If you’ve been responding to ad postings like the ones on the FWJ writing job boards for any length of time, you’re bound to have noticed something by now.
Applying for freelance writing work is hard work.
Well, nobody said it would be easy being your own boss. Not to mention the fact that there are many, many other people out there competing for the very same gigs you’re applying to. So the fact is, if you’re going to use freelance job boards as an integral part of your freelance prospecting, you’re going to need to come up with a plan for standing out.
I don’t want to overhype this. I’m not offering some fool-proof plan for how to land the prospect every time. I’m just suggesting a few problems you might be having with your applications. It’s still on you to come up with the full plan.
But that being said, fix these problems and you should see a serious increase in your response rates from job postings.
[bctt tweet=”Not getting responses from your applications? You might be making these mistakes.” username=”freelancewj”]
You Don’t Use The Poster’s Name
This is a little thing that can help a lot. Look at it from the other person’s point of view: your ad has just gone up, and now you’ve got fifty (or more!) emails to go through, all whining for work. How much do you want to read a stack of emails all addressed to “Recipient,” or “Hey there,” or “To whom it may concern?”
Not a lot, right? That’s why putting yourself through two minutes of effort to hunt down the first name of the person who’s going to read your letter will give you the edge over the other writers. Try it. You’ll thank me.
You Copy/Paste Your Responses
Now before you say anything, don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying you have to write every single email from the ground up, every single time. That’s stressful, and confusing, and will lead you back to burning yourself out horribly. But you don’t want to get lazy, either.
Again, look at it the way it looks to the people who are reading your letters: it’s painfully obvious to them if you’ve copy/pasted an email without reading their job posting.
How do you feel when you get a junk email you just know has been copy/pasted seventy-three times before finally getting to you? I’ll tell you: you’re annoyed, you feel vaguely insulted, and you don’t have any desire whatsoever to have anything to do with the creep who just dirtied up your existence with that nasty little email.
So please take the time to tailor your emails to the job posting at hand. Just a couple sentences, or even a paragraph or two, can make all the difference.
You Don’t Follow the Instructions
Every once in a while you’ll run into a job posting with some goofy instructions. Something like:
- Contact us via email with the subject line “Rubber chickens.”
- Be sure to attach at least 50 articles you’ve written on the mating habits of the Alaskan jaguar if you want to write real estate sales copy for us.
- Please include with your application a resume, brief cover letter, and a 500-page essay on why writing with us would make you so happy and fulfilled you could hardly bear it.
Granted, some prospects ask for unreasonable things, but there’s a simple solution to that: don’t apply to anyone who asks for anything unreasonable.
[bctt tweet=”Follow instructions, but don’t apply to anyone who asks for anything unreasonable.” username=”freelancewj”]
The posters put those instructions in their job ads for two reasons: they want to make sure you’ve read the posting, and they want to make sure you’re invested in the job. So if you’re not invested enough in the job to be willing to follow the directions, just don’t apply. Responding to an ad without following the directions is a waste of your time and theirs.
You Don’t Mention Your Writing Experience
This should really be common sense. If you’re looking for writing work, you should mention your writing experience in your cover letter. Otherwise the poster has no idea what your skills are, what your qualifications are, or what you can do to help him or her.
If you don’t include your writing experience (or at least a link to your portfolio), you might as well not be sending a cover letter at all. Offer a few clips. Let them know what kinds of projects you’ve worked on in the past. Name-drop a few organizations you’ve worked with, or simply spell out some of your skills.
These people don’t know you. They don’t know how well you can write. And they’re not going to learn unless you demonstrate it in some way.
Even if you’ve got no professional writing experience whatsoever, you can cobble together a portfolio of generic pieces just to show them you’ve got a handle on the subject. You can do that much, right? So do it. It’ll be worth it.
You Don’t Customize Your Subject Line
This one comes last, and it’s potentially the most important of all. It’s the most important because this one can decide whether or not your cover letter even gets read.
Your email subject line is your first chance to stand out from the other applicants. If you go with the default subject line (which is usually something like “Re: Content Writer Needed” or “No Subject”), you look just the same as all the other scrubs who didn’t bother to switch things up.
Let’s say you’re going through that stack of fifty emails we were talking about earlier: if forty of them have the same boring name, but ten of them have different names that are specifically relevant to your ad, which ones are you going to open first?
Get yourself into the group that customizes the subject line. You won’t regret it.
Honestly, most of these things don’t take that much time (and if you’re a freelancer hungry for work it’s not like you’re exactly working in a time crunch). But if you put in a little extra effort on each query you send out, things will get better.
You’ll hear back from more people and you’ll land more work. And as you land more work, you’ll hear back from even more people and you’ll land even more work. Once you reach that point, it won’t be too long before you have to start turning people away. Won’t that be nice?
You make real, lasting progress when you fix the little problems that hold you back. Start by fixing the five problems I’ve identified here, and you’ll be off to a good start. So get started.
This post was written by Geofrey Crow, who has been freelancing since 2016. His hobbies include yelling at friends, yelling at family, yelling at clients, yelling at his computer screen, and writing love poems. Feel free to visit his crappy website or his Twitter feed if you’re having trouble sleeping.