Some writers don’t like to discuss their clients openly for fear of judgement from friends, family, other writers and prospective clients – especially if they have a particularly controversial client.
Fear of judgement, whether mild or serious, is something that you’ve probably faced at some stage, considering you’re a writer who has put their work out there.
Some judgement is to be expected
If you dare to write an opinion piece for an online newspaper, for example, you’re often met with the fire of one thousand blazing suns – just like this Australian writer was. She wrote an opinion piece telling expectant mothers to stop bragging about natural births and experienced retaliation in the form of blog posts like this one which sparked a frenzy of furious social media comments calling the author of the first piece every name under those blazing suns.
Of course, if you write an opinion piece you have to expect a certain level of judgement.
But when you experience judgement resulting from your client list, it’s a different story.
Some writers probably care what others think of their clients, while many don’t give a damn.
When you meet other writers, do you make an assumption about their morals and ethics if you know they have worked for a client who has values you don’t agree with?
As a writer, are you someone who will work with anyone because business is business, or do your ethics come into play a lot when you’re deciding whether to pursue a controversial client?
What’s a controversial client?
Like many things in life – politics, parenting styles, football teams – determining whether a client is “good” or “evil” is an extremely personal decision.
In the health industry, there are plenty of potentially controversial clients – supplement companies with dubious marketing claims is a key example.
Generally speaking, controversial clients are companies, businesses and people who tend to provoke strong reactions in the public.
They could also be brands that either have cult followings or lack evidence to support their therapies or services. They might have questionable morals.
Or, they could be a blatantly unhealthy McClient.
Agreeing to work for a client doesn’t always mean you agree with their values
It’s important to know that agreeing to work for a client is not the same as telling the world you believe in everything they stand for.
Taking on an undesirable McClient doesn’t mean that you’re an evil capitalist who will do anything for money. It could just mean that you’re working hard to develop your career and to prove that you have what it takes to succeed you’ll do just about anything – including taking on a socially undesirable role.
On the other hand, if you’re so ashamed of being associated with your McClient that you don’t want to tell anyone about it, issues could arise.
- Quality: can you write enthusiastically about a client if you fundamentally disagree with their values?
- Effort: will you really put in as much effort as you do with your other clients if your controversial client leaves a bad taste in your mouth?
- Objectivity: if you need to present a balanced view and you have a certain strong opinion that goes against your client’s, you need to stifle your natural impulse which can be challenging.
- Morals: if your client is really making you feel funny deep down, chances are they aren’t worth the trouble
Why it’s unfair to judge a writer solely on their client list
Clients choosing writers should be able to look at the quality of the previous work as well as who the work was for before determining whether the client is a good fit.
The decision to take on a particular client is complex and varied. As a writer, your decision depends on your current circumstances at the time, including your financial situation, convenience of the work, suitability of the work, any competitor work you may have done, referrals, previous employers and, of course, personal preference.
At the end of the day, most writers are smart enough to treat business as business. Most writers are smart enough to not be infiltrated with the ideology of a McClient.
To assume otherwise would be to cast an unfair judgement on the writer without knowing anything else about them. Many writers have to write about subjects they don’t like or necessarily agree with from time to time.
As an employee, it’s common to disagree with a lot of what your employer does – ethically, politically, creatively. There could be aspects of your role that are rewarding and great for your career even if the company isn’t a 100% perfect fit.
Also, we can’t all be fortunate enough to secure writing jobs with the best clients – particularly with the way the online journalism space is heading. For a young writer – particularly a freelance writer building a portfolio – it’s often about taking what work you can get, when you can get it.
For most of us, a job is a job – end of story. We finish it off and we move on.
There is a line
I’m not saying that a writer can’t be judged on their client list. What I’m advocating is this: look at every piece of the pie before making a judgement. Look at the work the writer did. Was it one promotional flyer or was it an entire website of shonky claims? Was it well-written and clever, or was it obviously biased and distasteful?
Ultimately, these decisions come back to the quality of the writing and the ability of the writer. That and giving all writers a fair go.
What do you think?