Business adviceBusiness strategy

It’s Illegal, it’s Immoral, or You Don’t Get Paid

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had an unprecedented experience – I’ve twice had to turn down work I’d been offered. Not because there was anything wrong with either job, but because the clients needed a very short deadline, and I was already flat out trying to meet existing deadlines. It seemed more honest to be upfront than to risk letting everyone down.

It did get me thinking, though, about what would make me turn down jobs that I could get done. There’s an old song which claimed that, if anything is fun, “it’s illegal, it’s immoral, or it makes you fat.” Well, making you fat is more the province of networking breakfasts (I can’t resist the full English) but perhaps it should be “it’s illegal, it’s immoral, or you don’t get paid.”

Illegal is pretty straightforward. I’ve never been asked to write the content for the Mafia’s website, or blogs giving advice on how to get away with embezzling your employer, but of course I’d turn down the offers.

Don’t get paid is clear enough, at least in theory. I work on short-term jobs, on the basis of payment after delivery, so I could do the job and find myself unpaid, although all my regulars are perfectly reliable. Of course, if it were a job that was going to take months to complete, it might be appropriate to negotiate interim payments, but in general I just have to work on the “once bitten, twice shy” principle.

But what about immoral? That can be a very personal judgement, and mine might not be the same as yours. I certainly don’t expect to agree with everything I write about, and one or two jobs I’ve done have been on topics that seemed just a shade distasteful.

On the other hand, they’re issues that (presumably) informed adults make their own decisions about. It would be rather different if, for instance, I were asked to write copy encouraging little girls to become sexed-up fashion victims. That would be beyond the pale.

There are one or two business sectors and stances I’d refuse, too. I wouldn’t write for the arms industry, or try to convince readers it’s OK to carry on polluting because climate science is rubbish. And there are certainly political parties I wouldn’t write for – in fact, I probably wouldn’t write for political parties at all. That’s a moral minefield.

I’ve never had a case where I couldn’t just think of it as a matter of personal taste, and maybe I never will. I’ll generally write about any topic you want, as long as it’s not illegal or immoral. And as long as I get paid.

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