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When I first started freelance writing, I received a lot of rejection emails in my inbox. I mean a lot. I was pitching anyone and everyone that had a submission box on their site. I would estimate that 70% were either rejected or ignored.

After a short time, I started to realize the objections started to look similar. Here are a few paraphrased.

“That topic doesn’t fit with our target audience.”

“We recently published a piece just like that.”

“We only work with experienced writers.”

Some common themes started to emerge. Rather than continue to send out pitches that would get the same response, I decided to address all of the common objections I expected to hear in the original email. Every pitch would contain:

  • A short sentence on why I felt the pitch was appropriate for their publication
  • Links to relevant pieces they recently published on the topic
  • Details of who I would interview for the piece
  • Links to pieces I’ve written for similar publications and a link to my full portfolio

I still received rejection emails, but they started to look a bit different. Rather than offering a firm “no,” they were saying things like “Could you tell me more about…” or “That could work. Could you provide some more detail on…” They were requesting more information rather than shutting me down.

In his book To Sell is Human, Dan Pink offered up an exercise called “Send yourself a rejection letter.” One purpose is to soften the blow of rejection. “Once the rejection is in writing, its consequences can seem far less dire.” Another purpose, which I find much more valuable, is to reveal weak points in your presentation or argument. It reveals flaws that you can patch up and fix for better results.

You can use this in almost any aspect of your life. You can rehearse a negative outcome to almost avoid it entirely.

Let’s say your goal is to lost 20 pounds. Think forward one year and dream up all of the reasons you failed miserably:

  • You stopped going to the gym.
  • You couldn’t stick to your diet.
  • You drank too much.

Then, it’s easy to setup solutions ahead of time to avoid facing the issues entirely.

To provide a very practical application, here’s how I apply this to learning JavaScript development. Potential objections:

  • You don’t know enough. Fact: there will always be more out there to learn, but I’m doing all I can to learn the “basics.” I determine the basics by reading job openings and listening to developers at Automattic. If I don’t understand something, I write it down and look it up.
  • You don’t have enough experience. I’m building projects (five of them, in fact) to demonstrate that I know what I’m doing.
  • We’re not looking for junior devs. I’m learning two different JavaScript libraries (React and Ember) to demonstrate my capacity to learn. The projects I’m building will increase in complexity until I fully demonstrate I’m capable of being a contributing member to a team.

Rehearsing negative outcomes ahead of time doesn’t mean you’ll bat 100%. You’ll still have times when you strike out. It does mean you’ll remove obstacles and objections ahead of time and save yourself trouble down the road.

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