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6 signs that it’s time to quit freelancing

by Rachel Smith
05 October 2018

We’ve written a lot about leaving an in-house job to go and work for yourself – and the characteristics you need in order to be successful. But what about those of us who’ve been our own boss for years and we’re not sure we still want it? How do you know when it’s time to quit freelancing? It’s a huge question.

And it’s a really hard one, too. Not least because you’re not just leaving a job to go get another one. You’ve trodden your own path. Chased leads, probably worked for a variety of different clients. Chances are, some of those clients have been on your books for years. Some may even be friends. You’ve been the keeper of your time and worn all the hats that freelancing entails. This isn’t just a job. It’s a business you’ve built.

But for whatever reason, it’s not working for you anymore. Here are a few ways to know it’s time to go.

1. You’re exhausted by the hustle.

Chasing work, meeting new clients, hustlin’ – it used to be invigorating. A bit of a game you played with yourself. In the good times, you thrived on the chase. Now, you’re just jaded and tired and wondering if you’re always going to be broke. Not great energy to be putting out there.

2. You really struggle to pay your bills.

We all have shitty months where money’s tight. But if you’re finding it impossible to get paid regularly, or your cash flow is so bad that you’re constantly ringing utility companies for extensions or asking your bank for another few days to pay the mortgage, it’s little wonder you’re probably craving a regular paycheck and less financial stress.

3. You’re kind of lonely.

There’s no shame in admitting you’re sick of having conversations with your cat. That you actually love the idea of a real human stopping by your desk for a gasbag. Plus, the idea of going to a food court for lunch once a week with other people you work with also seems vaguely thrilling.

4. You’re bored as hell.

While freelancing is often appealing because of it’s variety – a mixture of projects, different kinds of clients and editors – it’s easy to carve out a comfort zone and stay there, doing the same old stuff day in day out. I know sometimes I look at senior content jobs and literally crave the chance to take a running leap at them. The industry moves fast and there are so many positions out there that didn’t exist five years ago – it can be tempting to take your skills and do something different.

5. The lines are blurred between work and life.

I read Lindy Alexander’s post this week about how she went on holiday with her family that was partially hosted – a decision she later thought twice about. I’ve been there myself when I was doing a lot of travel writing, bringing the husband along if there was an opportunity so we could have a holiday afterwards. But after a couple of these experiences, he asked me not to combine work with our holidays. He was right. You have to guard your work life balance carefully when you’re freelance because it can be increasingly difficult to draw a line between work and home. Working all hours, working weekends and on holidays, working on your laptop every night on the couch while you and your partner watch TV – it’s all a fast track to burn-out. And I won’t lie: it can make a 9-5 job in an office seem so appealing.

6. Your mental health is suffering.

We answered a question recently in #AUW about the uncomfortable nature of freelancing. And being in a constant state of worrying, or experiencing anxiety about work, about money and the future of your business can take its toll, especially if you have others relying on you and your income. It’s really important to assess where you’re at, whether you need a break, seek help and counselling if you need to – and make a change if that’s what’s required.

When do you think it’s time to quit freelancing and find a job in-house?

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Rachel Smith
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Rachel Smith

As a kid, Rachel used to carry around a little suitcase of pens and paper so she could stop and write stories whenever inspiration struck. These days, she writes for a living, in between running the show at Rachel's List. Some of you may actually believe she looks like a megaphone in real life, but it's not the case. Honest.
Rachel Smith
Find us!

3 responses on "6 signs that it’s time to quit freelancing"

  1. I have totally learnt from our recent holiday Rachel! It’s so tempting to try and do both (work and holiday), but actually, I don’t think I did either particularly well while we were away.

    1. Rachel Smith says:

      Yes! I find it so much easier to concentrate and work when I’m alone on those trips, too – and I think the PR involvement on these trips, even for just a meal or taking you on tours etc, is a consideration. If a loved one or ones are along, you’re naturally thinking ‘Are they bored / should we wrap it up’ etc instead of just doing what you need to do to take notes / images / get the story.
      That said, I wrote two travel stories about two hotels – one in Paris and one in London – that I went to with my husband before we had our kid. Our last overseas ‘kidfree’ trip as it happened. And both are written in an extremely personal way and I cherish them! (I also had no hosting assistance with either which I think also makes a difference to your mindset!)

  2. I find it really hard to work on a holiday when all I want to do is relax, read and take naps. No wonder I’ve not been tempted by travel writing! Mental health trumps everything when it comes to doing any job. It’s not worth it in the long run.

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