Self-Employed? You can still be fired for what you say onlineMy first thought was, “I’m so glad I work for myself so I can say what I want.” I came home from holiday shopping and while my husband unwound with some X-Box time, I went to check in on Facebook and saw the first trickle of the response to the article GQ magazine.

That was my initial reaction as I read the Duck Dynasty story as it first broke late on Wednesday night. Thinking that just because you’re self-employed means you can’t be fired brings about a false sense of security.

You can still be fired – by your clients.

By the next morning, news was out that Phil was put on indefinite hiatus by A&E, and half the internet seemed to be in a uproar about his rights under Freedom of Speech, and the other half was either ambivalent or felt that A&E made the right move.

Personally? I’ve never seen the show, so I couldn’t speak on the issue. I could speak about the Freedom of Speech issue though — because Freedom of Speech does NOT mean freedom from consequence. It simply means that the government or the police can not come after you for what you said. If your employer or your client isn’t happy with it, they can choose not to work with you.

Then it happened again.

Just over 24 hours later, Justine Sacco made a rather crass post to Twitter, and then boarded a plane to Africa. The same continent she just slammed in her tweet. Probably smart to get out of London, after saying things about them too. By the time she landed after her wi-fi free flight 13 hours later, she too had been fired from her job. She was a trending hashtag on Twitter. People were sending her death threats.

I didn’t see anyone defending her right to Freedom of Speech though. Probably because what she said was pretty horrific.

It was fascinating to watch these two events go down in such a short span of time. The lesson I was reminded of is that the internet never forgets. You can delete a tweet, but you can’t control who has seen it or copied it already. What you say can and will live on. While many of us are self-employed, we are still employed – BY OUR CLIENTS.

“Type up a Facebook status update — and it can be radioactive forever. Don’t be fooled by your keyboard: the Internet doesn’t have a delete button. Screenshots can make your words have a half life of eternity. Social media is exactly that — social. It impacts you socially for as long as you are a member of society.

One tweet can be the last tick in the bomb that detonates your life.” — from Dear Kids: What You Need to Know About Duck Dynasty, Justine Sacco, and Christmas, the post that inspired me to write this post.

We might not make a late night joke on Twitter or Facebook and then find ourselves fired the next day. What you say might be seen by a potential client on social media, or a friend of a potential client. Or a friend of a friend. Doesn’t matter. It is seen by others, and it can hurt you. It can keep you from getting more clients.

Private is not private when it comes to the Internet.

Do not fall in to the trap of thinking that your Twitter stream or Facebook wall is set to private and only your closest friends see it. Or that you’re posting it in a private Facebook group, so your clients will never know. People can easily capture an image of the screen or copy/paste the text. You do not know who is in that group, who may be watching.

I see it constantly. People complaining about clients in the groups that I’m in. STOP. Your peers are judging you for it, and one of them could choose to leak it. I’ve had people who live in other cities ask me for recommendations of people to work with. If you’re constantly complaining in a private group about how much you hate your clients, how crazy they are, how they frustrate you, do you think I will recommend you? The answer to that is a loud & resounding NO.

You never know who sees what you are saying online.

Back when I was in high school, I passed notes in class with my friends. I wrote something in a note once about a friend who I was angry with at the time, and another friend showed it to her, causing quite a shitstorm for me. My mom said that if I didn’t want something to get back to someone, never write it down.

The same still applies these days. Only now? The internet has a permanent quality that note passing in 10th grade never had. Something can come back to haunt you, even years later. Think about what you write down online. What you say to other people. You are your brand at ALL times, and what you say matters to your clients, who are ultimately your employers. With social media what you say can spiral far out of your control. Just ask Justine Sacco about that this morning.

Justine Sacco Twitter Stream
Screen cap from my iPhone last night, before Justine Sacco’s Twitter Account was deleted.

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Christine

I am a business coach & photographer. My Superpower: Helping creative entrepreneurs grow their Confidence as they build a business based on unfiltered authenticity, using their blog and branding to become profitable. I live in Houston, Texas when I'm not traveling in my Mini Cooper. After all, Have Gear, Will Travel!
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