rejections in freelance business

How to deal with rejections in your freelance business

Sooner or later in your freelance career you’ll have to accept not to be accepted.

Rejection is a constant part of every freelancer’s life and there’s nothing wrong with being turned down.

Behind every rejection stands a valuable experience or a new wave of motivation. The key to success is to learn to deal with a “no” and to use it to your advantage.

The last blog post was all about creating an effective quotation for your freelance work. Many quotations that you send out will meet your client’s expectations, but probably many will not. The rejections related to money or new business opportunities might be the most difficult to cope with. So, how to approach rejections in your business life and keep a growth mindset?

You can try this method:

Step no. 1. Find out what is the reason

There’s probably nothing more confusing than hearing a dry “no” as an answer. Whether you’re bidding on an interesting project, sending a quote to your ideal prospect or trying to start a beneficial  collaboration – a negative reply is painful if it’s not followed by any explanation.

Your quote might have been rejected because it’s too high, you sent your proposal too late, your clients cancelled the project or decided to choose a service provider recommended by their network – you’ll never know why you get rejected if you don’t ask. As scary as this step may sound, it may provide some valuable input. For example, you might learn that you are the ideal person to work with, but your client had to postpone the project or was looking for a cheaper option. You might find out that the initial plan to work with a freelancer was abandoned, and now your potential client is looking for a big agency. Or you might realise that your business partners really want to work on a new project with you, but have too much on their plate right now.

In some cases you won’t have to ask for the reason at all. It will be right there in plain text or hidden between the lines. If it’s much more than: “Thank you, we found a better match for our needs”, you can actually learn a bit more about your potential client, your industry, yourself and your offer. That’s why it’s worth looking into the step no. 2.

Step no. 2. Learn your lesson

If your proposal, idea, quote or application gets rejected, it’s not the end of the world. It can be a great opportunity to grow. Once you know what’s the reason behind the negative answer, break it down to draw any consequences for the future.

For example, if you find out that your e-mail arrived too late, make sure you respond quicker to your client’s messages next time. If you learn that your e-mail accidently ended up in the client’s spam folder – take steps to prevent a similar situation in the future. If your client tells you that your services are too expensive, try to highlight the benefits of working with you or include precise information on what your offer includes next time you send a quote. The price isn’t always the main deciding factor and once your clients understand the quality of your work, they might be ready to pay more for a better quality.

On the other hand, sometimes rejection has nothing to do with your behaviour, rates, reviews or communication style. The real reason might be beyond your control – for example when your client suddenly has to cancel the project to limit expenses or when your business partner has to postpone collaborating with you due to personal issues. Simply accept such a turn of events and proceed to the next step.

Step no. 3. Move on and succeed next time

With every rejection you’ll get stronger and wiser. Don’t let one “no” stop you from achieving your goal. Sometimes, you’ll need to adjust the way you act or work to increase the chances of being accepted next time and sometimes you’ll need to reach your destination from another direction.

For example, if your goal is to speak at a top industry conference, but your proposal gets rejected year after year – maybe you can first speak at another event or organise your own, even if it’s only a live webinar. Maybe it’s not the right time for you to appear in front of a huge audience and it might be better to focus on extending your speaker’s experience first and keep coming up with new topics until your proposal will be finally spot on.

After every rejection try to find out what you could do to get a “yes” in the future. The worst step you could take is to let negative thoughts or self-pity consume you. There will surely be many other opportunities for you to grow and reach your goals. A rejection may also mean that your time hasn’t come yet.

You can’t succeed without putting yourself out there or taking a few risks. Sometimes all you need is just one “yes” after 99 times of hearing “no”. So, take anything that goes against your plans as a valuable experience, identify any areas of improvement and keep moving towards your goal with confidence. And if any rejection becomes to bitter to deal with, remember the times you’ve succeeded to get motivated again.


Over to you

What’s your strategy to deal with rejections? How do you approach negative responses in your business?




Dorota helps businesses and individuals to communicate successfully across cultures in the online world. She is a qualified translator and an entrepreneur supporting other self-employed professionals on their path toward building a more successful business.

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