How to deal with rejection as a freelancer

If you want something done, there’s usually a long list of people out there willing to do it for you, offering varied levels of price and personal service.

With over two million freelancers in the UK alone, choice mostly isn’t a problem, particularly in my profession of writing.  You can’t move for budding writers in person or online, most of them blogging left, right and centre about the ups and downs of a freelance writer’s life.

In fact when I first started out, one of the web designers I was interviewing to create my new website rolled his eyes cynically at me:  “You’re a writer, eh?  Well, don’t expect too much – there are a lot of people like you about, especially in Southend,” (reader, I didn’t work with him).

As I launched into a new career, I steeled myself to research who was already out there, doing what I wanted to do – making a friend out of one of them in the process! – and I started out with the philosophy that while there were plenty of other writers to choose from, if I just concentrated on being really, really good, some clients might want to pick me.

It’s a philosophy that’s served me well as I approach two years (two years!) in successful business.  During that time I’ve been offered plenty of advice about how to manage my work, from specialising in one particular area of writing, to accepting higher-paid jobs only, to working for free initially “to build good client relations in the future”.

By contrast, my approach has focused simply on doing work that appeals to me, for a reasonable price.  This means I could be working on a CV one day, and some web copy or a LinkedIn profile the next, with a holiday property listing or a new ghosted autobiography chapter in between.

If somebody had told me when I first started out that I’d be writing the following sentence, I would have been horrified.  But here it is: I turn down work quite often, and I’m turned down for work quite often, too.

The work I turn down is usually because I don’t feel it would be very enjoyable for me (if I’m going to work on things I don’t find enjoyable, I may as well go back to the security of working for someone else).  Meanwhile, the reason I’m turned down is usually because I don’t appear ‘corporate’ enough.

Last week, a potential client called me to explain that she’d been trying to decide between me and another writer to help with a project she was working on.  She chose me, because my writing seemed more “real” (her word!)

Later that day, another potential client emailed to tell me she’d gone with someone else for her copywriting work.  She needed something that would resonate with a very specific audience, and she didn’t feel I was quite the right fit.

It would be easy to feel gutted by that second response, but I wasn’t.  My skills and personality aren’t going to be right for every job.  Luckily, the jobs I do get tend to be the best ones!

It’s taken me a lot less time than I thought to feel comfortable with turning down, and being turned down for, writing work.  I think that’s because I understand my skills and what I do well, which is crucial when weighing up the kind of work I want to spend my time doing.

If you’re starting out as a freelancer, you could do worse than thinking carefully about your skills and the type of work that best fits them.  That way, you can prepare yourself for any rejections…and in some cases, do the rejecting yourself.

Can I help you with any writing work?  Whatever it is, a friendly chat over coffee is a fantastic start.  To arrange one with me, simply get in touch!