There are a number of ways that a freelancer can lose her business. Sometimes, the economy takes a dive and she can’t recover. Sometimes, she isn’t good at what she does. Sometimes, she falls prey to one of the first six deadly sins of freelancing. She doesn’t plan, she doesn’t market, she aims too high or too low.
There is something else, though, that can destroy a freelance business. Of the seven deadly sins of freelancing, this is probably the most serious, the most severe, and the one sin with implications far beyond the freelancing business.
Deadly Freelancing Sin #7: Sacrificing Integrity
The old cliché tells us how “nice guys finish last.” We see examples of corporate leaders who do horrible things to get where they are. We hear about people climbing the career ladder, all the while stepping on the fingers of those below them. On, and on, and on it goes. People everywhere sacrifice their integrity and their own moral compass in order to get ahead.
Do you want to know why we hear about them? It’s because of this: most successful people don’t get ahead by sacrificing their integrity. They work hard, they treat each other justly, and they earn their living. That’s the nature of the universe: if you work hard, you’ll receive a reward. These examples of scumbags who destroy others lives to get to the top aren’t inspirations; they’re warnings.
Most freelancers I know didn’t start out doing it full time. They spent their time in the corporate world, working for someone else. At some point or another, they left. In some cases, it was just a case of burnout; they were tired of running someone else’s race and wanted to run their own for a while. In many other cases, they left because they had a boss that asked them to do something unethical.
Maybe it was a matter of writing copy for a product you knew was flawed. Maybe it was about neglecting your family because your boss said you had to install a server in the middle of the night and be in the office by seven the next morning.
Maybe it was because you were asked to do something illegal or unethical. Regardless, a good number of freelancers left that world, at least in part, on ground of integrity.
Why is integrity important for the freelancer? There are several reasons.
At the end of the day, few things will help you sleep better than knowing you’ve worked hard, haven’t cheated anybody out of anything, and that your work on this planet has made a difference. Maybe it’s refusing to positively review a crappy product on your blog just to make a few pennies in affiliate sales. Maybe it’s spending a few extra minutes on a project to make sure the client will be happy with it. However you do it, treating your freelance work with integrity helps you avoid a cognitive dissonance that, in the end, is harmful to your own psyche.
Freelancing isn’t a zero sum game, especially when it comes to Internet freelancing. Yes, you are going to compete with other freelancers for the same gigs. Sometimes, you’ll get the gig, sometimes your competitor will. Once that competition is over, though, chance are you are going to want to collaborate with other freelancers. You are going to build up a community of colleagues in the freelancing community. If you’re continually screwing other freelancers over in one way or another, word is going to get around and you’ll find yourself edged out of the community.
It’s not just among other freelancers, though, that integrity matters. Even more than with your peers, integrity matters to your customers. If you’re a customer, and you have the option between the nice guy and the jerk, assuming the work is of a similar quality and cost, you’re going with the nice guy. Running your freelance business with integrity not only lets you feel better about yourself, it also increases your bottom line through repeat business and the best marketing strategy ever: word of mouth.
The Proof Is In The Pudding
Take a look around the freelance blogosphere. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to deal with some of the biggest names, you know that they’re people of integrity. Heck, some of them are just nice folks. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of big-name freelancers with whom I’ve had a bad experience or even heard tales of anyone else’s bad experience.
They don’t seem to feel the need to step on others to get ahead. They don’t cut corners on their products to save some time or money. They don’t shill for crappy products just to make an affiliate commission.
On a final note, let me just add that I’m not trying to impose my moral code on anyone. My ideas about integrity are probably different than yours, at least to some degree. No, I’m merely suggesting that there’s a basic principle in the universe that says we get out of life what we put into it, that we ought to treat others how we want to be treated.
Hard work will pay off, and being kind to others, even in our freelance business dealings, will eventually come back around to us in a positive way.
About the author: Bob Younce is a full-time Internet writer and writing mentor living in Linwood, Michigan. He is dedicated to helping Internet writers to achieve their dreams. Visit Bob at The Writing Journey or follow him on Twitter.