I still consider myself somewhat new to freelance writing (although I'm fast approaching two years full-time!) One thing I found out early on is that I would have to establish some ethics about what I would and would not write.
Believe me, if you're struggling to make ends meet, you might be tempted to lay your ethics to the side temporarily, but in my himble opinion it's not worth it – especially if you're trying to build a professional reputation. A few of the ethical dilemmas I've faced include:
1) Being asked to write "college research material"
2) Write articles about how well a questionable product performs
3) Write erotic material (although using a pen name might work)
I'm sure I've encountered more situations than this, but these are the ones I've been faced with more than once. These may be okay for some, but here's where I draw the line.
Term paper writing is NOT copywriting
I had a very interesting weekend that began with a 6:55am phone call from a client Saturday morning. I didn't find out who the call was from until later that morning after checking my email and finding that they had also bombarded me with emails about several new projects they had waiting. The emails were sent at 5:30am.
My second surprise came when I opened the emails one by one to learn that the client was now asking me to write college term papers, critiques, book reviews and other "copywriting projects." Um, that's NOT copywriting, and I've already been to college and struggled with writing my own papers after waiting until the last minute to get started, thank you very much.
I was genuinely surprised because this client had once been a steady resource of projects like web copy, whitepapers, press releases and so forth. They explained in the email that their decision to provide writers with college research projects was because they wanted to make sure there was plenty of work available for their freelnacers during this economically challenging time. Yeah, right – I'm so sure that you're looking out for my best interest (insert eye roll here). Need I mention that the turn around time on these projects is often ridiculous - 10 pages or more of in-depth research due within 24 hours?
Term paper writing mills are big business
I hear from Terreece Clarke over at Freelance Writing Jobs that these paper mills are a fast growing "freelance writing" industry. I don't doubt it since I've seen students boldly pop up on writer forums seeking rate quotes to write their papers.
The sad thing is new writers really do have the potential to make a lot of money writing for these sites; but at what price? Terreece makes a strong point explaining how this type of writing only hurts the poor kid paying for the service. They'll get a harsh wake up call the day they find out every situation in life can't be fixed by throwing money at it.