It‘s been one of those anxiety in the chest days, six pitch rejections in a row days. What the fuck am I doing? Who allowed me to convince myself I was good at this?
Going freelance has mirrored the experience of a bad X Factor audition. You’ve been hyped up by your family and producers, they’ve convinced you’re the next big thing, then BAM you get on stage and realise you’re pretty average. And we all know being average is almost worse than being bad, because being average means you’re not even good at being bad!!! And if you get through the auditions (the pitching stage), an editor might realise you’re not as good as you sold yourself via email and auto-tune the hell out of you by completely rewriting your article. Ok that’s not how X Factor works but you get the drift.
There are a few good days in between. It’s rare but they happen. A random commission might drop out of thin air or an editor might accept your 57th pitch because they want you to shut up. I’m joking, unfortunately they don’t actually do that. But the good days will pump you with adrenaline and endorphins and everything good. Just like childbirth (not spoken from experience), you’ll forget all the pitching trauma that came before.
And then the cycle will repeat.
Welcome to The Freelance Fraud, the newsletter where I share tips on how to overcome personal and professional struggles as a freelancer with actual, practical advice.
This week I’m taking on the issue of pitch rejections because this will be 95 per cent of your freelancing career.
How to deal with pitch rejections
Firstly, pitch rejections suck. They hurt. They makes us feel bad and small. And this negative feeling will vary depending on how you deal with rejections in your general life. If you’ve had a history of internalising rejections like me - it will feel personal but remember that this is almost never ever the case. Plus, you will only learn and grow when you’re in this uncomfortable space. If you struggle with rejections, work through this internally and figure out what’s really going on and what memories/feelings are being triggered.
Secondly, if you haven’t heard back in a few days about your pitch, don’t be scared to send follow up emails. A friend of mine told me about the seven email rule - the idea that unless you’ve sent seven emails in a row, you’re not really harassing them. I’ve only ever sent one or two follow up emails but the message is - don’t be scared. This is your job now and it’s the editor’s job to answer emails.
Also PLEASE don’t DM this person on Twitter out of hours or try to reach on different forms of social media - that blurs a few boundaries and you should respect people’s social media spaces. Stick to email.
If you never get a reply to a pitch, don’t take this personally or blacklist this editor immediately. They may be thousands of reasons why they didn’t reply but it’s more telling of them than you. Most likely they get so many pitches they can’t reply to all of them! Find other editors to pitch to but don’t be scared of sending the ones who haven’t replied more pitches in the future.
The really great editors will reply to you and explain to you why the piece doesn’t work for them at this time. This is great. Take this chance to ask what they want! You’re now able to narrow down your ideas to something which may actually work. I have friends who even use this opportunity to ask editors for a coffee etc.
Remember that everyone starts somewhere and most writers you follow still get regular rejections. Just because you don’t see the Ls, doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Re-evaluate your idea - does it idea actually work? Is it missing a wider narrative? Is there a good news peg? Are you the right person to write this? Has it already been done on the site? (Google [site:nameofwebsite.com + the topic you want to cover] and see if there are results) Why now? Whenever you pitch an idea, always ask yourself why it’s relevant now and people should care about it.
You have to counteract the pitch rejections with something uplifting and fun. Remember that there’s a life beyond the rejections. Treat yourself to something comforting, see friends or family, go for a run, watch Love Is Blind on Netflix, look at the past work you’ve done and feel proud of it. Try not to ruminate on rejections and instead look forward to the time your pitches do get accepted because then you have to deal with a whole different set of problems! 🤪
I hope you liked this week’s email! Also I’m still trying to figure out how this website works, which is making me feel incredibly unhip.
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