Dr. Freelance: Rather than a question, I just wanted to share an editor’s perspective on burning bridges, based on a recent experience. I had hired an assistant editor who quit after less than two months. A month later, she contacted me because she hated her new job and was looking for some freelance jobs. You can guess my answer. Freelancers, do not burn bridges with employers if you want them to give you freelance work in the future!—Once Burned, Permanently Shy
Dear OBPS: Thanks for sharing that cautionary tale. I’ve quit more than my fair share of jobs, but my dad instilled a principle that has always stuck with me: “Never have an acrimonious departure” — and it’s even more important to the freelancer or would-be freelancer.
Leaving after just two months doesn’t necessarily qualify as acrimonious, but it certainly could be considered discourteous for the inconvenience and costs to the employer. Which is not to say that you should stay in a bad situation, only to state that you need to be aware that there are consequences.
The simple reason for leaving on good terms and avoiding burning bridges, as in the example here, is that you might want work from your former employer. I left my last job on amicable-but-not-smiley-happy terms with my boss, though I still had good relationships with staff members. Out of either principle or bullheadedness, I did not want to make the first contact to ask for freelance jobs; I didn’t want to look like I was struggling to make my freelance business work.
That being said, I confess to being very pleased when someone from the company contacted me with an assignment after I’d been gone for 18 months or so! Today, I consider them a great client — our relationship is far better than it ever was when I was on staff.
But the secondary reason for not burning bridges is that we creatives live in a damn small world. You will cross paths with these people again, and you are making a major mistake to think that people don’t talk. Potential clients (at least the smart ones) will dig into your past relationships and make a few calls. The momentary satisfaction of telling someone off, whether an employer or a freelance client, just isn’t worth the long-term fact that they’ll always be within your “six degrees of separation.”
Any experiences with burning bridges out there? Please share in the comments.