There are many types of freelance writing success, and only you can determine what exactly that means for you. But no matter what your definition of success is, there are plenty of ways to get there. And it's important to know that you don't have sell out to make that happen.

What Does it Mean for a Freelance Writer to Sell Out?

Selling out is when you put money before your personal and professional ethics. It's when you do things you aren't truly comfortable with simply because you're being paid to do it. For example:

  • You accept payment to write a positive product review when you don't actually like the product.
  • You write in a niche that you consider unethical (for example, you might not feel right writing for a gambling site if you or a loved one faced gambling addiction).
  • You go beyond writing to become almost more of a spokesperson for a client, getting paid to exploit your own network or audience (such as being paid to say how a great a company is without disclosing that financial relationship fully).
  • You write for clients who have done something you consider unethical (maybe they were involved in an environmental disaster for example), and you wouldn't normally want to be associated with them. (This happened to me last year, and I made the decision to walk away.)

What might be selling out for one writer is perfectly acceptable to another. The real hint that you're selling out is your own comfort level. If you feel uncomfortable or if you feel like you have to hide that work from others, you might be selling out as a writer. But you don't have to.

Avoid Selling Out and Still Make Money

You can turn some of these situations into profitable opportunities without leaving your comfort zone. Here's how:

  • When you hear from a prospect in a niche that violates your professional ethics, refer that gig to a colleague who does cover that niche. The more gigs you refer to other writers, the more likely it is they'll think of you when they have gigs to refer -- possibly gigs more in line with your interests. Remember, just because you aren't comfortable with a topic, it doesn't mean colleagues won't be.
  • Always use a company's products or services before you publish a favorable review in an attempt to make affiliate sales or earn from it in other ways. It keeps you honest with your readers, and they respect that. You'll make more affiliate sales, and more money, when your readers know they can trust you to help them make buying decisions.
  • Always disclose financial relationships to your readers. Again, it goes back to trust. You won't make money with sponsors or advertisers if you don't have an audience for them to reach. And losing your audience's trust is the fastest way to lose your audience.
  • Make sure your writer platform appeals to the type of clients you actually want to work for. When you attract clients that satisfy your professional goals and ethics, you can make plenty of money without even feeling the temptation to sell out.

Remember, selling out as a writer is what happens when you'll do anything for money, even when it violates your own standards. We all need to make money. We're in business after all. But we can make that money (and good money at that) while still being true to ourselves and our readers.

Have you ever taken on a project where you felt you might be selling out? If a client were to do something completely contrary to your ethical standards, would you be able to walk away? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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