Writer’s Dilemma

You are a contract writer. You freelance for a living. One of your clients asks you for help with a project, and you agree to a meeting. When you get to the meeting, your client tells you about her client–a company that needs some help organizing their website, creating a site that’s easier to navigate. You ask a few questions, and the job seems like a good fit. The pay is in line with what you ask. You agree.

And then you find out your client’s client is a company whose goals you disagree with. Not just a little. A lot. There’s a wide breach between your beliefs and the company’s. What do you do? Refuse to take on the job? Tell your original client that you disagree with the viewpoints and turn down the job? Take the job, send a big invoice, and run?pencil.jpg

Here are a few things to think about while you are struggling with your authenticity and the money.

–If the client’s values are repugnant to you, if you find the company unethical or immoral, don’t take the job. No amount of money will make you feel right about it, and you can’t do a good job. While you are speaking with your client, ask who the organization is. If you recognize the name, you can turn it down right away. If your client can’t reveal the name of the organization, you might want to reserve the right to withdraw once you research them. Give a deadline–24 hours.

–If the client represents a different viewpoint from yours, even one you strongly disagree with, consider taking the job. Every writer should be exposed to views they don’t agree with. It’s good for you–it helps you question your assumptions, see facts from a different perspective, and open your mind.

–If you take the job, you are required to do your best work. Every web reader deserves to read clear, concise, well-written copy. Your calling as a writer is your priority. You deliver well-written, well-organized, logical and precise writing. This is what every organization should be required to put on the web.

There are more than 100 million websites in cyberspace. Almost all of them are badly reasoned, horribly written and cramped with confusing and irritating navigation. A few stand out as beacons of clarity. You can contribute to the small number of sites filled with intelligent writing and good explanations. You can help others understand what the client wants to say, what they stand for. Every company deserves to have their cause clearly spelled out to let the readers understand and choose.

It’s your choice to contribute or step away. Think before you do.

Examples of badly organized and hard to navigate websites.

Studies, articles, and common sense from Jakob Nielsen, information design guru.

Examples and help on writing, everything from columns to budgets.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, certified creativity coach and artist. See her work at QuinnCreative.com

5 thoughts on “Writer’s Dilemma

  1. Pingback: Active Voice » Blog Archive » Practical Advice for Writers

  2. Quinn,

    You are absolutely right. If you are starving, go to one of the creative head hunters or craigslist. The pay will be poor, but you can pick your clients and do excellent work. You can’t do good work when you have ethical problems.

    We recently almost fired a client we’ve had for 10 years because he was abusive to my partner. A friend helped us Terms of Engagement that he had to abide by or we would walk. Things have been much better since then.

  3. You learn what makes a bad site,Barbara, by looking at them and making your own different. Templates are fine–after all, blogs are templates. Freelance is not an easy life. But then again, I get to go take a walk in the sunshine this afternoon!
    Mari–so true. And I love the candlestick idea. . .even if it has been done!

  4. I haven’t personally had this experience happen to me but I have known people who took jobs with companies whose ethics and morals disagreed with theirs and it always ended badly, usually with the company blaming the employees for it’s problems. Unless you’re starving it’s just not worth what it will cost you spiritually to go against your own beliefs. If you’re starving, go steal some candlesticks from a church- oh no wait, that’s been done.
    This is great advice, Quinn.

  5. I went to several of The 10 Worst. Even I, still a computer neophyte for the most part, can tell these are bad, bad, bad. My new baby blog, (bosimagine.wordpress.com), though made from a template and not very original, I am still proud of the choices I made and how it looks. But then I’m looking through my own eyes, I admit.

    As for freelance writing, I’ve only done one big job, and it was a miserable fit for me. When I worked, I did a good job, but it was pure misery to keep going when I looked at that pile of papers for the job. Deadlines went by and I felt guilty and I swore never again. And 20 years later, I’ve kept my promise. And that’s that.


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