How I Wrote for Fast Company, Copyblogger, MarketingProfs, and Entrepreneur and Landed My First Nearly $20,000, Three-Month Client … in Less than 120 Days

rejection-and-successrejection-and-success

Good news people … the dream is very much alive.

How do I know?

Because every single accomplishment in that shamelessly self-promotional headline is 100% true. And (just like it says) they’ve all happened since June of this year.

Few experiences are as joyfully intoxicating as slugging through an outline, first draft, second draft, third draft, finally hitting “Send” … and getting back the glorious word: “Yes!”

This is especially true for someone who constantly feels less than and a pretender — always on the cusp of being “found out” and exposed.

In fact, rereading it for myself still feels unbelievable. You better believe I’ve done my share of fist pumping in the last 120 days.

fist-pump-succcess

But enough about me. You’re not here to listen to me gush about how simultaneously insecure and awesome I am (except my mom, that’s exactly why she’s here).

No. You’re here to find out how.

So, let’s cut to the chase. You ready for the secret? It’s three words. Seriously: just three.

Breath deep. Wait for it.

Here it is …

“Let’s get rejected.”

Yep, that’s it.

Let’s get rejected.

(Read it again, just for emphasis.)

Sounds weird, right? Yeah, I know.

But the deal is that three-word phrase was (and is) the ONLY secret sauce I know.

Here’s what I mean …

That cynical little mantra was word-for-word what I told myself each and every time I went after one of those big, hairy, scary beasts in the title.

Submit a guest post to Copyblogger: “Let’s get rejected.”

Cold email everyone with the word “editor” in their title at Entrepreneur: “Let’s get rejected.”

Direct message Ann Handley after a friendly email exchange: “Let’s get rejected.”

Fire off my first $100 per hour blogging proposal ($150 for sales copy): “Let’s get reject.”

Each and every time, those three words were my nearest friends. And let me say, they served me well.

Now, they might be a bit dark for those of you with sunnier dispositions, but don’t get me wrong. I’m not pre-loading sour grapes or setting myself up to get let down easy.

The point is … so few people actually freakin’ try. So few people go for it. So few people put themselves out there. So few people risk.

Why?

Easy. Because of fear.

We’re afraid. We’re afraid of being rejected. We’re afraid of not being “good enough.” We’re afraid of failure, of falling down, of looking stupid.

Every time I told myself “Let’s get rejected” I was saying, “So what? So what if I get rejected? So what if they don’t think I’m good enough? So what if I fail, fall down, and look stupid? So flippin’ what?”

Not to get too deep in a post about a few copywriting wins, but it’s like Steve Jobs said in his epic 2005 commencement address at Stanford:

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

You are already naked.

There is no reason not to follow your heart.

In other words, the only real way to lose is to live like I’ve actually got something to lose.

By telling myself “Let’s get rejected,” I embraced the possibility of being rejected. I even welcomed it.

Once I’d crossed that bridge, not trying, not risking, not just going for it became the only guaranteed way to fail.

Of course, telling myself that little mantra wasn’t the ONLY thing I did.

In fact, there are a handful of very practical and repeatable steps that have guided me throughout this process.

Over the next few weeks I’ll walk through four.

For now, here’s a quick preview:

1. Build relationships.

2. Write [bleeping] amazing content.

3. Be a decent freakin’ person.

4. Go after it … again, and again, and again.

  • That is a great Steve Jobs quote (which I hadn’t previously read/heard). Kind of puts it all into perspective. Looking forward to the next post 🙂

  • Andrew McKeen

    Thank you for posting these inspiring words and for providing the link to Steve’s speech. My fears of starting a writing career now seem so small and petty. Thank you Aaron.

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Wow, Andrew. Thank YOU! Could there be a better response than that-post-helped-squash-my-fears? I think not. So glad you liked it. 🙂

  • Jenny Arnez

    Awesome! Thank you for the genuine and encouraging words!

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Jenny, no you’re awesome! 😉 But seriously, thanks for letting me know it was so encouraging.

  • Love this post! It’s all about perseverance and hard work… and remembering we all had to start somewhere.

  • jeffhirz

    This is right on the money. Thanks, Aaron. I just self-published my first book yesterday and had a subscriber email cued up for 24 hours before I got the courage to hit Send.

    You’re fantastic – thanks for this. Looking forward to reading the follow-ups.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Flabbergasted. WOW. You ROCK.

    My warmest hugs #HUGSS

    Kitto

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Awesome, Krithika. Thanks for that amazing feedback. (It NEVER gets old!)

  • Good stuff, Aaron! It’s so true that people succumb to their fears and so they don’t even try sometimes. Or they hold back because they are waiting to submit that content until they are good enough. But if you don’t ever cross over and submit content to get rejected, how will you ever know you are good enough?

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Dude … long time no talk. How are you?

      Thanks for the comment.

      You don’t know how right you are. I literally JUST had my first onboarding conversation with an editor at Inc. I’m starting a weekly online column there in August.

      And can you guess where that whole pitch stated?

      (Wait for it.)

      A FAILED pitch to be a contributor at Forbes. 😀

  • Brilliant advice Aaron! Take the fear and embrace it. Very On-Purpose!

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Oh heck yeah, Kevin! That’s the point right there. Thx. 🙂

  • Jes Kirkwood

    Great to hear, Aaron. Congrats! You’ve earned it.

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Thx, Jes! How’re things in your world?

      • Jes Kirkwood

        Pretty good! Still catching up after getting married/honeymooning in June. I have a few articles in the works at the moment, which is great. How’s your summer been so far?

  • kudos buddy 🙂

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Thx! I wrote this article a couple years ago … and it’s so fun to go back and reminisce.

  • @aaronorendorff:disqus This is gold. Signed up for your newsletter and got a prompt for this. Bookmarked this and I freaking LOVE it!

    • Aaron Orendorff

      Love hearing that.

      I wrote this well over a year ago, probably around two. But this approach is still my guiding (internal) light!

  • The Psychology of Business

    hahaha just reading “lets get rejected” that many times made it easier for me to want to take a risk.

    • Aaron Orendorff

      What do they call that … “exposure therapy”? 😀