Ethics Question as a Freelance Writer

by WooGoo
17 replies
I'm a freelance writer as my main job and running authority sites on the side. I have been intending to get into a specific niche and working on ideas and a site. However, about three months ago I began writing articles for a client in that niche. I still want to get into it as i have experience in this niche and enjoy it. But, I'm wondering if there is an ethical issue writing articles for a client while building a website in the same niche. Obviously, the articles I write for my own site will be different. Any thoughts on the matter?
#ethics #freelance #question #writer
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  • Profile picture of the author Anthony J Namata
    Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, if you own a site in the same niche it only confirms your authority. Not to mention, it is can be a good referrence point to help you bag more punters who want articles in a similar niche.
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  • Profile picture of the author agmccall
    It would definitely be a conflict of interest. If I were the client and found out you entered my niche I might look at that as a betrayal, as well, I would get the feeling you were charging me for second rate content as you would be keeping your best content for yourself. Also, as a client, when I work with a freelancer I always give input on types of articles or what content I want to talk about, so I would feel that you would be taking my ideas and using them.

    Personally, as a client, I would be pissed.

    You should, in my opinion, tell your client your plans and tell them you will no longer be writing for them

    al
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  • Profile picture of the author dave_hermansen
    I have a completely opposite opinion as agmccall but that's cool - everybody's allowed to have their own opinion.

    I have hired many people to do freelance writing for us that were in niches that were direct competition. You see it non-stop in the SEO industry. Tons of experts write content for many websites that compete with one another, including their own website. In fact, I would consider that the "norm".

    Unless there is something in a legally binding (few are) non-compete agreement between you and the company that hired you that you will write exclusively for them and/or that you cannot write content about a given subject matter for anyone but them, you are ethically in the clear.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    When I was freelancing - I was hired as a writer by clients who saw my own sites in the same niche they were working in - and like the writing.


    No conflict of interest - I would never use info I wrote for them - any more than they would steal info from my sites.



    What better way for a writer to show his own expertise in a particular niche than to use his own site as an example?
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  • Profile picture of the author agmccall
    Originally Posted by dave_hermansen View Post

    I have a completely opposite opinion as agmccall but that's cool - everybody's allowed to have their own opinion.

    I have hired many people to do freelance writing for us that were in niches that were direct competition. You see it non-stop in the SEO industry. Tons of experts write content for many websites that compete with one another, including their own website. In fact, I would consider that the "norm".

    Unless there is something in a legally binding (few are) non-compete agreement between you and the company that hired you that you will write exclusively for them and/or that you cannot write content about a given subject matter for anyone but them, you are ethically in the clear.
    Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

    When I was freelancing - I was hired as a writer by clients who saw my own sites in the same niche they were working in - and like the writing.


    No conflict of interest - I would never use info I wrote for them - any more than they would steal info from my sites.



    What better way for a writer to show his own expertise in a particular niche than to use his own site as an example?
    The thing is we are not talking about hiring a freelancer that has a site and is involved in the same niche as you. He/She is talking about entering a niche after they have been hired in that niche. That is what formed the basis for my response. Going into the agreement with a freelancer when they are already in the niche is different. And this is just my opinion from someone that hires freelancers and not someone that is or was a freelancer

    al
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    • Bang on, from a freelancer . If it even sniffed of moving in on the clients demographics I wouldn't launch the site while under contract with them.

      Even if you're targeting a different demo and legitimately not building off of any of their internal resources, it just doesn't look right.
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  • Profile picture of the author IGotMine
    I would say the "ethics" depend on when the decision to enter the niche was made, before or after the client dumped a bunch of research and keywords in your lap.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dan Riffle
    Unless a client is paying you a premium for niche-exclusivity, I see no reason why you couldn't enter the same niche. It's no different than taking on another client in the same niche.

    However, I'd refrain from using any research the customer provided you. Some information is general and that's fair game. Any specific information they provided should be avoided.

    One option is to be upfront with the customer. "As a subject expert, I'm considering entering your niche. I wanted to give you a heads-up in case you have any concerns."
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  • Profile picture of the author levihogtheweb
    I think you're in the clear as long as its not directly competing
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  • Profile picture of the author WooGoo
    Thanks, everyone for your advice. I feel a bit more confident now getting into the niche. For a little more background, I snagged this client off a major content mill after he later found my freelance writing website. He hired me specifically for my expertise in the subject.

    I don't think the client has the same level of expertise, if any, in this niche. In fact, I've helped him to come up with many article ideas. I don't mind as he's paying me and keeping food on my plate. But, to make it clear he has not provided me with a lot of keyword research or anything else as I'm already a somewhat expert in the subject. I've been looking into this niche for over a year now so I was eyeing it well before I was hired by the client.

    @agmccall
    Your response was exactly why I asked this question so I do share some of your opinions. But, I ultimately believe that I am providing him quality content and that I can continue to do so even if I start my own site. Not because I am writing better content for myself. But because this specific niche (it's an outdoor sport) is something I am often engaged him. I can provide quality through other mediums such as videos, interviews with other experts I know, and general levels of expertise which I do not think my client has and is not paying me to provide.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ian Jackson
    Originally Posted by dave_hermansen View Post

    I have a completely opposite opinion as agmccall but that's cool - everybody's allowed to have their own opinion.

    I have hired many people to do freelance writing for us that were in niches that were direct competition. You see it non-stop in the SEO industry. Tons of experts write content for many websites that compete with one another, including their own website. In fact, I would consider that the "norm".

    Unless there is something in a legally binding (few are) non-compete agreement between you and the company that hired you that you will write exclusively for them and/or that you cannot write content about a given subject matter for anyone but them, you are ethically in the clear.
    Originally Posted by Kay King View Post

    When I was freelancing - I was hired as a writer by clients who saw my own sites in the same niche they were working in - and like the writing.


    No conflict of interest - I would never use info I wrote for them - any more than they would steal info from my sites.



    What better way for a writer to show his own expertise in a particular niche than to use his own site as an example?
    I agree.

    I think it would be a bit naive of your client if they didn't think or assume you'd be expanding your business/website to catering to and for a wider audience.I'd hazard a guess there are scores doing similar, across all niches

    It's not like you're selling what you write for them, to someone else

    Unless you've specifically stated in writing anywhere that you won't offer similat content in any way shape or form (which would be a bit stupid anyway), I don't think you have any problem.

    BUT, I would write about different aspects of your niche from the ones you're writing for your client, and/or repurpose yours into alternative media (ie. video) too.


    Just my 2c
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  • Profile picture of the author WF- Enzo
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    No issue, unless you had a non-compete agreement or something similar.

    Originally Posted by WooGoo View Post

    I'm a freelance writer as my main job and running authority sites on the side. I have been intending to get into a specific niche and working on ideas and a site. However, about three months ago I began writing articles for a client in that niche. I still want to get into it as i have experience in this niche and enjoy it. But, I'm wondering if there is an ethical issue writing articles for a client while building a website in the same niche. Obviously, the articles I write for my own site will be different. Any thoughts on the matter?
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  • Profile picture of the author Medon
    Originally Posted by WooGoo View Post

    I'm a freelance writer as my main job and running authority sites on the side. I have been intending to get into a specific niche and working on ideas and a site. However, about three months ago I began writing articles for a client in that niche. I still want to get into it as i have experience in this niche and enjoy it. But, I'm wondering if there is an ethical issue writing articles for a client while building a website in the same niche. Obviously, the articles I write for my own site will be different. Any thoughts on the matter?
    There is nothing wrong about that buddy. Unless of course, you are planning to pirate the content you write for your client's website.
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  • Profile picture of the author tryinhere
    usually if you have to ask the question in the first place? means something is amiss.
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  • Shouldn't be an issue ethically but may cause conflict of interest. I'd somehow bring it up to your client and see that it's okay if you are going to do it. If they find out later on they migh accuse you of things you shouldn't be accused of.
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    • Profile picture of the author Medon
      Originally Posted by Gleb Krasnoborov View Post

      Shouldn't be an issue ethically but may cause conflict of interest. I'd somehow bring it up to your client and see that it's okay if you are going to do it. If they find out later on they migh accuse you of things you shouldn't be accused of.
      I don't agree the world wide web is too big. You can do your stuff in one corner as I do mine here. If your content is original, no issue.
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  • How granular is this going to be in the niche? Would you be targeting their core demo and potentially taking views away from their site?

    The client will very likely be upset (and has a right to be) if they feel you're using their keyword and marketing research, article ideation, publishing strategy etc. to set up a competing site. The key is that it's more about whether or not they feel that's what you're doing than whether you actually are, in terms of preserving the relationship.

    If you're targeting a different demographic you could do them a professional solid and let them know about it and that you're not a direct competitor, but it still might sour the relationship even if you're 100% legit about it. I'd guess you'll end up having to choose between waiting for this contract to end to launch your site, or launching the site now and losing the client / maybe taking a hit to your reputation.
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