Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore whether freelance technical writers experience greater ethical issues than do their permanently employed counterparts. Because freelance technical writers work at the whim of the client, it is possible that the perhaps tenuous nature of this relationship may leave freelance technical writers feeling obligated to complete projects about which they have ethical concerns. Design/methodology/approach – This qualitative study was conducted through an e‐mail survey, a more detailed e‐mail interview, and a phone interview. Findings – A clear majority of the respondents in this study have never had ethical issues with their clients and fell that they, not permanently employed writers, are at an ethical advantage in their work. Research limitations/implications – The respondents for this study worked for clients from a wide variety of fields and industries. Conducting additional research with controls in place to focus on specific, individual fields could prove very enlightening. Practical implications – Respondents discussed the challenge of clients being wary to trust them as they worked off‐site. These results suggest that freelance technical writers, as a whole, are professionals with a high degree of personal ethics that guide their work lives. Perhaps, this research could allay fears of those previously concerned about having technical writers do work for them away from their corporate plants. Originality/value – Freelance technical writers and the ethical issues that arise from their work have previously not been studied.
Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 1, 2011
Keywords: Ethics; Self‐employed workers; Technical services
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