Show, Don’t Tell for Freelance Success

When you are communicating with a potential client about a freelance writing job, you want to present yourself in the best possible way. Unlike applying for a traditional job, you may not be asked to meet with the client for a face-to-face interview; your cover letter, resume and samples may be your only shot at persuading the client to hire you.

This is not a situation where you can hold something back and save it for the face-to-face meeting – there may not be one. Instead, make sure that whatever you submit gives the client the information he or she needs to make a hiring decision.

How can you stand out from the other writers who are interested in the same opportunity? Be specific in your cover letter and writer’s resume about your experience and how you would be a good fit for what the client needs. Here are some questions to help you fill in some details:

  • How long have you been writing? (Number of years)
  • What kind of writing have you done? List the different types of projects you have been involved in.
  • How many articles, blog posts, e-books, etc., have you written? (You don’t need to provide an exact count but do share an approximate number.)
  • What topics have you written about/are you most comfortable with?

Don’t underestimate the power of putting specifics in the materials you are sharing with clients. When you show, don’t tell details about your experience, you are giving the reader a frame of reference to determine whether you have what he or she is looking for. Offer the client something concrete and you will make an impression that could land you the gig!


3 responses
  1. Jodi Hughey Avatar

    Hi Jodee!

    The “Show, Don’t tell” concept is a great one! The list of questions will give me something to think about the next time I send a promotional packet.

    I have a habit of tailoring my promotional packet (cover letter, resume, samples) each time I apply for a job. I have writing experience in multiple areas and want to showcase only those that are most specific to the job I am applying for. The experience I have writing how-to articles isn’t going to impress a client who is looking for someone to write restaurant reviews. Being specific is important, and showing is way better than telling!

    Thanks for the great article!

  2. Susan Speer Avatar
    Susan Speer


    I agree completely. Most of my clients have experience working with freelancers and know what they are looking for, but a few of my clients have never hired a freelancer before, and you have to help them understand what they should be looking for.

    I have written professionally for 25 years, with more than 1,200 published works. That’s usually impressive to my prospects, but I occasionally encounter one who translates that into, “she’s going to be expensive.” True, I don’t come cheap, but you get what you pay for. Experienced writers need to know how to show the value in choosing that experience over low rates.

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. Carol | Make a Living Writing Avatar

    I try not to apply for positions where I don’t have a killer clip that is exactly the topic they want expertise on. It’s such a cattle-call out there otherwise.

    But when I do that, write and say “I’m an experienced writer and I’ve previously written about ___ before, here’s a sample:” I get a very high response rate, probably 30-50%.

    It’s because of my law of freelancing — work of one kind tends to lead to more work of that same kind. It’s SO much easier to do this than when you’re switching to a new topic.

    When I want to switch topics, I try to take the clip closest to it and combine it with other skills. As in, “You can see in this clip that I’ve blogged before…and in this clip I’ve written about personal finance…so you can see I have all the skills needed to blog about home loans for you.”

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