Channeling Rejection Into Motivation: 12 Freelancers Who Came Back Stronger

By Bethany Johnson, Contributor, on April 10, 2018

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Can rejection be beneficial? As a freelancer, chances are you will be denied on occasion. And if you’re just starting out, your proposals may earn more refusals than retainers.

Take heart. Veteran solopreneurs understand that getting turned down — or worse, ignored — is part of the job. And truly successful freelancers even make a practice of channeling rejection into triumphant wins. To prove it, I caught up with 12 of my freelancing colleagues and asked them to share how professional rejection has actually benefited their freelance business. Here’s what they had to say.

You May Receive a Better Offer Later

Being rejected can hurt your confidence, but keep in mind that it can also lead to greener pastures. In the case of the four freelancers below, the fact that they didn’t land the initial gig for which they applied allowed them to accept even better offers in the coming weeks:

“I believe rejection benefited me as both a writer and virtual assistant for a few reasons. It forced me to look at the pitch I sent to clients and tighten it up. Being told ‘no’ also freed me up to take on another client that actually worked out better than I could have imagined.” –Rob Flood

“More than once, I’ve missed out on a job only to be offered a better one in the days that followed. If I had been hired for the first, I wouldn’t have had time for the better offer.” –Rochel Maday

“I’ve been turned down for a handful of gigs I found through job boards. In the end, it worked out better, because it forced me to learn how to sell myself, and y’know what? My clients pay me more than those job boards were offering, so I’m much better off.” –Noelle Hartt

“Rejection has benefited me as a freelancer in two ways: First, when I got rejected from the first educational technology client I applied to, I decided to research their competitors and found an even more ideal fit for me. Second, as a freelance resume writer, editor and consultant, I use my past rejections as important experiences to coach my clients.” –Bea Schuster

It Can Push You in a Different Direction

Rejection can also provide you with the perfect opportunity to focus on your goals (and reassess your career path, if necessary). You can take these experiences and push yourself in a new direction — toward clients who will appreciate your skills and knowledge. Here’s how a few freelancers handled a change in direction:

“A couple days back I gave an interview to a startup. Both the guys who took my interview were brutal! I felt sad for a few days, but that gave me a direction to work on. Rejection has always motivated me to work on myself, improve my skills and achieve my dreams. It’s difficult to not be let down with such incidents, but that’s the key to success.” –Chhavi Agarwal

“In the initial stages of building my business, I received some responses declining my services. When possible, I asked for details about what specific element had caused the response, whether my pricing was too high, the business didn’t need a freelancer at that point or some other factor was at work. This helped me to better tailor my marketing and really hone in on the types of businesses that are my ideal clients.” –Paige Cerulli

“Every school I applied to said ‘no.’ Then a bunch of ‘regular’ jobs I only applied to for the money said ‘no.’ That awakened this, ‘Freelancing, why the heck not?’ attitude. That was nearly four years ago now, and thanks to all those ‘noes,’ I’ve worked with a really great roster of clients so far, and have been dating a guy I bonded with over our mutual freelance lifestyle for the same amount of time.” –Rosie Richings

You’ll Find New Motivation

There are two things you can do when you’re rejected: Let the fear of further rejection prevent you from moving forward, or use it as motivation to discover more about your own skills. Here’s how two freelancers turned a ‘no’ into a source of motivation and drive:

“I worked for a business owner who was going to leave her company and start a consulting business with me and one other person. Instead, she let me go with no notice or severance (after 3.5 years) and replaced me with an intern. My hurt and anger motivated me and got me through my first client meeting that same week. I have since calmed down, and continue to make more working for myself than I did at her company.” –Mary Hall

“I worked for a real estate company as a VA. My boss was terrible at communicating. I still gave it my all despite how bad[ly] I was being treated, since I needed the job. I [was] let go right after [the] new year … It devastated our finances. It [motivated] me to finally pursue freelancing, since I didn’t have anything to lose. After a week of unemployment, someone accepted me with an even higher rate than before. I’ve been freelancing for my client for almost a month now, and they love the personality I add.” –Joven Christopher Magdaraog

It’s a Learning Experience for Future Jobs

Rejection can also provide you with an important learning experience to help improve the quality of your work, streamline your pitches and build character traits that will benefit you in the business world. Here’s how rejection helped three freelancers focus more on quality, clarity and self-improvement:

“When I had a lot of work, I started outsourcing a little. At the time, I knew that quality control would be a major factor in whether doing that was viable, but I still jumped the gun, sent something for review that wasn’t up to scratch and lost a weekly contract with a client. It motivated me to focus on quality over quantity.” –Conor An Droch-Shúil Maloney

“Rejection has absolutely benefited me. It’s caused me to get really clear on my offering so the value I bring to clients is obvious. It’s also kept me from bringing on clients that aren’t a good fit.” –Katelyn Magnuson

“There was a company I was really excited about working with. After I pitched [to] them, I got a pretty succinct and hard ‘no,’ and decided I wasn’t just going to cower and fizzle. I used some rebuttal techniques and he still turned me down, but getting comfortable with that rejection made me a hardier saleswoman.” –Destiny Hagest

Channeling Rejection Into New Business

As I talked with my colleagues about rejection, a fascinating trend emerged: Those who had learned the art of channeling rejection into learning experiences or motivational energy built up a full roster of clients, momentum and motivation to keep going. Their businesses didn’t fail because of a few rejections — in fact, they eventually grew.

So, what will you do the next time you encounter another ‘no?’

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