Most freelancers are – or should be – constantly looking for work, kind of like the relationship between teenage boys and food, or whales trolling for plankton.
This constant need for work leads to an equally constant stream of job contacts and applications.
And, whether you’re following up on potential jobs of your own devising or responding to a freelance job posted online, this usually means you’ll need to draft a cover email.
Given the significant number of such e-mails a freelancer needs to send, it’s understandable if you’re tempted to write “Dear Whoever,” drop in a link to your website and relevant pages, attach your resume and hit send.
Remember, your cover e-mails are frequently your first contact with a potential employer, so take the time to make sure you’re creating a good first impression.
Cover E-Mails vs. Query Letters
In the more sedate world of freelance journalism, as compared to the rough and tumble world of online content providers, etc., writers use query letters to pitch editors articles or stories they would like to write, or have already written.
Query letters have to be well thought out pieces, providing editors enough information to pique their interest, showcase your writing and convince decision-makers that they have to buy your article.
Cover e-mail letters don’t carry quite such a burden, because most of the time you’re responding to a need those hiring have already identified.
Still, it’s important for every freelancer to maximize the impact of any communication he or she has with a potential client.
Cover e-mails are also different from cover letters for more traditional jobs. The main goal of a cover letter is to get you an interview. In the world of freelance writing, the e-mail cover letter itself may be the closest thing to an interview you get.
With more traditional jobs, your cover letter needs to be about as formal as a business suit. A freelancer’s cover e-mail can veer closer to casual Friday.
After all, a cover e-mail is an opportunity for you to show your writing stuff, so go to town.
I’ve had both good and bad luck from letting my personality hang out in an e-mail cover letter.
Deciding how buttoned down your cover e-mail needs to be is a judgment call, and one you’ll make with every job application.
Strive to match your tone to what you think the organization wants.
What Your Cover E-Mail Should Cover
In fact, showing just how well you match every single criterion a prospective employer has identified is what your cover e-mail should be all about.
This means you should draft fresh e-mails for each application, although it is O.K. to identify your key achievements in specific industries, like legal issues, real estate, HR or health care, and use them as bullet points for different jobs.
Just make sure the rest of the cover e-mail covers specific ways you can help address their specific needs.
Any attachments you’re including should bolster these detailed and individual responses. And you can briefly explain just how your materials relate to their needs in your cover e-mail.
Your cover e-mail doesn’t have to go over everything you’ve done in your life. That’s what your resume is for. Remember that cover e-mails need to be short and to the point, so don’t say something more than once unless it’s really incredibly important.
Instead, think of your cover e-mail as a vehicle for selecting and re-purposing aspects of your experience which show you’re the right person for the task at hand.
Things to Watch Out For
Just because you can find a potential freelance job and respond to it online in 15 minutes doesn’t mean you should.
Rapid response times are important if you’re looking for freelance work online, but don’t let the need for speed make you careless.
I have. I was once in such a hurry to respond to a promising job opportunity that I sent my application off with a misspelled word. In the subject line.
Any bets on whether that even got opened?
Don’t let this happen to you. Take the time to do a spell check. Take the time to read your application from back to front, so you can catch any words that aren’t misspelled, but aren’t the right words, either.
Double-check your attachments, the salutations and any references to your potential employer’s company, to make sure they’re the right ones.
In fact, even in this Internet age, you can probably afford to take 5 minutes away from your document, clear your mind, and then come back to your work. Check it one more time with fresh eyes, before you send it off, and you may be on your way to getting some fresh work.
by Danielle Dresden