On Your Mark: Aim Your Letters

Target Apple. Image courtesy of stock.xchng®One of the first things I did before launching my business a.k.a writer was to develop marketing materials and letters I could use to introduce myself to potential clients. I also developed templates to help me quickly respond to posted freelance writing gigs on places like Craigslist (there are a few gems out there).

Since regularly writing e-mail marketing campaigns for other companies pay my rent, I kept close tabs on my own response rates. The results: not too bad. I scored an interesting project writing about celebrities’ efforts to go green for a consumer-focused newsletter and enjoyed working with the owner of that company.

Otherwise, people remarked positively on my background, my skills and experience – but, despite following up, I wasn’t securing the amount of work I wanted. And there was a lot of silence, too.

So I decided to revise the templates I was using. To help charge my batteries, I took a brief video class in writing cover letters for job seekers. Bingo! After using my revisions for the last few months, I have seen a significant increase in responses. Some are “no” but at least I am getting an answer versus, well, nothing.

The difference? I focused on the potential client (or, for some of you, the hiring manager). Here’s how it can work for you:

  • Solve a problem. Instead of listing your previous experience, show how you can help the person reading your letter. The ad, job posting and/or your research on the company will give you the clues you need. For example, I use language like “Here’s how I can help make your copy deliver results” and then I show them how.
  • Connect the dots. Of course you want to highlight your previous experience, but you also need show how it relates to the new job or freelance assignment. Example: “When I was editor of the company newsletter, I oversaw its evolution from print to digital delivery. It taught me how work with designers and web developers, a skill you’ll need in the person for your [title of the job].”
  • Be specific. Use statistics and/or clear, concise examples to state your case.
  • Keep it short. While some people debate the use of bullets in cover letters, I’ve found they increase readability and help me keep my word choices succinct. This is a great way to deliver three reasons why you are perfect for the contract (or job).

What’s worked for you?

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5 thoughts on “On Your Mark: Aim Your Letters

  1. This is great advice. I also find that a template for submitting an essay or article works well. I generally start with the crux of what the article addresses to “catch” the editor’s attention to set the scene for what is included.

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