Monday, March 16, 2015

Following my Ethical Compass

Last week I turned down a job. I feel certain that act will stand out in my memory for a long, long time.

Let me explain. I am still getting my business running. I don't yet have enough work to fill my time, so I'm seeking clients fairly aggressively. Because income has been thin the past couple of months, every dollar a client pays me really counts.

So turning down work is a big, bold step. Why would I do that?

I had learned of the job via Craigslist, where the company posted an ad without a lot of details about the company itself. I met the qualifications so I emailed my résumé to the contact listed in the ad. I got a response within a few days asking for a writing sample, which I provided. At that time, I learned the company name and began some investigation into them.

A it turns out, the company engages in a practice I find unethical. What they do falls in a legal gray area, and some people have sound reasons for supporting the type of work they provide. I, however, feel their service is harmful. Their mission clashes with my personal ethics.

I spoke on the phone briefly with the man I had been in email contact with, and he was very excited to have me join their team. He had work for me right away, and the pay would not have been bad.

It was a real challenge to decline to take that work. It wouldn't have filled the gaps in my time completely, but it would have gone a long way toward doing so.

But I know that eventually I will have enough work to fill my time and enough income to pay my bills. And then I will look back on this decision and be proud of myself.

I began freelancing so I could have the professional freedom to take only projects I felt had merit. I have always disliked doing work someone else deemed important, especially when the product clashed with my sense of ethics. If I sell out when times are tough, I've gained nothing by freelancing except a great deal of stress.

An ethical compass is useless if it points toward money. I am glad mine points true, even if it's difficult right now. I am setting myself up for a better road ahead by doing the right thing even when it's the hard thing.

I know this decision was the right one, and I know I will always feel good about having made it.

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