Sunday, June 15, 2008

Observing Online Etiquette

The past weekend was full of juicy drama on some of the online communities I frequent. At one writer's forum in particular it got downright nasty when one writer accused another of not paying him for outsourced work he had completed and turned in. He explained that he had tried contacting the accused with no success, so he was looking to the members of the forum for help in resolving the issue. Things escalated quickly when the accused writer turned around and accused the writer of turning in sub par work that needed to be rewritten. Let's just say it got uglier from there…

This incident took me back to Jodee's post over at where she writes about the need to be careful of how you present yourself online. Basically if you work online you've got to behave just as professionally as you would in the brick and mortar world. Remember that old saying about six degrees of separation? Well, you never know who is watching you online. The online community of freelance writers and online clients who hire is a lot smaller than you might think. If you're susceptible to going on tirades over the most innocent comments or posting confidential email posts containing client information on online forums to support your arguments, people will shy away from working with you.

Now I have been to different online forums socializing and discussing sensitive topics that have gotten me all fired up. But since I have been working professionally as a freelance writer, I have learned to slow down and remember that others are quietly watching the conversations taking place. The forum I mentioned earlier is known for having newbie freelance writers and prospective clients hanging out. You have to really represent because when that potential client finally comes out of the shadows to post that he or she needs writers, you could be overlooked because of all those shenanigans.

Even when people aren't fighting, I have witnessed some veteran freelance writers being rude to others who are just looking for guidance. What's that all about? We were all new once and I am a big believer in paying it forward. The result has been writers posting their disappointment at the lack of support and leaving the forum for good.

Now I admit I have a temper. I know my triggers online and off, so I avoid them. I am trying to run a business here, so I need to present myself at my best to others. After all, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

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