The word ‘quitter’ has such negative connotations. No one likes to be a quitter. It’s an insult to be called one. Quitting is weak, foolhardy, never in your best interests, something to avoid at all costs, blah, blah, blah…
And yet, for freelance writers, quitting can be a very liberating experience. I’d recommend trying it sometime.
I don’t mean you should quit writing. This job is too darn good for that. What I mean is that you should quit a client project every once in a while IF there is no point in you carrying on with it.
An Irrational Fear
I suffered from the irrational fear of quitting when I first started writing. I genuinely believed that I could never quit a job once I’d started work on it.
So when I was on my fourth rewrite for a client whose sole mission in life seemed to be to make my every waking hour a misery, I still could not do the gutsy thing and say, ‘Hey, you know what, this is just not worth my time’.
Don’t fall for it. Quit, and quit proudly. This is your life, your job, and you have to do what is right for you.
Here are four of the situations when you should not feel guilty about quitting a project right in the middle.
1. When You’re Dealing with a ‘Perfectionist’
If there is ever a client to avoid surely it is the ‘perfectionist’. Actually, they are not perfectionists at all, they just don’t know what it is they want, and they project their uncertainty onto you to make your life miserable.
Some clients will NEVER be happy. Learn that right now. Sometimes you will wonder whether they have ever got anything finished in their entire lives.
But don’t pity them. These people are playing with your time and your livelihood. They make you rewrite, then rewrite again, until you’ve rewritten it so many times you don’t know what you are trying to say any more.
They want this, they want that, then they change their mind and want something different.
Believe me, right now there is a fire taking hold three stories below you. You can jump out of the window now or wait until the fire is tickling your ankles.
My advice is to… well, you know what it is.
Get out while you can.
Yes, you’ll lose some money. But how many more hours will you have to work until the project is ‘just right’? What if they tell you after another week that they still don’t like it?
It’s better to cut your losses early on than to keep on working and losing even more hours of your time.
2. When You’re Starting to Doubt the Depths of Their Pockets
This is the sort of project where everything is looking hunky-dory, things are going well, and you’re about halfway through when… suddenly you get an inkling that all is not well in your client’s account books.
Perhaps you have done a job for them before, invoiced them, but have yet to receive a payment. Maybe they have still not paid the 50% deposit you billed them for a few weeks ago and are continuing to come up with ever more elaborate excuses.
You finally ask yourself the big question: ‘Are they actually going to pay me?’
If it is a large project which you are going to have to spend many more on, you are perfectly entitled to hold off if you have serious doubts. If the payment you’re expecting fails to materialize, then don’t spend a second more of your time on the project.
You’re not writing as a hobby after all.
3. When Your Client Reveals Their Dark Side
It’s sometimes hard to know exactly what sort of a person your client is, even when you meet them in person.
So when halfway through a project they ask you to do something that you are not happy about, it could be time to jump ship.
Maybe they want you to alter a product review so that it is saying something that is simply not true. Perhaps they want you to rewrite someone else’s content to make it ‘original’ (also known as ‘plagiarism’, ‘theft’, and a few other things).
Of course, they’ve conveniently left it to halfway through the project to tell you, hoping that you’re one of those writers who will feel pressurized to go on with the job because you’ve started.
My advice? Tell them that you do actually have standards, and that you’re not in the habit of breaking the law. Then quit.
4. When a Job is Making You Miserable
For me, this one is key. To your overall health, happiness, and your reasons for becoming a freelance writer in the first place.
If you are really miserable in a project, for whatever reason, then you have to ask yourself why you are bothering with it.
You’re doing this job because you want to enjoy it, and although not every job is going to be great fun, ask yourself why it is making you miserable.
It’s likely that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew and you are concerned that you will not be able to do the job to a high standard, or maybe you have badly misjudged how long it will take you.
In this case, talk to your client. Tell them what’s wrong, and offer them a few alternatives, (such as paying you more to complete the project). But don’t feel bad about letting it go if you feel that it’s your only option.
You learn through your mistakes, and in time you will find it easier to pick your projects based on your capabilities.
Get Back the Power to Say ‘No’
There is too much fear out there that if you quit a job you are somehow a failure. But don’t worry about it. Always look at the circumstances of the project and consider the ramifications.
But if it looks like it makes better sense to quit, then that’s exactly what you should do.