How To Handle Rejection Gracefully

Relationships in all aspects of life are a two way street. Both parties have to participate in order for it to work. Whether it’s romance or business, a strong sense of self is necessary to handle the, “we’re just not that into you,” response.

The question is, what will you say when rejection happens?

In starting your business, you’ll get a ton of positive and negative feedback, especially during the first year. You’ll also find yourself on both ends of the discussion.

After speaking with potential clients, the assessment happens on both ends. “Is this a client I want to work with?” or, “Is this freelancer best for my business?”

If the answer turns out to be “no” on either end, it’s ok. We all have our areas of expertise and it’s best to stick with them. No one wants to be stuck working on a project they hate. And no business wants to work with an entrepreneur that isn’t delivering what they want.

It’s how you handle the departure that separates the amateurs from the pros. There’s a reason why the phrase, “don’t burn bridges” has lasted over 100 years. Whether you’re right for a project or not, how you conduct yourself is everything.

It’s Not Personal – This is probably the first point you’ll read in any article of this ilk, and rightfully so. The most important point to keep in mind when you aren’t chosen for a project, or someone isn’t happy with your work, is that THEY DON’T KNOW YOU PERSONALLY. They also don’t know the complete scope of your work. Never ever let one person’s opinion be the deciding factor of how you feel about yourself and your abilities. As a writer I’d say, “I’m great with constructive criticism and I really appreciate your feedback.”

It’s Not You, It’s Me – Especially in the beginning of your career, whenever anyone approaches you for work you’ll want to jump right on it. But that isn’t necessarily the right approach. Keep in mind that taking on a project you aren’t right for can backfire quickly. Make sure you ask plenty of questions and feel confident that you can do this job better than anyone else. If not, it is SO OK to politely decline. You can say, “After going through the details of this project, I really feel that this subject matter is outside my area of expertise. But if you have a project in the future that involves (insert strong point here) I’d love the opportunity to work with you.”

Include An Exit Clause – I’ve been in business for myself for over five years and my clients have run the gamut. I’m also lucky to say that I’ve never had a client be unhappy with my work…until a few months ago. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make this client happy and it was incredibly frustrating.

Related: 10 Ways To Say “Thank You” To Your Clients

There came a point where it was best for us to just part ways. I did put in a significant amount of time on the project; which I felt I should be compensated for, but the client also didn’t have a finished project they were happy with. As a result, I learned to always include a note in the work agreement that states “the client will receive a 50% refund if they are unhappy with the finished product.” That way, they get something back and it’s not a total loss for me.

Find Someone New – Want to decline or end a job with flying colors? Find your client someone new. I had a potential client email me a while back asking if I was open to writing a financial blog. Turns out, I have zero experience in finance and would be a terrible choice for this project. However, I belong to a fantastic forum for freelance writers; which has a jobs board. I declined the project, but assured him that if he checked out this forum, he was sure to find the perfect writer for his blog. He was thrilled and it made me look like a rock star;)

Ask For Feedback – Every negative situation can always be turned into a positive. Didn’t get chosen for a project? Politely ask why, take the constructive criticism and let it make you better. Did you end a project with a client that wasn’t 100% happy? Ask them what you could have done differently and make adjustments for the next time around. You could ask, “Would you mind sharing why you didn’t chose me for your project? I feel that knowing can help me present myself better in the future.” If you feel your client wasn’t fully satisfied, send them an email asking them to share some positive feedback and tips to help you improve.

No matter what, another project will come and each is another opportunity to get better. Never be above improvement because there’s always room for it.