The 10 Commandments of Freelance Writers

As freelance writers, we all share a secret, unspoken code of ethics. It’s not enough for me that this code of ethics remains secret and unspoken though—I want to publish it and speaketh it. So here goes.

1. I am the Lord thy Client. Thou shalt not have strange clients before me. None of your clients wants to hear about your other clients. None of your clients wants to know that they pay less than the others or that their project is considered lower in priority. If your clients are like mine, they want to think they are your only clients and their projects are taking up all of your sweet, creative juices.

2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy client in vain. Don’t be improper or disrespectful when talking about your clients—unless you are ready for them not to be clients anymore.

3. Remember thou keep a Sabbath Day. Take a day off; at least one, every week. You are not a robot, a Stepford wife or a Disney automaton—don’t treat yourself like one.

4. Honor thy Mentors. There are many people who have been successful in this business a lot longer than you. You may disagree with them at times, but you should probably afford them a certain amount of respect since they are obviously doing something right. And I’m not talking about people who manage to make a living doing things you wouldn’t dream of doing, I’m talking about people who’ve been successful. It’s up to you to define 'successful'.

5. Thou shalt not kill another’s reputation. Don’t try to talk down another writer’s experience, work history, talent or whatever. Disagree, dislike, disengage—but don’t hurt their client business.

6. Thou shalt not commit adultery. If you are married, engaged, en-relationshipped in any way, don’t cheat on your significant other with your work. You can be passionate and even manage to be a workaholic, but don’t forsake your relationships for your business.

7. Thou shalt not steal other’s content. I’m not even going to get into this one. If you don’t know that this is bad already, then you've got problems this blog post ain’t gonna fix.

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness. There is no need to lie about your experience when talking to clients. Don't lie about what you have done, what you can do and what you will do---it'll catch up with you.

9. Thou shalt not covet other freelancers' success. I read an essay by an author the other day who said that when he reads the work of other writers he either feels superior to them because they suck (yeah, I’m paraphrasing) or he gets jealous. This may be his (and your) knee-jerk reaction, but try to separate your talent and your career from that of other freelancers. Don’t be jealous of their strides and successes—you’ll have your own. Jealousy does nothing but distract you from making your own way.

10. Thou shalt not covet other freelancers' goods. Freelancers buy toys, attend conferences, take vacations and do all sorts of things with their money that you might wish you could. Don’t you worry about what’s in someone else’s wallet, just look out for you and your family and do what’s best for you. If that means you can’t have the coolest toys when everyone else does, look at it as a character building experience—it’ll put hair on your chest.

What commandments do you work by?

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Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express,, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

7 thoughts on “The 10 Commandments of Freelance Writers”

  1. A new list of Commandments-love it!

    One I have: Thou shalt have no other freelance gods before thyself-honor yourself-continue to learn, take what you learn, and do what works for you.

  2. Just got to say everyone needs to take note of #3 and #6 especially.

    I got into the habit of working most evenings and then doing work on my laptop in bed a while back.

    Let’s just put it this way – there’s nothing less attractive than being laid in bed with your significant other and the only noises come from either of you are the “click click click click” as you type away.

  3. Great list of commandments! Taking the Sabbath day off sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll try it! Unless, of course, I’m inspired to write something 🙂


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