Once I had a client that needed some writing done on financial topics which included those very unsavory payday loans you might keep seeing advertised late at night in infomercial-land.
I was young in my freelance career and hadn’t really experienced much in the way of ethical dilemmas in my work, so in the end, I tried to give this client what was asked for but still keep within a certain ethical boundary. I wound up writing about these payday loans, describing what they are and how they work, but also encouraging the reader to carefully read contracts and especially the fine print.
I wrote that nobody should ever sign a contract they don’t fully understand, and a few other reasonable cautions. I felt like I should probably never take on that kind of work ever again, but at least I wrote something that could not be disguised as snake oil.
But I was wrong. I learned later, confidentially, that my work had been turned over to another person who took out all of my reasonable words and basically distilled my work INTO snake oil. The client WANTED snake oil and wasn’t too happy that they got “read the fine print, too”.
That was a lesson I’ve never forgotten.
Ethical freelancing is important. It’s not up to me to tell YOU what YOUR ethics should be, but I can say from experience that when the little voice in your head starts bugging you with nagging urges to ditch a certain project because it’s making you feel crawly, listening is a very good idea. Even if it means losing that week’s income. In the long run, whatever you have to do to make up for that lost cash is worth it.
If there’s any advice to be gained from my experience, it’s that–don’t ignore your instincts, they’re there for a reason.