You ask, we answer. To tackle the ever-present question of coping with rejection, I asked Kristen Fischer, author of Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs, to explain the resilience necessary to continue to market yourself in the fact of rejection. Have a question? Contact me!
How big of a problem is rejection for self-employed people and is it different from rejection in a full-time job?
This is huge for self-employed people. It's a very real, legitimate fear. Think about it--when you work a 9-to-5, you may be hesitant to offer up ideas, but you know you'll have your job even if they're not approved. For a freelance writer like myself, if they get rejected for a big job, it can cost a month's mortgage. That's why it's vital to be using lots of marketing techniques and not putting all your eggs in one basket.
I find that the people who seriously want to be in business will do what they have to in order to get out of their own way. It's not easy, and it requires baby steps. That's not to say that someone serious about their business won't have this fear--just that if you really want to be a business, you'll have to do many things you're uncomfortable with. I think overcoming this fear takes time. It's a trial and error sort of thing, so creatives need to have the support systems in place to help them take these vital baby steps.
How does rejection hurt us?
In the beginning of my career, rejection would really send me into some tailspins. I would become depressed and feel like I was never going to make it. Luckily, my husband was very supportive. Plus, I knew that one rejection didn't mean I was a bad writer--I learned that rejection, when you put your all into something and do it according to industry standards, is simply a way of telling us that something isn't the right fit. When you have the attitude that everything will fall into place, and you continually work on your craft, you'll get better at what you do.
Rejection is to be expected; simply by knowing that you'll get rejected (especially in the beginning of your creative career) will help you let it bounce off your back. And try not to beat yourself up over beating yourself up--it's normal to be bummed when something doesn't work out.
Rejection hurts us most when we don't take the time to understand it. After I would get a rejection on a book proposal, for example, I'd let myself be bummed for the afternoon. But I'd keep going. I knew that simply by persisting, I could beat the odds. My second book Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life, is due out in April!
How does it help us?
Rejection, once you get past the anger and sadness, is a real motivator! One woman in my book Creatively Self-Employed: How Writers and Artists Deal with Career Ups and Downs, suggested becoming a "rejection collector." She says if you're getting rejected, you know that you're putting yourself out there and therefore doing something right!
Once you get over the bitterness of it, use it to excel!
How do you take care of yourself when you've been rejected? How much time should you spend babying yourself and how much do you just need to tell yourself to get over it?
This is a great question. Sometimes I'd be upset for an hour, sometimes for a few hours, or into the following days. I never let it eat me up too much--I knew I needed to bring in the bacon, that I had done it before, and that I could do it again. That's what I tell myself to this day when something doesn't work out. Things still fall apart sometimes for me. I recently lost a great-paying job but realized that the angst it caused me wasn't worth it. I trust the process. I go with the ebbs and flows, but at the same time, I stay proactive and never stop trying. Maybe I need a day off; I give that to myself now. I know how vital recharging is.
Anything else you'd add about rejection and self-employment?
I just want people to know that it's normal to experience rejection. Talk to others--even some friends online in your industry--and get the support you need. Realize that self-employment isn't for everyone. If you're so bummed about not getting a gig and you're dragging for days and not continuing to market yourself, working solo may not be right for you. It doesn't mean you're weak if you feel disappointed about
something--but it says a lot about your character if you can pick yourself back up after something falls apart. That's really what separates the successful freelancers from the rest!