After hunting for minutes, hours, or maybe even days, you have found it: The perfect writing gig. The job description is unapologetically sprawled across your screen, daring you to close the browser. Maybe you’ve just had too much coffee, but you almost think you hear it whispering your name, begging you to apply. You scroll through your documents until you find your writing resume and cover letter. They look good enough, so you begin attaching them to the email address provided for potential content writers and pray that hundreds of other professional writers haven’t already applied.
Seriously. Don’t even thinking about hitting “Send.” A few of you are probably nodding your heads right now. You know exactly why I issued such a stern warning. The rest of you need to keep reading, whether you’re that veteran writer who always whines, “I don’t get why they didn’t pick me – I was totally qualified” or a newbie to the writing scene who just wants to land a gig or two:
Never Send a Form Letter – Picture this: You’re single and the man or woman of your dreams asks you out. They do this by rattling off a long speech that you realize is the same spiel they have used on every other potential suitor. How would you feel? Would you be irritated that they only asked you out because you were there, not because they had specific reasons for wanting you? Would you feel they were lazy and lacked originality? Would you walk away the minute you realized you were hearing a generic proposal?
Editors and hiring managers are the same way. They want to feel special. They want to think that you want them and only them. A generic cover letter results in none of these things and is one of the quickest ways for your application to hit the cyber trash can with all the other professional writers who didn’t make the cut.
Be Confident – A cover letter filled with “I might” and “I hope” is the equivalent of sitting at a job interview saying, “Ummmm. Uhhhh. Well. I, ummm …” Be confident in your qualifications and abilities. Never write things like, “I might be a good match. I hope I can get the job done”. If you aren’t 100 percent sure you should be hired, why should an editor choose you?
Get to the Point – Odds are very high that you won’t be the only applicant. Tons of content writers want the same gig and the person reading your cover letter is probably stressed, tired and on a tight schedule. Don’t waste the first few paragraphs rambling on about how much you love basketball or cupcakes. Introduce yourself and state your relevant qualifications.
Use the Right Tone – Match the style of the job description if you really want to have a strong shot at getting hired. If the description is formal, write a sophisticated cover letter in your best grown-up voice. A fun job description filled with slang and humor means it is okay for you to be a bit silly in your letter.
Be Creative – There are many different ways to present information. Nobody wants to read a boring cover letter – not even the stuffy editor with 14 paragraphs about what she expects from potential writers. You can be professional without sacrificing creativity. Not quite sure how to be creative? This article has some helpful tips.
Follow Directions – Repeat after me: “I am not too important to follow rules. If I want a writing job, I must do as requested.” Directions are usually hidden throughout the job description. They range from easy requests about specific fonts and cover letter length to full-blown demands about exactly what should be in each paragraph of your cover letter. Sometimes the instructions might seem a bit stupid and over-the-top, but don’t ignore them. If the person who wrote the ad thought they were important, there’s a reason.
Use Your Manners – Responses like “please” and “thank you” are important. Always thank the editor or manager for reading your cover letter and considering you for the position. No exceptions. “Please” transforms you from a bossy applicant to a thoughtful one. “Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information” is one example. Oh, and don’t forget to say “thank you” when you accept your new writing gig. If you write enough high-quality cover letters, you’ll be offered one eventually.
Missy N is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.