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If You’ve Quiet Quit, You Should Just Quit

best life freelance Jun 07, 2024

“Quiet quitting” started with employees deciding to (gasp) just do their jobs and not cater to the unreasonable expectations of corporate culture. Since then, it has become a standard phrase to describe mentally quitting anything you can’t actually quit.

When I first heard the term, I thought, thank God I work for myself and don’t have to “quiet quit” anything. That was followed by lots of self-aggrandizing thoughts about me being a Boss, defining work on my terms, people not telling me what to do, etc.

Those people have to quiet quit stuff because they let other people control their work; I’m in complete control of my work…

Then I read a report by Worksome that said thirty-three percent of freelancers have considered quiet quitting. “[W]hen given a bad experience, freelancers don’t feel it’s worth going above and beyond for the client, leading to quiet quitting.”

I started to think about all of the conversations I have with the freelancers about terrible clients that pay well, work that isn’t fulfilling but is steady, and clients that we stay with because they’ve “been with us since the beginning” even if the relationship is no longer a good fit. I hadn’t considered these examples as quiet quitting, but as the trade-offs you must make as a freelancer. In reality, these are all ways we settle for less than we deserve because of narratives around survival, scarcity, and loyalty.

Do I think freelancers should go “above and beyond” for clients that don’t value them? Absolutely not.

Do I think freelancers should keep working for clients who don’t value them and do “so-so” work just to get by?

Also no. Freelancers should take their desire to “quiet quit” as a sign that a particular client or project isn’t a good fit and move on. It isn’t about doing more than you’re expected to do; it’s about acting intentionally to get what you need from your work.

This should be true for all workers but especially for freelancers who have made a conscious decision to choose their work and the people they work with. If you’re going to “quiet quit” you might as well go back and work for someone else.

Which led me to reflect on my work. Are there areas where I’m “quiet quitting”?

It turns out there are.

I didn’t realize that there were areas of my work that I quiet quit and, even more alarming, other areas in my life that I had quiet quit without even knowing it.

I had quiet quit relationships with difficult people, recurring stressful situations, and personal goals that I had not been able to achieve. I had stopped going “above and beyond” to make those things better and just resigned myself to accepting what they were and enduring them but not fully experiencing them.

I was just going through the motions.

Sometimes quiet quitting is a shield to protect your sanity in a situation that you can’t escape, like a relationship with a difficult person who, for whatever reason, will always be part of your life.

Sometimes that shield is temporary, more of a bridge to hold you over until you can find something better, like a crappy client who pays well. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves until five years later; we’re still working for that crappy client.

Does quiet quitting become a coping mechanism that holds us back from demanding more from life and doing the hard work to not just go through the motions but participate fully?

If I can “quietly quit,” I don’t have to fix what’s wrong.

“[M]ost of us invest a lot of energy, one way or another, in trying to avoid fully experiencing the reality in which we find ourselves.”
- Oliver Burkman

I talk to many freelancers about doing their Work in the world—creating businesses that allow them to work with people and on projects that make them feel fulfilled, worthy, and joyful. And while I fully believe that is possible, the journey is messy.

On the path to meaningful work lies many transactional relationships where we’re just exchanging time for money. Those transactions are necessary to learn more about what we want to do, who we want to work with, and what we need to get out of that work. There will always be trade-offs and concessions that carry us over until the new story can manifest. The trick is not getting stuck in the transactional to the point where joy becomes a nice-to-have and not a must-have.

The same goes for a meaningful life. The ability to “quietly quit” gives us an excuse to keep doing things that aren’t serving us.

  • I’ve kept friendships that no longer worked because that person had “been there from the beginning.”

  • I’ve stopped trying to fix meal time with my daughter because I’ve written it off as “just what happens when you’re five.”

  • I’ve emotionally removed myself from family relationships that “weren’t fixable.”  

These interactions aren’t just not serving me; they’re doing a disservice to the people I interact with.

  • My friends deserve a relationship with someone who fully participates in the friendship. If that’s not me, we should cut each other loose and find someone else.

  • My daughter deserves a parent who is consciously trying to make routines better.

  • My family members deserve someone who will step up and tell them the truth about ongoing relationship dynamics.

Life is too short to just go through the motions on anything, whether a job, a relationship, or a daily obligation. If we’ve quiet quit, we should just quit. If we can’t or don’t want to, we must find a way to engage fully.


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