Freelance Writing: How To Break The Shackles Of Slavery

freelance-writing-ethicsThe keyboard shackled to your wrists are destroying your soul and creativity. That’s how it feels when you are a freelancer working for someone who does not appreciate you.

Many people who employ freelancers are determined not to pay a fair wage. Their logic is that there is always someone who will do the job for less.

You have the key to your shackles though. You just have to say, “NO! Enough!”

I still have the scars around my own wrists! The worst part? I put the shacles on myself.

Early in my career I was working for the owner of a popular website.

It was an exciting opportunity for me, and I eagerly threw myself into creating the best posts I possibly could as a way to spread my byline and wriggle my way deeper into the industry.

I was willing to write to grow my reputation and the low rates were something I just had to put up with until I was famous.

In the beginning he seemed reasonable, but then he started demanding more and more. He even stopped paying me the pittance that he had been.

At the same time, I was dedicated to the site itself. Being given the chance to write and be seen was thrilling. I wanted to do well, and to be a good representative of the brand.

Within a few months, some conflicts arose with the owner of the blog. He was late with his payments, and yet he was becoming more and more demanding of my time and energy. He was requiring longer pieces of work, with more details and side items he would originally supposed to cover, despite not being up to date with invoices.

One day, he was aggressive towards me and made comments about my looks. Nobody has the right to try to make me feel bad about my appearance. Nobody. I remembered where I had put the key to the shackles. I turned the key and walked away from the keyboard.

As I stretched my arms out I realized that I had walked away from the self-imposed enslavement that my dream writing work had become.

I consoled myself that my name would be attached to everything I had written, that people would follow my link to find out more about me.

I checked a few days after I had terminated our master/slave relationship. Every trace of me on his site was gone. He had stolen all my articles, all my thoughts and creativity and was now passing it off as his own.

He stole my work, and I had no recourse.

The Need For Clear Ethics In Blogging

When I confronted him, he denied any wrong doing. He said it was his site, and he had paid for the content. I pointed out that some of it was unpaid, and he deleted those posts but kept the rest. He claimed there was nothing unscrupulous about this, and then stopped responding to messages.

This is unfortunately not an uncommon story. It is also not entirely one sided. He was right about him being within his rights to steal that content. We had no agreement beyond verbal, and he had paid for the ones he plastered his name on.

Yes, it was shady. But there is no clear code of ethics when it comes to blogging, only unspoken rules that some people just won’t abide by. Their status as “unofficial” gives the unethical a chance to skate by on technicalities, leaving those of us who were naive in the dust.

Kari of Be Happy Tips has a very good point here:

It takes some courage to leave. I run a Facebook page for writers at iWriter (a ghostwriting site that offers quick pay, but many unethical clients), and I see too many people who are willing to put up with crap for a few bucks. And they don’t even get their name on the articles!

I’ve had some bad experiences with clients like this in terms of word count. Unfortunately, giving unethical people an inch often results in them wanting a mile. I find that decent clients who want more are also willing to pay for more without me having to ask, and many others just need to be reminded. If they are not willing to pay more, I nip it in the bud right from the beginning. I wasn’t always like that, but I quickly realized that I just can’t do more work for free. My times too valuable for that.

I found some links and templates:

Do you have any more to add here? Please share your resources!

Many thanks to my editors who helped me make this article better: Philip Turner of Time Money Problem and Kari of Be Happy Tips


  1. By Kari


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  2. By Mary Davis


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