For some freelancers, one of the hardest parts of self-employment is rejection. Be it that you may be pitching ideas daily, there will inevitably be someone, somewhere who says “this idea is not quite right for us.” Therefore, what should you keep in mind?
Ideas are indispensable. Take them elsewhere
Freelancing relies on one currency, and one currency alone: ideas. As long as you are pitching fully formed ideas – rather than just “I want to write about this topic, as I like it” – then these are indispensable. If an idea is knocked back, do not give up on the idea; it can always go elsewhere.
Karl Knights, a freelance journalist who has written for The Guardian, noted that any circumstances could lead to rejection. He said: “when you do get a rejection, if you’re comfortable, ask why it’s being rejected. Is the timing wrong, your pitch oddly worded?”
He then added: “Not everyone can, but many people will offer constructive criticism that you can use going forward if you ask. You have nothing to lose by asking!”
It’s not personal until it is
As a general rule of thumb, rejection is usually not personal. Everyone is busy. This is often why ideas have to be timed exactly to ensure some success. There is a multitude of reasons as to why ideas may not be commissioned, accepted, or even begun.
When asking the variety of freelancers about the theme of rejection for this piece, they all said the same; remember that rejection is not personal.
Hannah Cowton, Editor of Debut Insights, said not to take rejection as a personal insult to you or your writing style: “Instead, think about what you can do going forward. How can you craft another pitch that is more detailed and right for that publication? Research, craft and come back fighting.”
That being said, I have had some rejections which felt personal. I was once asked if I actually had a journalism qualification because I displayed ‘no fundamental understanding of journalism’. A handwritten note said, “your poem was bad and your handwriting even worse” (The irony is that I could not read the rest of it, given how bad the handwriting was). An editor made me feel stupid about my ideas over email because they knew the various people and organisations in the pitch, had written about them before, etc.
In this instance, it’s best not to respond, and sometimes use it to learn from; it’s what inspired this piece, after all! And it may be worthwhile using the same tactic as one Twitter user; think: ‘Thank u, next!’
Learn to tailor your ideas
If anything, rejection is something to learn from; after all, if it’s your dream to be a copywriter for a blog that you adore but keep getting rejected from, then you may need to change the way you go about it. If you keep being rejected, sit back and think: what could I be doing better? What do I need to do more or less of?
Familiarising yourself with the content you want to produce goes a long way to doing exactly this, as does choosing a niche and sticking with it. If you are, say, a freelance music tutor, but keep losing students to a competitor, ask yourself: why?
At times like this, I find it helps to be brutally honest with yourself; you may need to look at yourself and what you are doing, in order to be better.
Gem Royston Claire, a freelance content and social specialist, said that she sometimes felt disappointed, but there are lessons to be taken forward: “I haven’t always been this philosophical about rejection and there have definitely been some harsh rejections back in my journalist days that stung.”
She then continued with another point: “But with time it gets far easier to dust yourself off and get back on the horse, and learning through rejection helps make you and your work stronger in the long run.”
Everything is copy
Let’s borrow the infamous quote from Nora Ephron: everything is copy. To be a successful freelancer, you will probably need a lot of ideas. So, read a lot and familiarise yourself with the people you want to write for.
Visited a new place recently? Great! You should maybe consider turning it into a travel pitch, which could lead to a piece. Noticed a new trend or a new product? Same again.
Anyway, the point is that we are surrounded by a wealth of experience, as well as visuals, and so much more; all you have to do is commit the idea to paper. You don’t have to take it to the extreme in writing about your own life and the cast of characters you have met (Google what the film Heartburn is about). However, there should be enough ideas to have an almost constant stream.
Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and start all over again
Lesley Ann Jones is a journalist; she has worked for virtually every newspaper going. She is also an incredibly successful biographer of people such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. When tweeting a #journorequest for advice for freelancers, she replied with the very simple “Pick yourself up, dust yourself down, start all over again..” Followed by a rainbow emoji.
Lisa McLachlan is a freelance content creator and social media manager, as well as being a blogger at Lisa’s notebook. She very simply said: “Try not to take it personally. That opportunity might not have been exactly right for you, and tomorrow is another day!”
Freelancing sometimes takes an infinite amount of patience; you will need it (I’m still working on it). That being said, if the going gets tough, you could always follow the advice of Elizabeth Taylor, who once ostensibly said: “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” Not bad advice when you think about it.