Why It's Not So Bad to Be a 'Sell Out'

Don't stress about trading that dream job for a paying one.

ByABC News
September 9, 2008, 6:15 PM

Sept. 11, 2008 — -- Once upon a time, I earned much of my freelance income writing corporate Web pages and white papers. One company I regularly worked for sold its wares to educational institutions and government agencies. Nice agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor and, quite possibly, your county clerk's office.

One day my client asked me to take on another "government" project. Expecting to once again write marketing copy aimed at social service agencies and parks and recreation departments, I agreed.

Unfortunately, my client was hoping to make a sale to another type of government agency: the Department of Defense. And unfortunately, I didn't know this until I'd signed the contract and received the project specs.

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When it comes to making money, everyone has a line they're unwilling to cross. This was mine. As far as I was concerned, writing about how my client's widgets would help the U.S. military shoot up some oil-rich nation or other was tantamount to endorsing our country's war du jour.

But I sucked up my scruples and tackled the job anyway, without complaint. Reneging on my contract would piss off my client and cost me future work, I told myself. And if that happened, I rationalized, it might be tough to pay my mortgage.

In other words, I sold out.

I still wince today when I think about this job -- and the fact that I was too cheap to walk off it. For many workers, though, selling out isn't as cut and dried as working for a company that, say, poisons baby seals or enslaves malnourished third-world children. More often than not, the only one who gets hurt when you sell out is you.