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How to keep pushing when you’ve had enough and are ready to quit your business

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These past couple weeks have been crazy.

On one hand, things have been amazing. We’ve been traveling through Europe while working, and business has been growing like crazy at the same time.

On the other hand, these past couple weeks have been tough. I’ve slept horribly lately, I’ve been scrambling to finish about 5+ urgent projects all at the same time, and some crazy customer “fires” sprung up that had to be resolved too, but not without nearly giving me a heart attack.

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I’ve had quite a few 12+ hour days lately (including weekends).

Today, I am running on fumes. A part of me just wants to quit it all.

I just want to get in bed, put on my headphones, watch a movie, and stay in that position for a good year or so.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way, and it won’t be the last. But whenever this happens, I never stop. I never give in. I keep pushing.

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Today I reflected on why that is, and I learned a few things about myself that I thought might help encourage you too if you feel — or have ever felt — like I do.

I’m running towards big dreams, and away from past demons.

I grew up in tough conditions. My mother was a single teacher who got no child support from my father (I use the term “father” loosely because although he was alive and breathing for most of my life, he wasn’t involved).

Teachers make a decent salary for a single person. Throw two kids into the mix and it ain’t easy.

The fridge wasn’t always stocked. My clothes rarely fit right (they were hand-me-downs from other kids who were much bigger than I was). My mom worked late hours and when she finally got home, she was exhausted and didn’t have it in her to give me the support I needed.

Now that I’m older, I see all of this a lot more clearly. My mom did her best; I know that. She gave me just enough to put me through school and keep me fed.

But despite my love and appreciation for her – I never want to go back to that lifestyle.

I have big dreams of supporting my family in a way that life’s conditions never allowed my mother to support me (I don’t blame her one bit, I know it was out of her hands). I don’t want my kids to ever know what true hunger is. I don’t ever want to know again what that is.

I moved about 20 times by the time I was 20. I want my kids to have a single, stable home their entire childhoods.

My work, I accepted years ago, is the path I need to take to get there.

So whenever I’m tired, exhausted, ready to give up…a part of me remembers what this is all for.

I’m accountable to others, including you.

I talk to a lot of people about what I’m doing. I talk to you guys about it. And I often imagine what I’ll say in the next conversation or article.

It would be humiliating to tell you, “Eh, I didn’t feel like working for a few weeks, so we’re sort of running out of business here.”

I want to be an example for you. How could I possibly do that and give up?

That might sound vain or shallow, but it’s my honest feelings. It pushes me forward.

While the main branch of our agency is my wife and me, our new branch, Reliable, has a team of employees who count on us.

They have families and needs. I can’t let them down either. So I keep pushing.

I’m competitive.

Not too long ago, I embraced the fact that I have a very competitive nature.

I fought it for a long time. Self-help books and religion and society tell you that no one is better than anyone else and not to judge and all that.

The truth is I judge constantly.

When I see people who aren’t giving life their best, I simultaneously feel judgement and anger (why are they blowing their only shot?), compassion (maybe something happened in their past that inhibits them that I don’t know about), and acceptance (who am I to decide how anyone should live life?).

I also feel these things for myself.

While I feel compassion and acceptance for myself, I also feel competition. I know I can do better, and unless I earnestly try, I judge myself. I’m not as confident. I’m not as happy.

Maybe it’s a flaw, but it’s who I am. See, there goes the acceptance part.

So to be happy, I have to try. I have to put my dukes up to life and to feelings like this and knock’em the [bleep] out.

At least, that’s the answer I’ve come up with at this point. Maybe I’ll figure something else out when I’m older 😉

And that’s about it.

I feel there are other things that push me forward, but they’re not quite ready to be expressed yet.

Maybe you can help me out. What drives you forward? Can you relate to any of this?

Leave me a comment. I opened a vein and bled for you today. Feel free to bleed right on back 😉

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About David Tendrich

David Tendrich is the co-head of creative agency Unexpected Ways, as well as the co-founder of Reliable PSD: the first-ever PSD to HTML & PSD to Wordpress service run by designers, for designers. He co-runs his companies from Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife and biz partner, Lou Levit.


More about David’s business: David is co-founder of Reliable PSD – what happened when a group of designers got fed up with PSD to Code companies… and created their own. Check them out, and see why freelancers & agencies are head over heels for this amazing new service.

Leave a Comment



  1. So hard when there is no work to be found. I have begun working 3 days a week for my brother-in-law doing landscaping.

    How can i find work? Maybe i just suck.

  2. Hi David,

    What a fantastically honest article and one I can completely relate to. Thanks for sharing!

    Don’t forget that you must look after yourself and that you are allowed to crawl into bed and spend a day watching films, with your phone turned off, completely unreachable. It’ll do you the world of good and if you don’t, you’ll burn out! Been there, not going there again.

    It’s taken me a long while, and I’m still learning, to take time for myself. The world doesn’t collapse if I don’t answer an email immediately, clients are still there if I take a bit longer to return their call. Especially if I explain that I was taking a day off for myself.

    I’m not sloppy in my conduct, I work very hard but I’ve learned to STOP and I’m learning not to feel guilty about it. I may not stop for long but a day of kicking back, not working and not being available can be a godsend both for recuperation and creativity!

    Good luck with it, look forward to reading more of your articles 🙂

  3. Great Post! And well timed for me, business is beating me up a bit the last few weeks and its a great idea to remember why I’m in independent.
    I am aiming for a work/life balance that is the best fit for my family, and I’m enjoying building a network of folks to work with who make work fun and challenging mostly in the right proportions.
    Like you, my Mom was an influence. She was an independent businesswoman. I remember days when she was frustrated and wanted to give it all up, and I remember the days she was stoked because she landed a big account.
    Here’s to brave Moms!

  4. David-
    Thank you so much for sharing this! So much of what you wrote really resonates with me. My young life was not terrible, but I know I want better for my family and that pushes me, too. Exactly the reminder I needed in the middle of this week.

    Thank you for being so candid.

  5. Lovely + refreshingly honest article David. The highs and lows, and sacrifices that are completely magnified when you work for yourself, but worth it when you know your kids will say that about you one day. Mum/Dad did their best for us.

  6. Hearing perspectives like is helps me and I know there are others, like you, pushing forward. I would like to think that I am moving forward with my own dreams and talents, not letting them go to waste, but at that same point we all need downtime and this work you are doing for your family… sometimes your presence makes more of an impact. That is the real balance I am challenged with. Putting in 14 hour days at the home office is still work and not connecting with those around you. I don’t have it all figured out and hope along the way my family sees my struggles and successes and is inspired as well as forgiving.

    • “I don’t have it all figured out and hope along the way my family sees my struggles and successes and is inspired as well as forgiving.”

      I’m sure they see it more than you think.

      Thank you for sharing 🙂


  7. Eliza McCartney says:

    This article was exactly what I needed this morning! I currently have an extremely high-maintenance book design client and was up all night fuming over a round of emails she sent yesterday. I was literally ready to sell my files to her so that she could find another designer to complete the job for her. She already had one designer quit after a few months of working together (I think I now know why). I’m not a quitter, though – just really, really mad. This client won’t stick to the deadlines in our contract, makes numerous revisions (I have over 150 emails from her in the last six weeks), mixes up en dashes/em dashes/hyphens and then repeatedly wants them switched, asks for items to be designed but then doesn’t want to use them (and doesn’t understand why we are off track for our deadlines), the list goes on…

    My husband brought me back round to my senses before he left for work: it’s an opportunity to make more money. Plain and simple. Extra invoicing creates extra money. If she doesn’t want to pay for all of the revision time, then she doesn’t get her files (which is in the contract). This extra money will ensure that our kids will have the best daycare for the summer when school is out and will allow us to finally finish saving up for a down payment for a new vehicle.

    So, I should be ecstatic…right? Not yet – I’m still not completely over my anger. But I get it. I just don’t like the fact that our Client-Designer relationship is being abused. This job will lead me to other book design projects with this client, so I don’t want to damage anything on my end.

    If I quit now, I will let so many people down (including myself). I will see this through to the end even though it’s a difficult job (and far from my dream design job) and the client is unprofessional. I just can’t forget that this is merely a stepping stone to a bigger world!

    • Hey Eliza. I have totally been there before with crappy clients. I had one client who we made an entire online course for and when it was time to deliver the files and get paid they totally bailed. Different situation but the common denominator is a crappy client and quite frankly you don’t want to work with those because they only get worse and they attract other crappy clients also. I am so picky about who I work with now because the headache of a bad client is not worth the money I would rather spend my time finding a dream client. I am not sure how financially dependent you are on this client but in my opinion I would try to find other clients and sources of income and in a nice way “fire the client”. Your sanity and peace is not worth sacrificing.

    • Hey Eliza,

      I’ve always believed in following the heart. Sometimes clients are bad like this, but for some reason I feel it’s right to hang in there. Other time, I feel it’s right to move on. Those times are a lot scarier.

      I don’t know which one is right for you in this, but either way, it sounds like you have a great support team (your husband) and you guys will figure it out 🙂

      Either way, at least enjoy a nice dinner with some of the extra invoicing 🙂

      Thanks for sharing that with me,

  8. Good post. Thanks for opening up and being real. I had the same exact experience that you were talking about growing up and that is definitely a huge motivator for me. I am in a much earlier phase of my business and one of the big things I am struggling with is truly having passion for what I am building. I fear that I have started to build something that I am not passionate about and is more focused on making money and that I am missing out on building something that I actually care about and could be proud of. Any advice on knowing when to keep pushing versus changing gears when you’re not feeling passionate? Does passion and caring about the products you offer play a big role in your motivation?

  9. Great story, perfect timing. I’m trying to rebuild my 20-year-old business after 6 years of illness, treatment and recovery. My troubles come less from the pressure of too much work and too-tight deadlines, and more from the pressure of trying to provide for my wife and to boys. My wife has started a shop (https://www.etsy.com/shop/GrayGreenGoods) that she’s working very hard at, and I’m doing everything I know how, but there are days when I think, “I survived my disease and now I have to fight through this–I’m not sure which is harder”.

    But when I’m looking at big holes in cashflow and panicking about what to do, I just keep going. My boys and my wife are counting on me, and my only option is to come through. I don’t dream of huge success. I just dream of keeping what I have.

    • Hey Ted,

      Thanks so much for sharing your story. I can’t possibly imagine what you’re going through or what you’ve been through. I have a wife, but we don’t yet have kids, so I won’t even try to tell you I know what the pressure to provide for them is like.

      Your wife’s work is really beautiful. Have you explored other avenues aside from Etsy? Etsy is extremely competitive and might be a long-term strategy. It could take a long time to pick up.

      Local markets, festivals, boutique shops, etc. might be a lot easier to break into – and a lot funner, too. You get to actually be in the “outside world” I hear everyone always talking about and meet people 🙂

      Just some thoughts.

      Let me know if I can help.


  10. Wow. Great story, thanks for sharing. I’m sure most readers here can relate (myself included). Must. Keep. Pushing! Chin up 🙂

  11. I really enjoy your style of writing David. Thanks for sharing your story with us all.


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