Sometimes, though, even within the sketched outlines that frame the paid part of our lives, there come times when we have to turn down, decline or walk away from opportunities. And it’s harder when they seem good on the surface – that is, they look good on paper, serve a worthwhile cause, utilize your key skills or are reasonably compensated.
Here are some signs it might be time to walk away from a gig, be it a freelance job, consulting project or even a volunteer commitment:
You Aren’t Growing. You feel stagnant and staid, though you’ve provided all reasonable indications of your interest and eagerness in learning. There is something to be said for self-directed learning; many people in any way affiliated with the workforce these days know that companies aren’t funding job training programs or professional development opportunities like they used to. However, the client or company you’re working for expects you to learn or master new skills without investing in you at all. And they aren’t ponying up any money or paid-access for classes, online learning platforms or anything else.
You’re Not Rewarded. The company or client continually sings your praises. You are complimented consistently for your reliability, creativity, accessibility, work quality, proactivity and more. The words felt so good at first; in fact, you’ve even created a special file chronicling the praise heaped upon you. But now the flattery is not sufficient. You feel you deserve to be remunerated for your contributions, above and beyond your initial rate, because you are producing quality above and beyond the call of duty, outperforming expectations all the while. But the company or client doesn’t seem to be interested in actually recognizing you via financial rewards. They just tell you, “Good job,” and offer the predictable pat on the back (that’s beginning to feel a bit like a backhand).
You’re Not Affirmed. On the other hand, perhaps you receive no positive reinforcement or thanks for a job well done. Despite your best efforts and the unspoken intimation that you’ve upheld your end of the bargain, your boss isn’t offering any constructive feedback or affirmation that you’re reaching or exceeding expectations. It’s like you’re blowing in the wind – fixed to a branch, but slowly withering and hanging on for dear input. As a result, your morale is falling; your enthusiasm is blunted; and your sense of purpose is no longer prevailing.
You’re Not Inspired. The work doesn’t stoke your creative, intellectual, spiritual or technical fires anymore. Yes, you can still perform it and turn out an incredible product or outperform standards, but you find the entire process rote, routine, predictable and stale. Your maneuver through the steps and protocols from memory, applying best practices, standardized practices and operational requirements with ease. The end result looks and feels like you’ve expended hours of time and an inordinate amount of brain power, but you know you didn’t.
You Can’t Wait Until It’s Over. Let’s say you get notification of a new project or are asked to, yet again, produce X, Y or Z, and you do any of the following: 1) sigh in exasperation; 2) roll your eyes; 3) close your monitor and “walk it off” or 4) delay action until the last possible moment. If you exhibit any of these reactions, on a repeat basis, during the course of your engagement with a client or organization, then it may be a sign that something is awry. If when you’re in the throes of an assignment or task and absolutely cannot wait to move on to something else (and wouldn’t mind if you were never asked to do X, Y or Z ever again), then that means the work is not stimulating, compelling or gratifying to you anymore.
Your Life Is Being Impeded. What started out as a seemingly manageable side hustle has exponentially increased its demands on your time. You thought you’d be able to spend two or three hours several days a week doing this or that, but “this or that” now wants you to double or triple your commitment – because you’re just that good. But the requests didn’t snowball overnight; they trickled in – a one-time ask here, an emergency request there and then multiple “because you did it so well last time” over and over again. Before you know it, your freelance gig has ballooned from 15 hours a week to nearly 30. It feels like you’re working full time because, well, you practically are.
It’s not easy to walk away from what appears to be a good thing. It’s even harder when those around you who are not in the situation are incredulous that you’d consider doing so. The difficulty piques when the reality is you aren’t being clearly abused, mistreated, uncompensated or undermined.
But sometimes the best service you can provide is not always for others, but for yourself. When you cut ties, you may gain a new lifeline for your own ambitions, interests and the precious time you will never get back.