Freelancing, Ethics, and Technology

When I quit my corporate job in 2015, a friend asked, “Kristi, what are you going to now?” I simply replied, “I don’t know, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer.”

The truth is, I had no idea how I was going to make a living, but I was determined to never have to commute again. So, I quickly enrolled in an online content marketing course and began my journey into the world of freelancing.

The problem was, the further I dove into the course, the more I started to dislike what I was learning. The sole purpose of marketing, especially content marketing, is to manipulate a reader’s emotions to convince them to buy something they really don’t need. Many times, this means twisting words to where the claim is exaggerated or uses words designed to trigger an emotional response such as fear or vanity.

After doing my weekly homework assignments, I would often feel guilty for the work I completed because I felt like I wasn’t being authentic. I didn’t believe in the products I was writing about and it showed. My assignments often sounded cheesy, like a used car salesman pawing at the purse strings of a naïve young woman. Many times, rather than feeling proud of what I completed, I felt like I needed to take a shower.

Although I have since built a career as a freelance writer, I consider myself a journalist, not a marketer. I prefer to report on facts rather than manipulate people out of their money. I want to educate people to make better purchasing decisions, not bombard them with more emotional static.

Ethics > Profits

I had another attack of ethics in my writing career which cost me a client recently. For me, no paycheck is worth writing about something I don’t support.

Certainly, I recognize I couldn’t do my job as a freelance writer without technology. I am not a technophobe, but I do believe that technology has far over-stepped its boundaries in our lives as humans. After spending 20 years in mobile technology, I feel like I contributed to the smartphone addiction plaguing our society today.

So, after accepting a position to do some writing for a marketing agency, one of the first articles I was asked to write involved describing their technology. After a quick lesson in their data systems, I immediately started to question whether or not this was the right client for me.

Cyber-Stalking for Profit

By using the device ID on any smartphone, they acquire the geo-location data points the phone stores and then use that information to not only create consumer profiles but to provide on-demand marketing opportunities wherever you are… for example:

Through your data, marketing agencies can tell that most Saturdays, you go to the park with your kids. On Sundays, you spend doing home repairs because of your trip to Lowes or Home Depot, and that you spend your weekdays at an office complex in the city. They can pinpoint specific times when you’re using your phone by the apps you use, and even see the items you search for through your search engines and shopping apps. Then, once they know your interests, when your geo-location pings 5 yards outside Wal-Mart — they can send you a mobile advertisement for Hostess Twinkies.

That just doesn’t sit right with me. So, I declined future work from that client.

While I may never get rich as a freelance writer, I can at least be sure the content I write is meaningful, honest, and value-added. I refuse to cheapen myself or my writing by selling out and working for the simple purpose of earning a paycheck.

I spent 20 years in a windowless office, working for a paycheck… today, I work for concepts far more valuable than money:

· Integrity.

· Pride.

· Freedom.

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