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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  Introduction - Online Freelancing Overview, Options, Opportunities and Challenges
      >  Handling the Psychological Challenges of Online Freelancing

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Starting Over and Paying Your Dues
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Feast or Famine - But More Often Famine
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Gracefully Accepting Rejection

Freelancers have an advantage over salaried workers in having many bosses for a short duration instead of one for a long period of time, but there’s a flip side to this as well. In a regular career, you typically spend a certain amount of time looking for a job and then when you find one, you hopefully stay there for at least a few years. In contrast, freelancers are constantly looking for their next bit of work, and that also means getting constantly rejected. In some respects, freelancing is a lot like one endless job interview, and the frequent negative responses that you experience can be quite a blow to the ego at first, especially if you aren’t used to it.

Consider an unmarried man in his 30s who works as a salesperson and dates regularly. Unless he has the selling skills of a genius and the charm and looks of a Greek god, chances are that rejection is nothing new to this guy. Over time he will have developed a thick enough skin to handle rejection, just by virtue of the experience he has gained both professionally and personally.

This was about as far from my personal situation as could be imagined, though. When I began Internet freelancing, I was already self-employed, and it had been some 15 years since I last applied for a job; it had also been over 20 years since I last had to ask someone on a date. And let me tell you, I was quite unaccustomed to seeing that steady stream of emails saying “thanks, but no thanks” (or worse) pour into my email inbox day after day.

The frequency with which you get rejected from job applications depends on many factors. The better value you provide, in terms of quality per dollar of cost, the more jobs you’ll win. Similarly, if you apply for a smaller number of jobs, and focus only on the ones you really are well-suited for, you’ll achieve a high project win percentage. The field you work in also matters; there are some disciplines that are just extremely popular, and in these a bid win rate of 10% might be about all that you can expect—no matter what you do, or even how low you bid.

What makes matters worse is that sometimes buyers can be needlessly cruel in how they turn providers down. Like any group of people, most buyers are essentially decent people, some are exceptionally nice, and others are complete jerks. The anonymity of the Internet, though, tends to bring out the worst in some people. So once in a while you’ll get a buyer who doesn’t just reject your bid, but rejects it with a rude comment. As difficult as it is, you have to be able to take this in stride. And whatever you do, don’t give in to the temptation to be nasty in return, as this is never a good idea—remember that you’re a professional, even if others are not.

Some people are naturally better at handling rejection than others are. If you fall into this category, you can feel comfortable that this at least is one less thing you need to worry about as you take up freelancing. For the rest of us, we can at least rest assured that this is business, so it’s usually nothing personal. And of course, the skin does thicken up with time.


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Starting Over and Paying Your Dues
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Feast or Famine - But More Often Famine
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011

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