7 Signs It's Time to Quit Freelancing

By Paul Michael on 15 January 2018 0 comments

Tell someone you're a freelancer, and you'll usually be treated with a mix of envy and admiration. Freelancing brings with it a perception of freedom and flexibility that is a definite plus, but much harder to sustain than many people might realize.

As a freelancer, chances are you put in more hours and are on the go more than regular full-time employees. You don't get subsidized health care, a 401(k) match, or paid vacation. It can be tough — sometimes, too tough. And when the following red flags appear, it may be time to throw in the towel. (See also: Day Job or Freelance: Which Is Right for You?)

1. You don't enjoy it anymore

Let's start with the most obvious reason. If it's just not something you like doing anymore, maybe it's time to start thinking about a different career path. Remember when you first decided to jump into the freelancing pool? The buzz you felt going it alone. Hustling for clients. Being your own boss. It all felt like the world was your oyster. If you now get up every day wishing you'd made a different choice, that's life telling you you're wasting time.

Our job takes up the majority of our waking hours, so to be doing something that makes every one of them painful is just not worth it. What do you daydream about doing instead? What would reinvigorate those passions you once felt for freelancing? Listen to your gut and make a move in that direction. (See also: 8 Signs the 9-to-5 IS Right for You)

2. It's getting harder and harder to find work

When you first dipped your toe into the freelance pool, you had to hustle to get those initial clients. But, after some hard work, you built up a nice client roster and had enough regular work to make freelancing a financial success. However, things change. Markets change. Freelance industries can become flooded with new and cheaper talent. And, of course, there are those sites like Fiverr and Guru that are crammed with people all over the world charging rates that you cannot even begin to compete with.

That mix of more competition, lower freelance rates, and even corporate downsizing can have a serious impact on the time you spend trying to find work. And if you spend more time looking for it than working on it, you could be in real trouble. (See also: How to Land More Freelance Clients)

3. You can no longer afford to pay for your own health care

This is a big reason freelancers are returning to the workforce, and it's a sad sign of the times. Corporations and small businesses have the clout to negotiate excellent rates for their employees. Not only that, but the company pays the majority of the monthly premium, with some companies even offering completely free HMO coverage for an employee and family.

As a freelancer, you don't have that kind of power. According to data gathered by eHealth, the average individual health insurance premium for 2017 was $393 a month. It skyrockets to $1,021 a month for families. That's not taking into account deductibles, which you have to meet before the insurance kicks in. It's a huge burden for a freelancer to take on, and coming back into the fold can be a relief. (See also: 10 Work Perks You Can't Get as a Freelancer)

4. You miss the interaction with other employees

Freelancing can be a lonely business. Many people take daily human interaction for granted. In fact, some people tire of it all, and it becomes a major reason for freelancing and going solo. But over time, you can go days without talking to anyone except the checkout cashier and the dog.

Humans, for the most part, are social creatures; it's only natural to start longing to be around other people again — for those water cooler talks about last night's killer season finale, or the latest and greatest music you've discovered. And while texting and calling people can help with the loneliness, it can become depressing. If it's starting to weigh on you every day, and you are making excuses to leave the house, it's time to think about returning to the workforce. (See also: 11 Ways Freelancers and Telecommuters Can Make Friends and Network)

5. You're bored and you're coasting

Has the freelance life lost its spark because you are simply not being challenged anymore? It's possible that your daily work routine is filled with the same projects, for the same clients, over and over again.

Some freelance writers get stuck penning annual reports and company brochures week in, week out, and it becomes monotonous work. Some freelance photographers get stuck doing weddings and graduations, and although it's special for the people being photographed, it can be tedious taking the same shots every time. Whatever your freelance gig, if you are dreading getting out of bed in the morning because you have "those projects," you have lost your passion. Dive back into something more challenging, for your own mental wellbeing.

6. You can't make ends meet

Freelancing is a constant hustle. It can be exhausting to find work for yourself. What's worse is when the jobs start paying less, or you lose a few clients. Some clients will be tempted by younger freelancers offering lower rates. Others may just be retiring, or going in another direction. And while it's important not to panic if you do lose some regular monthly income, you have to be prudent about how long you ride it out.

Can you find something that will make up for that income loss before it really starts to eat away at your emergency fund? Do you even have an emergency fund? What can you cut out to keep going? Examine the budget carefully, and if things are looking bleak, you may need to cut and run to a regular, full-time salary. (See also: The Smart Way to Budget on a Freelance Income)

7. The work-life balance is no longer acceptable

When you first started freelancing, you knew you'd have to put in extra hours to get the business off the ground. After that, it should have been more like a day job, with regular hours that you work, regular time to relax, and hopefully, a week or two of vacation. However, some freelancers swear by the saying, "Never turn down work — they may never ask again."

That can be a huge problem. You don't want to turn work away and risk an income stream drying up. But you're tired. You've been putting in 60-hour weeks and you need a break. If you have reached that stage where you are living to work, and not working to live, you should consider quitting and finding a full-time job with an employer. (See also: 9 Signs Your Work-Life Balance Is Off)

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