The Renegade Writer

Can You Make Money Writing for a Source? Here’s How to Find Out

Lots of writers take on both copywriting assignments and magazine articles. And a pressing question they have is whether it’s okay for them to do copywriting for an article source. In other words, if you interview Jane Smith for an article and she asks you to write some web copy for her…can you do it without breaking some ethical code or getting in trouble with your editor?

Using a client as a source is considered a conflict of interest. However, my advice is, if you ever have a question, is to simply ask your editor.

So here’s how I handled this recently.

I e-mailed my trade magazine editor:

Hi, Matt,

I had a great interview with Jeff Jones of MoneyManagers today!

Jeff had taken a look at my website and let me know he’d be interested in having me write some client success stories for him. I told him that I would need to talk to you because there’s a potential conflict of interest if I write about him for Magazine and then have him as a client as well.

How do you and Big Editor Boss feel about that? I’d love to write for MoneyManagers, but I definitely don’t want to jeopardize my relationship with Magazine, which is one of my favorite magazines to write for! So let me know, and I totally understand if you’d rather not have one of your writers writing for a source.

Thanks so much,

Linda

Here’s the response I got:

Hi Linda,

Thanks for getting in touch about this. No issue whatsoever with you freelancing for Magazine and MoneyManagers. The one caveat is that we want the content you provide us to be exclusive—in other words, we don’t want to see the same content in Magazine also on the MoneyManagers website or on a brochure. If the content is separate and different, I’m fine with it.

Matt

Success! I asked politely and was open to — and prepared for — my editor to say no. And I was pleasantly surprised when he gave me the okay.

So: Don’t be afraid to ask your editor if you’re approached by a source who wants you to write for them.

How about you? Have you ever done copywriting for a source? Did you ask your editor for her okay? How did it work out?

Note: My next Write for Magazines 8-week e-course starts on April 9, and the Basic version is Pay What You Want (minimum $30) — a huge discount from my original $120 price tag! One of my most recent students just landed an assignment from Grit. Check out the e-course page for more testimonials and success stories. [lf]

Mar 14, 2012 Advice, Editors, Money, Rules, Sources

7 Responses

  1. Judy Berman says:

    This is in reference to your guest blog on Courage to Create. Thank you for some great tips and letting me know there is hope when my attention is flitting around like a butterfly. Like you, I try to maximize my time and energy on what I’m doing at the time. When my mind begins to wander, I often shift focus and that works out best.
    When my youngest daughter was in 1st grade, a teacher suggested Ritalin. Like your Mom, I balked and I’m glad I did.

    • Thanks, Judy! My neurologist actually just prescribed me an ADD medication for another unrelated issue, and I’m kind of scared…I’ve been considering the ADD sort of an asset. We’ll see what happens.

  2. Amandah says:

    Thanks for letting us know how to handle this. And … It’s another way to gain freelance writing clients.

  3. Liesl says:

    Great advice, Linda, and good to know that some/many editors don’t have a problem with it. What about a similar situation with a corporate client? For example, a corporate client hires you to write about a particular topic and interview someone who works for them for the corporate newsletter. Is it ethical to take that info/idea and work it into a different format using other sources (including the client’s source)? Here’s an example: writing about a business’s social responsibility programs for the business’s newsletter, then interview other sources to develop an article on social responsibility programs at a variety of businesses?

    • Liesl, I’m SO sorry…I just found your comment marked as spam. (Huh?) I think that would be fine, but again, if you have any questions as to how your source would react — ASK. Thi s isn’t a question of ethics so much as whether it will piss the client off and whether you want to keep that client.

  4. […] you’re not supposed to do this for ethical reasons — but I find that if you’re in doubt, asking your editor can clear things up quickly. I did this a while back and the editor had no problem with my writing for one of my sources, and I […]

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