Perhaps the toughest aspect of freelance writing is finding new clients. For every good gig you get, chances are you’ll pitch a lot of clients and not hear back from most of them. It’s a rough field to make a living in. You need thick skin when it comes to dealing with rejection as a freelance writer if you want to make it.
Knowing how to deal with rejection is a great skill to cultivate, both for your personal and professional life. There’s always more work out there. If you can pick yourself up when things don’t go your way, you’ll have a much easier time staying productive.
In this article, we’ll talk about why it’s so difficult to sign up new clients as a freelancer. Then we’ll go over four tips to help you deal with rejected pitches as a freelance writer. Let’s get to it!
Why You’re Not Hearing Back from Potential Clients
Freelancing is brutal at most levels, in most fields. The bar is set very low for freelance writers in general. Anyone can just pick up and start looking for work with no credentials. What that means is the competition will be fierce for most jobs you apply to.
One thing I’ve heard a lot from people who post listings on freelance platforms is they can’t keep up with the number of pitches they get. If you don’t have anything that sets you apart from other freelancers, finding well-paid work can take a while unless you get lucky.
‘Setting yourself apart’ is quite a broad statement, so let’s sum up some of the things you can do to make yourself more attractive to potential clients:
- Have a professional-looking portfolio
- Have at least a few writing credits under your name
- Be able to show client testimonials
- Write unique pitches that show you’ve read the listings and aren’t just sending a low-effort template
Numbers one to three can take a while to build up. However, writing great personalized pitches for each listing you apply to is the best way to stand out from among a pile of writers. If you can show you understand what clients want and explain why you’re the right person for the job (succinctly), you’ll increase your chances of getting hired.
The thing is, even if you meet all the above criteria, you’ll still face a lot of rejection. Most successful writers I know are constantly pitching new clients to keep business coming in. It’s all part of the job, so you need to prepare yourself for professional rejection.
How to Deal with Rejection as a Freelance Writer (4 Tips)
Rejection is something we all have to deal with and being able to do so gracefully is pretty classy. Professional rejection, though, requires an entirely different level of cool so you don’t burn any bridges in the process.
1. Don’t Put All Your Hopes on a Single Pitch
Hundreds of times, I’ve come across job listings that seem tailor-made for me, writing for web development or cooking websites where I would’ve kicked ass. I wrote fantastic pitches and submitted samples. A lot of times, I didn’t get the job.
Not getting a job itself isn’t the worst part of the deal. What usually gets you is you’re not sure what you could’ve done to swing a decision your way. When I was new to freelancing, I’d often wait weeks between finding new job postings because I was still reeling from earlier rejections.
As you can imagine, that limited my options greatly. What I should’ve been doing, right from the start, was keeping an eye on as many writing job sites and boards as I could. I should have been making lists of good matches every day, and sending at least one pitch if I needed more work.
The math is pretty simple, the more writing jobs you apply to, the better your chances get and the more likely you are to survive as a freelancer.
2. Make Sure You Have a Financial Safety Net
It’s pretty easy to tell you that you shouldn’t panic if you get rejected from a job you want. However, it’s a lot more difficult to hear ‘No’ if you’re desperate for work, which is the case for a lot of freelancers.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten since I started freelancing has nothing to do with writing, but with my personal finances. Regardless of what type of work you do, you need a financial safety net, which means having at the very least two or three months of savings you can access in case of emergencies.
Freelancing work is, by its nature, unstable. Unless you’re amazing at finding new clients, you will go through dry spells every once in a while. If you have a savings cushion, those dry spells can be great opportunities to find new and interesting gigs. On the other hand, if you need to find work immediately, rejection is much harder to deal with and you’ll probably end up taking any job you can, no matter how terrible.
This piece of advice is, of course, much easier said than done. If you haven’t done so yet, start putting away at least 20% of your earnings into savings. As a long-time freelancer, I recommend you aim for at least six months of savings, so you have more wiggle room in case of emergencies. However, if you have more stable work, three months should be enough of a cushion.
3. Refine Your Pitches
Your portfolio plays a major role in the way that potential clients perceive you. However, in a lot of cases, no one’s going to click on that link unless you hook them in first with a good pitch.
Let’s say, for example, you post a job listing for a writing job and you get the following application:
I think I’d be perfect for this job! Check out my portfolio at randomfreelancer.com and get back to me if you want to talk things further.
If it were me, I probably wouldn’t even visit the portfolio because that pitch is incredibly low effort. It tells me the person on the other end either barely glanced at the job description or just doesn’t care enough to write a decent pitch, which is not a good look.
I’m not saying you need to write a novel for every job pitch you send because that can also backfire. Instead, take the time to read through the listing, find out any information you can about the publication you’re applying to, and use that as part of your pitch. Like this:
I’ve been taking a look at some of the most recent pieces on your website like ’10 Ways to Teach a Corgi How to Dance’ and I think I’d be a great fit for your team.
I’ve been writing about corgis and other dog breeds for several years. You can find some of my writing credits on my portfolio at corgiwriter.com and I’m leaving a couple of links below to save you time:
1. Example piece one
2. Example piece two
I look forward to hearing back from you!
That pitch is still pretty short, it briefly covers your experience, shows you know what kind of work they need, and it still mentions your portfolio. One thing I always like to do is include one or two links to pieces potential clients might find interesting since it saves them time.
The point is, if your pitches aren’t getting the results you want, you need to refine them until they start returning better results. Since you’re pitching multiple clients, that gives you a lot of opportunities for testing and seeing what works.
Even the most talented writers I know sometimes have problems finding more work. When it comes to freelancing, success comes easier if you’re persistent and you have a smart process in place, rather than if you rely on talent alone.
As for how to deal with rejection as a freelance writer, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Don’t put all your hopes on a single pitch
- Make sure yo have a financial safety net
- Refine your pitches
Do you have any questions about how to deal with rejection as a freelance writer? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Image credit: Pixabay.