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Monday, April 11, 2011

The 24-Hour Rule and Why it Works

I've written before about the importance--and power of--setting specific, performance-related goals. At the Annual Writers Institute this weekend in Madison, I shared with attendees one of my most effective specific goals that I used as a fledgling freelancer--the 24-hour rule.

You'll find more about the 24-hour rule in Six-Figure Freelancing, but here it is in short:

Within 24 hours of receiving a rejection, or "thanks, but no thanks" (what I call a "bong") from an editor, I would do two things. First, I’d resubmit the query to another market; I call this a "resub."

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 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 transformed each rejection into two new opportunities. Getting my original query idea out to another possible market (typically a national magazine) increased my chances of selling it. But even more important, getting back in touch with editors immediately helped me build relationships even before I’d written for them!

As I said this weekend, when you go to the Gap to buy a new pair of pants, and the first pair are pleated pants that look terrible, the salesgirl doesn't say, "'K, bye!" She brings you more pants to try on. So be the Gap salesgirl, and keep bringing the editor more pants.

Finally, the 24-hour rule also eliminated the question of "what should I do now?" after receiving a bong. I didn’t get derailed by a rejection; I simply applied my 24-hour rule and kept going.

If you're freelancing part-time or you're swamped with work, 24 hours may be too ambitious. Maybe a 48-hour or 72-hour rule will work better. But the idea is the same--that you give yourself a specific amount of time to resub your original idea and pitch a new idea to the editor. A rejection isn't really a rejection--it's two new opportunities for you as a freelancer.


  1. This is very good advice. I'm going to do this from now on.

  2. Hey Kelly:

    Just got a "nice" rejection from Parade.

    Time to use the 24-Hour Rule.


  3. I agree, Steve! Good luck with it! :)