We have all seen articles about how writers can manage rejection. Whether you have had work rejected by literary journals, agents, clients, or otherwise, you know the feeling of disappointment. You believe in your work. You had expectations that were not met.
What if you accidentally sent the same poem to two journals and they both accepted it? What if you had the luxury of multiple literary agents vying for your manuscript? What if you had so many freelance projects that you needed to prioritize and terminate some?
A poet friend of mine recently had the above issue with a journal. The journal had basically offered to accept all rights except film rights for his poem, but when he apologetically informed them he had simultaneously submitted the verse, they rejected him coldly.
I’ve talked with writers who have had multiple agents or publishers interested in their work. Oh, woe is you! But, seriously, this is a big decision. In these situations you need to research the benefits of each, review contracts, and discuss your decision with an established author or two.
During the past few months I have been working with about a dozen different businesses helping them with their SEO web content, blogging, content strategy, social media, and employee profiles. I have encountered a few situations with old and new clients where the projects would be a better fit with another type of writer, or the client kept changing the terms of the work outside the scope of my proposal. (For someone who relies on time management as much as I do, any change in a proposal may seem minor to a client, but it throws a dozen wrenches into my calendar.) For various reasons, it made sense for me to suspend services. I’m a firm believer in The Golden Rule and treat others in the way I would want to be treated if the tables were turned. I refer them to other writers I know. I give them options so they have an easy transition. Most of the time I sacrifice my fun time at open mics, workouts, and sleep, to make certain everything gets done.
Usually when I review options with a business and explain the benefit of working with a different type of writer on their project, they appreciate the feedback. It may be better or worse for their budget, but they usually go on to connect with a writer I referred and everyone is happy. They may come back to me for other projects in the future. However, I have had a client who would not take ‘no’ for an answer. They ignored my suggestions to find an alternative and kept pretending as if I am still working on projects for them. They repeatedly ignored my suggestions and the reality. I’ve had phone conversations, sent multiple emails, and have even corresponded via text (which I don’t believe is a professional means of communication) reiterating the same information: You need an alternative and here are your options.
So, how can a writer decline professionally without burning bridges? What if someone just doesn’t take no?
To answer the first question, I’ll refer you to a great post on this topic. Freelance writer Laura Spencer wrote a piece at Freelance Folder on 7 Ways to Summon the Courage to Say “No”. I’m a big fan of #7 – which is refer the person to someone else. As I explained above, that does not work every time! So the second question, can you answer: What if someone just doesn’t take no?