How to Deal With Rejection as a Freelance Photographer

How to Deal With Rejection as a Freelance Photographer

When going freelance in any profession, you will get faced with rejection after rejection. Not getting enough love on social media, emails not being replied to, and inquiries not leading to bookings are frustrating parts of running a self-employed photography business. “Don’t take it personally,” they say. But how? 

As a photographer, you are your creative work and it can be difficult to separate the business from the self. In this article, I’m going to look at a few techniques that can help to do this and in return, help deal with rejection. Most of the examples work for all photographers. However, I am writing this from a commercial photographer's point of view.

The Quote That Wasn’t Accepted

I’m starting with this one, as it’s probably one of the most frustrating of all situations. Did you quote too high? How many quotes did the client get? Sometimes, clients tell you that their budget is tight on the job and that’s why you weren’t selected. Other times, you’re left guessing. I always ask for the budget, whether they tell me that is another matter.

If this happens to you a lot, reassess your quoting process and how you present your prices. They clearly like your work, but the business side could be improved. 

The Inquiry That Went Nowhere

Not all inquiries lead to bookings. As they already liked your work, do you need to improve your customer experience by better replying to initial inquiries? Email templates or even automation can help here. I’ve been on a shoot before and quickly hit reply so as not to take too long to get back to the potential client. 

A template email will be a well-crafted and thoughtful response that you can send out quickly, even if you don’t have the time to on the spot. Without a thoughtful response, your communication may be lacking, and you may not be coming across as excited about the project as you actually are.

The Existing Client Rejection

Unless you really messed up, then it is difficult to understand why you wouldn’t get more bookings with an existing client. Stay professional and keep letting them know how much you enjoy working with them. There are so many reasons why you might not get a booking right now: your price, their other regular photographers are more available again, or maybe they don’t need anyone at all. As always, keep following up with past clients and let them know of your new work and how much you’d like to work with them in the future.

The Social Media Rejection

Is lack of likes bothering you? People really shouldn’t worry about likes on social media too much. That's my humble opinion, unless you’re a content creator and your work depends on them. Keep posting and putting your work out there. Social media is still a valuable marketing tool.

If social media gets you down, I have discovered a few techniques that can help: 

  • Hiding the likes count on Instagram (for others and yourself)
  • Following less of other photographers and concentrating on clients and collaborators
  • Scheduling your posts in advance
  • Delete the apps on your phone and use them on a computer instead 

The Cold Email Ghosting

The email you spend ages drafting didn’t get replied to, and you are disappointed. Sound familiar? Cold emails are part of marketing yourself but they open you up for a lot of ghosting and rejection. 

A few things to try:

  • Scheduling emails can give you a confidence boost as you can “send and forget” 
  • Install software that tracks whether your emails are opened or not
  • Prioritize following up on the emails that were opened
  • Try different email titles
  • It’s a numbers game: the more emails you send out, the more replies you will eventually get, but also a whole lot more ghosting

But Why?

Next time you’re rejected or ghosted, consider the following:

  • Rejection does hurt and is normal (also proves that you’re a human and not an AI)
  • They don’t have any work right now
  • They use their regular photographer and are not looking to increase their pool of photographers
  • Your style doesn’t match with what they’re looking for
  • You quoted more than the budget is
  • You’re not at the right level in your career for the job
  • You won’t be the right photographer for everyone you contact

You Versus Your Business

One great way to deal with rejection as a photographer is to create a brand identity for your business that is clear with logos, websites, and marketing materials. Your business entity will then feel much more separate from you as a person. Then, set some boundaries! Stop checking your emails late at night and get off social media on the weekend. If you’re doing really well, maybe you can afford to hire someone to do your outreach and marketing. 

Get Clear on Ideal Clients

As mentioned before, you might not be the right photographer for everyone you contact. To increase your chance of getting a yes from a potential client, you need to create work that suits their style and niche. Only sending the relevant work to an ideal client could make all the difference. 

What are the budgets of these types of ideal clients? It is not always clear, but the size of the business might mean they have more or less cash to spend. The largest companies will have projects for several levels of photographers, so knowing which level you’re pitching at will be a huge advantage.

Closing Thoughts

It takes a long time to build connections and working relationships with clients. Months and sometimes even years go past before you work with someone for the first time. Being persistent is key.

Being rejected can be tough, but the harsh reality is that even long-term clients change suppliers. When you last changed your internet provider, did you consider their feelings?

It is not wise to expect a different result if you do the same thing again and again. Sometimes, it is needed to pivot and change your approach. Approach clients in a different way, and review your portfolio. And always follow up!

Kaisa Leinonen's picture

Kaisa Leinonen is a photographer specializing in homeware and interiors, still life and food content. Originally from Finland she is based in London, UK.

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This article can use more comments but is quite a few photographers going through this however they can be doing so many different types of photography that is hard to gauge who this information would be for what point in their career.

I can say this..The cold emails are brutal part of the business.

So much effort into crafting that perfect email that almost all the rules of introducing yourself and leaving an opening for future conversations..

And then nothing.

Gotta push along though.

Thanks for your thoughts! I’m hoping the article will make photographers at different levels realise most people go through this and pick up some tips along too.

Great article Kaisa. Practical it's the perfect mix of practical and empathetic.

Thanks Michelle !

Rejection and I have been on speaking terms for a long time. I never looked at it as negative. Rather, I listened carefully to their reasons and took not as to what they are looking for, both then and for other work they wanted proceeding. It's a learning experience. Since my last rejection I always made it a point to investigate as to what types of works they were wanting at the time and was better prepared. But oh, those first several rejections didn't sit well.