How Rejection Helps you Succeed as a Freelancer

Getting rejected as a writer is par for the course.  Rejection is an expected and essential part of the freelance …

Getting rejected as a writer is par for the course. 

Rejection is an expected and essential part of the freelance life. From novice writers to seasoned pros, rejection is something every freelancer (and writer!) has to contend with.

No one will deny that being rejected can really sting your ego, but there is a lot that can be learned from being turned down.

But that’s only if you know how to look for those lessons. . .

Let’s dive into why getting turned down can actually help new freelancers build their business.

Rejection Will Toughen You Up

Hands down, one of the most valuable traits every freelancer should have is resiliency.

While being your own boss and setting your own schedule is a wonderful perk, your success (or failure) as a freelancer ultimately falls on you.

That kind of pressure can be immensely hard to handle.

When times get tough, you’ll need to have a thick skin to push forward confidently.

And freelancing writing will get tough.

When you’re just starting out, jobs can be hard to land.

Steady work?

Even harder to find.

It’s easy to let rejection damper your confidence; being able to power through the rough times and disappointments is how you’ll find your success.

Learning to roll with the punches takes time. You probably won’t be feeling so easy-breezy the first few times you hear “no.”

Personally, after being rejected multiple times, I was plagued with thoughts of “not being good enough” or “maybe I’m not cut out for this field.”

Rejection is funny like that; It can make you your own worst enemy. But by changing the way I viewed getting turned down, I was able to change the way it affected me.

Even celebrated writers like William Faulkner, Stephen King, and George Orwell have had to deal with rejection. J.K. Rowling was told “not to quit her day job” after the first Harry Potter book was rejected 12 times! –Buzzfeed

If I had just one piece of advice to new writers, it would be to not give into those self-doubting thoughts when you’re just getting started.

As I became more comfortable with getting turned down, each rejection felt less personal, and I started to use them to grow my craft. Additionally, I was learning to be resilient and became able to tell those self-defeating thoughts to take a hike.

Rejection Provides Opportunities For Growth

The best rejections (if there is such a thing) are ones that come with feedback. (The worst kind is when your pitch goes completely unanswered.) No one likes to be turned down, but if you are, you might as well use it to your benefit.

There can be a lot to learn from hearing “no.”

Did the would-be client give you reasons for why they passed on your pitch?

Instead of sulking over the “no,” try to absorb the reasons for the rejection. By using rejection as an opportunity for growth, you make the best out of a bad situation.

After scouring my inbox, I found some of my “favorite” rejections that came with some sort of actionable feedback.

Check out how I used each rejection as a valuable learning tool:

Client Response

Lesson or Takeaway

“Our editorial calendar/writing team is full at the time” Try pitching them again at a later date. Stay on top of their social media and website for any openings in the future.
“Too similar to previously published pieces” Spend more time researching the potential client’s existing work before pitching.
“We’re looking for a more experienced writer” Devote more time to gaining more sample work, even if unpaid.
“We can’t afford your fee” Is your rate commensurate with your portfolio and experience? If so, try to convey the value you bring to the client that justifies your price. (Also some people just plain undervalue writers–pass!)
“We don’t seem like a good fit” Were the topics pitched “on-brand” for the client? Be sure to fine-tune future pitches for the target audience/client.
“We have a piece in the works on the same topic” You’re on the right track! Use your understanding of the target audience and the client needs to pitch new ideas.

If Feedback Is Not Given, Ask!

While feedback-friendly rejections are great, it’s not always the norm. However, there’s nothing wrong with writing back thanking them for their time and asking for critique or insight as to why you weren’t hired.

It can be hard to believe that in this harsh world, there are actually people that want to help you to succeed, but they exist.

You may not always get a response, but when and if you do, take that criticism to heart and use it to improve your future pitches.

Rejection Can Help You Find A Better Fit

We’ve all been there (or you will be):

  • You have an excellent idea for an article.
  • You have the story all fleshed out and are chomping at the bit to write.
  • Then the email comes from the editor with a “thanks, but we’ll pass.”

Big time bummer. Should you ditch the idea and go back to the drawing board? Not right away, no.

Just because they passed on your ideas, that doesn’t mean your ideas are not good. Rather, your pitch just might not be right for THEM.

You (and your ideas) are not going to be a perfect fit for every client. Sometimes a “no” is a “yes,” just from a different person.

“A Wrinkle In Time” by Madeleine L’Engle was rejected 26 times before it was published.-Buzzfeed

More than a few times, I’ve had an idea I was very excited about. I worked super hard on crafting a perfect pitch, only to be turned down.

Did I automatically decide my ideas were no good and give up on them altogether?

Not even close. Instead, I looked for other outlets to pitch my idea.

Sometimes, another editor jumped at my pitch that was rejected elsewhere. Other times, I was turned down yet again.

Either way, I used that “no” to push myself towards progress rather than throwing in the towel then and there.

Rejection Can Help You Pitch Smarter

There are times, after spending so much energy on formulating the perfect pitch, you become blind to the bigger picture. It may be hard to admit that not every great idea is a winner, especially when you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into it.

If your idea gets rejected more than a few times and you don’t feel like it’s getting any traction, take a moment to reevaluate.

Reach out to a friend or even better, your Contena coach, and get a pair of fresh eyes on your pitch. Maybe they can catch something you missed that you can improve upon.

Another tip I find extremely helpful is to keep a log of the types of pitches getting denied and accepted.

Perhaps pitches sent with two or three post ideas are getting accepted less than those with four to five ideas. Are personalized pitches getting more positive feedback than others?

By keeping track of successes and failures, you may be better able to see a pattern that you would otherwise have missed.

This will only help you pitch better in the future.

By using all available feedback and self-evaluation together, you can significantly improve your accepted/rejected rate.

The Bottom Line

I’m not going to lie and say that I haven’t been devastated by rejection before. When I’ve lost out on a dream gig or if it’s been too long since I had a win, I’ve gotten discouraged.

I’m only human.

While I’ve learned to allow myself to feel my feelings, I also learned to move on from those feelings and learn what I can so I can do better.

As the saying goes, “when you know better, you do better.”

Like it or not, rejection will always be part of freelance writing, so there’s not much use in fighting it.

Instead, use rejection to your advantage.

Trust in yourself, and the process and keep pitching.

After hearing “no” from potential clients, finally getting that “yes” is that much sweeter.

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