4 Ways to Cope When Your Freelance-Writing Pitch Goes Unanswered

4 Ways to Cope When Your Freelance-Writing Pitch Goes Unanswered

Starting out in the freelance writing world, I was full of enthusiasm. I was eager to get my business going; I was pitching all over the place. Cold pitches, job boards, you name it.

As much as I hoped to be an overnight success, deep down I knew it would take some time to really “make it.”

Yet, the first days and weeks after sending a batch of pitches were spent obsessively checking my inbox. Now I’m not talking about the rational check-twice-a-day kind checking; I mean the refreshing-the-inbox-every-five-minutes kind.

I was excited; I just wanted to land gigs and get writing!

Then it happened.

I hit refresh one more time, and there it was, “RE: Blog Post Writer” sitting in my inbox just waiting to be opened. I sat breathlessly excited and opened the email.

“Thank you for your submission. We are not taking on new writers at this time.”

You’d think I was crushed, but far from it! I practically jumped for joy. Obviously, I would have been MORE excited to see a job offer, but in my eyes, this rejection was a win.

Fast forward to today. I’ve gotten my fair share of rejection e-mails. But I’m grateful for each and every one of them. To me, rejections mean someone took the time to read my ideas, thought it over and however disappointing to me, just didn’t believe it was a good fit.

Best you can hope for in this worst-case scenario, the rejection comes with a little feedback that you can use to hone your next pitch. Rejection can sting at times; I’ll give you that. Your dream job, your most brilliant idea, all quickly shot down with a polite e-mail. But there’s a lot to be learned from those rejection emails.

What’s really hard? The dreaded non-response.

That’s where my self-doubt really takes off. A “yes” is a job. A “no” is “try again next time.” What do you make of radio silence? You worked hard on that pitch, and you hear crickets in return. What then?

1. Make sure you did your research

Does the potential clients’ submission page mention a timeframe? Sometimes companies will state their timeframe for responses to submissions such as “If you don’t hear from us in 5 weeks, feel free to send your ideas elsewhere”.

Other times it’s written somewhere along the lines of “We typically get back to writers within two weeks.” Some potential clients will respond within a week, but it’s not at all uncommon for them to take much longer.

Before you stress out about the lack of response, make sure your expectations are in line with theirs.

2. Follow up

Once you’ve scoured the publications’ website or posting for information regarding their timeframe, it’s time to follow up. A general guide of when to send a follow-up email is somewhere between ten to fourteen business days.

A good follow up will be personal and informative. Cite the date you sent the pitch so they can easily find it in their inbox or voicemail. Remind them why you’re such a good fit for this position (without repeating your original pitch).

According to writer Chad Dresden, it’s considered appropriate to follow up three times. After that, it’s up to you to simply leave it out there and hope for the best or continue to reach out.

I’m by no means advocating for harassing editors here. I can’t imagine a “wear-them-down” strategy has worked in anyone’s favor. You’re more than likely going to hurt your chances of a future pitch being accepted by excessively flooding their inbox.

More often than not, by following up two to three times, you’ll get a response, be it positive or negative.

3. Recognize a dead end

Sometimes following up is not an option.

Many writing opportunities (especially companies looking to hire B2C-Business to Consumer- writers) are fielded through agencies that use pre-generated forms, leaving you without a contact person with whom to follow up.

Armed with your well-researched knowledge on the company’s’ timeframe for response, you may have to leave this pitch up to fate.  

4. Get tough

Sometimes you won’t hear back, no matter how many follow-ups you send. Sometimes you’ll get rejected with zero feedback. “Them’s the breaks,” as they say.

Being a freelancer is tough, and you need to get tough too. Being a writer, you probably know this by now; it’s all about the rewrite and second look.  

Look over your sent pitches. See where you could improve. Maybe upon a second look, you’ll think of somewhere a particular idea would be a better fit. Keep pitching, but remember to pitch smart. Take the time to make sure you’re writing for the right audience.

Ultimately, you need to remember that not all opportunities are the right ones for you. You have move on from the non-responses. But you also have to keep pitching and writing.

Hopefully one day, you’ll come to see those rejections as small victories as well. Your “perfect fit” is out there, but you surely won’t find it by sitting around listening to those damn crickets.

How do you deal with rejections — or lack thereof?

Filed Under: Freelancing
James Chartrand

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12 comments

  • Elizabeth Westra says:

    It’s the waiting that’s so darned hard, sometimes for months. It’s the “We don’t respond” ones that I don’t like. You never even know if they got it. I’ve had several who send an immediate email to let you know they received your manuscript. I love them.

    • Leila Mooney says:

      The “we’ll get back to you ONLY if we accept” are the bane of any writers existence!! I agree, having some confirmation that it was at least received is comforting. Good luck out there!

  • Good info. As someone who mostly writes fiction, I was surprised to see that in the freelancing world it’s considered acceptable to follow-up three times. I would think one follow-up email is okay, and if there is no response, then it’s a “no”.

    • Leila Mooney says:

      I’ve even come across writers who swear following up MORE is acceptable! Guess it goes to show how much you need to go outside your comfort zone daily as a writer.

  • Shivam Verma says:

    Being a fictional writer, in my life i have dealt with lots of rejection mails. The harder part is, most of them come without a feedback. It is heartbreaking. But eventually you must not give up hopes and keep striving till you land up a gig.

    • Shivam, Never give up. I just checked my Duotrope stats, and as of today, I’ve received 214 rejections or non-responses and 26 acceptances. Rejection doesn’t mean your story is no good; it just means that it’s not a good fit for that publication for a variety of reasons.

    • Leila Mooney says:

      I totally agree, getting zero feedback is one of the more frustrating kinds of rejection. Just don’t let it stop you from putting yourself out there! Happy pitching!

  • Imad says:

    Exactly.

    Waiting for a pitch or application you send and never getting a reply is so awful.

    Everyone should have at least common courtesy to let us know if we didn’t make the cut, huh.

    And, an excellent article. Thanks, Leila.

  • Mariana says:

    I relate to this so much! I was actually talking about this today with a friend of mine. I’d much rather get a ¨no, thank you¨ than no response at all.

    Thanks for this!

    Mariana

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