Not all travelers, or travel writers, have the comfort of a regular job and steady income. In the case of freelance writers, often the only certainty is the uncertainty of the work scene.
Along with a nose for interesting stories and a flair for working on the go, one of the most important qualities a freelancer needs is thick skin. By that, I mean, the ability to cope with rejection.
So, as a freelancer, how do you make sure you don’t get crushed under the weight of rejection and radio silence?
Here are a few tips from my own long, sometimes painful, and always practical experience.
As a beginner, it’s likely most of the pitches you send out will be rejected – with a curt no, or worse, icy cold reticence. It’s often no better for seasoned freelancers.
It doesn’t mean that your idea was a bad one, or that your pitch was poorly conceived and executed. There are various reasons an editor might pass on your pitch, but unfortunately, even the kindest editors don't have the time to explain these over email, especially to an eager stranger.
For instance, the publication (or even a close rival) may have carried a similar story in the recent past, or the timing of your story is not right for some reason beyond your control. The trick is to never take it personally. Easier said than done. But print out this mantra and put it on your t-shirt.
Think of rejection as a wake-up call, a nudge to see how things can be made better, rather than just where they've been going wrong. In the specific case of receiving
Does this idea seem too familiar? Has it been run by the publication or their rivals in recent times? Does your voice match that of the target audience? Does your idea seem too off-beat compared to the features they usually carry? Or alternatively, does it seem too tame?
It’s always best to do this research before sending your work off, but it’s still a good idea to reflect on these questions
It’s true that editors are extremely busy, and rarely have the time to explain why they rejected your pitch. But occasionally, there are the nice ones who'll let slip an insight or two about what didn’t really work – look out for these gems in editor emails and see how you can use them to hone your work in future.
It could be a minor detail about the timing of your idea, or a displeased frown about the tone of your message. Pay close attention to what the editor wants, and you'll likely find clues for success in future communications.
Study your pitch again to see if it belongs in a different market – can you tweak it a bit and target it elsewhere while it is still warm in your mind?
Or can you fix it up and send it again in a few weeks to the same editor, with a different angle, or with a more topical hook?
As a freelancer, you can't afford to wallow in doubt or pity (although the temptation is so, so great). Success in freelance writing, at least in the initial years, depends on patience and persistence. And you will also soon learn that it's a numbers game; the more pitches you send out, the more assignments will come in.
So, keep moving; keep the channels of communication open with editors, follow up gently and firmly, and keep the ideas flowing.
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