Freelance Work: 5 Reasons Writers Must Embrace Rejection

Editor

Ask any writer their three biggest fears about freelance work, and you’ll hear one word a lot:

Rejection.

It totally makes sense. No one wants to get their freelance work rejected, this fear holds people back.

It’s probably happened to you too.

You’ve seen a job post for freelance work that you know you’d be perfect for, you’ve got the listing up, ready to go. BUT at the deadline, you don’t apply.

You’d love to connect with an editor, BUT your finger just hovers over the Tweet you want to send, afraid. Eventually, you delete it.

You want to raise your rates with a client you’ve been working with for a year. You know you produce work that’s worth more. BUT, every time you sit down to type your request out, you just can’t do it.

Any of these sound familiar?

If the answer is “yes,” it’s ok. We’ve all been there.

But do you really want that to be how your freelancing career ends? Fear of rejection?

I didn’t think so.

That’s why I think it’s so important to do something that’s a little bit weird, embrace rejection.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Start with a rejection mindset

What? That sounds like the opposite of what you’re supposed to do to get freelance work. Well, hear me out.

Rejection is part of every freelance writing business.

But it also stops so many people in their tracks too. I think it’s because the idea of rejection becomes a lot scarier than it is in reality.

So try flipping the script

Instead of being positive you’re going to get a “yes” on everything you send or submit, flip it, assume you’re going to get a “no.”

Realize that in almost every single case, hearing “no” is still ok. It happens. You pick yourself up and move on to the next thing.

But having that little voice in the back of your mind assuming “no” is the answer until it isn’t?

Well, it’s a little mental mindset shift that can pay off.

Here’s what to do: Take the pressure off yourself

When you send out pitches and LOIs, apply for gigs, network, or anything, tell yourself it’s ok to hear “no.”

2. Build your rejection muscles

Now that you’ve got your rejection mindset ready to roll to get freelance work, it’s time to test it out.

To build your rejection muscles, you need to get rejected…

A lot.

Think about something you’re good at in life. Maybe you can:

  • Run five miles a day
  • Cook an amazing souffle, or
  • Lift the biggest kettlebell at the gym…

Unless you were born some sort of prodigy, you had to learn how to do that. And, just like with every single thing you learn in life, you probably messed up or hit setbacks along the way.

The same is true with freelance work.

A lot of people set themselves up for a tough time because they expect themselves to be 100% perfect from day one.

As someone who has been doing this for over a decade, let me tell you, that never happens.

So, might as well get your reps in from the start.

Here’s what to do: Put yourself out there

  • Apply for the gigs you aren’t sure you’re qualified for
  • Send out tons of LOIs
  • Network
  • Jump into forums and other writers groups,
  • Publish posts that aren’t perfect.

Every time you do that, you’re working your rejection muscles. When something doesn’t work out, brush it off, and move to the next.

This talk from Jia Jiang about “rejection therapy” is an excellent starting point.

3. Figure out your rejection rate to get freelance work

A lot of successful freelancers track the pitches and LOIs they send because it helps get a full picture of where you stand.

You can see what you’ve sent out and what got a response. Once you have a baseline, after a few dozen emails or so, you can start seeing some patterns.

Maybe you’ve got one killer LOI that’s getting a ton of responses. That’s great, use it more! And if you’re hearing crickets, well, that means you’ve got to make some tweaks.

But knowing where you are from the start makes a big difference, and it can help with your rejection mindset.

As you build your freelance writing skills (and your confidence) you’ll have a:

  • Better portfolio
  • More focused niche
  • Short and sweet LOI

Each of those can combine to inching your rejection rate down and getting a lot more yesses.

Here’s what to do: Track everything you send

You can use Google Sheets or a free tool like Airtable. Look at what you send out, and track the response. From there you can start making improvements and lowering your rejection rate.

4. Embrace your inner superhero

What gigs would you apply to if you never worried about getting rejected? What sites would you pitch?

I’d guess they might look a little different from the approach you’re taking now. But here’s another area where rejection matters.

When you start reducing that fear of rejection, it opens up an entire world of possibilities. Suddenly, you’re not going to be motivated by the “no” because it doesn’t matter.

Being so afraid to hear that word isn’t going to hold you back anymore.

When rejection isn’t this big scary thing lurking in the corner, you can start doing some pretty amazing things in life.

And guess what? You might actually start hearing “yes” a lot more, but you won’t know until you give it a shot.

Here’s what to do: Look rejection in the eye once a week

Every week, pick one scary thing that you’ve been putting off; applying to a gig, sending out a pitch, emailing an editor, it doesn’t matter what, pick something.

Then, channel your inner superhero, be brave, and send it out. It won’t take long before these big scary things don’t scare you at all anymore.

5. Be a business owner

Guess what? As a freelancer, you’re a business owner.

So, that means you need to think like one.

Have you ever gone into a store, browsed around for a bit, and walked out not buying anything?

Pretty much everyone has.

But, the store owner didn’t get upset that their store was awful and they should shut it down.

No. They understand it’s business.

Sometimes, a customer will buy, and sometimes they walk away. It’s not personal, it’s just the way things are.

You need to approach your business in the same way. Getting rejected by a potential client is nothing more than a business decision on their end.

All it means is right now, you aren’t a fit. Nothing more, nothing less.

Here’s what to do: Identity opportunities

  • Set a time in your calendar a few months from now to follow up with everyone that rejected you who still looks like a good fit.
  • Send them an updated portfolio or a new topic or something you just wrote.

That “no” could turn into a “yes.”

Rejection = the path to more freelance work

Getting rejected is hard, but it’s also a part of freelancing. The quicker you learn to overcome it, the better off you’ll be growing your career and landing quality freelance work. I know you can do it.

How do you handle freelance-work rejection? Let’s discuss in the comments.

Sean Ogle is the founder of Location Rebel where he helps people build small businesses that allow them to work from anywhere and spend more time doing the stuff they love.

Grow Your Writing Income. FreelanceWritersDen.com

11 Comments

  1. Ahmad Jenkins

    I’ve started looking at rejection as a challenge, I think back to my experiences in the military (bootcamp more specifically). I couldn’t just up and quit, I had to push forward. This forced me to look to others and myself for startegies to cope. If I couldn’t do 50 push ups in 2 minutes I would agitate my RDC to get the extra ‘practice’.

    I’ve found so much good info here to add to my tool box Sean. Thank you so much!

    Reply
  2. Jeremy

    Testing one last time

    Reply
    • Carol Tice

      And testing a reply (pay no attention to us, folks!) – we just installed a new comment-subscription tool because ours was failing.

      Reply
  3. Grace

    Rejection can be so tough but I am starting to embrace it and try to use it as a tool to improve my writing. Still hoping for the acceptance one day but I still am hopeful it will come. Great post!

    Reply
  4. Linda H

    One of my first college professors told me I’d never been a successful writer. I knew he was wrong because I’d had three other teachers tell me I was a good writer and would succeed. I kept on. I was published multiple times both as a freelance photographer and writer after transferring to another school.

    After moving to a new state, a newspaper editor I approached for work told me I was a wet-nosed kid who’d likely move home to mama in six months and he’d not hire me because I wouldn’t last. It ticked me off because I KNEW I could write. So I found jobs that included writing and eventually formed a professional writing business that was successful for over 30 years. But I got beat up in the last few years, a colleague double-crossed me, I burned out, I remembered past hurts that created fear and that stops me.

    Now as I start again after a brief hiatus due to illness I’m looking back at what I did and seeing that I’ve done more than I ever realized. It’s helping me face past rejection and move forward.

    This is a great post. I needed it. Thank you for posting.

    Reply
  5. Maria Fatima Aguilar

    As a freelancer, this helps me a lot. Can I post this to my freelancing website?

    Reply
    • Angie Mansfield

      Hi, Maria – You are free to post a link to this post; you just can’t copy/paste it word for word.

      Reply
    • Carol Tice

      Hi Maria —

      Please don’t copy or republish any post from my blog. That is a copyright violation. Create your own content! Though you’re always free to link to my content, if you’re mentioning resources.

      Reply
  6. Hal

    Check out the book titled “Go For No” by Andrea Waltz and Richard Fenton. Short read but will transform how you view this response and have you daring them to go for more! 🙂

    Reply
    • Hal

      * Oops – meant to say ‘have you going for more! :)’

      Reply
  7. Patricia Sutton

    Hi,
    The video is inspiring and the blog very helpful for freelancing. I practised his idea on a house hunting journey, and it has reduced fear of rejection. Thanks again

    Reply

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