Six ways to handle rejection in freelancing – and keep working

Have you or your work just been turned down? Read six ways to handle rejection in freelancing – and keep working.

Rejection hurts, there’s no way of getting round it. But it’s also an inevitable part of being a freelancer. No matter how good you are, there will come a time when you’re passed over for an opportunity in favour of someone else. Or your work or idea is rejected by a client.

And when that happens, you need to have a strategy. A way to cope with the inevitable feelings that come with being rejected, and moving on.

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Six ways to handle rejection in freelancing

So what is that strategy? Here are six ways you can handle rejection in freelancing – and keep on working.

1) Accept it’s going to hurt so make your peace with it

Don’t feel bad because you feel bad. Being rejected is never nice! But as you gain more experience as a freelancer, you’ll gradually become more used to the highs and lows. And the knocks will hurt less – after all, you’ve worked for dozens of clients who love what you do, and you can’t please everyone.

So accept that rejection isn’t going to feel very nice, and make your peace with it. Then move on and find clients who do value and want to pay for what you do.

2) Focus on the positive

If you dwell too much on the rejection it will just drag you down and hold you back. You’ll begin to doubt your talents, lose confidence and start second guessing all your work in future.

The truth is that you can’t please everyone all of the time. And there are aways going to be some people who don’t like you or what you do. That’s life! There are also some clients who are just difficult, unpleasable even – and even experienced freelancers can fall foul of these people. (It can help to know how to spot and handle difficult clients.)

So don’t waste too much energy worrying about why you were rejected. Instead, focus on the positive. Remind yourself of all the clients who have loved what you do. Of the times your work has been valued and appreciated.

If you’re new to freelancing, recall the positive feedback and praise you had as an employee for your work. And remember how good you are at what you do.

3) Use the feedback to grow

If appropriate, try to find out why you didn’t get a job, or why your work was rejected, and use the feedback to learn and grow.

Was there anything specific you did or said that lost you the opportunity? Or did the client have constructive criticism about your work?

However experienced you are, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow. And this could be the perfect time to do so. So take whatever you can from your client’s feedback and, if you need to, use it to improve in future.

4) Look for new opportunities

As a freelancer you can’t afford to put all your eggs in one basket. Relying on one project or client for your work is dangerous – if they go out of business, change their needs or start using another freelancer you’ll find yourself back at square one again.

Instead, try to buid a portfolio of different clients, projects and sources of work. This way you’ll always have other potential options on the table – or places to seek them out.

It also means that it will matter less to you if one client rejects you or your work. On a practical level you’ll still have an income source elsewhere to turn to. And emotionally you won’t be relying on one client for your professional reputation and personal satisfaction. So if one client doesn’t like or buy what you’re offering, you’ll have others who will – helping to stave off any crises of confidence.

5) Pitch your work somewhere else

If you pitched an idea or piece of work to a client and it as turned down, don’t just give up. Every client will have different needs and criteria for buying work. For example, what might be accepted at Buzzfeed would be rejected by The Guardian, and vice versa.

So don’t assume that a ‘no’ is universal. Consider if your work or idea is more suitable to a different type of client and re-pitch it to them (with modifications if needed).

6) Price your pitch right

Sometimes you may lose a job or client, not because your work or idea wasn’t good enough, but because you were just too expensive. (This is just one of the reasons why it’s important to find out the reason for the rejection.)

If the rejection is a one-off, it could be that this particular client’s budget is just too small for you (and there are plenty of good reasons not to work for clients who don’t want to pay your prices!).

But if you are regularly losing work, it could be that you are pricing your work too high for the type of clients you are approaching. And if this is the case, you either need to revisit your pricing, or target different clients.

Rejection happens to everyone

Whatever else you do, try not to let one (or even several) rejections get you down. Even the best people have faced rejection in their quest to succeed. JK Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before finding one interested in Harry Potter, and Annabel Karmel was forced to get her first book published by a book packer after being rejected by every publisher. (That book is now the second bestselling non-fiction hardback book of all time.)

So the next time you or your work is turned down don’t let it get to you. Instead let it fire you up and make you better and more determined to succeed.