What To Do When Your Ethics Are Tested

When you start your own business or start freelancing, you are in control of a lot of things. However, there are some things you cannot control. Two of which are: the ethics and morals of the clients or customers. By and large most clients/customers will be just as upright and honest as you are, but how should you handle an unethical situation, if they are not?

Always keep in mind that you “reap what you sow.” Although this quote is taken from a scripture in the Bible, it is true, whether you believe in the Bible or not. If you want to continue to have a business in good standing, you have to maintain and stick to good standards as well, remember: “Madoff”. For instance, let’s say you have a client who is a salon owner and you handle their bookkeeping. While you know that tips are to be reported as income, the client asks you not to put any of their tips on record. What do you do in a situation like this?

While the situation above doesn’t apply to any of our personal clients, let’s use it as an example. In this case as well as others, I must say the first line of defense, is a great offense. While you’re no doubt eager and happy to get your first client, understand that you have to set the tone. Let the client/customer know a bit about yourself and your standards. Mention at the outset that you conduct business above board at all times. This alone will be a clear indicator to those who behave unethically and many will make an excuse to move on and work with someone else at this point. Consider it a bullet dodged and put your positive efforts and energies into getting your next, ethical customer.

Let your clients know that they also benefit from your high moral values and the fact that you will never steal from them or do anything to harm them or their business endeavors in any way.  Another good tip is: Don’t neglect putting everything that is expected of you in writing and/or start out on a freelance website where both the client and freelancer are protected. If you take this route, the job description is clearly outlined on the website.

So what happens if you’re already working with a client and they try to pull a fast one? While you may not want to lose the client, your ethics should always come first. If you have high morals, this should shine through quite clearly in your business dealings. So again, if you’re presented with this situation by a current client, be very clear that you don’t agree with doing anything that is against the laws of the land or illegal; then put the onus on them to make the decision about where the working relationship will go from there. If you lose the client don’t fret, think back to the first paragraph of this post: while you can’t control them, you can control how hard you work to get the next HONEST client.  It may mean you should get up a bit earlier that next morning, but it’s well worth it. Don’t shun hard work or envy those who seem to get away with doing unethical things. Even if someone seems to get away with wrongdoing for years without getting caught, it will eventually happen, here again: “Madoff” comes to mind. Also, it doesn’t matter how well you’re doing in your business or the amount of fame or celebrity your client may have, if you do things unethically (especially when dealing with the government), you will get caught. Just think of how many celebrities have been thrown in jail for tax evasion, it’s nothing to play with and celebrity means nothing when breaking such laws. So STAND FIRM, all you new freelancers and if you have to work part-time at Mickey D’s (hopefully you won’t) while getting your first HONEST client, so be it! There’s dignity in ALL honest work; just make sure you don’t lose yours by working with an unethical client.

This is Shilonda Downing signing off for: Virtual Work Team LLC!


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