Freelancers share their tips on handling rejection

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At a talk I gave in London last night, someone came up to me and asked how to manage life as a freelancer ‘being all by yourself’. My answer was that, thankfully, I’m not. Or at least not all the time.
While it is true that the nature of my work calls for a lot of independent working, I do regularly consult a network of ‘allies’, They are more than colleagues, in a way, although we don’t share a boss or canteen. They are mostly fellow freelancers, in all parts of the world, with whom I’ve worked, studied or lived, or in some cases only know through social media. They are there to call when I’m thinking about the next project to launch, need some quick advice about a practical issue, a contact, a source, or just a laugh.
How effective and valuable such a network is got proven when gathering input for this piece. Following my recent blog on the fear of rejections, I wanted experienced freelancers to share their top tips. Within hours, I got a pile of great replies. Here’s a selection (somehow, the women were more outspoken on this one, but I am tracking down some men for another blog).
I asked one of my close allies and super talented freelance colleagues Fiona in Australia for advice and, as usual, she had plenty. She told me that when she faces rejection, she allows herself to sulk for a day but never longer: “Having a support network of other writers, editors and journalists to vent to can help. But then leave it there.”
She also believes it is worth carefully listening to any reply you might get: “If an editor gives feedback on why you were unsuccessful (which is rare, but does occasionally happen), take it on board. It might mean you have to come back to it in a few days when you’re not feeling so emotional, but there’s invariably some useful pointers in there. Always be polite. Even if you want to send a snooty email back, don’t. And pitch lots and to lots of different places—it means you’re never relying on just one thing to come off so it doesn’t hurt quite as much if it doesn’t.”
And I loved the resilience she showed next, when she noted: “Editors’ rejections spur me on to try harder and prove them wrong. Remember that guards change, so a no now might just be from that one person or it might just be for that one story. And of course, never underestimate the ability to do it yourself. Can it be published with another publication or via your own blog or can you start your own publication to do publish it? These days I tend to think that perseverance is more important than anything.”

“Perseverance is more important than anything.”

I also posted a call for tips in various freelance support groups on social media. Anna in Scotland emailed me right away (in itself a great example of how supportive fellow freelancers can be!). She says she uses positive reminders to keep her spirits up: “I have a folder called ‘nice things’ and every time I get a sweet note from an editor telling me how great I am, or from someone I’ve interviewed telling me how much they loved the piece, or even a note from a colleague raving about my chocolate brownies, I save it there. Then, if I’m feeling rubbish and it’s all going wrong, I have lots of lovely, supportive, positive messages to read. If people Tweet me praise I also save them as favourites, so they are right there on my phone.”
And another tip from Anna, to stay positive in quiet times: “If things are quiet, once I’ve done all my emails, calls, pitching, chasing etc., I step away from the computer and do something different. I go to an exhibition or out charity shopping or take my neighbour’s dogs for a walk and come back to my desk feeling so much better than if I had just lurked around on Facebook wasting time. I also try to use quiet times to make sure all other dreary admin is up to date, receipts filed, all that kind of stuff. That means I feel as if I have been working even if I have not been writing.”
Louise believes in the power of the one ‘yes’: “I tend to take rejections personally. But when I start heading for despair, I always have a stern word with myself and think: ‘Tomorrow is another day!’ And all it takes is one yes to cancel out all the rejections and then you’re on top of the world again (for a little while, anyway).”
Flic keeps a healthy distance: “It’s not personal. That’s the only thing you have to remember.”
Roxanne says trying is the most important thing: “A technique I’ve learnt along the way is to celebrate rejection and failure. Rejection means that you stepped in to the arena. You tried. You put yourself out there. You valued ‘courage’ over ‘acceptance’.  Living a courageous life is living with the possibility of rejection along the way. So if you have the crushing disappointment of something not working out, of rejection, then remind yourself of the values you were honouring in the first place and celebrate that.”
And if all that doesn’t do the trick, you could always try Jai’s recipe for handling rejections: “ Antidepressants and a good quality whisky.” And a dose of humour, clearly.
We’ll be talking all things freelance -including handling rejection, turning ‘no’s’ into ‘yesses’ and how best to be your own boss- at the next Journopreneur Workshop on Sat 31 May in London. There’s a few spaces left: BOOK HERE


Photo by Quinn Dombrowski/ Flickr/ Creative Commons License