A rejection from your peers in high school, a disparaging look from the girl you have a crush on, an unaffectionate response from your mom, disapproving criticism from your colleagues or clients—all have a similar effect on the individual. I respect personalities and behavioral patterns, and here’s why I’m writing this one for you: modifying your personality is possible if you’re conscious of the damage it can do to your professional image. This is a competitive world, boy; get yourself on top and don’t let rejection eat you up.
Every Freelancer Gets Rejected
Name one person who hasn’t dealt with rejection, and I’ll name ten for you who have—and who have come out every time with guns blazing. Some freelancers have mastered the art of rejection and assumed the right attitude: “So what?”
Freelancers face rejection regularly because they have to start from scratch after every project to get new clients. Then comes being interviewed, having your skills tested and being judged on whether you can do the job. What’s more, a freelancer might get rejected by ten prospective clients before being hired by one. So every freelancer knows what rejection feels like, including me. If you’ve felt the sting, know that you’re not alone!
Being Rejected: Rational or Irrational?
You might say that you like to know why you are being rejected. Fair enough. We all appreciate rational judgment, like when a client tells you that your quote is too high and that he’s going to opt for another firm. That kind of encounter is unlikely to provoke an impulsive reaction. Now imagine you’re being rejected on the grounds that you’re not personally suited for a project. In that case, chances are you’ll be frowning, and your knee-jerk reaction would be to sweet talk the client about how suitable you are.
In both cases, you’ve lost the deal, and if you don’t move on you’ll just get upset.
Success and rejection go hand in hand. How often have you read a blog that is making waves on the Internet only to notice that the responses and comments are a mixed bag of opinions. This is just what happens; everything is a matter of individual preference. You might think you’ve created a masterpiece or have the skill set to do so, but others might not see it that way. Don’t lose sleep over it; opinions vary.
Unique Selling Points, or the Prospect of Invisibility
It’s a competitive world, isn’t it? So, you’ll have to be competitive. And how do you think you can do that? By creating unique selling points (USPs). Thousands of freelancers are on the market, and competition gets tougher by the day. Put a unique spin on the services you provide, and be clear and confident about delivering. That way you’ll carve out a niche, one in which you won’t face rejection so often. Be thoroughly professional, and win your clients’ confidence so that they stick with you.
Take rejection in stride; understand that it’s strictly business. Clients need to get the job done efficiently and with a view to quality, budget and deadline. They should be able to pick and choose with whom they work, right? What would you do in their place? Be reassuring; tell yourself that it was healthy competition and that you happened to lose out once. There’s always other work waiting out there.
It’s Not Personal
At no point in your career should you take rejection to heart. Tell yourself that you were not personally targeted—and even if your critic was trying to demean you, do you want to end up as the sore loser?
Don’t judge yourself on the commercial success of just one project. You are what you are, and winning or losing one project has nothing to do with your creative talent. Keep personal opinion separate from business dealings. I myself was a victim, and I know it might take a while before you learn to not take rejection personally. I assure you that it is possible with conviction.
In the Moment
It’s not the rejection itself but your reaction to it that gets you into trouble—hence the mantra: take a deep breath before you react. An impulsive nature is difficult to control; reaction is a hasty thing, lacking forethought. How many times in your life have you said or done something on impulse that you regret?
Remind yourself that the guilt and anger caused by rejection last only for a moment. Give yourself time; sit back and count to ten, and you might actually start to see the humor in your situation.
Don’t Call Attention to Your Problems
This is a definite no-no. The more you brag about something, the more it goes to your head, and the more exaggerated the feeling of remorse will be later. Imagine that an old competitor, who is also an acquaintance, rejects you. The emotional pain makes you call them and get into an argument, and things get out of hand before you know it, and it compromises your professional reputation. You could easily avoid getting into such a situation by not bragging about things, by staying humble.
Take a quick break and do your favorite off-time activity if you need to cheer up. After all, “time heals all wounds.”
I often come across bloggers and freelancers who begin their day by checking their email and working on a task that was left incomplete the previous day.
I say, relax a little. Let the day go at its own pace, and start with activities that lighten up your body and prepare your mind for the tasks to come. Eat a good breakfast and do the chores. Go for a jog, take in some fresh air, work out a little; do something to create peace of mind. Rejection is worse when you’re not physically and mentally prepared to absorb it.
Don’t Carry Baggage
Funny as this may sound, it’s a cruel reality: when you fail, past experiences flood your thoughts and make the situation tougher than it actually is. My advice to everyone is live for the day. Don’t carry baggage (thoughts and feelings of failure or anything related). Your past demons want to haunt your mind and block your ability to be objective; they slow down your thought process and make you irrational. Your baggage won’t do any good for your present and future aspirations, so let it go.
Look at it this way: you will either get rejected or get the contract. These are the two sides of the coin, and you have only one chance to call it in the air for the win. When the coin lands, there is no changing the result. Maybe you will lose the contract, and maybe it’s not because you were incompetent; there was just another freelancer who got the better of you this time around. Move on. Move on to the hundreds of prospects waiting out there.
Beware Nasty Emails
Maybe your prospective client is busy, or maybe the project in question has been pushed back; maybe that’s why they haven’t been in touch with you—but this is not made clear in the emails. Instead, they just hint that they’ll get back to you. Don’t jump to conclusions; you might miss out on future contracts as well. I’ve had this experience in my early days, and I’ve lost contracts because of my impulsive nature. Reread emails patiently and ask for clarification if you need it.
Always plan your week’s work ahead of time, and schedule tasks according to priority. Let’s say you get rejected for one of the contracts that you were waiting to hear about, and you start wondering why? and how? and thinking I wish I could have done things different. Then, before you realize it, you end up getting rejected for something else because while you were sulking, you missed a deadline. My point is, don’t dwell on what’s lost.
I strongly advise you, contrary to the common practice of freelancers, to get up early and avoid staying up late at night to work. You need to be in the best of health, and if you don’t follow a schedule or organize yourself, you’ll likely be irritable and sensitive to problems like rejection. Get enough sleep and stick to a healthy diet—unless you’re running out of time for a project, at which point you might need to loosen up. Be social and spend sufficient time with your family as well; it’s all part of a balanced and peaceful life.
If you don’t have goals, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Setting and focusing on long-term goals gives you immense strength. Do what you want in your own way, and you’ll build convictions and expertise. The day you achieve what you’ve been striving for, you’ll be proud—and all your stories of rejection will take a back seat.
I’m not afraid to say that I love myself; it extends to everything I do, and I can’t imagine how I’d deal with life if I didn’t. What I’m trying to say is that not appreciating yourself or having low self-esteem can affect your professional life. Don’t let rejection affect your self-esteem. Appreciate your capabilities; don’t fall prey to phantom worries and the perceptions of others.
Make an Impression
Most people enjoy working with others who are easygoing and personable. Don’t overreact to anything, even when beaten out by a competitor. Life gives more than one chance—and so might the client in their upcoming projects. Be humble and poised, and don’t miss any opportunity to make an impression on prospective clients.
Never stop learning. Every experience adds to your personality and prepares you for the future. Be honest with yourself and analyze whether the rejection had to do with a skill you lacked. Make a point of gaining that skill; don’t let a deficiency get in your way twice. Even if you had all the necessary skills for a project, rejection still gives you experience to draw on later.
I’ll sum up the entire discussion with a brief statement: no matter how successful you are as a freelancer, you are bound to encounter your share of rejection.
Hopefully you’ll take away something useful from this article. Feel free to add your valuable thoughts and experiences to the comments section.