Get the Gig: Tips for Cover and Query Letters that Set You Apart
When you’re a freelancer, there’s never really time to rest on your laurels. Even if you’ve managed to build up a stable of regular and reliable clients after a few years in business, you want to continue to look for and pursue opportunities. You might go after an opportunity you see listed on a job board or you might decide to pitch a company you want to work with, even if it’s not actively looking for freelancers. The query or cover letter for freelancers is one most important components when it comes to landing a new gig. It’s how you introduce yourself to a client and how you get your foot in the door.
There’s a major divide between cover letters that end up filed away or in the trash and cover letters that make a potential client take notice. Make sure your letters always fall into the latter category.
Leave the Form Behind
Do you have a form cover or query letter that you use when pitching clients or applying for gigs? If so, delete it. Even if your form letter is very creative and clever, it’s still going to read as a form letter.
When you’re going after a gig or trying to land a new client, you need to show the person reading the letter that you’re the best fit for the gig or that you’ll bring something to the company that wasn’t there before. You can’t really show that if you’re sending the same basic letter to 15 different businesses. It’s more work, sure, but it’s well worth it to start from scratch every time you write a cover letter.
Focus on the Why
Shift your focus when pitching a company or applying for a gig. Don’t think “this job is perfect for me!” Instead think, “I will be a terrific asset to this company, and here are X reasons why.”
As a freelancer, you’re thinking of your bottom line and ways to increase your earnings. So are businesses. They don’t want to hear how much you’ll grow if you have the chance to write for them. Instead, they want to hear how your writing will help their business grow, and why they need to hire you to write for them.
You’re probably going to send along a few samples with your letter and resume. But, guess what: Your letter in and of itself is a type of sample. Treat writing a cover letter as you would any other writing assignment. If you write that you regularly create engaging content and tell stories with your work, but your cover letter is very boring, or is rambling and incoherent, you’re not showing what you can do. One way to prove your skills as a writer is to focus on telling a story in your letter. Tell the person you’re writing to what drew you to the company and why are you a perfect match for a gig, while keeping the focus on how you’ll be a benefit to the business.
Don’t Be Afraid to Name Drop
If another freelancer that the company loves told you about a new gig or recommended you reach out to the company, don’t be shy about mentioning that in your letter. You can also refer to other businesses who might have suggested you reach out or to employees at the company who recommended you get in touch. If someone else has your back and is willing to vouch for you, go ahead and use that to your advantage.
A few more things to remember when writing your cover or query letters. Keep them short and to the point and always remember to proofread. There are few things more embarrassing than trying to prove to someone that you’re a stellar writer with a cover letter that’s riddled with grammar mistakes and misspellings.
Amy F has an MFA in theater criticism and has worked in many capacities on- and off-stage. She’s also an avid baker, vegetarian cook, gardener, and reader. Favorite authors include Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood and Ben Marcus.