Handling Criticism and Naysayers as a Freelancer

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“What’s something everyone loves to give but hates to receive?” My riddle book says the answer is “advice,” but I’d like to update that to say “criticism.”

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

“Everything you are doing is bad. I want you to know this…”

A couple years ago, an awkward conversation with a friend made me feel like I was conversing with Dr. Janosz Poha from Ghostbusters II (observe the quote in the header!).

I was berated for nearly an hour about how everything I was doing in my business was terrible: From my website looking like crap to not commanding higher prices to the ridiculousness of my preferred gigs (writing articles).


She said a lot of different things to me, but most of it boiled down to this: Sell out.

In order for me to live a “better” life, I would have to give up doing what I love and start going after jobs that make the big bucks…even if they would bore me to tears. Hmmm.

Later that same day Roxy “Balboa” Richardson (Muay-Thai fighter/friend) re-Tweeted this bit of truth from Mr. Will Smith:WillSmithQuote

Ah. Now, that’s more like it!

For me, that quote rang true: Just because starting up your own business is slow, super hard work, and can often be frustrating — don’t give up! You got into this lifestyle for a reason, didn’t you? Why would you go back…?

Don’t sell out just for money.

As my friend Mo always says:

“You can always find ways to make money — you can’t always find ways to make happiness. If you’re happy, the money will come.”

I can almost guarantee you, no matter what your freelance business is — writing, illustration, jewelry making, sculpting, film, or something else entirely! — that if you just keep at it, the money will come.


Tom Petty acknowledged that “the waiting is the hardest part.” But sometimes it’s

Just because things don’t go your way immediately doesn’t mean you should throw all your hard work out the window! Keep at it!!

Wait…wasn’t this post about dealing with criticism?

Oh, yeah! About that…

Not everything my friend(?) said was bad. She actually had some pretty good marketing tips that I ended up utilizing when my business was still young.

However, when you get criticism, it can be difficult to differentiate the good from the bad. But there are a five steps you can take that can help:

Step One: Stay Calm.
Step Two: Ask yourself, “Does this really apply to me/my business?”
Step Three: Adjust accordingly.
Step Four: Throw out everything that doesn’t apply.
Step Five: Dust off your hands and move onto the next challenge. Ya can’t please everyone!

When you receive criticism, constructive or otherwise, your initial reaction might be to reply/retaliate right away.


Sleep on it. Or at least wait a few hours.

The things you say when you’re angry or hurt can damage your reputation as a professional if you share them publicly.

In most cases, how you handle criticism is more important than the criticism itself!

So how do you handle the criticism and naysayers in your life…?

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3 thoughts on “Handling Criticism and Naysayers as a Freelancer

  1. I love criticism, as long as it’s unbiased, honest, and respectiful. To be honest it motivates me even more to work harder. Sometimes it’s useful, even necessary, to evolution of being a better freelance writer/person.

  2. And you never know if that criticism is coming from a place of jealousy or even personal failure on the part of the critic. Or maybe that person can’t get on board with the whole remote work life — I’ve had instances where people think I starve and go without any kind of savings.

    How do I handle it? I smile. If it’s a really ridiculous amount of bad advice, I add “thanks for sharing.” I’m at a point in my career where most people around me see how long I’ve been at it and don’t offer that kind of advice. There are some who feel the need, but I can’t and won’t take on their issues for them. If they can’t wrap their heads around it, that’s fine. Doesn’t affect my ability to earn one bit.

    1. I find that smiling is a good reaction to a great many things 🙂 Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

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