• Advice

How to Regain Confidence After Rejection as a Freelancer

For writers who often pour their hearts and souls into the stories they create, rejection can cut deep. If you’re not resilient enough, it can crush your confidence and make self-doubt grow roots in your mind. The ability to bounce back is essential. Learn nine strategies to snap out of a negative thinking spiral after facing rejection in your freelance career.

Why Rejection Is a Good Thing

The brain processes rejection in a similar way as physical pain. That’s why many hate it. But as a freelancer, you should develop a thick skin about being turned down, as it has surprising upsides. It can motivate you to improve your chops and build resilience to come back stronger.

Suppose you master how to channel that negative energy into positive things. If you do, you'll embrace rejections because they carry lessons to help you level up, like how being defeated in a game can empower you to try a different strategy to secure a win next time.

Healthy Ways to Deal with Rejection as a Freelance Writer

A solid “no” doesn’t reflect your worth as a writer, although it’s hard to shake the negative feeling away. Here are nine steps to handle a cold shoulder from a client like a pro.

1. Normalize Rejection

Every successful writer has been rejected. The most inspiring story you can learn from is JK Rowling's, who got rejected by publishers 12 times before publishing her first fantasy novel. There wouldn't be any Harry Potter today if she gave up after the first try.

Expect to get many rejections when working as a freelancer. Normalize thinking of them as stepping stones that bring you closer to success.

2. Figure Out Why You Got a “No”

Sit down and think of why you got rejected, not to wallow in self-pity but to use it to improve your next move. Maybe you got turned down because you applied for a project that's out of your scope or the client has a lower marketing budget and can't meet your asking rate.

Divert your focus to what the other party is missing out on by not hiring you. You deserve better, so move on. You'll find your ideal client soon.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

Many people slide into a spiral of negative emotions that often lead to imposter syndrome after getting rejected once. This psychological phenomenon makes writers unable to internalize their achievements and instead focus on their shortcomings.

Remember — denials don't reflect your worth, so don't take them to heart. If you find yourself in the loop of negative thinking patterns, self-sabotaging and self-doubting, try the ART technique. What you need to do is acknowledge, replace, and track unhelpful thoughts to overcome imposter syndrome. Talk to a therapist if it starts to affect your life and career.

4. Get the Lesson

Each rejection is an opportunity for growth. Every time you get a “no,” extract the lesson and unwrap what it’s trying to teach you. Did you get rejected for a project you passionately want to be a part of? Learn from the experience. Get feedback from the client and find areas of improvement.

It's OK to get upset, but don't linger on the feeling. Your next best opportunity could be around the corner.

5. Don’t Stop Learning

One wonderful thing about being a freelance writer is the opportunity for ongoing learning. With AI threatening to take over writers’ jobs, investing in your professional skills is the only way to remain relevant.

Are you a new writer? Are you trying to land your first client? Boost your skills and marketability by taking courses and getting certified to show your qualifications. Attend workshops and read industry-related books. If budget isn’t a concern, get a mentor.

Half of the equation of a successful freelance writing career is your marketing skills. Mentors can give you strategies on where to find clients, how to compel them to book a discovery call and increase your chances of getting hired. You can set yourself up for success by learning consistently and fine-tuning your soft and hard skills.

6. Network with Peers

A great way to get retainers is by expanding your network. Your professional social orbit should support your growth. These people can be fellow writers, writing coaches and influential thought leaders in your niche.

Where do you look for these people? Fortunately, the internet has made it possible for professionals to connect, build relationships and collaborate. Many have found work through referrals.

While freelancing allows more freedom, it can also be a lonely journey. Having a solid network can make it feel less isolating. Who knows — you may find your mentor or support system through networking. If you're not doing it, you're missing out on many opportunities to take your career to the next level.

7. Engage in Self-Care Activities

Even if you’ve convinced yourself to see rejections in a positive light, your previous negative conditioning could creep into the surface. Soon, you’ll doubt yourself again, think you’re a fraud and don’t deserve all your achievements.

At this point, focus on self-care. Step away from negative thoughts and engage in activities that rejuvenate you. For example, burn away those unwanted thinking patterns along with some fat in the gym. Meditate, spend time with nature, go on vacation and spend more time with loved ones. 

Don't think you're doing this to deny rejections. You're only temporarily stepping back from the game to recharge your creative energy and regain your positive perspectives.

8. Set a High Goal

After you revive your creative confidence, impress yourself by setting a goal, like booking at least 2% of the people you’ve cold-called for discovery calls, which is the average success rate for this outreach method.

It's necessary when you're starting out since landing your first client is a numbers game. The more prospects you reach out to, the higher your chances of getting the first yes. It's OK if you don't meet the goal in the end. The important thing is that you tried consistently and your efforts paid off through small wins. 

9. Track Your Progress

There's a magic about numbers that can give you an instant boost of confidence. When you have numerical proof of how many emails you sent to clients last month and the rates of appointment and client conversions, you'll have solid evidence to assure yourself you're on the right track — and the rejection is pretty much part of the journey. 

Use a Google sheet or an app to track your daily efforts, no matter how little they are. This way, when your freelance career takes off, you’ll have some lessons to look back and share with other aspiring writers.  

Success Is Sweet Because of Rejections

Rejections are a recipe for a successful freelance writing career, so don't think of them negatively. Instead, treat them as learning blocks you'll have to overcome to get to the next level. Getting a hard no from a client doesn't reflect your self-worth or skills. It could be a wonderful stroke of luck, especially if your values don't match. Get rejected and bring the lesson with you.

Cora Gold Cora Gold is a freelance writer and editor of women's lifestyle magazine, Revivalist. She writes about career advice for freelancers for publications including Wrkfrce and Mediabistro.