with Mir Kamin
I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.
To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/
My children are pretty well past the Dr. Seuss stage, but we all still find it endlessly amusing to frame discussions involving choices in the manner of Green Eggs and Ham. Could you, would you, in a boat? Could you, would you, with a goat?
Using this context for a discussion that’s apt to make my head explode is a nice way to attempt to keep it light, I think. And so, today, I ask my fellow writers:
Would you write crap and append your name?
Would you extol a product that’s lame?
Could you, would you, on your blog?
Could you, would you, for a client’s dog?
Where’s the line when “selling out?”
Does it make you want to scream and shout?
(And yes, I’m aware that it’s a very good thing I’m not being paid for my poetry.)
Two things got me going on this. Wait; three, actually. First, a client I work with fairly regularly came to me a few months ago and asked if I might be willing to take on some different sorts of projects. Ones that would require me to write about them on my personal blog. I declined. My personal blog is my space; I don’t want to clutter it up with work, or be beholden to anyone for the content there. My client said they understood, but would I be interested for X number of dollars? (I won’t tell you what X was, but suffice it to say that it was a very large number. Like, striking distance to 5 figures kind of large.) I said no, again, though to be completely honest it was hard for me to do.
A few of my writing colleagues did take on the project we’d been discussing. I know they were paid exceptionally well. I also know it changed their personal blogs. I felt sad about it, because I’m a delicate flower and I have trouble shaking these things off. I understand why they did it; selfishly, I wished the offered money had been less, so that it would’ve been easier for principles to win over cash. And to be clear: I’m not saying this is always a bad model, just that when I see it happening on otherwise very personal blogs, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Next—a few months later—another client for whom I write regularly came to me with a pre-written piece and asked me to put my name on it. Not on my site, no, but on theirs. On a piece I didn’t write. When I expressed grave concerns about proceeding this way (what I said was “I have grave concerns about this and think we need to discuss further,” but what I thought was, “Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot”), I was met with… radio silence. I’m now more than a little concerned that the client in question may just fire me and find someone else willing to do what they’re asking. That would suck. But I’d rather be fired than do something I consider unethical, so here we are. (Again, to be perfectly clear: I know there are people who make their living as ghostwriters. I’m not one of them; if people are paying me for my writing, I have a problem with mixing someone else’s writing with my name.)
While all of this was bumping around in my brain, the wise and wonderful Susan Getgood went ahead and wrote an insightful piece of about blogger relations, touching on many of the new outreach programs and their possible pros and cons. The entire post is fascinating, as are the comments, the posts she linked, and some of the comments and linked posts on those posts.
It all seems to come down to trust, integrity, authenticity. I’ve always prided myself on my ethics. My personal blog is my personal space and it’s not for sale (aside from ads in the sidebar, which are clearly demarcated as such and don’t affect the blog’s content). On the other hand, I also own and operate a shopping blog where I do have embedded advertising, if you’d like to call it that, in the form of both affiliate links and product giveaways. I’m okay with that, because both are clearly explained in the FAQ section, and both are audience-relevant, I think, because the blog’s main focus is deals, shopping, and products.
On the other hand, I just became part of a new campaign with Frigidaire (over on Want Not) where I’ll be receiving brand new appliances (compensation) and will blog about my experiences with them. It’s one of the campaigns Susan discusses in her post. When Susan and I talked about it, beforehand, I told her I felt okay with the program because I’m not obligated to post and my content isn’t being monitored or edited in any way, plus I was completely transparent with my readers—I explained that I was getting the appliances for free as part of a test drive. What I would not (would never) do would be something like, “Oh, hey guys, I just happened to get this new fridge and I looooooove it!” That would be disingenuous, not revealing that it had been given to me.
What Susan’s post is making me realize (she talks about this in terms of signal to noise ratio) is that there are so many “outreach” programs going on, some good, some bad, some transparent and ethical, some shady, that the waters are getting muddy. And even if I make ethical choices, I may be viewed as being part of the murk.
That bothers me.
I’m not sure what—if anything—to do about it.
Where do you draw the line? Has your line moved? Is the changing field changing your line? Do you like green eggs and ham?
Subscribe to blog via RSS