I quit freelancing in 2014 for a week! In 2014, five years after discovering the world of freelancing, I had over 100 rejections.
I was ready to give up freelancing because I couldn’t take the rejection emails and NOs anymore.
I stepped into the world of freelance writing in 2009 without knowing what to expect. The rejections battered me because no work came in since 2009, I knew freelancing wasn’t for me.
Rejection makes you feel low, you hate yourself. I suffered a low in 2010 when I couldn’t get an offline job offer, even for a janitor. I wasn’t prepared for rejection online.
What followed was rejection which I was unprepared for and it wasn’t one rejection, it was hundreds and over the freelancing years thousands. In 2010, I hadn’t faced any rejections yet, well, because I hadn’t applied to lots of jobs.
I lived a Cinderella’s dream that because I was one of the earliest then fewest freelancers in Kenya, on top of it a woman, I believed I would get a job as easy as ABC.
On looking back, I realise how naive thinking that was. What I learnt after passing the self-pity phase, rejection is a lesson just like a failure.
I blogged about rejection because it was so hard to swallow the rejection pills in 2014. I educated myself on rejection and what rejection means. I took rejection personally.
So, in this article, you’re going to learn why preparing yourself for rejection as a freelancer is preparing your mindset and that rejection isn’t a failure but a stepping stone for more opportunities.
I want you to learn there’s nothing personal about rejection, it means, take the feedback, if any to correct your work.
I want you to use rejection to build your stamina and confidence as a freelancer in Kenya as you will read in another related article Rejection Builds Your Stamina? How Over 1,000 Rejections Made Me a Stubborn Freelancer in Kenya
What I Discovered About Rejection in Freelancing: Nothing’s Personal
Get prepared, the rejections will be too many to contain in your inbox
I kept my rejections and a journal of books about rejection. In 2014, I almost have up on freelancing by that time I had almost 1000 rejection letters.
I was a busy job applicant who knew could write anything under the sun. I read a few blog posts about rejection but spent entire days complaining and crying in my room.
I couldn’t get a job offline, so I thought the online world would be welcoming because I was a woman in a different nation.
While that makes sense in some sense, it doesn’t online. I quickly realised how online employers are mean, ruthless, even more, when they have to teach you how to do the job. I didn’t know what my niche was.
I want things to go a certain way but that’s not always the case
I may be a freelancer but that doesn’t mean I love to live without a plan.
I’m not a great organiser, I deal with disorganisation by decluttering and reexamining. I freelance, I want a structure, a plan.
Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan, rejection taught me.
It will take a few weeks, months to know things don’t always work as we anticipate. When you wake up from the realisation soonest the better so keep on searching.
What Over 1,000 Rejections Taught Me About Freelancing in Kenya
Know what your passion, skills and abilities are, they help you choose a NICHE
I started out working as a writer.
Then there were 2-dollar and 1- dollar jobs, the confusing part is some Indians made 10k/1M shillings a month doing the 2 dollar jobs. At the time’s currency rate it’s 740,000 shillings a month.
And I thought, wow, before reaching there, do I need to do measly jobs to earn that much?
I continued reading about freelancing from so many blogs, I don’t see some of them these days.
I was a big Yahoo blog reader and forum poster and contributor. I didn’t know what kind of writing I wanted to do, in fact, I shared on sites that I was an article writer.
Article writers are the ones earning so little. When I read in one of the forums that Indians make that much because they are from third world nations, I promised myself, no one will know what country I am from unless I tell them.
I will ensure I’m no one’s slave and charge what I’m worth.
From there, whenever I went on Elance I charged a lot of money until I got a referral client who went on to be my long-term client and my salary increased.
When I returned to Upwork in 2017, I continued charging a lot until a client said to me, ‘You charge so much money for this VA service yet you’re from a third world nation, those don’t need a lot of money’.
By 2017, I knew how to deal with such clients – ignore them or continue the chat, I left the chat until he came back apologising profusely.
These are some signs of a bad freelance client you must watch out for, those rude and belittling clients. Red Flags to Watch Out for in Freelance Clients in Kenya
What’s a niche?
I talk about niche all the time. It’s simple, what topic in writing, for example, do you love talking about all the time?
If it’s coding, what coding/programming language do you love doing? When you know about your niche, your passion, your area of specification, it’s easy to stay focused. It’s easy to get hired and you face a few rejections.
When you’re focused on one area, you get to easily be called a guru. See what Stephen King does? He writes horrors only, he’s known for horrors. How about James Patterson, my favourite author of all time? That’s what you want.
Even if you have many areas of interest you want to pursue, put them on hold for while or include them in your portfolio samples as areas of interest or strengths.
Freelance clients love diverse freelancers.
Also, research whether your area of specification has a client and how much the clients pay. Begin your search on freelancing websites like Upwork.
I often ask myself, what would have happened if I knew that one kind of writing which brought me joy?
Would I have struggled as I did? Are you stuck in choosing a niche and want help on deciding what you’re great at?
Related Article: How and Why Choosing a Niche is Crucial for Freelancers in Kenya
Rejection is not personal
My, my, my … did I take rejection as personal? Sometimes, I went on aggressively on the client, in silent mode, you don’t know what you’re missing.
I like my job, cannot you see? For me, the rejection was personal until I learnt it wasn’t.
It happens that the work you submitted got rejected. It’s not about you. It reminded me about my rejection back in 2010 on offline jobs, I walked in over 100 offices without getting a job.
I toiled harder looking for a job which never came. It felt like these employers didn’t like me, I should have done this and that.
I blamed myself for the rejections before I knew it, I sunk into a 3-month excruciating depression.
You have to differentiate the work you submitted and yourself.
Rejection is hard, it hurts, but it doesn’t mean you’re the bad candidate, if anything, learn from it.
Some employers don’t know what they want, so they find a thrill in rejecting you
These clients are called Simon Cowell’s of freelancing, they find it funny to reject you without reason.
I remember a client posted work on iWriter, after doing the job and submitting it, he returned the feedback, ‘Very simplistic writing, cannot accept’.
The way I balled that day, it was so heartbreaking, I remember it was in October 2013. And for a week, I quit freelancing.
A week later I’d call myself a simplistic writer and on an interview with a client, he asked me, what’s that’s one thing clients tell you about your writing?
I said, ‘My writing is very simplistic and don’t like it, that’s why I became a VA. Because email writing and booking flights don’t involve jargon’. ”I love your simplistic writing, who wants to read jargon in this fast-paced online world? When are you going to get started?”
After freelancing for a decade now, I know some employers don’t even know what they want.
Just because they heard one of their friends employing a freelancer, they want in too.
They’ll reject you because you wrote in British English/Australian, are you British? I thought everyone knew American English, these other classes of English are hard, I mean British, Australian.
We couldn’t hire you because of the spelling mistakes, clients will tell you. In their job application, they required a sample, which you submitted.
There was no specification about the kind of English you must use, but they’ll give an explanation so confusing, next you know you will look for American dictionaries!
You have to be careful what you learn from rejection some are time-consuming lessons which teach you nothing.
You have to have the stamina to decipher what you must take in.
If you are the vocal kind, speak about it on social media, the biggest reason why I created a YouTube channel in 2013 even if I was camera- shy, I wanted to find out if people suffered or are suffering like me as freelancers and what they do about it. I never made a video until 2018!
It’s good to share some rejection stories, there are experts on YouTube who help you figure it out all the time.
Learn to differentiate a hater client and a lesson giving client.
What’s bad for one freelance client is good for another, keep on sending in those applications
A freelance client commented about my $20 an hour rate as a VA, another client complimented me.
She knew she wouldn’t have to teach me in the job.
She knew I’d be working without a supervisor hanging on my head. She loved my work, unfortunately, it wasn’t long term.
Not everything you have done or are doing is bad. Some clients cannot be satisfied. Do you believe in your work’s quality? That’s what matters.
How to Handle Professional Rejection as a Newbie Freelancer in Kenya
I learnt a few lessons on handling professional rejections as a freelancer in Kenya and they include:
Feel the rejection
Feel everything there’s to feel about the rejection. Sadness, tears of regret, anger, sadness.
Feeling it all means it gets drained from your system. I have a tendency of holding it in until I explode like a bomb.
Do show how it felt to be rejected, do feel it. Then muster the energy or sum the energy and start again.
Take a break, I took a one week off from freelance job hunting in 2013 and it was the best week ever
After being told about my simplistic writing, I cried for the whole night and quit freelancing fora week.
After which I came invigorated and met a new freelance client. He said to me, ‘I love how simple you write, I like this conversational tone, it’s exactly what I am looking for in a writer. I cannot wait to get started, are you ready for long-term projects? ‘
Talk about it, share your rejection story
I don’t have friends to share with my freelancing story. And Facebook wasn’t an option because my ‘friends’ didn’t freelance so how would they understand?.
I felt so angry at myself for getting rejected. This was my only chance at getting a job, how could they?
Then I wrote my feelings down and in the writing moment, a light bulb went off.
I will from today write every rejection email I get, the date plus time then learn from it. I burnt my rejection diary in 2018.
It’s not easy to get rejected, I felt and feel that until now
It’s not easy to get rejected. It leaves you feeling like your efforts never paid off or you’re not good enough.
It makes you lose hope for the future and that all is lost. Accept what rejection is, it’s the best way and first of dealing with rejection.
Be by yourself
I love self-care and one of my self-care routines is meditation, connecting with myself and God. When I have a troubling matter, meditation resolves issues for me.
Stay and be by yourself, you get a new different perspective when you are you, your thoughts and God.
It takes time to know how to deal with rejection and that’s fine
Yes, time is needed to heal all wounds.
The same goes with rejection, it may come back again and again, those yucky moments you felt when you got rejected.
That’s your mind reminding you. Don’t ever fight with your mind but don’t dwell on it.
When the sound keeps replaying, the rejection voice of the interviewer and your voice or the email, talk against it loudly.
Acknowledge it then say, I know you rejected my work, I am going to improve on what you told me or didn’t.
Next time, I know I’ll get hired. When you counter negative voices with a louder voice, your mind never torments you again.
Reflect on what you did wrong or need to improve then work with it
What did you do wrong? Just like meditation, sometimes, reflection brings everything closer, makes everything clearer.
You may have been wrong. You may have missed a step when you look back, what could you have done better?
Don’t hold onto rejection for too long, you may despair and hate yourself then sink into depression
I held so long into rejection and what followed was more rejection. I now understand the power of the mind. I’d tell myself, ‘What’s the point of applying for a job when all I’ll get is rejection?’.
Some clients reached back saying about the location, others about my use of British English, not even grammar, some said, they weren’t hiring at the time and some never got back to me.
The ones with silent treatment were the larger group. It’s even more painful not to get feedback.
If you don’t watch how you deal with rejection, you may end up in despair or sink deeper into depression.
Don’t hold onto clients words for too long, keep improving and one day soonest you will get a YES.
Focus on the target, you want that goal, go for it
Do you want to freelance for a decade, a year or was freelancing a source of extra income?
Whatever your goal was, remind yourself of it. When I’m about to give up on anything, I ask myself, why did I get started?
The answer gets you back on track. Learn to stay the course, it may be challenging but let your goal be the motivator.
Rejection is an encourager. Constant and consistent rejections freelancing for 5 years taught me to be stubborn I was too soft
Every time I faced rejection from the offline jobs, I’d cry my guts out. I’d stay at home for a week then begin again.
I never took the time to reflect on the reasons for the rejections.
I blame myself that I was de-aligned with too many issues of self-comparison to my younger sister who’s an engineer plus I wanted my parents to see my success story asap.
The rejection was a reminder of how big of a failure I was.
Now, on freelance rejection, after overcoming the first few years of rejection and rejection became a part of my journey, I learnt to be stubborn.
I stayed because I couldn’t keep on searching for non-forthcoming jobs. I felt I was already too tired giving the chase offline.
I came online and saw how quickly I could make money, how much I could earn from the comfort of the home and I wasn’t going back.
I was in too deep already.
Rejection made me stubborn than ever. These days when something’s hard, I try it again, again and again. Then I ask myself, can I try again?
Use the rejection feedback to grow – that’s if there is any feedback
If you have any responses accompanying the rejection letters, use them to grow. I didn’t get any feedback in my rejections, it was flimsy excuse after another.
Rejection is good and should be used to improve your craft. Rejection is a free life lesson planner
Resources About Freelance Rejection
What Does Constant Rejection Do To a Freelancer/How Rejection Ruined My Esteem
In conclusion, Rejection is a part and parcel of a freelancer’s job. You’re meeting new clients with varied taste. Don’t give up or refuse to keep taking action because of rejection.
I have had a fear of rejection for as long as I can remember that for a while I stopped applying for jobs and opportunities. I knew I hadn’t developed stamina for rejection.
When you learn and embrace more about rejection, you won’t have a fear, in fact, you will look forward. I feel a fear of rejection when I put all my eggs in one basket.
Don’t put your earnings on one client. As the years go by and you keep working online, acquire as many skills as possible to help increase your income.
I feared rejection when I set my eyes on one kind of job then I’d rack my head, will I get the job, how did it go?
Did I do well, do I have to search for another job which I will have to stretch more to learn?
Don’t rely on one job, look for more opportunities within your niche.
Read a related article: Rejection Builds Your Stamina? Over 1,000 Rejections Made Me a Stubborn Freelancer.
What has rejection taught you as a freelancer in Kenya?
Can you share some rejection stories to help encourage other work from home workers/freelancers in Kenya?