Why Your Integrity Matters as a Freelance Writer (and the Tale of My Own Stupidity)

Last week I witnessed a pretty poor judgement call (alright, it was a pisspoor judgement call) unravel into the downfall and excommunication of a member from a forum I’m a part of. The short version is that said excommunicated member plagiarised another member’s copy. And then posted it in the forums for all to see. Not smart. I don’t want to publicly out him, so let’s call him Dingbat.

I feel for Dingbat, really. He clearly has confidence issues, among a whole host of others that I won’t go into because, hey, privacy. But what he did was fucking stupid, and it resulted in the loss of a fantastic network of like-minded entrepreneurs – and don’t even get me started on what his prospective clients would’ve thought if they’d known what he’d been up to.

I’m going to take it for granted that none of you guys will ever be stupid enough to plagiarise somebody else’s work.

But that’s not the only way to damage your integrity. I made a whopping error of judgement myself once upon a time. I wanted to take the easy way out to see if I could get away with it. (Spoiler: I couldn’t.)

And that’s all integrity is, really: doing things the hard way, because you know it’s right.

I know you’re dying to hear that gem, but first let me tell you why your integrity is so frickin’ important. And by ‘tell you’ I obviously mean ‘hammer home’, because I’m pretty sure you already have a good grasp on why integrity is important.

Why Integrity is So So SO Important in Business

Here’s what will happen if you dropkick your integrity into the seedy vessel of shit that is the internet, without a second thought (or even a first one) for doing the right thing,

People Won’t Recommend You
Word of mouth is hands down the best way to find new clients. If somebody’s looking to hire, say, a copywriter, and somebody they know recommends you – unhesitatingly and ecstatically – who do you think they’re going to choose? Yeah. YOU. You become the obvious choice because somebody they (presumably) respect has personally recommended you.

Now what do you think Dingbat’s chances are of being recommended by somebody within that forum? That’s right. Zero. He has zero chance of that ever happening. Whereas I, who have my integrity in tact (mostly), have found multiple clients and students within that forum, and I’ve made some good friends in there to boot. I can’t even quantify the fantastic things that have happened to me because of my good relationships with people in that forum.

People Won’t Hire You
Ditto here. If nobody’s recommending you… nobody’s going to hire you. Okay, the odd few who don’t know about the whole debacle may hire you. But if your integrity’s still hovering around the ‘not good’ line, they won’t be hiring you again – or recommending you to anyone else.

Your reputation is what’s at stake here. And once a reputation has been left in tatters, it’s pretty fucking difficult to build it back up. And we already know you don’t like doing things the difficult way. You like to do things the easy way, and that’s why your integrity is in the pits.

I read a good quote once. Something about taking a fucking long time to build a good reputation, and about two seconds to knock it down. I have no idea who said it, and whoever it was almost certainly didn’t say ‘fucking’, but, you know. Principle’s the same.

People Won’t Respect You
Respect is a bit like a good reputation, I guess. Without integrity, it’s difficult to get. And if people don’t respect you, they won’t treat you with respect. Duh. And what happens if you ain’t got no respect? Fuck all.

Well, no. Not fuck all. Some things will happen, but they won’t be good things. They’ll be things like having your rates hammered down. People talking to you like you’re an insect. Clients calling you up at 11pm or demanding email responses within minutes or refusing to sign contracts. Shit you don’t want to have to deal with. Nor should you have to. But didn’t anyone ever tell you you have to earn respect?

The Thing That Ties It All Together
Noticing a common theme? Yeah. It’s all about people. Messing around when it comes to your integrity is a surefire way to fuck up your relationships with people, yet it’s those very relationships you rely on when it comes to building a successful business.

What you want is for people to respect you and recommend you. If they don’t, you’re going to end up running one of those awful businesses where you have to crawl up to your prospects, kneel in front of them and plead them to work with you. You’ll get paid shitty rates and work all hours of the night trying to make rent.

So, had you forgotten the part where I said I was going to tell you about my own fuckup? Yeah, I almost did too. Sadly I remembered, and now I have to tell you about it.

My Own Tale of Woe

It all started when I decided to offer more highly paid blogging services, which I intended to outsource to a solid team of writers I had built up. But the thing is, people come to me because they want personality in their writing. And I’m good at that. Damn good. It’s hard to do, too. My writers are good, but they don’t quite have the same knack that I do. That’s why I write all my clients’ copywriting projects myself, and only outsource article writing work.

So I scored this new client on the basis that I was going to provide him with personality-filled blog posts. My plan was to outsource the writing itself, and then go back in myself and add the personality. Which, stupidly, I simply decided not to do. I wanted to see if I could pass the original article off as good enough without having to do any extra work myself.

The client accepted the article, no problem. But then a couple of weeks later, he requested a page of copy. I quoted my rates, upon which he told me, ‘Why is that so high?’ So I told him it’s because I’m fucking good. (I dare say I expressed it more eloquently than that, but I won’t bore you with the details.) And then it happened. ‘But that blog post you sent me wasn’t anything special.’

Oh. Shit.

He was so right. And I knew it. Eventually I did get him to pay my copywriting rates for the page he wanted, but not until after I had gone in and rewritten the original article to the standard I had promised in the first place. That was my idea. His idea was for me to write the page he wanted first, and he would decide afterwards whether it was worth paying my rates for. (To which he got a big UM HELL NO.)

So do good work, and do the work you say you’re going to do. After all, you don’t want to end up like poor old Dingbat.