Sometimes it makes you feel a little down. On the other hand, there is room for optimism.
I have a small writing business that works on an outsourcing basis; you have a project, you contact me, I organize a team and do the job. One of my regular sources of new writers is to go on Craigslist and post an ad for a specific project. Since I don’t know any of these people from Adam, I only do this for projects where there is a way for me to test folks before I commit any work to them, usually by soliciting a small sample (something that might take five minutes to put together).
One recent project involves writing sentences for web content (commercialism at its finest) and for whatever reason, the response was absolutely enormous; I had approximately 2200 initial inquiries in the last week. Of that lot, perhaps 1500 requested further information and were offered the chance to submit a sample (one sentence, although it’s a little more involved than that, but a trivial amount of effort involved). About 700 of them did so, and of that 700 I’ve hired about 100 and sent another 600 “thanks but no thanks” messages.
When I started writing this post I intended to go off on a bit of a rant about some of the responses I got to the “sorry” message. I’m unprofessional. I’m a bastard. I’m a thief, stealing hundreds of samples from people. (Yeah, the 600 bad sentences I got – really, the 300 bad sentences I got and the 300 submissions from people who didn’t put their submission together properly and so got an automatic axe – are so incredibly valuable that I’m going to steal them. Because I couldn’t write 300 shitty sentences on my own.) I’m this, that and the other thing. I was going to talk about how these people are clueless and rude. And of course, they are clueless and rude.
But on reflection, typing this out, it occurs to me – I really didn’t get that many hostile notes. Maybe 10, at most. They had a large impact, emotionally – because I care about what I do, and I don’t like to be labeled bad things that I am not – but really, of 600 people who got bad news, not even 2% of them had negative reactions to the level of writing a “screw you” e-mail. Further, although I did not formally count or keep them, I got at least a dozen “oh well, thanks for letting me try out for the team, coach” messages. There were actually MORE mature and thoughtful responses than jerky ones.
So – sometimes it gets you down. But there is room for optimism, too.