How to handle rejection as a creative professional

Whether the rejection is the result of a job application, cold outreach, concept pitch, or just negative feedback, being turned down still hurts.

The self-worth of creative professionals is often tied to producing great content and products. In this case, rejection can be even more painful. It is impossible to avoid rejection entirely, but there are strategies and techniques to cope with it and sometimes utilize it as a creative advantage.

Here are five different strategies for handling rejection and even how you can turn an unpleasant experience into a positive one!

1. Rejections aren’t always reflective of your talent

There are plenty of reasons for rejection. Maybe you weren’t the right fit for the job (or the timing was off), your creative style doesn’t match the brand aesthetics, or the agencies you’re contacting aren’t the right fit for your niche.

Unless you’re explicitly told the cause is a quality issue, whatever the reason for rejection, it probably isn’t. And we can take solace in that.

2. Consider where the rejection is coming from

Being rejected from a world-class design organization versus a random internet troll are two vastly different experiences, and they should affect how you feel about the rejection.

If the person doing the rejecting has some clout in the creative industry, try and dig deeper to learn why they are providing this type of feedback. If they are speaking to be helpful, it’s one thing. But if they intentionally try to dampen your spirits, then the advice might be coming from a place of jealousy.

Consider the feedback you receive and where it’s coming from to determine whether it truly is helpful and worth listening to.

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Too Many Cooks

by Christine Soules

Finally got myself an iPad Pro. Playing around with Procreate, exploring illustrations to go with a blog post I’m writing. Feedback welcome.

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3. Recognize the pain of rejection and take your time to heal

This one takes some emotional intelligence to pull off successfully, and even then, it doesn’t hurt any less. If someone you look up to in the industry rejects your work or proposal, it can sting. Similarly, if you are let go from a job or lose a client, there’s bound to be some pain associated with the experience.

Allowing yourself to feel and experience the pain of rejection is a form of healing.

The key here is not to bury the rejection or maintain a toxically positive outlook despite what you’re feeling. Allowing yourself to feel and experience the pain of rejection is a form of healing.

Try writing down why this experience was painful, allow yourself a few days or weeks to grieve, and then write down a list of things this experience has taught you. Be thankful for the experience, and start moving on.

4. Search for patterns in rejection

It might be time to make a change if you feel like you’ve plateaued creatively or are receiving the same feedback repeatedly.

This doesn’t refer to cold outreach to new clients consistently being turned down. Your manager or client may be telling you that the aesthetics are “off” repeatedly, so perhaps you should consider changing styles. If your color suggestions don’t resonate with a particular client, ask them for examples that you can use instead of guessing.

Listen to the specific feedback (if it’s coming from a good place) and improve upon it.

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by Justina Leisyte

Another illustration for Slack Blog! This one is about "How Slack ERGs stay connected during remote work".

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5. Use rejection to become more creative.

Psychologically, rejection can mess with our heads. So you’ll need to detach yourself from your work enough to realize that rejection is necessary and sometimes welcome to create a masterpiece.

By harnessing the emotions that come with rejection, you can channel this power to succeed. This trademark is characteristic of successful athletes, investors, and creatives from every walk of life. How many origin stories begin with rejection? Too many to count.

Letting rejections fuel your fire and push you forward can even help redirect your energies into something much better than your initial concept. Remember the rejection, but don’t let it make you spiteful. Always stay humble but driven.

What tips do you have for overcoming rejection as a creative?

You’ll never grow as a creative by staying in your comfort zone. And trying new things increases the risk of rejection. Nevertheless, complacency is the enemy of creativity. To reach your goals, you must stay motivated and embrace the rejection that accompanies them. You’ve got this!

Olivia Hoskin About the Author: Olivia Hoskin is a freelance writer with a background in tech and marketing. A true design fan at heart, you’ll find her writing about the latest industry trends, technologies, and the inspiring endeavors of fellow creators. She’s a champion of remote work, a lover of responsible technology, and a fitness geek and enjoyer of the outdoors in her spare time. Find her at

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