Why rejection is a good thing when you are growing a small business

Rejection can help you grow and transform

As business owner or creative freelancer, you are trying to attract clients, all the time. Some months that happens easily. Other months it’s like pulling teeth. I know it all too well! And sometimes, you are over the moon about attracting a client, only to feel utterly disappointed when they change their mind – or worse, you end up in a conflict. This morning a new copywriting client I recently booked, changed her mind. That doesn’t happen often. In fact, this was a first in a very long time. But this too, is part of running a business. And sometimes, these things are actually not a bad thing at all. Why? I will tell you in this story.

I read my client’s email, and my heart sank.

It would have given me a good part of my income next month, and so I felt a little sad about her decision. However, I quickly reminded myself that these things happen for a reason. I am someone who always tries and see something positive in whatever happens, and this rejection, I realised, was in fact, a blessing, and a wake-up call. No, I wasn’t going to reach my income goals this time, but instead, this rejection showed me what I should be focusing on, and that this project was not aligned with my message, ideal client and values. I was drifting away from my strategy, and this was just a message I needed to hear.

Photo by Md Towhidul Islam on Pexels.com

What does success mean to you?

Sometimes, or often, business owners and freelancers grab all jobs they can. The more, the better, right? Small jobs, big projects, filling up their schedule, and bashing out results. Firing off the invoices (and then having to chase the non-payers). Does this sound familiar? We forget about our values and our core message, let alone the ideal client we REALLY want to attract, and just say ‘yes’ to everything. We feel successful, because we are working, and earning.

But what is success, really? Accepting jobs for the sake of the money? Are you feeling happy taking on these jobs?

Over the past year I have changed my business a lot, and now mainly focus on working with creatives and other small, new businesses who I feel aligned with. I love coaching them, or writing their web copy or lead magnets for them. I started saying no a lot more to enquiries, when a business or topic did not excite me, or it felt not aligned with my work as creative business coach. But sometimes, you slip.

I am not saying you should reject all jobs that are not aligned with what you want to do as a business. Sometimes you simply got to pay the bills, the mortgage, the rent. That is normal. You need income. But if, in general, those things are getting covered OK, it’s time to be a little more selective. This not only helps you grow as an entrepreneur and attract more of the right clients, but also makes you feel more fulfilled in the long run.

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Rejection is only a road sign. Wrong turn. Go back.

Like the rest of you, I am in an ongoing process of improving myself and my business. Learning, adjusting, gaining new insights, moving forward. I enjoy being on this entrepreneurial journey, and I hope you do too! It’s an adventure.

Transformation, however, feels very uncomfortable, a lot of the time. It’s a like the caterpillar turning into a butterfly; you got to put in the work and wriggle yourself through situations that often don’t feel great. This is what getting out of your comfort zone feels like. It’s not always easy, but you got to do it to become who you want to be.

Rejection and conflict are a natural part of the transformation as an entrepreneur. We cannot learn and improve ourselves if we do not get shown what we are doing wrong.

Sometimes, rejection goes the other around, and it is you who decides to pull out of a project. A month earlier, I rejected a client myself, who I had first said yes too, and even started working with already. I had done some copywriting for this person before, and accepted his next request to produce text for a new business. I produced a few first examples for him, to take a look at, and the next day, he emailed me back, telling me how “incredibly bad it was”, listing a whole lot of arguments.

It was a very unprofessional, even somewhat aggressive, email, and made me feel very uncomfortable. The client even felt disappointed that I hadn’t used some of the “very powerful sentences” he had provided himself (phrases that made me cringe, so I clearly didn’t include them – I mean, he did hire me as the copywriter, right?). In short, he did not like my writing style. He was not my ideal client.

I know I am a good writer, but not suitable for all types of client, so I did not take this personally. And I don’t mind criticism, but prefer a gentler way of discussion than he had demonstrated in his email. I replied back to say our collaboration had ended. I pondered a while on my decision, for me to see what it all meant. It was a lesson yet again.

What you can learn from being rejected by a client

If rejection is a natural thing and we have to accept this happening, what can we learn from it? The examples I described, confirmed two things that are crucial in running a successful business:

  1. Your style does not suit everyone. Stay true to your values.
    I write in a very conversational, informal, accessible, and friendly style. Like I do on this website. This is loved by most of my clients, but does not suit others, in particular the more corporate, commercial outfits. I should be clearer about this when I get enquiries, and say no to clients who I don’t feel aligned with.

  2. Trust your gut instinct. It is always right.
    My two latest clients did not fit my ideal client profile. I knew this when we started working together, but I ignored my inner voice, as I was guided by the money attached to it. Money is never a good compass. Your gut is always right.

I am a creative business coach, and my style of copywriting is perfect for the same types of clients as I work with as a coach: creative entrepreneurs, small business owners, and people who have a passion for something but find it hard to put it into words. Soulful entrepreneurs, people with a heart-felt business. I guess I had to be rejected to see this more clearly.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Know your ideal client and have a clear message

So don’t get disheartened by rejection, or a ‘no’ from a client. This is only a nudge to steer you back in the right direction. Rejection can mean that you are focusing on the wrong clients. Rejection can also mean that your message is not clear to the clients you are trying to attract. If you are trying to persuade your audience to buy from you, but they don’t quite understand what’s in it for them, you won’t sell.

Rejection is part of business, and the feeling of sadness that comes with it, is only short lived. Acknowledge your emotions, but don’t take rejection personally. It is not you. Be confident about where you want to go, and who you want to work with. Rejection is like hitting the curb; you got to steer your car back onto the road. Get back into the flow.

So learn from rejection, and work on whatever it is that it is teaching you. Make it clear in your head who you want to work with and attract as a client. Clarify your message and offer, so that your dream client recognises themselves in it, and will say yes to you next time.

Book a free call with me if you want some help with your business goals

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