We never write for ourselves, Michael K. Spencer.
Writing is service, not self-serving otherwise what’s the point? I still don’t understand the nature of what some folks call “a personal writing career” because there are no writers without readers so how can it possibly be personal or even, well, a career?! Narcissism, barefaced greed, and marketing taglines make for a truly harebrained combo.
And yes, making money online can be brutal if you approach it purely as business. But when you approach it as service, the parameters change. Some writers are absolute masters at this, like Niklas Göke, whose daily newsletter provides value every single day without a hint of ego, for example.
If my copy can make one single person think — or bring them a modicum of relief or solace — then my job is done.
Personal essays and opeds aren’t copywriting, they’re not about building a brand identity, and they’re certainly not about selling stuff, pimping businesses stealthily and hoping no one notices, or lining our pockets with affiliate links.
This, to me, is an ethical issue that brings up conflicts of interest, something journalists are well aware of but the “personal writing career” crowd do not — or refuse to — understand.
TL;DR: Always treat the audience with respect, for we’re nothing without our fellow humans, be they readers or indeed writers.