Let’s get ethical, ethical.

I want to get ethical.

Let’s get into the ethical.

Let me hear your ethics talk, your ethics talk.


Now that you have Olivia Newton-Johns’ “Let’s get physical” song in your head 🤣, here is Rule 3 in “The 12 Rules of Freelance Writing“. Think of this rule as a way to establish a code of conduct for your freelance writing business.

ethics as a freelance writer

The Oxford dictionary defines ethics as “moral principles that govern a persons’ behaviour or the conducting of an activity”.

You may be asking what the heck ethics have to do with freelance writing.

Well…a lot actually.

I remember going for job interviews at different hospitals and they would always ask what the “guiding values or ethics” of the institution were, and what they meant to me. Creating our own business you should use the same foundation of using morals and ethics to guide your business practices.

We should have a set of ethics we abide by. You can incorporate your own guiding values that shape your business and your vision. However, I do believe there are several ethics that ALL freelancers should follow:

  • Do not plagiarise
  • Be honest.
  • Be reliable.
  • Show integrity.

Do not plagiarise!

Really, this should go without saying. But I am going to say it anyway. DO NOT COPY SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK! Simple.

Aside from the fact that is not what you have been hired to do, it is just plain rude and unethical. If you plagiarise the only thing that it will show is it that you have a lack of understanding and confidence, poor writing skills and are not prepared for the project you took on.

Do not be that person. You are better than that.

If you have been conducting research and writing on a heavily saturated topic, you can always use an online checker such as Copyscape to ensure that you have not unintentionally plagiarized.

Really though, the message is simple. Do not rip off other writers.

Be honest and transparent.

No one likes to feel like they have been taken for a ride.

If you are not honest and upfront with your clients, they have to wonder what you are hiding. Are you really as skilled as you say? Can you offer all that you state on your website?

You need to present information about yourself and your business that is true and correct. That accurately represents who you are, what you offer and how you conduct your business.

Do not offer something you cannot deliver!

Don’t promise an SEO focused blog post if you do not know the first thing about SEO.

Do not tell a client you can write a high-quality white paper while secretly googling what the heck a white paper is!

If you charge upfront fees, then make sure you clearly state this in your negotiations with your client. Just like if you charge late fees. Your client needs to know these things!

Be transparent about your expectations from them as a client, as you would hope they are doing for you. You want to foster healthy and positive working relationships that will hopefully lead to ongoing work or 5 start reviews to boost your reputation! And you cannot do that if you are not honest and transparent with your clients.

Be reliable!

Being a reliable freelance writer is good business practice. It ties in with honesty. If you cannot deliver what you promised, can you be trusted?

If you promise to deliver 100 product descriptions by the end of the week then you damn well better be sure you can deliver them!

Meet the demands and deadlines as set out in the contract with your client. I am hoping you have a writers contract or LOA?!

Always work ahead (I know I say this a lot, but I cannot stress it enough). Do not leave things until the last minute. Especially work-at-home-parents. Things always seem to crop up last minute, completely unexpectedly. If you work ahead, you will (fingers crossed) always hit your deadlines and prove to your client that you are reliable.

Again, this feeds back into positive testimonies for your business and building solid relationships.

Above all, maintain your integrity.

What is integrity? It is following your own moral and ethical convictions. It means doing the right thing at all times. Above all else, it means that you are TRUE to YOURSELF.

How does this relate to freelance writing? It relates in several different ways:

The unworthy client.

You will meet clients that are simply not worth your time. They will offer a pittance for your services. Or they will be rude, uncompromising and never happy with the work you produce. Be true to yourself. Know your own worth. Do not work for peanuts and do not work for a toxic client.

The client who wants you to write fake reviews and testimonials.

I mean, if you are really not bothered by the fact that an online shop could have 1000 fake 5-star reviews, then sure take on the work. But really, it is dishonest. I am not a fan of this type of work.

Writing for a company or business that goes against your moral beliefs or values.

If you are an animal lover would you work for a company that tests their products on animals?

If you absolutely HATE cigarettes would you write for a tobacco company?

Only you can answer those questions, and decide if the dollar value of working for those companies (even if it goes against your morals) is worth it.

Writing assignments for students.

This is a controversial topic. Some people are all for it. Some are against. Personally, I am totally against it.

I worked hard to pass my Bachelor of Applied Science (Nursing)/Bachelor of Health Promotion, and further study later for my Certificate in Critical Care. Would you want a nurse with those qualifications to have paid someone to do their assignments for them? Or a doctor? How about a lawyer?

I think it is very wrong to pay someone to complete your coursework. Besides that, what would the college or university do if they found out their students were paying someone else to do the work? Technically, it is cheating.

What it all boils down to, is treat your client how you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. Basic social conventions. Respect. Honesty. Integrity. Reliability. If you abide by these, you cannot go wrong. You will develop a solid reputation for your business with great reviews. Your clients will want to work with you again and again, and hopefully recommend your services elsewhere too! A perfect marketing tactic. And one that does not cost a thing!


Do you have a “code of ethics” to guide your business?

Have you come across an ethical dilemma in your freelance business?

Drop it in the comments below and tell us about it.

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