Losing Gracefully

by | Jul 27, 2015 | Strictly Business Blog

I’m going to take a moment to hold my head up high, take a deep, soothing breath and confidently tell you that I most certainly have a lot of experience with losing bids… I’ve most likely lost as many jobs in my career as I’ve gotten!

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…the first rule of losing a job is to not take it personally. Losing a bid is tough, especially when you had your heart set on a particular project; as artists, we put so much of ourselves into each job we pursue, whether it’s awarded to us or not.

We often hear that “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” Though it’s important to keep yourself emotionally in check throughout this process, the truth is that it almost always feels personal.  And, not hearing anything can be heart wrenching.

But, no matter what you’re feeling, clients can sense apathy or frustration and it’ll always send the wrong message so don’t lose your positive energy. Do what you have to do to blow off steam and express your frustration but when it comes to talking with potential clients don’t let the heartache of your last loss effect the outcome of your next win!

One of the most difficult losses I’ve faced recently was for a major tourism account. When the call came in for the project, the buyer was very excited about bringing me on board and was speaking to me as if the project was mine. I put my estimate together, talked with the buyer about it, everything looked good and I thought it was a done deal.

Then I waited. And I waited… No response. Finally I called back and when the buyer got on the phone the energy had completely changed. I was met with a cold, calculated “We decided to go in a different direction but thank you for your time” response. This was a tough blow for my ego.

I’ve experienced many situations just like this and each time I go through a brief mourning process of feeling defeated and beaten down. However, I always counteract this by doing something proactive. I try to look at the brighter side of everything without beating myself up and ask myself, “What did I learn from this experience?”

I often do something fun – something just for myself, totally unrelated to work – after I’ve lost a bid on a project. It’s healthy to separate ourselves from “the business” sometimes. Then, usually the next day, I jump right back on the horse  and do what I do best – creating a new image for fun! Some of my best self-assigned images that have opened the doors to my biggest clients were created just after I’ve found out I wasn’t chosen for a project that I had spent an entire day preparing an estimate for.

Very few people will ever understand the stress, the heartache or the disappointment that commercial photographers experience being rejected over and over for projects that we know we could knock out of the ball park! You almost have to learn to enjoy the pursuit, love taking the risk and embrace the heartache with open arms, knowing that each “no” you hear will make you a stronger person and will provide incentive to grow, learn and continue to get better at your craft and your business skills.

In the end, it’s still all about building a strong foundation with the people you work with or those you want to work with. Don’t give up on the people that you’ve been working to make your clients. It’s important to remember that they are often under a tremendous amount of pressure in their job and choosing photographers for projects is not always about choosing favorites or even the best person for the job.

There are many, many moving parts in play that we will never fully understand because of confidentiality concerns. So keep your head held high, stay positive and move on to the next lead.