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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Turn a Rejection into Two Opportunities: The 24-Hour Rule

If you freelance for magazines, you use a query letter to get your foot in the door and introduce yourself to an editor. But you can't develop a relationship with an editor until you write an article for her. Right?

Wrong! When you employ what I call the “the 24-hour rule,” you can start a relationship with an editor even before you get your first assignment.

When I started freelancing fulltime 14+ years ago, I came up with the 24-hour rule to help keep me focused. Within 24 hours of receiving a rejection (what I call a “bong”) from an editor, I'd do two things:

First, I’d tweak the query and send it to another market (what I call a "resub"). That gets my query letter back "out there"--it won't do me any good sitting on my hard drive. Second, I’d send a new query to the editor who had rejected me, starting with language like, “Thank you very much for your response [not rejection!] to my query about women and weight-lifting. While I’m sorry you can’t use the idea at this time, I have another for you to consider.” Then I’d include my new query.

The 24-hour rule enabled me to transform each rejection into two new opportunities. It also kept my name in front of editors I was pitching, and hopefully impressed potential clients with my persistence and professionalism. Just as important, it eliminated the question of “what should I do now?” that I would have otherwise wondered about after receiving a bong. I didn’t get derailed by the rejection; I simply used it as opportunity to apply my 24-hour rule.

If you're not freelancing fulltime, the 24-hour rule may be too ambitious. But what about a 48-hour rule? A three-day rule? A one-week rule? Choose the timeframe that works for you and your schedule, and start looking at those dreaded bongs as opportunities rather than rejections—and a way to create a relationship with an editor that will lead to your first assignment for her.