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7 Productive Ways to Deal with Rejection as a Freelance Writer

As a freelance writer, you’re bound to deal with rejection.

From the unanswered emails, to the rejected pitch, to the “killing” of an article you had worked so hard for – rejections might rear their ugly little heads everywhere.

But if you’re committed to this freelancing/solopreneurship journey, you know that letting rejections get to you is really not conducive to being productive (or staying sane, for that matter).

In today’s guest post, Laura Harris shares seven actions you can take after you get that dreaded rejection. And none of them involves moping around in your pajamas while eating chips and salsa.

Here’s Laura!

“A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.” – Bo Bennett

Don’t you just hate that quote? It’s hard enough to put yourself out there, time and time again, only to have your words be rejected.

In fact, if someone conducted a poll on how many writers have ever experienced the fear of rejection, I’m betting the percentage would be in the nineties. Purely my guess. We all experience the fear of clicking that “Send” button and finding out later our article was virtually dumped down the garbage disposal, don’t we?

Once I stepped into that fear – much like Indiana Jones took that leap of faith in the bottomless cavern on his search for the Holy Grail – my heart hammered against my chest. And yes, I was rejected. I sulked and stared at my hand and second-guessed everything I’d ever done with my life.

Then … eventually … something I wrote got accepted. Sunshine burst through the clouds. I sighed. I listened to Taylor Swift. I got paid.

I’ve been repeating that rejection/acceptance formula for over a year now, and I can say with certainty that it was all worth it. I’d even go out on a limb and say those rotten rejections were paramount to my success. I’ve been featured on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Babble, and The Penny Hoarder, and I am now regularly earning more than $100 per post.

By embracing the lessons waiting for me on the other end of my rejections, I’ve grown more than I thought possible, and you can, too.

Not sure what niches you can specialize in as a freelance writer? We’ve done some research and brainstorming for you, and we came up with over 200 niches to choose from. Here’s the list:

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Here are seven action steps you can take to cash in on your next rejection:

1. Brush yourself off and try it again.

When I was 21, I decided to live a little and bought a motorcycle.

I knew how to ride, but judging curves was always my biggest challenge. One day, I came around a 15 mile per hour curve too wide, slid out on the gravel shoulder, and rolled over my bike and down the embankment. Thankfully, I walked away with nothing but a stiff neck and soreness, but I felt like such a fool.

My riding buddy helped me tip the bike back up and we determined there was no structural damage. (I was going pretty slowly through the curve.) He then asked if I was fit to ride back. Something in me knew this was a defining moment.

If I didn’t get back on now, I never would. I threw my leg over the bike, fired it up, and we both headed back into town.

I never became a huge rider after that, but I was always proud of the fact that I’d faced my fear and got back on the bike.

The same is true for your writing. When you receive a rejection, it’s so easy to read that and assume you should just quit.

Instead, try a trick I picked up from Gina Horkey herself. Create a “Try Again” folder and send every rejection email into it. That way, you’ll see those as open doors for the next submission.

I always wait at least one week before submitting a new pitch to the same editor. In that time, I encourage you to comb through their website and see what’s already published. Start brainstorming new topics. Get some honest feedback on your previous pitch from a writer you trust.

These are all great ways a rejection will help you purge the rough spots and cash in on the next project.

2. Send your article somewhere else.

Just because that editor passed on your article doesn’t mean the next one will. Each website has a different culture of content and each editor has different preferences.

Make sure before the next pitch that your content is rock solid. For ideas on how to improve your pitch, check out this article.

3. Share your article on your own blog.

Perhaps you couldn’t find an editor to publish your article. Rather than go into the backyard and kick dirt for an hour, ask yourself if it’s a good fit for your own audience. There are several benefits you could unearth (see what I did there?) after publishing something on your blog. For example:

  • Your article could increase traffic to your site which could increase your ad revenue.
  • If your topic allows for a well-placed affiliate link, you could earn some affiliate revenue.
  • If your article is well-received by your audience, you could pitch editors to re-publish the article on their own website. You probably won’t receive compensation for republished wrok, but it will bring even more traffic to your blog and add some social proof.

4. Consider teaching others.

There’s no better teacher than experience, right? As you face each acceptance and rejection, chalk them up to learning lessons that could pay out later in your career.

For example, this very post came as a result of a huge fail on my part (I’ll talk about it in #5 … after I have a good cry in the bathroom).

Some ways that you could turn your rejections into paid teachable moments are:

  • On your blog;
  • In a paid article for a client;
  • As a coach;
  • In an online course;
  • In a book;
  • As a paid speaker;
  • On a Facebook live, Periscope broadcast, or webinar.

5. Don’t be late to the party.

This one hurts, but it’s important, so gather ‘round and learn from my cautionary tale.

I recently started writing for a client via Contently. They had a budget of $863 for a particular article and needed their team of writers to pitch their ideas. The best idea got the gig. $863 was on the line.

That’s. A lot. Of Cheddar.

I had three days to respond to the gig. It came at a very busy time for me, so I penciled in a time two days from then to completely focus on the task. I secured a babysitter and took two hours to construct my pitch. I even called a few sources to make sure I had expert knowledge on the subject.

Then I clicked “Send” on my pitch and received a reply an hour later:

“Really great pitch, Laura. Unfortunately, I just accepted another pitch a few hours ago. Thanks, anyway.”

I ate my pillow that night.

But guess what? The next several times they asked for pitches, I made arrangements to get mine in within 12 hours and have since made $1,588 from those projects.

I’m not much for eating worms, but there’s something to be said for that little proverb about the bird who shows up early.

6. Counteroffer when appropriate.

Another way to cash in on a rejection is to counteroffer with a different service when a client has rejected your terms during a negotiation.

For example, I made the tough call to raise the rates on one of my earliest clients. He and I worked very well together for nearly a year as my budding business found its wings. I loved writing for his blog; however, I was only making $0.05 per word. At that stage in my business’ growth, I charged all my new clients $0.15.

I pitched my new rate and he respectfully declined.

However, after following another great piece of advice from Gina, I countered with an offer to create Pinterest-friendly graphics for his existing posts at a much lower price. Lately, I’d noticed him talking about his lack of social media presence, so I figured the idea was on his radar.

My client accepted and purchased two graphics right on the spot. I could have just taken that rejection and said, “Have a nice life,” but when I searched and found a need in his business. I was able to cash in and provide a service he truly wanted.

Other ideas for side services are:

  • Proofreading
  • Virtual assistance
  • Graphic design
  • Social media services

7. Know when to move on.

This is my last piece of advice for cashing in on your rejections.

I got published on Scary Mommy very early in 2016 (read here to learn about the steps I took and the exact pitch that got me there). For reasons I shall never fully understand, that article went viral to the tune of 100,000 shares in four days.

I was barely out of my freelance training pants and already I’d hit a major milestone. A few weeks later, I rolled up my sleeves and typed up what I thought was another home run for Scary Mommy.

I got rejected. And then again. And again. Thankfully, most of the pieces went live on other paid parenting sites, but I was flustered. I was holding onto the idea of being Scary Mommy’s bread and butter, when really, I’m just not their gal.

Sure, something I wrote resonated with their audience, but it was pretty different from their typical, snarkier material. After the fourth or fifth rejection, I decided it was time to shift my energy and focus, and moved on.

Ready to Kickstart YOUR
Freelance Writing Biz?
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Final Thoughts

I want you to get published. A lot. I want you to work hard, make ‘em laugh (::jazz hands::), research til your eyes cross, and open your heart to the world. Words are a paintbrush. Never stop painting. When you share your art with the world, eventually it will be rejected. But now you know seven ways to walk away from rejections, cash in hand (so to speak).

Your Next Step

Fire up your email account and create a “Try Again” folder. The next time a rejection lands in your inbox, take a breath, slide it into your new folder, and put on your thinking cap for next time.

Don’t give up. You have a story to tell. So keep telling it.

If you know of anyone else who is facing the fear of rejection, please share this article with them.

Laura Harris is a writer, wife, and mother of two rockstar kids. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Babble, and more. When she’s not on an adventure with her family or curled up with a book, you can find her at LauraHarrisWrites.com and encouraging other work-at-home writers on Facebook.

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey


Gina Horkey is a married, millennial mama from Minnesota. Additionally, she’s the founder of Horkey HandBook and loves helping others find or become a kickass virtual assistant. Gina’s background includes making a living as a professional writer, an online business marketing consultant and a decade of experience in the financial services industry.

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