Diamonds might be forever, but unfortunately, freelance writing gigs are not. Even though many freelancers pride themselves on their ability to cultivate long-term relationships with clients, as Geoffrey Chaucer said nearly 700 years ago, all good things must come to an end, and in the 21st century, that includes writing gigs.
While there’s no way to really stop a freelance writing job from drawing to a close, savvy freelance writers can look for the following warning signs that may indicate that it is time to start dusting off that resume and begin looking for new opportunities.
1. Your workload changes dramatically
It’s common for a client’s needs to vary over the course of a year. For instance, if a writer is creating content for a pool maintenance company, it’s probably safe to expect the client to ask for more posts in the spring and summer “high season” than in the winter, when sales are far slower. If your workload changes suddenly without explanation it might be time to start checking job boards, as it could mean the client isn’t looking to spend as much money in the content creation department, which could signal the ending of a gig.
2. Other freelancers are being let go
Another sign that a freelance gig could be in danger is if other freelancers are being let go at an unusual rate. While there’s certainly a moderate amount of turnover in the freelance world due to the nature of the business (freelancers get other gigs, client needs change, etc.), if you notice that a client’s freelance pool shrinks dramatically overnight from 10 writers to 4, you definitely have cause for concern.
Not only would a move like this signal that your client is willing to cut a wide swath of their workforce at once (which is, by itself, not a very reassuring thing), but thinking more broadly, this type of behavior could also indicate that your client is having budget issues, which could result in the further drawing down (or elimination altogether) of the freelance writing team.
3. You’re not high on the list of priorities for a new manager
Though you might not immediately think so, management changes actually happen quite a lot in the freelance world, especially when freelance writers are dealing with large or midsize clients. A good manager will respond to emails promptly and take time to listen to any questions or concerns; however, if you find a new manager isn’t replying to your emails on time or taking your questions or concerns seriously, it may mean that your department is no longer a priority for the company as a whole. When it comes time to review budgets, contracts, etc., your gig could be left on the cutting room floor.
4. You’ve been asked to take a late payment or a pay cut
Freelance writing is certainly an enjoyable job, but at the end of the day there’s one reason we all do what we do: money. And if your client suddenly asks you to take a lower salary, or your payment is delayed for a reason that is not clearly spelled out (like a bank holiday or a change in payment systems), the company you are working for could be having budget problems, which isn’t a good sign for your gig in the long term.
5. Communication is reduced or shut down
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to communication for a freelance writing gig. Some managers like to check in with their writing teams on a weekly or even daily basis, while others are content to let their writers work on their own with minimal supervision. However, if you notice that communication has been drastically reduced from what you’re used to, it might be time to start looking for other opportunities, as this could again signal that your department simply isn’t a priority anymore.
It’s true that every freelance gig is different, and you may have encountered some of these issues before, and still held on to your position months or even years later. Still, if you notice any of the above situations happening, or even if something feels a little “off” to you about you’re a specific freelance gig, it may be worth having a brief and candid conversation with your immediate superior about what is going on, and what kind of job security you can expect in the weeks and months ahead.