Every Independent Creator Needs A Statement of Ethics

Published on February 16, 2015
Index under creative life | ethics | personal

It’s not uncommon to find a statement of ethics on the website of a corporation or other organization. They’re created for legal reasons as often as to declare the intentions or motivations of the body in question. In some cases, an ethics statement or policy might replace or supplant a mission statement.

Independent creators—authors, musicians, crafters; makers of all kinds—need a public statement of ethics just as much as big companies or charitable organizations.

Why Independent Creators Need A Statement of Ethics

I’ll speak for myself, here, but I’d probably be safe to speak for all indie creators when I say, “I am my brand.”

When someone pays what they want for one of my books, short stories, non-fiction titles, music, or other creative endeavor, they’re often making that choice because they’ve encountered me before they pressed “add to cart.”

When someone pays more than what I’ve suggested for my stuff, or pledges their monthly support as a patron, they’re casting a vote of confidence and appreciation in me as an artist, and they’re investing in my future works.

That’s more than commerce. It’s an act of trust and community.

Speaking pragmatically, those customers are much more likely to contribute to an independent creator’s success over the long term. They are, not to be too cold about it, worth more than strangers.

As an independent creator, you want to build real relationships with your potential and current fans. You must build that community.

A healthy community, like any healthy relationship, thrives under conditions of trust and transparency, when everyone involved understands the intentions and actions of everyone else.

Since you’re the one asking for others to join with you, it’s up to you, independent creator, to demonstrate you are transparent and trustworthy first.

That’s why you should have a statement of ethics on your website.

What Should Independent Creators Include In A Statement of Ethics?

Simply put:

  • What do you stand for?
  • What promises can you make regarding your behavior, especially as it pertains to your interaction with customers and clients?

I recommend not trying to cover every possible situation. Rather, state the high-level values that dictate how you live your life. You should be able to extrapolate from those.

If you don’t know the high-level values that dictate how you live your life… you have some thinking to do, I reckon.

Your Statement of Ethics Is A Living Document

Don’t be hung up on trying to make your statement of ethics a perfect, fully-realized expression of your morals and values right out of the gate. It’s more important to make the statement, and make it public.

You can go back to refine and restate from time to time. In fact, it’s likely that the very act of writing down your statement of ethics will help you better understand it, and yourself.

I’ll Show You Mine…

My statement of ethics and principles is right here.

It includes my creed (the high level values) as well as several specific items.

It also includes mention of how I expect others to act if they’re going to interact with me. You don’t have to put that in your statement if you don’t want to, of course.

…You Show Me Yours

If you’re an independent creator, I challenge you to craft a statement of ethics, publish it on your website, and leave the link in the comments of this post.

Already have a statement of ethics? Excellent! You’re a real forward-thinking, transparent so-and-so who probably already has a strong community of friends and fans. Share a link to your statement in the comments.

Let’s see what you’re made of!

Photo by JefferyTurner


  1. Dan Holloway

    Hi, Matthew. I love your statement. In particular the part about not having an online persona, which I think as we move from beginners sitting behind a keyboard to creators venturing out and dealing with real life partners, customers, and collaborators, is essential.

    Defining what you stand for is the most important thing any creator can do to communicate to their audience, and that definition then needs to be carried through in the works they create and the way they act. Because of where I come from artistically, I’ve always defined mine as a manifesto rather than a code of ethics, but it amounts to the same thing – it’s what I believe I should be doing, and it’s how I pledge to conduct myself.


    • Matt Selznick

      Thanks for sharing the manifesto, Dan!

      While I personally reject having an online persona, I do recognize that there are situations—think political—where anonymity, including masking one’s own mannerisms, might be necessary. For most of us, though—especially those of us in the business of making things for our community of friends and fans—transparency and authenticity are best.

  2. Peter O'Malley

    I’m still a wet behind the ears creator so I haven’t really given a ton of thought to a code of ethics. But I really should have some sort of yardstick as it were to measure myself against.

    I need to remember that any work of art must stand for itself in the eye of the consumer of said art, so if they do not get the piece or derive the meaning that I meant it to then that is a failure on my part not theirs, usually.
    I must be professional and honest in my interactions, this does not mean letting others walk on me though.
    I want to be a public figure of sorts so I need to act like one at all times not just when I think someone is looking.

    As always keep up the good work Matt!

    • Matt Selznick

      That’s a pretty great start, Pete. Leave me a link when you’ve added it to your site, please!

      Thanks, as always, for dropping by, sir!


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