Work at home life has a unique set of challenges. One of those challenges is making sure that you have enough work to pay your bills and have a comfortable existence. The thought of not having enough money can make any work at home soul cringe. It’s nice and (almost) esoteric to fall into the “I don’t need to make a lot of money – I do this cause I love it!” routine. The problem is that you DO need to make money. Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, Muhammad, Joseph Smith…or any other religious icon you believe in or on won’t pay your electric bill for you. Go ahead…try going off the grid. Not only can you probably not afford the set-up to do so, you’ll likely set yourself up for a visit from ye olde child services if you have children (and how in the hell would you conduct business without the Internet)?

So, all of that to say that it can be tempting to accept a request that fills you with dread and makes you wish that you had a bleach smoothie for breakfast. Even if money isn’t an issue in your business because you have plenty of work, saying no can put you in an uncomfortable thought. You have to be careful not to offend while also standing firm in your beliefs.

Know Your Values

Ethics, morals, or whatever you want to call it is actually quite subjective. Our beliefs and morals in the west are different from those in the east. Your religious beliefs (or personal beliefs) play a part of what establishes your morals. And, no, you don’t need religion to be moral. I mean, I think it’s fair to say all those old white guys who shot up various places and claimed they did it because those places “offended God”? Well, that’s not very Christlike. So, religion doesn’t hold the full market on morals and ethics.

You must know from the time you start your business what you will or won’t do. Now, sometimes, people really aren’t sure because they lived in a bubble. So, they learn where they stand on matters when they are presented with specific dilemmas.

Saying No to Unethical Requests Without Coming Off as Holier-Than-Thou

I don’t get unethical requests very often. The one I got last night wasn’t just unethical to me…it was also manipulative. This person tried to play on my belief that the court system is often used as a way to get revenge on people (and it is) and tried to underhand corner me into it by essentially calling me a right fighter. It was a passive aggressive attempt by someone to get revenge on someone else using my writing while posting it under a fake name. If that doesn’t scream “unethical,” I don’t know what does.

My response was simple: Definitely not my cup of tea. I’ll pass.

I didn’t address what I knew they were trying to do. I didn’t throw out my own moral standards. I just said no in a way that wasn’t ugly.

Other options for saying no to unethical requests include:

  • Sorry – I’m not going to be able to help you with that.
  • Sorry – I can’t meet the deadline.
  • I’m sorry, but I don’t have time on my schedule.

The person asking isn’t looking for a lecture on their lack of ethics. They’re looking for someone to be complicit. Just say no. If they’re a repeat client and were happy with past projects, they will likely just say okay and move on. They’ll probably still give you work in the future.

However, it’s important to document the conversation. If it takes place through Upwork, that’s even better because it’s in their messenger. You can still take screenshots or save the emails sent by Upwork that tells you that you have unread messages. This is important because if the client stops working with you on a platform and THEN leaves you negative feedback, you have a way to dispute the feedback that was left for you.

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