How to Handle Rejection Like a Writer a freelance writer, I’ve submitted 64 feature articles, essays and short stories for publication in the past three years. Of those 64, just 19 have been published. It’s simple math: I’ve received many more rejection letters than acceptance letters. As a writer, I’ve developed a thick skin. Rejections have always been a reminder that I’m writing, and trying to get published. They’ve also become my own personal cheerleader. Every time I’m rejected, I turn around and submit that piece somewhere else – and a few more along with it – just to prove I can’t be stopped.

When I started my small business, I found that I wasn’t handling rejections of proposals and requests for meetings nearly as well.

It finally hit me that they are really one and the same, and the best way to handle a potential client that turns me down is to stand up a little straighter and employ the same tactics – and attitude – I use as a writer.

It’s helped me tremendously, so without further ado, here are some ways to turn a “no” into a “yes” (or two).

1. ALLOW yourself a minute or two to be bummed. Then move on. There may very well be a great reason your proposal was turned down. Maybe the company has received dozens of similar proposals. Maybe they’re under contract with another agency or vendor. Maybe their current focus is just elsewhere. Most companies will explain this to you. If they do, great. If not, let it go. There are thousands of other opportunities out there. Time is money. Don’t waste it sulking – you’ve got work to do!

2. GO smalleror for their competitors. Think about other companies that might be interested in the proposal. If you sent it off to a Fortune 500 company, try starting smaller. Research local companies that might benefit from your ideas and expertise. Take advantage of their proximity to invite key contacts to meet in person. Chances are, the company that turned you down is in a category with several competitors. Find out who they are and reach out to them. The proposal that didn’t work for the category leader might be a perfect fit for number two or three.

3. KEEP a record of all contacts made. As a writer, I keep a spreadsheet of every submission that includes the title of the piece, word count, the publication to which I submitted and the date. Once I hear back from the publication, I update this chart with either the word “Rejected” or the date of publication.  You can – and should – do the same for your new business efforts.

Something like this:

Company Contact Date of contact Date of Response Next Step(s)
ABC Co. Kelly Green, VP Mktg 11/9/13 – via email 11/12/13 Send relevant case studies by 11/20/13 

This will help you keep track of whom you contacted and what your follow-up actions should be.

4. TRIPLE the effort. For every contact that turns down your offer to meet, invite three more connections for coffee – or if they’re out of town, for a quick call. When you start seeing success from these efforts, the initial rejections will begin to motivate you rather than bring you down.

5. BUILD bridges. I received a project on spec from a national magazine last year and thought I’d made it big. As it turns out, the magazine was in the midst of changing it’s core demographic and decided my piece was no longer suitable for them. I shopped it elsewhere, and stayed in touch with the Editor of that magazine. She is now a strong contact who is willing to hear my pitches and read my queries.  It works the same way in business… Several months ago, I received a rejection email from a Fortune 500 brand. It was short, succinct and, I thought, final. I responded professionally and kindly, asking that he keep me in mind for any future projects. Three months later, I received another short email… offering me a new project. Sometimes just putting your name in their head is enough. There might be nothing at the time, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be something later.

Your Turn: How do you handle rejection? Have I missed any great advice you’d like to share? 

About Beth M. Wood

Beth M. Wood is a marketing and writing professional. She's been working in the marketing industry since the early 90s, and feeding her shopping habit with copywriting gigs since 2004. On August 1, 2013, she made the jump to full-time freelance writer, marketer, and social media manager. Beth is highly adept at creating and managing integrated marketing programs that get brands noticed. She's also well known for creating and maintaing a strong brand voice across all channels. She is a word geek, a grammar snob and a boot camp junkie. Which means she believes in giving 100% to every project she takes on - large or small. She earned her BA in writing from Webster University and serves as Senior Content Strategist at Scorch.
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