How to Deal: A Freelancer’s Guide to Coming to Terms with a Gig Gone Bad
When I began freelancing, I was open to anything. I would take just about any job, at just about any pay.
I’m still like that, sometimes, although my standards have grown. Still, I don’t buy into the “I’m above that” mindset that many freelancers have. If there’s a gig out there that offers flexibility and the chance to do work I like, I’ll consider it.
So when an opportunity recently came up that offered less-than-stellar pay but plenty of other perks, I wondered why I was intrigued. After all, money is everything, right? Well, not really. It was the work that I thought I would enjoy–and I did.
So I took the job, thinking that there would be some flexibility, and that I would be part of a team that communicated well. Turns out, the only good thing about the opportunity was the work…everything else wasn’t as great as I thought it would be, and I’m not even talking about the pay.
It’s just not the right job for you
The point is, sometimes even freelancers that are open to new opportunities get burned. I’m not saying you should take a job for pay that doesn’t allow you to make the bills. But for me, taking a cut in pay isn’t the worst thing in the world if it lets me work from home and have flexibility. In my case, I thought I’d work this gig temporarily and things would be okay.
It came as a huge disappointment when things didn’t work out.
What I wasn’t counting on was turning my life upside down for the job. Which, much to my surprise, I did.
I knew from the start that it wasn’t working, but I pressed on. It was like I reverted back to my early days of freelancing and forgot that I could get a better gig–and that I deserved much better treatment.
I was raised in a family where you worked hard and sacrificed, even working yourself sick. But that mentality isn’t who I am anymore, which left me wondering what the heck I was doing. Did I really need the money? No, I could find other ways to get the moohlah I needed. But did I want the challenge? You bet. Would it be ideal for times when I was not as busy? It provided ongoing work, so, yes, definitely.
It came as a huge disappointment when things didn’t work out. I wasn’t sleeping. I hardly had time for other clients–clients that paid triple and treated me like royalty. The client wasn’t communicating well, if at all. I wasn’t getting the kind of support I needed to do my best.
In short, it had just turned out to be a completely sour deal. And being someone who never quits, I had to consider breaking down and throwing in the towel. See, I’d forgotten that sometimes, quitting is the best. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you have other awesome clients that pay better and treat you better.
Lessons still being learned–even for a seasoned freelancer
Fortunately, the client and I parted ways on good terms, but I did learn a few things:
- It’s okay to try new things, even if you don’t know if it will work out. If you think the project or job can improve your skills and your network, it’s good to consider the opportunity.
- Money isn’t everything. I would still work a gig that didn’t meet my normal hourly wage because I get other well-paying gigs on the side. I do what I do for enjoyment, not just pay.
- One person’s opinion can never dictate how you feel about yourself or your abilities. If you let that get to you, you’re losing the game. If someone can’t give you constructive criticism and be polite about it, there’s no point staying in a bad situation.
- Don’t blame yourself for trying. Sometimes we hang on to something longer than we should because we want to prove to ourselves that we can do it. I’m not sure why I did this because I knew it wasn’t the ideal situation for me. But I’m glad I gave it a shot.
- Don’t beat yourself up. Okay, so I am far from starving, but the gig was going to make life easier financially. I have to go easy on myself because I may have had a lapse in judgment in taking the client on, but I’m proud that I was willing to sacrifice. So many freelancers think they are above it, and the truth is, we’re not. But it’s good to sacrifice for the right opportunity, and this one just wasn’t a good match for me.
- Follow your heart. If you’re desperately clinging to a job for money, it’s understandable not to give up one that you have–even if the pay stinks. If you can make it financially without a bad gig, dump it.
- Always, always think about where you want to be. If what you’re doing doesn’t align, reconsider it. In my case, the gig didn’t fit in line with what I ultimately wanted to do, so I probably shouldn’t have taken it from the start. But, see above: I can’t beat myself up about it.
Ultimately, we’ll all take on jobs that leave us wondering, What on earth was I thinking when I took that job? Even seasoned freelancers can mistake what would otherwise be a great gig for a horrible one. The key is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep trying.