The Unexpected ‘Rejection’ That Hurt Me Most As a Writer

Sometimes, disappointing things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.

I once stumbled upon a freelancing opportunity I fell in love with even before I signed or initialed any dotted lines.

It stands out to me for several reasons — one being that it was the first time a professional had ever contacted ME out of the blue asking if I was interested in writing for their health website.

For another, this was work designed specifically for people like me — working professionals with degrees and the knowledge base required to do the work, and do it well.

This was a legitimate organization whose content impressed me immediately upon clicking on the first article. I knew after just several minutes of research that this was a company I wanted to work for, even as a contractor without benefits or guaranteed consistent work.

The first several months of this job were some of the most enjoyable I’d ever had as a freelancer. This was the kind of work I wanted to do full-time for the rest of my professional life. It was almost as if the higher-ups of this organization had found me, researched me, and reached out to me knowing I was as close to a perfect fit as they could ever hope to find.

Then the honeymoon phase ended. Just as I was preparing to begin my next assignment, an email I did not expect showed up in my inbox.

It went something like: “I wanted to let you know we’re temporarily shifting our focus to promoting existing content on our website and are no longer in need of new content from you. Your work has been exceptional …”

In other words, “You’re fired.” Except not really, because I was never technically “hired.” Contract work is weird. With one email, I knew I was no longer going to be receiving a paycheck from the organization.

But that was not what upset me the most. What upset me the most was how short and straightforward the notice was. Strictly professional, sure. But that was about it.

I did not know — and never found out — the real reason why they dropped me as a freelancer. Were they being honest with me and shutting the door on all their freelancing endeavors? That’s not what it looked like to me, based on the number of articles they have continued to produce since shutting me out.

Could they no longer afford my rates? I would have understood that — it’s happened to me before. But I would have much rather they told me they could no longer afford to compensate me for my efforts, if that was in fact their reason for shooing me away.

It’s very possible they simply no longer needed my services.

It’s also very possible they were not pleased with my work, wanted to “let me go” (as a contractor, you are never guaranteed notice of lost work or consistent work throughout your contract), and decided to make up an excuse (lie) instead of being honest with me.

Here’s the thing though: Not only had THEY reached out to ME for my services, but I’d had several conversations with multiple parties involved about my passion for health journalism. As in, I wanted this to be my full-time career. As in, I had accepted this gig partially to gain more professional experience in the field, and fully expected that I was skilled and knowledgeable enough to do the work.

If I wasn’t, that was kind of something I needed to know. Because if I didn’t know otherwise, I was going to continue as-is thinking I had what it took to make it in this industry.

If they were leading me to the door because I wasn’t capable of doing the work, don’t you think it would have been common courtesy for someone to tell me that?

There could have been a dozen reasons our contract didn’t work out. They could have decided they only wanted to work with RDNs and I didn’t have that credential. They could have found someone who could do the work just as well as I could for way less money (even though I aimed high with my asking rate and they accepted it without hesitation).

I suppose it doesn’t matter. Because no matter how much I enjoyed the work — it was one of the best freelancing gigs I’ve ever had and I have to restrain myself from contacting them to ask about availabilities every other month to this day — businesses don’t care about that. They don’t hire freelancers to give them something enjoyable to do. They hire them to gain affordable content. And when, for whatever reason, a freelancer can no longer provide them the service they need at the price they can afford, they simply toss them out.

It’s not cruel or unprofessional. I wasn’t angry at them for doing this, because it had happened to me plenty of times before with clients I didn’t adore nearly as much as this one.

But I was definitely disappointed. And confused. And maybe a little hurt. I kindly thanked them and moved on. I never stopped wondering why it happened, though. That’s anxiety for you — the nagging feeling that you did something wrong and no one told you what and there’s a chance you will do it again. I live with it and I continue moving forward despite it.

In writing, disappointment descends upon you unexpectedly and you have to figure out how to deal with it somehow. You can’t just sit around wishing the unfavorable things had not happened. You have to lift your head up, put your hands back on that keyboard, and keep writing.

Rejection comes in many forms, and no matter how much you prepare for it, it still stings when it happens. But for the most part, once it does happen, it’s out of your control. All you can do is keep moving forward. You’re allowed to be hurt and question what may have gone better and what you can do better next time. But always keep going no matter what. No matter how hard it may be.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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3 thoughts on “The Unexpected ‘Rejection’ That Hurt Me Most As a Writer

    1. Yep. I work for an organization that has had to make many tough business decisions affecting its writers so I completely understand that sometimes you have to do what you have to do. Didn’t disappoint me any less though haha. I don’t hold it against them.

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