It’s a Small (Online) World After All: Be Careful How You Present Yourself

When I first started looking for work online, I thought the Internet was a pretty anonymous place. Now I’m amazed at how many people I “know” online and the number of them who know each other. It really is a small world, and this is one more reason to mind your manners when you are posting things online.

I have no problem going on the record to say that rudeness is one of my pet peeves. I just don’t see any reason for it. Part of the reason that I take time to think about what I am saying (and posting) before I let it fly is because I have a terrible temper. (Have you ever seen the Hulk? Well, you really wouldn’t like me when I’m angry….)

Once the words are out of your mouth or you press “Send,” you can’t take them back. I’ve seen a couple of employers who posted jobs on another board recently be on the receiving end of some snarky comments about the rates they are offering to start. Both people mentioned that they had tried to hire writers in the past and either not received the work they ordered or received work of very poor quality.

I appreciate the “Once bitten, twice shy” thing. These employers are willing to increase the rates they pay once they find someone reliable, and there is nothing wrong with that. They may be new business owners and as their business grows and becomes more successful, they will be able to offer higher rates.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think writers should get paid a fair wage. I do. But if I see an ad where rates are lower than I would find acceptable, I move on. I don’t have the time or the inclination to take a swipe at someone like that.

For every person who posts on a board, there are a number who are lurkers. Some of them may be in a position to hire you at some point and if they have a choice between someone who conducts themselves in a respectful manner and someone flips out all over them about rates, who do you think is going to get the gig?

Just a little food for thought this Saturday morning. Have a good one.


  1. Angela says

    Nice little tidbit there and I totally agree. I’m along those lines at the moment that I’ll take something that pays a little lower than I want for the simple fact that I’m relatively new at this as far as freelancing for money. It gives me a great way to build my resume and the practice I need to sharpen my writing skills. Cheers!

  2. says

    I definitely agree.

    A few months ago I received a job like that. In fact, I got it from here. The trial period did not last too long, about three weeks. I’m now making four times as I did when I started. I was able to use that position to land another technical writing position and I’m being paid even more. I receive a very good paycheck from both assignments every month. :-)

    If I don’t like, what the poster is offering I’ll move on.

  3. Deb says

    Excellent post,Jodee – as you know, I’m in complete agreement.

    Something else to consider – Someone who may not be paying a lot of money now, may be in a position to pay a seriously good wage later. How do you want that person to remember you?

  4. says

    Excellent point. I keep a Google Alert on my name and it’s amazing to see things that I posted when I was a graduate student in Women’s Studies still around on the web. It makes me very wary of what I post since I remember it’s out there for years.

  5. Angela says

    Wohooo! Just got my payment from my first assignment! *jumps for joy* Sorry just had to share! And I got the lead from here! THANKS!

  6. says


    Excellent post! As someone who is often a “lurker,” because nothing I’d have to say would offer any additional merit, not having time to post something lucid (lol), or remembering that rule we all learned in kindergarten “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing,” and also being in a position to hire potential people, what is said/written online can make a big impact. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t speak their minds, they should consider how others will read their words and intent. You don’t want part of your personal brand to end up being the snarky or embittered one. I think that there are a lot of people who might not understand that taking a lower-paying gig at first can yield longer and better-paying gigs and that sometimes, a lower paying gig might end up giving you a larger platform.

  7. Jodee says

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to say something positive about this post.

    @ Deb: You are absolutely right. That person that a writer dissed may turn out to have *very* deep pockets at some point. Why burn bridges?

    @ Fiona: You may want to Google the screen names you use, too. They get indexed as well.

    @ Angela: Congrats on the first payment! I hope it’s one of many!

    @ Erika: I agree; why give a potential employer a reason “not” to hire you?

  8. Louise says

    I agree with this post. I don’t hire people whose posts I don’t like. But at the same time no potential employer is going to know who I am from a post. People can remain anonymous if they choose to. I do not put my real name as my screenname nor in my posts. The email address I gave to post to this blog is one of many emails I have. I also do not have my website URL in my signature so people can’t find out who I am. I am not hiding. I am just a very private person. People on forums and blogs can get my IP address but that doesn’t tell them much. But if I did want to hide my IP address there is free software available that changes an IP address every six seconds. It is very easy for people not to know who you are online.

    I hear a lot about branding these days but it is just one way to market yourself so I am not missing out by keeping my info private. Of course when I apply for jobs I give my real name, main email address, and other pertinent info. But there is no reason for anyone on a forum or blog to have access to this info.

  9. says

    I think this is a great reminder – on the internet people feel very safely hidden behind their monitors. It is so easy to say something cruel online without the emotional retribution of seeing somone’s face fall, or cringe, or cry, and some people get off from a little bullying like that. It is so sad, but your post is a wonderful point we should all take to heart: If you can’t say something nice (or constructive, or at least non-hurtful) then you shouldn’t say anything at all.

  10. says

    This is absolutely the truth. I look at it as the real-life way of how you treat “the help.”

    When you go for an interview at a company, you must, must, must always be polite and pleasant to the receptionist, the interviewer’s assistant, anyone you come in contact with. Heck, even before that, anyone in the elevator, in the building. The person you rudely slam the door on in the entrance could very well be the person who is going to interview you in 10 minutes.

    You never have a second chance to make a first impression, either in real life or on the ‘net.


  11. Deb says

    I think part of the problem with all the nastiness is the ability to change one’s identity any time one wants.

    I don’t believe in hiding behind a plethora of screen names and false identities. I don’t use anonymizers or IP changers. I’m me. I’m proud to be me and if I’m visiting s blog or forum, I don’t turn into someone else.

    I use my name at every forum and blog I visit because I believe all the anonymity and false identities on the Internet contribute to the problem.

    Being myself tells me I must always conduct myself in a grown up manner. It reminds me to be positive and treat others in a courteous manner. If I changed my identity I might be less inclined to do so.

  12. Louise says

    I am always myself online. I don’t need to use my real name to remember to act a certain way. I don’t change personalities just because I have a different screenname. If I could I would have just one screenname. But the main reason I have several screennames is not to hide but because in most cases the screenname I wanted was already in use for a particular forum I wanted to join. And I have a few email accounts because I got tired of all the spam and so just got another free email account. Also my real name is not unique even if I wanted to use it as my screenname. I couldn’t even use my real name for my main email account with my ISP because it was already in use. I had to use a variation of it.

    With so much nastiness and anger and hatred in the real world I think it is naive to think that if people only used their real names online that this would cut down or eliminate all the nasty comments.. Do you think that if people were legally required to wear name tags every time they left their house that this would also cut down on the nastiness? I am a native New Yorker and even I was surprised at how quickly the rudeness returned after 9/11. The problem is not different screennames or anonymity. The problem is that the human race still needs to evolve.

    One more thing- I once sent an angry email to someone in reply to something that annoyed me. I know I overreacted but I was also going through a breast cancer scare so everything was pissing me off exponentially. Another time an editor sent me a rude email but later apologized saying she had been really overworked. I understand that sometimes when people post nasty comments they may be going through a difficult time. When people are in a crappy mood or scared about the future they can’t always be “nice’ or “positive” or “respectful.” Sometimes comments (or job posts) just rub you the wrong way no matter how innocuous they may be. Some people have to realize that in many cases nasty comments online are not personal.

  13. says

    I think this is a good rule of thumb to remember, and Deb, you’re right about people often using anonymity to behave in ways they probably wouldn’t in person.

    I find this problem In all realms of the virtual world these days and it really bugs me. I (especially lately) have seen people posting things on forums, that they would never have the balls to say to someone’s face lest they get punched in said face. It’s disturbing. I try very hard to stick to the rule, if you have nothing nice to say… Now, when start talking about professional arenas, rudeness is just, well, unprofessional.

  14. says

    Louise: I agree with you about the fact that eliminating screen names would not halt the rudeness that takes place in many online communities. Some people just don’t seem to know any better. But I have to say, just because someone’s having a bad day is no excuse to be rude. I understand it – I’ve had more than a few bad days myself, but it doesn’t give one the right to take that anger and frustration out on others. JMHO

  15. Jodee says

    @ Kimberly: I agree with your point that having a bad day is a reason for being impolite, but it’s not an excuse.

  16. Louise says

    I agree that no one should take her or his anger out on others, but it hapens all the time – in families, in the workplace, on the streets and online. I stopped reading the job forum at Craigslist because of the racist comments, name-calling, profanity and endless ugliness.. What is said on FWJ is very tame to what I have read elsewhere or even heard. For one month I worked at a children’s book company and my manager made Anti-Semitic and homophobic comments on almost a daily basis. (And the senior execs didn’t care because he made the company a lot of money.) Remember all the press about Michael Richards of Seinfeld using the N-word in public? People are saying online what they say to people’s faces without too much fear of being punched in the nose.

  17. Erika says

    I agree that anonymity can make people think that they have more “leeway” with being rude, snarky, mean etc., and having a bad day/going through a bad experience may be a valid reason for “misbehaving” online (or in person), but isn’t an excuse. I think part of the problem is that we’ve become a very reactionary society, and often forget to think (twice) before we hit “send.”

    I wonder how many people take themselves of the grid at those times when they’re in a mood that as a dear friend of mine puts it: “makes them unsuitable for human company” (in-person or online).

    Kudos though to you Louise and to the person who sent you a biting e-mail for recognizing what was done and apologizing for it.

    This is a really good (and necessary/important) discussion.

  18. Deb says

    Jodee is right. Once you hit send,there’s no going back. Whenever I fire off an email in anger, I always hit save instead. I then leave it for at least 3 days. Usually when I revisit I’m not as angry and either trash it or reword it.

    It’s harder to do that with blog comments, there are time I truly regret what I posted. In those instances I apologize and explain it was the heat of the moment and hope the person or people on the other end understand.

    I get a lot of flack for reminding people to mind our manners when they’re here. I’m not a prude or a priss but I can’t deal with rudeness.

  19. Scribette says

    I agree that we should not be rude.

    However, I am still of the opinion that when experienced writers accept lower paying jobs … it does not help the freelance writing industry in general.

    Perhaps this factor may be one of the contributing reasons why magazine rates have not increased [or increased substantially] since the 1970s (according to writers unions)?

  20. Erika says

    @Scribette, it’s not just in the writing community…it’s all over the Web (rudeness, that is). I once saw a flame-war occur that nearly shut a forum down completely. It was awful and very sad to watch unfold.

  21. Scribette says

    Erika – Too bad people did not put their time spent in ‘flame-wars’ to more productive uses huh?

  22. Amit says

    Need Some Help,

    Hello everyone. I am BRAND new to this world of freelance writing and don’t even know where to begin. I have been applying all over the place and just don’t seem to get any bites. Is there any advice anyone can give on a complete newbie? I can’t even land the jobs that are supposedly “low-paying.” I realize and completely agree with Deb in saying that folks have to start out somewhere and that all business should be conducted in a respectable manner. I apologize if this comment is veering off topic.

    To Deb: do you have an email where I can contact you? I can’t seem to find it on your website.

    Thank you and God Bless,


  23. says

    Hi Amit:

    Welcome to the world of freelance writing!:) Everyone has their own approach to getting started. Some swear by bidding sites like Elance and Guru. I tried Elance once but it didn’t do much for me. I recommend you keep doing what your doing – applying for jobs. Make sure you have some samples of the type of writing you are interested in doing and polish up your resume to highlight any exerience.

    I also recommend you market your services as much as possible. That saying ‘marketing is a numbers game’ is true. Consistency is the key. Also, hang out at different writer’s forums to get the 411 on what’s going on in the industry, who is hiring, etc. Lots of times prospective clients will visit some forums to advertise that they need to hire writers. And don’t forget good ole Craigslist! Hopefully some other experienced writers here will chime in to offer you more tips. Good luck to you!

  24. says

    Kimberly has some excellent advice for you Amit. In addition to that, pay attention to *how* you are applying to those writing jobs. Maybe it’s something in your cover letter or your samples that is messing up your professional presentation.

    Back to the topic at hand, I think the nature of the web (the remote-ness) has more to do with nastiness than the presence of screen names. Even without “hidden” screen names, I’ve seen things written in forums that I doubt someone would say face to face. Any girl who has been in the fourth grade and passed notes about someone else knows that writing something down can allow you to be more bold than you would in person. 😉

    I have in the past made a snarky comment about a job…but after reflecting for a while, I realized since 1) everyone has to start somewhere and 2) the employer might be offering a trial period of employment, it’s just not a good practice to get into.

  25. says

    Hi Jodee,

    You’ve got it right as usual. Most people forget the fact that the online world is as real as the real world and what you post online can sometimes be literally translated on what you are as a person. So politeness and grace are as important in the internet as they are in real life.

    Thanks for a great post :)

  26. Skippy says

    I am the kind of person who will stay up really late, usually until 1:30 or 2 in the morning. But no matter what I read online at that time of night and no matter how I feel about it (positive or negative) I never, never, never reply at that time. Just because I can read coherently that late doesn’t mean I can write coherently.

  27. Jodee says

    @ Asmara: Thank you for the kind words.

    @ Skippy: Good point. If I’m tired or out of sorts, it’s easy to misinterpret something that I read (or something that someone says). It’s a good idea to think before you respond, whether verbally or in writing.

  28. Deb says

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

CommentLuv badge