One No Closer to a Yes – 5 Tips for Overcoming Setbacks

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One No Closer to a Yes – 5 Tips for Overcoming Setbacks

One No Closer to a Yes – 5 Tips for Overcoming Setbacks

One No Closer to a YesDoes any of this sound familiar?

  • You meet with a prospective client, and get to know their business. After spending hours customizing a proposal to fit their needs, they come back and say “no.”
  • You felt confident about your plans for media relations outreach on a client program, but the fish just aren't biting.
  • For the past several months you planned a client event. You've accounted for every contingency and checked every item on your list three times. The day before the event, your keynote speaker cancels.

Setbacks happen to all of us – from missed sales goals to campaigns that fall flat. As an independent professional, it can be tough not to take it personally. The buck does stop with you when YOU are the business.

But the important question is, how do you move past it?

1. Learn from it.  Rather than focusing on what went wrong, try to learn from the setback. Even championship teams watch the tapes of games played. Whether you have a setback or a success, there's always something you can improve. If you lost a prospective client, did you ask the right questions up front? If an event or campaign did not go as expected, what can you take away that will help you have a better outcome next time?

2. See the setback as a warm-up. The great thing about a setback is it provides you with the full breadth of experience from conception to completion. Rather than see it as a failure, think of it as a test run. You now know where the potholes are, and where you need to have an alternate plan. Use this knowledge to get out there and do it again. Lost a prospective sale? Go pitch a similar client. You have all the information you need and a killer proposal to boot.

3. Blame it on the boogie. As solo professionals, we like being in control, but there are times when a setback has nothing to do with you. You may lose a prospect due to relationships or internal politics. An earthquake or hurricane can appear on the day of a major launch. Stuff happens. Focus on what you can control and move forward. For example, you can nurture the relationship with a lost prospect.  Use Newsle to stay on top of what the company is doing. Connect on LinkedIn and share updates to remain in their visibility. Use your CRM to build in scheduled contacts.

4. Let it go. You messed up big time and the setback is your fault. Solo pros on the whole are pretty heroic, but we're not bullet proof to mistakes (no one is). Take responsibility, but then forgive yourself and let it go – it's not productive to hold on to the negative feelings. Own the mistake, and focus on how you can recover.

5. How bad was it really? There are times when our internal messages turn a molehill into a mountain. Get some perspective by talking to a trusted friend or colleague. What you initially saw as a setback may turn out to be a tiny bump in the road. Talking to others can put things in perspective and you may discover that the stumbling block is one others have faced.

People will say “no” and setbacks will happen. It's how you handle them that makes the difference. Rather than see the setback as a complete failure, view it as an experience that has put you one step closer to your next “yes.”

Let us hear from you in the comments! How do you manage setbacks?

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Written By Karen Swim
Karen Swim is the President of Solo PR and Founder of public relations agency, Words For Hire.


  1. Good post on handling the occasional failed project or rejection. I have found when things go wrong it can be attributed to these likely suspects:
    1. The prospect/project was ill-conceived or not a good fit for me in the first place, but I was reluctant to see it.
    2. I was trying to go too fast in producing the work and didn’t put enough strategic thought into what was needed up front.
    3. The RFP/bidding process was well and truly stacked in favor of a competitor and I had no way of knowing it until too late.

    As for moving on afterwards, I find it helpful to create a voodoo doll of the client in question, stick it full of pins, and then move on to another fantastically successful project.

  2. Excellent input, Merry Ann – thanks for sharing your experiences! And the voodoo doll method sounds like it’s been empirically tested and proven to work. 🙂

  3. Karen, this is a very timely post. We all have occasional setbacks but we can’t kick ourselves over them. Thanks for reminding us of the expression my father always taught me; “a ‘no’ gets us that much closer to a ‘yes’.”

  4. Sounds like your Dad was an excellent advice-giver. J