Five ways to digest your humble pie

Greetings from the Great White North, my dear readers!

I’m sad to report this week hasn’t been especially encouraging. I’ve had one client ask for his money back, one pull out on a project halfway through, one send back my work (I sent him a new draft and am waiting for feedback now) and one client stop paying me for some reason for a project he himself told me he loved.

In freelancing, some weeks come where you have to shovel down an awful lot of humble pie. Let’s talk about ways to soften the blows when it comes to rejection and criticism.

1. Agree to disagree


Step 1: Don’t do this.

I find there are authors who don’t necessarily agree with my writing or editing style. For that reason, they will either pass me by or pull out of a project early when they see our approaches didn’t quite meet eye-to-eye.

In cases like this, it’s good to remember you’re not wrong, exactly, just not the right fit for that particular client’s needs. The chances of the client having a problem with you on a personal level are quite slim, especially if you’ve never met in person.

I had a case of Discouraging Client #1 (pulled out of a project early) recently. After I was through being angry at her and at myself, I wrote to her, explaining that I was disappointed I didn’t meet her expectations and articulated my approach as best I could. Lastly, I invited her to come and contact me in the event my skills met her needs. She accepted the invitation and may very well be working again with me in the future.

2. Maybe it’s you


On the other side of the coin, keep in mind there’s the possibility you made a mistake or you didn’t understand the assignment in the same way your client did. Even if you’re the best at what you do (and let’s face it, you may very well be), you’re still human and prone to errors every now and again.

As my mom told me and your mom told you, mistakes are ok, so long as you learn from them. Don’t be afraid to ask your client where things went wrong. Make sure they understand that you know you’ve messed up and you want to improve for future clients. Ask for a second chance; for me, seeing someone own up to a mistake and earnestly want to learn from it and try again earns my respect. Don’t be afraid to ask for another shot, and make every effort not to repeat your mistakes.


3. Maybe it’s them

There are perpetually dissatisfied clients out there. I’ve been fortunate enough to steer clear of most of them in my still-short journey as a freelancer. Your work might be just fine if given to any other client. Perhaps this client has control issues and difficulties trusting their work into someone else’s hands. That’s something they’ll have to work through and it may not have anything at all to do with your work. I haven’t had personal experience with this, to my knowledge.

If you’re working through a website like Elance or PeoplePerHour, these clients are easy enough to spot. They might have a string of bad reviews for freelancers and negative feedback from freelancers or they may have a low ratio of jobs awarded to jobs posted. There are many forums out there for people working from home where you can get a sense of how certain clients operate as well. Dissatisfied clients can sometimes be avoided.

4. Don’t overthink it

The worst thing you can do when it comes to criticism or rejection is think about it too much. Sometimes you don’t know the reason they passed you up for a job or didn’t like your work. Even if you do, though, the reasons  (or possible reasons) for rejection will eat you up inside and leave you in no condition to work if you continue to let them occupy real estate in your head. Feel the pain, then get to work anyway.

5. Keep calm and be a duck

And while you're at it, why not be a big duck?

And while you’re at it, why not be a big duck?

Once you decide what you’ll take away from the rejection experience, move on. I really like how Jodee Redmond of FreelanceWritingGigs put it in a 2008 post:

The way to deal with Insecurity is not to entertain it at all. This is one visitor you don’t want pulling up a chair and getting comfortable in your psyche. The way to make it retreat is to get busy doing something. If you have assignments, work on them. If not, apply for jobs or get to work soliciting new clients. I wish I had a magic formula or pill for getting rid of it forever, but I don’t. If I did, I would bottle it and sell it, believe me!

So getting back to our friend Mr. Mallard, you want to give the world a serene and peaceful appearance on the surface, even if you are paddling like the dickens below the water line! And like a good duck, you need to know when it’s time to fly off and look for new opportunities elsewhere.

Happy writing, ladies and gentlemen. I’ll see you next week!


Photo Credits:

(Flickr/Gemma Correll
whatartis.orgNew York Daily News


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One thought on “Five ways to digest your humble pie

  1. […] let you know. If what you’re selling doesn’t gel with them, they’ll tell you. And it’s ok to get bad reviews. Dust yourself off, see what you can fix and go at it […]


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