After carefully crafting the perfect query letter, you land your dream writing job. And then it all falls apart.
What would you do? Shake your fist at the sky, curse, cry, or a combination of all three?
When a writing job gets killed, some writers take it pretty hard. You know, self-doubt and loathing, negative self-talk, a tub of ice cream.
The thing is, that kind of negative mojo isn’t going to help you move up, earn more, and get another writing job.
Believe me, I know what it’s like. I recently scored a $700 writing job for a healthcare trade pub. And then the assignment turned sour after a series of unfortunate events outside of my control.
It sounds like a nightmare situation, but it’s not uncommon. Freelancing is unpredictable, and at some point, you’re going to lose a writing job you thought was a sure bet.
How do you bounce back when you finally get a solid writing job, then lose it through no fault of your own? Here are five ways to get back on track fast.
My $700 writing job soap opera
When I got the assignment to write an article about scheduling anesthesiologists for operating rooms, I was excited. I could use the clip to expand my portfolio and pitch better clients in the healthcare niche.
But it didn’t work out that way. It took me weeks to get a response from a specific source for the article, only to find out, “they were going through internal changes and no longer wanted to be featured in the magazine.”
When I went back to my editor with the bad news, she promised a different assignment. A week later, more bad news. The editor emailed to tell me she was leaving her job. There was no replacement assignment, and I didn’t have much to go on to contact the incoming editor.
Just like that, my $700 paycheck was gone. But instead of giving up, I wanted to get back on track…fast. In a similar situation? Here’s what I recommend:
1. Give yourself some credit
Yes, it’s discouraging when a writing job evaporates. But don’t miss the silver lining: You succeeded in earning that dream assignment. And the fact that you landed it once is proof you can get more just like it.
When an editor rejects your pitch with the canned: “This is too similar to an article we already have in the pipeline,” it’s not a total failure. Getting a response shows you’re on the right track.
Don’t forget, freelancing success is never about getting one great assignment. It’s about getting lots of great assignments…over and over again. Give yourself some credit and recognize your successes.
2. Follow up with the editor
When the first version of my assignment got killed, I immediately asked the editor about another assignment. It was in the works, but when she left her job, I was kind of left hanging. Only I saw it as an opportunity.
I found the contact info for the senior editor and sent an email, explaining the situation. And I received a response: “The assignment I was promised was still in the works, just delayed.” Instead of waiting around, the editor invited me to pitch story ideas for the company’s other magazine.
The result: A new connection with an editor, and a strong lead to get assignments writing for both magazines.
Tip: I also connected with the outgoing editor on LinkedIn to find out where she goes next. If she moves to another editorial role at a different healthcare company, then I’ll be pitching her again for her new role. With a few strong pitches and a dash of luck, I might even turn this disappointment into two ongoing clients instead of one.
3. Ask for a kill fee
When an editor kills a writing job, it doesn’t always mean you don’t get paid.
For example, if your query letter gets accepted by an editor, you’ll sign a contract that outlines the scope of work, pay, and other details.
Let’s say you do the work, research, interviews, and write the article. Then the magazine decides not to run your piece. If this happens, many magazines will still pay you a percentage of the fee, or kill fee.
Search your writer’s contract or assignment letter for the phrase “kill fee” to see if you can still get a paycheck for your work, even if the article doesn’t run. Or ask about this ahead of time.
Tip: If you don’t get a kill fee, don’t let your work go to waste. Keep the rights to your article, and pitch the ideas to another market.
4. Rinse and repeat to land more work
I sent 50-plus pitches a week for some time to ramp up my freelance writing business. When I started getting responses, I took a closer look at what I was doing right.
I discovered that the editors I heard back from most liked it when I included a couple different story ideas. So I sent more pitches like that. Story ideas demonstrate your knowledge of the industry or niche you write for, and help you stand out from the general-write-about-anything writer.
This little rinse-and-repeat exercise even landed me additional assignments.
5. Take smaller gigs if you need to
Losing a $700 writing job hurts more than your ego. It hurts financially. So if you have to take small gigs to replace that income, do it. It takes time to pitch cold prospects for top assignments, and in the meantime, you’ve got to pay the bills.
Tip: In my experience, pitching prospects directly is the best way to get great clients. But it’s not the only option. Job boards may not always pay well, but they’re often a fast way to get income. The Junk Free Job Board inside the Freelance Writers Den, and content platforms that pay well are both options you should explore.
Be a writer, not a waiter
Losing an assignment is disappointing, but it doesn’t have to be a major setback in your freelance writing career. With the right approach, that killed article can be the inspiration that leads to more assignments, more clients, and the freelance writing career of your dreams. Be a writer, not a waiter.
How do you bounce back after freelance rejection? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.
Lisa Baker writes about healthcare, parenting, and e-commerce. She enjoys walking her dogs, playing with her kids, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.