How Rejection Can Make You a Better Freelance Writer

July 17th, 2008

rejection is a normal part of every freelance writer's life

Photo by Irina Slutsky

A Freelance Writer’s Blueprint for Handling Rejection

Since I embarked on my freelance writing career, I have experienced rejection more often than I have received acceptance. Now I have been a professional long enough and have worked with enough tough bosses that I can take criticism — including harsh criticism — and not get crushed. After 19 years of working in various offices, I now have a pretty tough skin.

However, I don’t just let rejection slide over me. I gnaw on it and suck the juices out of it. No, I’m not a masochist. I am a person who makes the most of every situation and tries to learn something from every experience, even one that’s as unpalatable as rejection. You might be surprised to know that rejection can be a positive thing in your freelancing career.

How should a freelance writer deal with rejection? Here is my own personal blueprint for handling rejection.

Expect rejection.

I’m not being a negative thinker here. All I mean is that you should accept rejection as a normal part of a freelance writer’s life. Even the best, most successful writers have been rejected at one time. Yes, including Dr. Seuss himself. Do you think you’re better than the rest of them? If you expect rejection, then you’re less likely to take it personally. Rejection will not defeat you.

Recognize and accept your disappointment.

There will be lots of times when you feel that you’ve written the perfect article for a publication, or made an irresistible bid for a project, or that you’re the perfect fit for a writing job — and yet your services were rejected. Admit it, you’re totally bummed! And it’s the perfectly healthy way to feel. Allow yourself to feel bad about it. Treat yourself to a chocolate cupcake and a latte while nursing your wounds. But don’t stay there too long. You need to move on.

Analyze what you did wrong.

Go back to the article you submitted, your bid proposal, or your application letter and resume. What could have gone wrong? Was the article not suitable to the publication you submitted it to? Was your bid too high? Perhaps the application letter had a typo? Maybe your resume does not differentiate you enough from other freelance writers, or show off your best qualities? Or maybe you did everything correctly but they simply liked somebody else. It is possible that it was not your fault.

Brainstorm ways you could do better.

Even if your rejection was probably not your fault, note how you could do better next time. Could you do more research on the target publication? Could you offer an additional service — at no added cost — that your competitors might not be able to do? Could you improve your resume so that it reflects what you do best? Would you like to test-run your article, project bid, cover letter and resume to a trusted friend and see what they think of it? You might be surprised with what you learn.

Try and try again.

Now that you have a list of ways to improve how you get new clients or writing jobs, go and do them! Test your new knowledge just to see if the little tweaks you thought of give you better results. If you think you’re too raw to expose yourself again, then try again out of curiosity: will it work this time? Remember what Lisa Simpson used to say, “I’ll keep asking because you might say yes on the 99th time”? This is how people succeed: they try until they succeed.

Rejection is a painful, humiliating experience that’s enough to undermine any professional’s self-confidence and desire to persist. But as with any form of suffering, rejection can help you become a better writer, a better freelancer, and an all-around better person.

Related website:

Rejection Collection: The Writer’s and Artist’s On-line Source for Misery, Commiseration and Inspiration

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