Rejection. It’s a key part of any writer’s job, we all know that. Nevertheless, dealing with the reality can be a difficult lesson to master.
‘There’s a tendency, particularly among newer freelances, to think that if they don’t hear anything their ideas are rubbish and they will never work again,’says media life coach Joanne Mallon (www.medialifecoach.com), who believes rejection is a common source of angst among freelances.
‘The conclusion we come to is that rejection is part of the job, and depersonalising it is key. It may be that their email never arrived or the editor may not have the budget to commission. There could be a million reasons why you’ve not heard anything, and it may be nothing to do with you.”
Bear in mind too that editors are often besieged with hundreds of emails and wrestling against a relentless, all-consuming workload that makes answering anything other than the most pressing emails a colossal waste of time.
The first thing to do is what any seasoned freelance will tell you – pick up the phone (although a word of warning, don’t pester, and don’t call on press day). Yes, I know it’s scary, but, as Mallon says: ‘The problem is that people pitch by email nowadays and are reluctant to phone – instead they create a negative dialogue in their heads.’Picking up the phone can be a great reality check: Not only will you discover whether your missive made it to their inbox, or is floating unread somewhere in cyber-limbo land, but you also get a chance to start a conversation. If it’s a ‘no”, you can say, ‘What is it you are looking for?”Because all editors are looking for something,’says Mallon.
Making a phone call can also mean the difference between winning a commission and never hearing anything again (and drowning in a sea of tears, cups of tea and depression). According to Mallon, a well-timed phone call can be the deciding factor in clinching a deal: One editor told her that she was much more likely to say yes to an idea if she spoke to the writer over the phone. (Look on Mallon’s blog for some tips on successful phone-pitching techniques).
Of course, there will always be times when your wonderful ideas just don’t cut the mustard. But even here, you have a choice. ‘Ask yourself, what can I learn from this and what can I do differently next time,’says Mallon. ‘You can’t control how the editors behave, but you can control how you run your business.”
Crucially, she says, it also helps to get connected and talk to other freelances (try online networking sites such as Journo Biz or MediaWomenuk.com). ‘One of the difficulties of working alone is that we internalise everything. Once you get things in the open, you can see that many people feel the same way.”
Above all, she says, ‘see ‘no’ as the start of the dialogue and not the end. Some editors don’t even open an email if they don’t recognise the name, and many others only reply if they are seriously interested in using you as a writer.’That may sound harsh, but it does mean that even hearing a ‘no’can be a very positive sign. This is a strange business, I know.