Win Over Freelance Writing Clients with Cover Letters That Do This
When freelance writing clients post job opportunities or have a “write for us” section on their website … quite often they have specific instructions on what you should send them to be considered for the job.
In many cases, they ask for a cover letter, some writing samples, and perhaps a link to your LinkedIn profile or your freelance website.
This is pretty standard, but you may be new to freelance writing and reaching out to potential clients.
So today, I’m going to show you how to put your best foot forward with cover letters.
First, keep in mind that the cover letter is your first “hello.”
It’s your place to instantly shine in front of someone who may not know you.
You need to quickly demonstrate that you understand the client’s company and mission … and then explain why you’re the perfect writer for them.
Years ago, when I saw an exciting potential client for me in the pet industry (my freelance writing niche), I wanted to send a cover letter that would stand out in a huge way.
Here’s what I wrote in just 173 words based on their job description for a writer who has pet-industry experience:
My name is Pam Foster, and I have a question related to your Marketing Writer position.
What if your team could hire a veterinary industry/pet industry Marketing Strategist and Copywriting Specialist …
someone who has worked for IDEXX Laboratories, the Pet Health Network, DirectVet Marketing, LifeLearn, L.L.Bean, and individual veterinary practices …
and who has an extensive background in B2C and B2B web marketing and SEO as well as print, PR, and direct mail?
This is what you’ll have when I’m on your team.
I invite you to visit www.PetCopywriter.com to get complete details on my pet and veterinary writing background, including samples, services, blog posts, and more.
You’ll see that I have practically every skill you’re looking for and then some — plus connections with the best technical resources for your needs. In addition, I’ve helped pet-industry companies with their editorial calendars, website content audits, and more.
Count on me to be your motivated and devoted ally, focused on growing your results!
Thank you for considering me as the ideal candidate for your position.
Within minutes of sending that email, the hiring manager called me to set up an appointment. He told me, “Wow, thank you for explaining your background. Sounds like you’re a great fit for us.”
Yes! It really should be THAT easy.
Recently we spoke with Steve Gordon, CEO of Million Dollar Author, a company offering to help professionals “write, publish and promote your book in 90 days, guaranteed.”
Steve often hires freelance writers to help with book ghostwriting for his clients. And when he puts out the call for freelancers, he has very specific instructions.
Here’s what he’d love to see reflected in the cover letters he receives:
- “Why are you the perfect person we should hire? Not just fluff but based on research you’ve done about our company/role.
- “Why are we a perfect fit for your long-term goals?
- “Show proof that you can do the job — prior experience that shows great results in similar work. Past performance is the best indicator of future success.
- “Include specific compensation requirements. We’ll both save time by being candid about monetary expectations.”
Let’s address each of these. If you’re new to copywriting … how would you answer each item?
“Why are you the perfect person we should hire?” Let’s say the request is from a landscaping company looking for a blogger. You don’t have copywriting experience in that niche yet, but you LOVE gardening.
You could say, “As a lifelong fanatic about gardening, landscaping, plant choices, soil nurturing, and more … AND as a member of my local gardening club … I understand your buyer. I AM your buyer! I can help you reach your prospects from the real-world perspective of always hunting for great tips and tools for gardening satisfaction.”
How about, “Why are we a perfect fit for your long-term goals?” Again, if you’re new, you could say, “As a freelance writer devoted to the gardening industry, my long-term goals are to support and build relationships with wonderful, reputable gardening/landscaping companies — boosting their revenue. My mission is to be so good that you’ll want me to write all your marketing materials and will never let me go!”
If you’re new, you may stumble over the next one, “Show proof that you can do the job,” but I have a suggestion for you. No samples yet? Be honest and say that you’re breaking into the gardening niche. Then offer samples of your work, as well as ideas for THAT particular client. AWAI has a terrific, free Inside AWAI session on creating samples even if you haven’t had a client yet. Follow the steps to create samples … AND offer a copy sample for the client’s business. I did that for L.L.Bean back when I applied for a catalog copywriting job. I didn’t have catalog experience, so I wrote a sample for them. It did the trick! When you do this, it shows initiative and proves how much you’d like to work with them.
Finally, when it comes to compensation, use AWAI’s Copywriting Pricing Guide and offer a project range based on the client’s needs. For instance, if the client is looking for a blog post series, say it straight: “For blog posts of about 1,000 words, my fee is $250–$500 each, depending on the legwork (interviewing and research) involved. Let’s discuss your parameters and see if that works for you.”
Steve Gordon added one more wish, which he said is sadly overlooked by MOST writers reaching out to him: “READ AND COMPLY WITH ALL DIRECTIONS!!” 🤣
He told me, “Still shocked that I have to say that, but it’s the easiest way to get to the top of the list.”
Aha! Just follow the directions. Seems like a no-brainer, yes?
But Steve is not alone in being puzzled when a writer doesn’t follow directions. We hear this from other clients from time to time.
How can you show that you’re on the ball and can provide great work if you’re NOT following the client’s wishes?
Here’s a step-by-step plan you can use to nail that cover letter every time:
Read the client’s directions or instructions.
- If the client wants a cover letter and a writing sample, send a cover letter and a writing sample.
- If the client wants to receive the cover letter as a one-page Word document, deliver that. If an email cover letter is fine, deliver it that way.
- If the client asks for three short paragraphs on your background, deliver that.
- If the client would like a testimonial from someone you’ve written for … include that.
- And, as Steve Gordon requested, if they ask for compensation requirements, be sure to include those.
Proofread before sending.
- Nothing clouds a “first connection” opportunity more than a typo or two!
- Read your cover letter out loud to make sure it flows and is error-free.
Send samples or a link if requested.
- If your samples are unrelated to the client’s industry, you can still send one along UNLESS they really only want writers with a related sample. In that case, why not send a writing sample specifically written for the client? You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
- No samples? We give you several ways to create samples in this free Inside AWAI session, How to Create a Winning Portfolio of Samples If You’re Just Starting a Freelance Writing Career (Even If You’ve Never Had Any Clients!).
Finally, try making a “must include” list whenever you read through a client’s directions and then check off each item as you prepare your cover letter (and other requested materials).
It will help make sure you’re including EVERYTHING the client wanted … and make you a standout candidate.
The AWAI Method™ for Becoming a Skilled, In-Demand Copywriter
The AWAI Method™ combines the most up-to-date strategies, insights, and teaching methods with the tried-and-true copywriting fundamentals so you can take on ANY project — not just sales letters. Learn More »