Leap: Keeping Your Integrity as a Freelance Writer

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Today’s post was supposed to be a triumphant one. This week I had closed the gap completely and in less than 4 months figured out how to cobble together the pieces to cover all of my expenses with freelance work. That changed around 2pm yesterday when I decided that my integrity was worth more than a steady freelance writing assignment I’ve had since June.

It’s tough for me to see someone take credit for my work, no matter how well they compensate me. It happened quite a bit at my last company before I went out on my own and it’s happened to me to varying degrees as a freelance writer. In some companies, it’s a common scenario and unless you’re prepared to leave your role, it’s not an easy thing to prevent nor correct. As a writer, I’ve sometimes taken on assignments as a ghostwriter but the terms were quite clear and for only a very short period of time.

What happened to me yesterday was on another level entirely.

I have been writing a series of articles for a startup incubator since I left my corporate job. The placement was decent and the PR person placing them seemed genuinely interested in my work. Then I noticed that he began to append his own name to the byline as an editor of my work when he had not edited a shred of content. What’s worse, he not only included his name but also added in a link to his other company that had nothing to do with the startup incubator.

I wasn’t sure if this was a common industry practice so I reached out to my friend and colleague, Amanda, a tremendously talented and accomplished writer and editor. I was concerned that perhaps I was being a bit too sensitive about my work. She called BS on this kind of practice and suggested I do the same. I spoke to the PR person and his elaborate explanation for his decision made me feel even worse. I decided I couldn’t continue to write for him. The trust was gone.

I felt badly about it all afternoon but when I finally decided to walk, there was a lightness that appeared. I was spending a lot of time on these articles and though the rate was decent, I couldn’t compromise my values to keep that check coming in. Also, I need to focus my energies towards some bigger projects coming down the pike that need and deserve much more of my attention.

More importantly, I left my job 4 months ago determined to do work that generates joy and satisfaction, to create things that make this world a better place. I wasn’t doing that with this writing assignment. I was just treading the same old water when I really need to be out there charting new territory.

It would have been nice to stop using my savings to finance my new venture 2 months ahead of schedule but that would have come at far too high a price. So my time to hustle is not yet up. Luckily, I can hustle with the best of them.