Every now and then I come across a client who, for whatever reason, is under the impression that previous work I did for a different client may cause a conflict of interest. Current situation -- a magazine editor thinks my writing about Topic A for Client A would conflict with my writing Topic B for his magazine (which rarely publishes anything having to do with Topic A). He's handling it by putting a disclaimer on my byline. First time that's happened to me. Do I mind? Not really. It's actually free advertising. He's just told his readers that I write for companies like theirs. 🙂
But there are also client prospects who turned their backs because in the past (think five years prior), I'd written for one of the companies they deemed competitors. In one case, the woman asked me in a crowded convention hall if I'd worked for any of her competitors. I hesitated (really thinking before I answered), told her no (because it was the truth), then watched the skepticism spread across her face. I'm probably lucky not to have worked with someone who doesn't trust my word, but it kind of pissed me off to think she'd assume I'm lying. I pride myself in being truthful with clients -- sometimes painfully so (for them and for me).
Still, people are concerned about conflict of interest, sometimes overly so, in my opinion. I've never been a writer who couldn't separate my journalistic side from my marketing side. To me, I'm loyal to the one in front of me. They get my full attention and all of my effort. Never yet have I had to write anything that directly competed with any other company -- never.
But it does bring up an interesting point about conflict of interest and full disclosure. I'm the type who sends my client prospects a list of previous clients (where I can -- not breaking any NDA terms). They can see from the start if there's a potential conflict. If they think there's one, we can discuss it.
How do you handle conflicts of interest or client concerns about it?