How to Deal with Freelance Client Rejection As a New Writer

by Mercy Mmbone

Deal with Freelance Client Rejection as a New Writer


Rejection hurts…

Even the word seems unkind.

But, rejection is a part of life whether you’re breaking up with a partner, sending back a meal that is not quite right, or being told that the work you have done is not what is expected.

Almost everyone is sensitive to rejection; but, it’s possible to learn to cope with and even learn from it.

Being a fledgling freelance writer is already difficult. You are (usually) on your own, trying to instill a sense of discipline and working to meet deadlines without a boss hovering over you.

As a freelancer, you not only have to stay on top of the work, but you also have to pay attention to your bills, keep track of completed work, and keep casting ahead for future work. You have to concentrate on the writing at hand, to make sure that it follows the brief properly.

Dealing with all of these and then getting a rejection can be very upsetting and disheartening. However, learning to examine the reasons for rejection – and how to avoid them – is a vital part of your journey as a new freelance writer.

It all starts with understanding rejection.


What you should know about rejection

“A rejection doesn’t mean you failed. It means you tried. Try again.” Linda Blair, The Guardian

If you don’t understand rejections – especially how they affect your ability to think – you’ll keep getting them repeatedly and eventually give up.

Avoid making any rush decisions immediately after experiencing rejection. Such a decision won’t be reasonable because scientific research shows that rejection causes an immediate 30% drop in analytical reasoning. Even your IQ drops by 25%.


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That’s the same kind of effect as drinking beer. Research shows that higher alcohol consumption lowers IQ scores.

This means any decision you make immediately after experiencing rejection will inevitably cause more problems. Take your time, and think things over when you’re calm and relaxed.

With that in mind, here’s how to deal with freelance client rejections.

Main Reasons for Content Rejection


1. Your work is not quite right

Sometimes the way a brief is worded can be misleading. Double check the brief before you agree to do the work, and message the client for clarity.

Sometimes, especially on content mills, you’ll not get a reply in time. So, you might just do your best, hoping that it’s right. Usually, this type of rejection is not an absolute one, and with a little tweaking, you can bring it in line with the customer’s requirements.


2. Sometimes it is them

This does not necessarily mean freelance clients are overly demanding (although that can happen too). It could simply be that they already have similar articles on file, and do not need yours at the time.

If you’ve been hired to write the article, you might be forgiven for assuming that the piece is needed. But, two writers may be hired for very similar content, and the client may opt for the other one.

Some editors don’t read absolutely everything submitted to them and make an accurate decision on whose piece is best. The editors will often use the one that they come across first if it fits the bill.


3. Your Service is not right for them

Writing is a very personal service. Writing an article about something that you’re not particularly passionate about is something that you’ll become invested in during the writing process. And, having that effort rejected can be very hard on the psyche.

Think of your writing as a service that you’re selling – and one that must be customized to each client. Some publications and blogs have an in-house tone that they prefer, and might reject pieces that are too strikingly individual.

Many content mills require at least one revision before a piece of work can be rejected outright. This gives the client a chance to clarify what they want and the writer a chance to improve their piece.

Remember, freelance writing is not ‘your’ writing anymore. You cannot cling to your own ways of writing if the client requests a certain style. Tailor each piece of writing to suit the requirements, and you’ll soon take pride in the fact that you can change your style at will.


4. You got it wrong

Misunderstandings will happen. It happens to us all and the only thing you can do is apologize and fix it. It could be that you did not read the brief quite as thoroughly as you should have. Or, it could be that everything was worded ambiguously and your understanding of the instructions is different to the clients’.

Should this happen, don’t argue with your client over the meaning of a word, even if you’re certain that you’re right. These clients are paying and it’s their definition that counts.


When you make such a mistake, there are, three things that will happen:

  • You will fix it, but the customer will still not like it. Sometimes people are put off by initial mistakes, and any amount of fixing on your part is not going to make it better – even if the revised piece is exactly what they want. These are the bad clients to make note of and try to avoid. Irrational dislikes and unrealistic expectations do not make for a harmonious working relationship.
  • You will fix it, and the client will accept it and finalize your payment, but they will hold it against you. Most of these clients will rate you poorly or leave a bad review. However, the customers tend to be more forgiving than those who continue to reject the piece, and usually, after their one instance of bad feedback, they are ready to let bygones be bygones.
  • You will fix it, and the client is completely happy and accepts the piece, happy for you to do more work for them. Significantly, you’ll notice that the ‘bad’ customers tend to be those who think writing is easy because they have never done it themselves.

The best customers are those that have tried writing their own content and realized exactly how much effort goes into effortless seeming content. These clients tend to give clear briefs, generous deadlines and pay as well as they can because they do value the work done for them.


What a Rejection Does Not Mean

Many writers are so invested in their writing that any rejection is hard for them to handle. Bear the following points in mind, until you can grow something of a thicker skin when it comes to being rejected.

1) Rejections do not mean that you’re a bad writer or that you should not be writing for a living. You might be an inexperienced writer, or a careless writer, or even a strong-minded writer – but you’re still a writer. Keep working at it, and you’ll be pleased to discover how quickly you’ll improve. Learn to pick projects that suit your writing, and finding clients who positively prefer you to work with them.

2) Rejections do not mean that your writing is worse than other people’s. There are hundreds of people all over the world making money by freelance writing. Even before the days of the internet and global access to any online publication, freelance writing was a good source of income. Be aware that you’re a small fish in a huge pond: the fact that you’re being paid for writing makes you one of the more successful little fish, with a good chance of becoming a big fat fish in time.

3) Rejections do not mean that you should give up on writing. Instead, learn from your rejections. Carefully read through the feedback and even ask for it if it’s not forthcoming. Take the advice on board without letting any negative opinions affect your confidence. Pointers about using simpler words, shorter sentences and focusing on your spelling and grammar should be taken to heart and are relatively easy to fix if you’re passionate about writing.

Above all, accept that your career as a beginner writer is certain to contain rejections.

But, to minimize rejections, always try to write strictly according to the instructions that you’re given. Consult with the client over whatever isn’t clear before you start writing.


How to Work Around Rejections

Some people are mean, sometimes they are having a bad day.

Otherwise, they might just have a very specific idea of what they need. As far as possible, work with them. As a rule of thumb, always expect to do one free revision.

A freelance client might want you to reword the odd paragraph or sentence, or even double-check facts or spelling.

Sometimes they might want the work to be in USA spelling (color and favor, for example), and others UK English (colour and favour). Or, to have long sentences cut down to a manageable length. Let Grammarly help you use the correct spelling with a click of the mouse.


Offer revisions

Offer the first revision as standard, and get it done as quickly as you can. Leaving revisions until the client is frustrated and demanding the piece can easily lead to the whole project being rejected. Keep the customer happy by offering excellent customer service.

Having done all you can, you need to use your own judgement when it comes to how many times you’ll rewrite or tweak a piece. If it’s something simple – ‘break up the second and third paragraphs into two each, so the piece looks more even’ – then I would suggest doing it willingly.

If your client is demanding a full rewrite, more or less, it will be up to you to decide on that. How much time will it take, and will the payment then be worth the work that you’ll have put into it?

Some content mills, like Textbroker, are very much on the writers’ side, and any rejection by a client has to be agreed by Textbroker managers. In this way, a client cannot maliciously award a rejection of work that’s basically alright and that follows the brief.

If you can, find sites like this to write from as they will protect both your payment and your writing reputation. As you learn your craft, you can branch out into the private clients who pay more.



Sometimes a piece will be rejected despite your best efforts at writing. When this happens, by all means, be angry and indignant. But then put it aside, move the document to the ‘unsold’ file, and get on with the next lot of work.

Brooding about a rejection, even if it ‘s genuinely unfair, only wastes your time and upsets you. The client does not know or care about your upset.

Starting out as a freelance writer can be tough. But it can also be extremely rewarding. Learning how to deal with freelance client rejection is one of the many facets of the industry that you’ll need to master. Be prepared for it, and see how you do when it inevitably happens.



Are you a freelance writer? Do these points sound like your writing life? Let me know in the comments about your worst rejection – or best success.

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