Should I Tell My Friends That I Write Essays for Students?
We can all dance around the fact, but it’s still a fact: there is a fair amount of stigma attached to being a freelance academic writer. Some people think you help students cheat for a living, while other people think it’s not “real” writing, and so they tend to look down on you. Of course, the truth is that freelance academic writers do not help students cheat; they help them do their own work by providing models from which they can study. And anyone who thinks academic writing isn’t real writing should try it some time; it’s as challenging to one’s intellect and creativity as anything else. Unfortunately, when it comes to peoples’ perceptions, the facts don’t always matter. That’s clear just from watching the political maneuvering that takes place every time an election rolls around.
For this reason, many freelance academic writers tend to hide what they do. They tell people they are editors, or tell them they are consultants assisting students with their theses and dissertations. Still other writers focus upon other kinds of writing they do (such as articles for magazines) and omit the part where they earn 80% of their living via academic writing. Honestly, I can’t blame any of them for these small deceptions, particularly if they are planning to transition into a career in academia or public education, where academic writing is especially vilified.
However, if you’re planning to make freelance academic writing your career, as I have, then I would urge you to consider being honest with people about what you do for a living. First of all, you’re a grown-up, and you’re allowed to make your own decisions. Second of all, you’re not selling heroin for a living – you’re not hurting people, and you’re not doing something illegal. If people want to cling to their misguided notions of what academic writing is all about, let them. But perhaps – just perhaps – you will help to change their minds a bit if you’re honest about what you do.
I know in the time I’ve worked in this profession, I’ve had very little in the way of negative reactions from people – and I used to be a high school teacher! But I explain the business to people, and explain how what I do is not cheating, but a way to help students learn. I’ve definitely had a few bad responses – don’t get me wrong – but when I do, I calmly ask the people if they would think it more ethical of me to work in a gun factory. That generally stops all opposition cold.
In the end, it’s a personal decision, whether or not to hide one’s living from other people. Definitely there are reasons why it might make sense for some people, but it’s also important to remember that secrecy always reinforces ignorance; it never banishes it.