How to Leave Your Terrible Job or Project This Year

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Parting ways without fighting
Depression, being unhappy with work

As with learning to say no, learning when to quit can be a hard thing. Quitters are losers, after all.

But maybe you’re stuck in a job that you hate. Do you find that your work is no longer rewarding? No longer fun? Are you not getting along with your co-workers, despite numerous attempts at trying to find common ground? Are you a freelancer on a long-term contract where the client is constantly being difficult?

Read on as we discuss ways to take action and make the rest of your year better for you.

Moving Onto Better Paying Projects

Life isn’t all about money. That being said, we do need it to survive and to buy the things we want. Even though money doesn’t really matter beyond owning the basic things in life, earning it does bestow us with milestones to aim for ⏤ it’s one way to measure our success. And who doesn’t love success?

Earning more money

Over time it’s natural to want to have your income reflect the experience and skills that you’ve learned. This is especially tricky for new freelancers who cut their rates due to lack of experience, and then find themselves being under-compensated as their skills inevitably develop. On the other hand, even chiseled workers can find themselves outgrowing their salary.

When this happens you have two choices:

  1. Ask for a pay rise
  2. Move onto something else

Pretty simple really, but that’s not the tricky bit. It’s your contractual obligation you need to watch out for!

Check Your Contract

Freelancers will have more difficulty in this area. If you’re working with a contract (and you should be!), you will have already agreed on the rate of your pay beforehand. For long-term contracts you should always include a clause that leaves room to revisit your rates mid-way through the work. Actually, I would advise this to everybody, not only those new to freelancing.

Don’t “trap” yourself in a contract. Even PT/FT employees will will be required to hand-in notice before leaving, so that the company has time to replace you. Otherwise, you might have to forfeit your final months’ salary. Check your contract first, because abandoning a contract abruptly always has dire consequences!

Check your contract!

Leaving a Job/Project When the Client is Just Awful

But it’s not always about the money, is it? Even the highest-paying jobs aren’t really worth it if you’re miserable. Maybe certain colleagues aren’t very nice to work with, or maybe you have a client that wants more of your time (beyond the scope of what’s already been agreed upon) without paying for it.

It happens, and sadly it happens a lot. I would recommend ways to fix your relationship with your clients, but if you’re reading this you’ve probably already tried to do that on multiple occasions.

My first advice is, once again, check your contract. My second advice is to move forward on the best terms you can. Even if you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly, being the better person is in your best interests, believe me. Professionalism always pays off in the end.

How to Part Ways with Dignity (and Why You’d Want to)

Sending an angry email along with a resignation letter and an invoice for services rendered is a terrible way to end a business relationship. If your communication sounds angry, their response will be too, and you won’t be “heard”. You can still convey your disappointment or frustration, or how the role/pay is no longer working for you, but don’t attack with your words.

Parting ways without fighting

Professionalism can increase your chances of:

  • Leaving with a quality reference
  • Being paid for your services without issue
  • Your employer recommending you for another job elsewhere

And decrease your chances of:

  • Being left out-of-work for a long time
  • High-blood pressure (this can be a very stressful time!)
  • Wasting time sending fruitless angry messages back-and-forth

In rare cases, your resignation can actually bring a bad situation to light and resolve any issues you might have. Sometimes it takes an ultimatum to make people listen!

Don’t Make Snap Decisions

Obviously, having other work lined up is a smart move, but in the moment of incident it’s easy to forget that. It’s tough out there; if you quit your role on the spot you don’t know how long it’ll take you to find something else. It takes discipline to keep your cool when your stress and anxiety is running high on a daily basis, but discipline can only be learned before the fact.

If you’re not happy at work but you’re not 100% sure you’re ready to give up yet, seek other options anyway. It can’t hurt to see what else is out there, and don’t be afraid to tell the truth when the “So why are you thinking of leaving your current job?” question comes up (and it will, out of curiosity at least). Employers need to know you’re not a “problem employee”.

It’s not wrong ask for more money if your talents reflect the value, or to want to work in a happier, more friendly environment. In fact, your future employer will appreciate your honesty and openness ⏤ it shows that you can communicate well and (attempt to at least) build bridges with your teammates.


Don’t let your emotions run away with you ⏤ ending a business relationship amicably is always the best way forward, otherwise you may end up making a bad situation even worse. If you’re stressing at the thought of another year in a job that’s making you depressed, hopefully this article can serve as a reminder that there is always a positive way forward. Good luck!

Let’s hear some encouragement in the comments below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Leaving a Job or Project

How can I quit a project without burning bridges?

It’s important to communicate your decision professionally and respectfully. Start by scheduling a meeting with your supervisor or project manager to discuss your decision. Be honest about your reasons for leaving, but avoid blaming others or being overly negative. Offer to help with the transition process, such as training a replacement or finishing up any outstanding tasks. Remember to thank them for the opportunity and express your hope to maintain a positive relationship in the future.

What should I consider before quitting a job or project?

Before making a decision, evaluate your reasons for wanting to leave. Are you unhappy with the work, the team, or the company culture? Or are you simply looking for new challenges or opportunities? Consider the potential consequences of leaving, such as financial implications, impact on your career progression, and the effect on your personal life. It’s also important to have a plan for what you’ll do after leaving.

How can I quit a freelance job gracefully?

As a freelancer, your reputation is crucial. To quit a job gracefully, communicate your decision clearly and professionally. Provide a reasonable notice period and offer to complete any outstanding work. Avoid leaving in the middle of a project if possible. Be honest about your reasons for leaving, but avoid being overly critical or negative.

How can I back out of a project tactfully?

If you need to back out of a project, it’s important to do so tactfully to maintain your professional relationships. Communicate your decision as early as possible and provide a valid reason. Offer to help with the transition process and express your regret for any inconvenience caused.

What’s the best way to handle a difficult conversation about leaving a job or project?

Difficult conversations are part of the process when you decide to leave a job or project. Prepare for the conversation by clearly understanding your reasons for leaving and anticipating potential reactions. Be honest, but tactful in your communication. Listen to the other person’s perspective and respond respectfully.

How can I manage the stress of leaving a job or project?

Leaving a job or project can be stressful. It’s important to take care of your mental health during this time. Practice stress management techniques such as regular exercise, meditation, and maintaining a healthy diet. Seek support from friends, family, or a professional counselor if needed.

How can I ensure a smooth transition after leaving a job or project?

To ensure a smooth transition, offer to help with the handover process. This could involve training a replacement, documenting your work, or finishing up any outstanding tasks. Communicate your departure to any relevant stakeholders and provide your contact information for any future queries.

What should I do if I regret leaving a job or project?

If you regret your decision, it’s important to evaluate why. Is it because of the new job or project, or do you miss the old one? Depending on the situation, you might consider reaching out to your previous employer or project manager to discuss potential opportunities. However, it’s also important to give yourself time to adjust to the new situation.

How can I maintain professional relationships after leaving a job or project?

Maintaining professional relationships after leaving a job or project is crucial for your career. Stay in touch with your former colleagues and supervisors, and continue to network within your industry. Be respectful and positive in your communications, and avoid speaking negatively about your former job or project.

How can I use the experience of leaving a job or project to grow professionally?

Leaving a job or project can be a valuable learning experience. Reflect on what you’ve learned from the experience, such as new skills, insights about your career goals, or how to handle difficult situations. Use this knowledge to guide your future career decisions and to grow professionally.

Daniel SchwarzDaniel Schwarz
View Author

Previously, design blog editor at Toptal and SitePoint. Now Daniel advocates for better UX design alongside industry leaders such as Adobe, InVision, Marvel, Wix, Net Magazine, LogRocket, CSS-Tricks, and more.

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