The Cover Letter Deconstructed

I have a confession to make. I hate writing cover letters. Hate them with a passion. It would be so much easier if when applying for a freelance writing job if I could just send in my resume and samples with a note that says, “I can do this job. Please hire me.” Since it doesn’t work that way and prospective clients want to know something about the people who are offering to work for them, here is my take on how to write cover letters.

First Paragraph: Who Are You?

The first paragraph of the cover letter is where you introduce yourself. You tell the prospective client what opportunity you would like to be considered for, what kind of writing you have experience in, and how many years of experience you have.

If you are approaching a prospective client who is not currently advertising for writers, you need to be a bit more creative. You want to write an introduction that will capture their attention, and I will offer some suggestions for that in an upcoming post.

Second Paragraph: What Do You Bring to the Table?

Now, you explain why you are a good fit for this job. You can tell the prospective client about similar projects you have worked on, or explain that you have experience writing about the topic they want to have covered. This is the part of the letter where you explain that you have excellent technical skills (spelling and grammar) and that you take pride in turning in clean copy – on deadline, every time.

Third Paragraph: What is the Next Step?

Before you finish your letter, you want to make sure that the prospective client knows how to contact you, so make sure you include your e-mail address and/or phone number. If you plan to follow up yourself in a week or so, mention this in the letter and make note of the day (and time, if appropriate) that you will be doing so. Tell the reader that you look forward to hearing from them.

I find that breaking down the cover letter into three manageable sections makes them a little easier to write. What strategies do you use for writing your cover letters?






6 responses
  1. Donna Mann Avatar

    Jodee – thanks for this post! I hate cover letters too. Ya think its a Meyer’s Brigg’s thing? 🙂 My cover letters look very much like the one you describe. I do try in the first paragraph to show that I’ve done my homework on their company by complementing them (genuinely) on something very specific to their brand, product or service. Keep up the great work. You are appreciated! -Donna

  2. Colleen Avatar

    Thank you so much for this post! I quite often wonder if I’m not getting as many gigs as I could be because of my cover letters.

  3. Terreece Avatar

    I hate cover letters too! I sometimes just want to write – trust me, I’m good and call it a day. This is great info Jodee!

  4. Amy Avatar

    Thanks for the post. That’s a nice breakdown of the cover letter. I do tend to be a bit haphazard when I write the letters, will keep this format mind.

  5. David Dittell Avatar


    The one thing I always keep in mind with cover letters is that it’s meant for the client, hiring manager, etc. to read, so you have to frame everything for them. Don’t make the cover letter about you as much as about what you can do for them, why they need you, what you have to offer them, etc. If the information is only relevant to you or you can’t adequately explain its relevance to them, chuck it.

  6. Beth Anderle Avatar
    Beth Anderle

    Thank you, thank you , thank you Jodee! I was just obsessing over the dreaded cover letter this morning, and this article is going to be a huge help!

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