You must learn to deal with rejection as a freelance writerHere’s a brutal truth about freelancing: you will get rejected. A lot. As a freelance nurse-writer, you need to learn how to deal with this rejection and not take it personally.

That sounds simple: Don’t take it personally. But you’d be surprised how many people give up after the first rejection. They read too much into it. Trust me, it can take many, many tries to crack a desired market or get work from a desired client. You need to keep (politely) going back to them again and again.

What does a rejection or non-response really mean?

Many freelance writers don’t understand what a rejection in this business really is, so they wind up taking it personally. That’s understandable, but it’s based on a misunderstanding about what a rejection or non-response really means.

  1. It doesn’t mean, “I hate you! You suck as a writer! Never darken my doorstep again!”
  2. It may mean, “This idea isn’t right for us right now.”
  3. It may mean, “Great idea! Unfortunately we already thought of it and have someone working on it as I type this rejection letter to you.”
  4. It may mean, “We’re not working with freelancers right now, and I’m too busy to send you an email to tell you that.”
  5. It may mean, “You don’t have the credentials we’re looking for.”
  6. It may mean, “I’m not the right person for your pitch, and I’m not bothering to respond to you because I’m swamped.”
  7. It may mean, “I read your email and loved your pitch! Then I got 300 more emails that day, yours sank to the bottom, and I forgot all about it.”
  8. It may mean, “Your email got snagged by my company’s spam filter, and I never saw it.”

As you can see, a rejection letter or non-response can occur for at least these eight reasons (and, actually, dozens more). None of these reasons have anything to do with you, as a person. So don’t take it personally. Try these tips for dealing with rejection instead.

Set reasonable goals

You are not going to have a 100% response rate — let alone a 100% success rate — with your queries or letters of introduction (LOIs). Don’t set the bar that high.

Did you know a ‘good’ response rate to any cold-email solicitation is five percent? It’s true. Keep that in mind as the rejections flow in.

Besides taking a realistic attitude toward response rates, you should also set ongoing marketing goals. If you always have marketing activities scheduled, accepting a rejection becomes easier because you know the next gig might be just around the corner. Set weekly goals for queries or LOIs. Maybe you want to send one per day. Or three per week. Or 20 per week. Pick a reasonable number (keeping in mind the time investment in researching markets), and then stick to your plan. As I’ve said before, if you develop good marketing habits from the start, you’ll be much more successful in your freelance career overall.

Use a follow-up system

Confession: I was one of those freelancers who sometimes gave up after the first rejection or non-response to a pitch or LOI. It usually wasn’t because I felt upset or depressed. It was because my query tracking system was nil. I would contact editors, and then months later think, “Didn’t I send a query to X?”

Don’t be me.

If you’re good with Microsoft Excel, set up a spreadsheet to keep track of who you contacted, when, what the response was, and when you want to follow up. Schedule follow-up days on your calendar, and go through your spreadsheet to see which people you need to contact.

I’m not so good with Excel, so I invested in a client relationship management (CRM) system. There are many to choose from. I picked ContactMe because it’s simple and inexpensive. The ‘pro’ version costs about $7 a month when paid as an annual fee. You might also investigate Capsule or Highrise. Basecamp, which is more of a project management system, is popular among several of my writer friends, too.

No matter how you choose to do it, following up with leads and contacts is a crucial part of success as a freelancer. Find a system and work it regularly.

Don’t self-medicate (too much)

Sometimes a particular rejection gets to you. Or you receive a string of them all in one day. It’s tough not to feel down after a day like that.

And if you turn to a glass of wine or a handful of M&Ms on a day like that, so be it.

But if you find yourself regularly self-medicating with food or booze, you should take timeout for a reality check. You’d be surprised how many writers gain weight or engage in binge drinking due to stress. Don’t do that. Be aware of any changes in your eating or alcohol consumption patterns and find healthier ways to cope if necessary. Personally, I schedule gym time into my weekly planner. As you know (being a nurse), exercise is a great stress-buster. You also might check out, which guides you through meditations in two- to 20-minute increments. Yoga can be very therapeutic. And don’t forget to join an online writers’ community, where you’ll find commiseration and moral support galore. Communing with others who have “been there, done that” can nurture a freelance writer’s soul.

Have you had to deal with rejection in your writing career? Share your stories — and tell us how you overcame those unpleasant feelings that accompany rejection — in the comments thread.

Please share these posts with your nurse friends! And don’t forget to follow #RN2Writer on Twitter.

Wishing you well!




Image via Sean Macentee