I spend a lot of time writing about and talking about how to market oneself. I discuss targeting clients, how to craft the appropriate marketing materials and what are some of the best methods in which to pitch oneself.

This morning I woke up to two (not one, but two) rejection letters. The “we like your work, but we don’t have anything to hire you for” and “you have an impressive background and resume, but I don’t think we can use you right now.” If I am being honest, I had a third yesterday.

Anyone that has pitched themselves or what they do has received similar notices. Or (more often) they don’t get a response at all.

It can be deflating. It can be defeating. It can be destructive.

So how can someone navigate rejection?

1. Get used to the idea of the word “No”
It would be utopian if every time we did something, sent something out, applied for something, auditioned, etc that we were accepted. But it is just not possible. You can’t win everything. When I worked in professional service marketing we tried to get our win percentage for the proposal we sent out to between 30% an 40%. That is not even half. On a bad month, we sometimes dipped to 10%. Sometimes less. The bottom line – it will happen. And it may happen more often than not.

2. Try to figure out the why
Is it a “No” forever or a “No” for now? Usually it is the latter. It is not the right pitch for this specific project. It is not the right look for this one shoot. It is not the right price for this one budget. It was not the right approach for this one scope. However, was there something you could have done different or better on your end? How can you take this rejection, learn from it and improve your next submission (whether it was an application, audition, etc)? What lessons can you learn from it?

3. Stay in touch
Following up on the above comment; chances are it is just a “No for now.” So many projects are done based off relationships. You apply for something, a competitor has a better relationship with the client, who is going to get the job? Use it as an opportunity to build a new relationship. If you are very seriously about doing work with this client – it is your opportunity to show that commitment. I’ve written before about a magazine client I have that it took more than 5 years before they ever gave me a project. I didn’t bother them weekly. But I made sure to stay in touch. Another way to think about it (since we are now in baseball season) is that you let them know that you are still on deck or that you are staying warmed up in the bullpen. When they are ready to call you into the game – you’re ready to play!

4. Focus on the projects you do have
A few years ago I was feeling very deflated on a project which I did not win. Another photographer either had a better approach, a better price or a better relationship. Whatever the case; I did not get the project. I was venting about it over lunch with my mentor who then told me “years from now when you look back on your career, you will not remember the projects you did not get, you will remember and relish in the projects you did get, the things you did do, the opportunities you did have.” So I received three rejection letters in the past two days. However today I have a great opportunity to photograph this exciting magazine cover and spread. Guess where I will be putting my energy today?

A few resources to keep you inspired, informed and entertained

We just launched a new episode of TheProExposure is now available to listen to. In our 24th episode we answer a series of questions which listeners have sent us.

I just launched my fourth installment of Year of the Shot and am accepting applications for the upcoming creative shoots!

Thanks sincerely

James Patrick