Query Letter Writing: Querying Out of the Box

Last time I walked us through a successful query letter writing, pointing out a few tips for you to review your own query letters.  Now I want to talk to you about something that requires a little bit more confidence a few extra ninja skills; I just call querying out of the box.letter

You might hear these called letters of interest, because it is when you are querying a potential client when there isn’t any writers guidelines or job posting.  For example, you might be an avid gardener and and want to send a letter introducing you and your services to the local garden shop, who you know has a terrible blog and an even worse newsletter.

This is a great practice to help you land gigs where there’s no competition, because you’re either creating demand or bidding for a job requirement that hasn’t been broadcast.

As I’ve found in my consulting job work as well as with publishers, it is a good idea to both pitch for jobs as well as send letters of interest.  Why?

  • If you’re only bidding for freelance writing jobs say, here on FWJ, then you’re always fighting in the big pond with lots of fish.  That’s ok, but know you might be working harder than you have to.
  • If you only send out queries ‘unannounced’ as it were, you might start to feel like that guy who sells vacuum cleaners door-to-door.  Don’t be that guy.

Does It Really Work?

Absolutely.  When PlanetEye Traveler was just starting out, the only European city they had was London.  So I sent them a letter of interest suggesting the reasons why Edinburgh should be one of their cities – and they said yes!

Here’s another that I pitched for Edinburgh 24/7, a local review site.  The owner has since sent a couple of other projects my way, so it’s turned into a very good business relationship.

Hello Darren,

Trying to choose the best café in Bruges? Looking for hotel recommendations in London? Or just need a suggestion for pastries in Paris? These things are some of the topics about which I have written in the past regarding travel, my passion. I was curious if you are open to my suggestion for new travel articles as a new “tourist” section on your website?

My name is Andy Hayes, a freelance travel writer based here in Edinburgh. Attached to this message you will find my CV as well as a link in my signature below to a portfolio. Both documents highlight my writing expertise in both new media (web content, blogs) as well as print media (Olive Magazine, Newsweek). My focus area is travel, alongside with restaurant, book, food and wine reviews. Have a look at a couple of my recent blog posts that I think might interest you:


Should you find the attachment and links of interest, I would like to discuss the possibility of adding this extra content to your site.  I think it will compliment your existing content quite well, in addition to giving you some SEO traffic generation opportunities.

I look forward to hearing from you.



Key Points

This isn’t the strongest letter I’ve written, but it worked, so it’s worth noting a couple of points:

  • Lead with the snazzy. I really think that makes a difference.  Emails that begin with “Hi my name is…” can really get drowned out in the noise.  Get them excited, then say hello.
  • Be really specific.  Notice I didn’t say “Darren, why don’t you hire me.”  I told him exactly what kinds of content he was lacking, and what benefit it would give him for adding it.  Next time, I would be even more specific and mention the types of pages I would add, with more examples.
  • I didn’t talk rates.  Since we don’t have a firm definition of what the project will look like, why scare them off with rates?  Don’t worry – if you’re acting like a professional writer, they’ll know you aren’t for free!

This is not an invitation to flood every business you know with letters of introduction.  Make sure you understand them and have a specific writing skill that you feel will add value.  You have to be specific and make it black and white:  here is what you are missing, and here is why you need it.

Querying out of the box will often result in a no reply or a “no thanks, maybe letter” message.  (And so does querying jobs from Craigslist, doesn’t it?)  But remember: you’re planting seeds.  Someday they will grow up into very stable clients.  You never know.

Do you query out of the box?

Photo by feverblue


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