning Your Own Articles To Resell
This is another questionable area.
As a matter of fact, I have used similar articles as what I am writing now in other places.
The biggest key is to make it completely different.
The best means to check is through Copyscape. I suggest using Copyscape for all your works to make sure you haven’t accidentally used something you read elsewhere.
8: Be Professional
Is there anything wrong with sitting in your pajamas at 3 AM to complete the blog post for your client in Ireland?
I see no issue with that, but if that client wants to Skype at 10 AM, I really suggest you get dressed and look professional.
Be professional, act professional and you will get professional clients.
9: Do Not Plagiarize
Did I really need to add this?
It is wrong and you know it.
Do not steal another person’s works… Use Copyscape to make sure you did not do so in error.
10: Use An Unbiased Approach
I watch many journalists who need to really take a look at this ethical rule.
There are going to be times that clients will ask you to write material favoring a certain side, so this can be a questionable rule in those cases.
But if you favor a certain side and need to write an article that takes a middle of the road approach, you need to show the pros and cons of both sides.
11: Be Reliable
The ethical freelance writer meets deadlines and does what they say they will do.
It is that simple!
12: Be Reachable
How would you react if you visited a store and it wasn’t open on a Tuesday at 11 AM? Thursday at 2 PM?
You would probably find a store that stays open during business hours.
Freelancing is a business. Are you open during freelance business hours? Can clients reach you?
Here is an important ethical consideration for freelancers.
Let me throw an example at you:
You have a regular client that has a travel blog that you write for. They also sell vacation plans. You have been writing for this client for 1 year and they have been loyal to you.
You receive an email from this clients competitor offering to pay you much more.
Loyalty freelancer…. LOYALTY!
“I’m sorry but at this time I cannot accept that position because of a conflict of interest. I will contact you if that changes.”
That is the best way to handle that situation.
Keep in mind that as a freelancer, you are representing the freelancer community.
Please help freelancers keep a solid reputation.
Be ethical and success will follow you.
Please leave any questions or comments below.