SOS! I Want Out of This Job

SOS! Posts: Quick tips for getting through creative crisis.

As freelancers, our first instincts are always to take a job that is offered to us. Any job. Especially if it’s a repeat client or a dream client we’re working with for the first time. But sometimes, in the middle of a job, things can take a turn for the worse and suddenly all you want is out. Is it the right time to hit the ejector button? Is there a way to save the job? Can you get out without irrevocably burning that bridge? Let’s look at your options:

  • Your first move should always be to offer options. Did you accidentally overbook yourself? Recommend an artist peer that you know is available.  Have you found that you have a ethical issue with something you’re supposed to be illustrating? Offer the editor a compromise in the art that you can both live with. Whatever the roadblock, unless it is an issue of maltreatment or disrespect, you can usually figure out a compromise or an alternative solution. If you want to keep that client, help them out now, and they’ll come back to you in the future.
  • Don’t sink to their level. If it is a disrespectful person or maltreatment situation then resist the urge to treat them as badly as they are treating you. Stay professional. You may never want to work with this client again, but nothing good will come from getting into the mud and starting a trench war. At the first offense, politely state that you are a professional and will not respond to unprofessional behavior. Second offense, inform them that you will be backing out of the job. If things are bad to a legal degree, then consider talking to a lawyer. Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts and nonprofit groups like them in your area have resources to help artists with legal issues and arbitration.
  • Don’t resent clients you’ve outgrown. It’s a part of your growth as an artist to move past clients on your way up the food chain. It’s not the client’s fault you have bigger, more interesting, better-paying jobs now. Artists often hold on to clients they’ve outgrown for far too long, out of fear of letting any work pass them by, but then they will resent the client for not paying as well as other jobs the artist can get now. Throw the little fish back in the sea—or better yet, throw them to an artist friend who is a little behind you on the career ladder. That way you’re scoring points with your peers as well as your clients.
  • Do your best to complete the job if you can. You really don’t want to leave mid-job if you can help it. Stick it out if at all possible, or offer the job to someone else if that will work, but don’t leave a client high and dry…that will come back to bite you, whether you believe in karma or just art director gossip. Don’t be a quitter. But then remember the feeling of wanting to escape the next time they offer you a job. Don’t succumb to the fear that makes you take jobs not worth your time. Turn them down politely next time, and focus of bigger or more fulfilling clients. And you don’t have to tell them why you’re turning them down. Just a polite “I’m sorry, I don’t have room in my schedule right now” will work, and repeat again if they come back. They’ll get the hint.

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