The Copywriter’s Unwritten Code of Ethics

Posted on February 10, 2011


Whether you are hiring a copywriter or performing work for a client, there is an unspoken code of ethics you should be aware of. Adhering to copywriter ethics ensures that clients receive the best services possible. It also protects our way of living. If you are not aware of the copywriter code of ethics, you definitely need to read this post.
Client Privacy
As a copywriter, you have an unwritten duty to protect your client’s privacy. This applies regardless of whether or not they request a non-disclosure statement. In a perfect world, non-disclosure statements would not exist. Unfortunately, too many copywriters did not understand the ethics of copywriting.
When you made the choice to become a copywriter, you made the decision to have much of your hard work bought for money. With the purchase of that work, you give away your copyright. It no longer belongs to you. You can no longer use or display this work. This, of course, can make it difficult to have sample work when a client requests it. However, there is a solution.
When given a topic to write on, I often write one additional article that is completely unique and different from the one I produced for the client. So, let’s say that the topic is credit repair. I write the credit repair articles for the client. Then, I write one additional article on credit repair. However, the article that I retain rights for is completely different.
Another solution is to request permission to use the client’s web page or contact information as a reference. If you do a great job, many clients are willing to allow this. For many potential clients, seeing you work live displays professionalism and printability. However, you should never direct a potential client to ghost written work without the permission of the client.
Work delivery
Before you send an article to a client, ask yourself this one question, “Would I publish this with my name on it?” If you cannot give a confident “yes” then your work is not done. As ghost writers, we sometimes feel cheated of our rights. I have even known writers to figure that, since their name is not on the work, it is not a direct reflection of them.
These, of course, are wrong assumptions. Everything you do, whether your name is attached or not, is a direct reflection of you. You gain a strong name in the copywriting industry by providing quality work to clients.
Look at it this way; if you provide thrown together work, you may very well work for low quality rates throughout your entire career. You will have difficulty finding a client that will accept your work if you try to raise your rates. However, if you provide quality work and strive to grow as a writer, your prices will grow with you.
Often, making your way into copywriting world means that you have to spend the early months or years working for peanuts. It’s not that your work isn’t worth more. It is that you lack the references and expertise. However, as you get better, you find more opportunities. You almost have to raise your rates to avoid taking on too many clients.
This is not inflation, it is fairness. If you write extensively researched, high quality articles, there is no reason that you should provide a two page report for two dollars. That is, unless you are still new to copywriting.
As for those that feel cheated, as mentioned in the first section, this is what you signed up for. If you want your name recognized when in print, try making your own web page. Submit articles on your own accord. Write a book. If, however, you enjoy writing for others, realize that this is part of the job. You are a ghost writer. This means you are not known or recognized. Stinks, but that is just the way it is.
*That is all for today! Look for the second part of this post next week! Happy copywriting!*