How I Transformed a “NO” Into My Best Paying Client

When you’re a freelance writer, sending out pitches, applying to job listings, and waiting for a response can feel a …

When you’re a freelance writer, sending out pitches, applying to job listings, and waiting for a response can feel a little bit like a roller coaster.

What if you get rejected? What if they don’t respond at all?

First of all, get comfortable with the idea of rejection. It happens to the best of us, and oftentimes people tell you the best thing to do is pick yourself up and move on. While that is still good advice, I’ve got a technique that landed me hundreds of dollars in extra work.

Today I want to share with you a story of perseverance, a little luck, and how I was able to turn a rejection into my best paying client.

I’m a technical writer, which means I write about software, IT, and programming. When a friend told me about a software company that was hiring writers for programming tutorials, I didn’t think twice. Totally up my alley, right?

I went through and filled out the application as best I could, but I was still pretty early on in my freelancing career at this point. In fact, I hadn’t even set up a website yet. In place of a formal portfolio, I sent them a couple of links to math/computer science posts I had written on an old blog of mine. I figured that was technical enough. I was wrong.

Well, a couple weeks went by with no answer. Not a good sign, especially since they promised a quick turnaround on their call for writers page. I had just about written it off.

Then I got the dreaded email. I was rejected.

Normally, I would have cut my losses and moved on to the next client, but I really wanted to work for this company. I knew I had what it took, I just hadn’t put my best foot forward initially. Instead of throwing in the towel, here’s what I did (and what you can do too!):

1) Respond in a polite and professional tone

By the time I received the rejection email, I had launched my site and portfolio. It now had more technical samples and properly showcased my skill set. I hit reply, and this is the email I sent:

​Thanks for reaching out! Perhaps if you need more writers in the future you can give me a ring. I just set up a new website for my tech writing services: http://www.alnelsonwrites.com

Have a nice day 🙂

And that was it. No begging. No asking them to change their mind. Just showing that I appreciated their decision and attached my portfolio should they have needs in the future.

Guess what happened next?

They responded, way more quickly than they had before. After pointing out my original samples hadn’t been relevant to the position, they wanted to discuss the position further after they saw what I had been working on.

2) Seal the deal

Now that I had the lines of communication open again, it was time to do things right. I wasn’t going to let this gig slip through my grasp a second time, so here’s what I did.

They wanted to know what programming languages I had experience in, and asked for some updated samples. This is what I sent them:

  • My website
  • New, programming-related samples
  • A few ideas of articles I could write for them (this one is key! Even though they didn’t ask, this shows initiative and that you know what you’re talking about)​

I hit send and sat back, expecting it to be a while before they got back to me. A response landed in my inbox within ten minutes.

​That’s very cool! We would like you to be in the [guest writers] program!

Mission accomplished, my friends.

3) Get paid

Getting that verbal acceptance was only the beginning, though. I still had a long way to go before that first payment landed in my bank account.

After they decided to admit me, there was some paperwork and on-boarding to do. They got me set up on a community Slack channel (great idea, by the way!) where we could communicate with other writers and talk about topics. It feels less like a job and more like a community that way. Good stuff.

I’ve written my first tutorial for them and I’m in progress on my second. Everything is going well, and the money isn’t bad either. In fact, they’re my best-paying client!

​What I learned…

If there’s a gig you’re really going after, or a blog you’re cold pitching, don’t be afraid to follow up. Don’t be desperate or nag, but a friendly check-in can mean the difference between walking away empty-handed and your best gig ever. If you get rejected, don’t worry. It happens. Thank them for their time, be professional, and who knows? The tides might turn back in your favor.

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