Replying to job listings is probably one of the main things that freelance writers do on a daily basis. While some of us may be fortunate enough to have long-term clients that provide us enough income not to pitch to someone new every day, sending in job applications is still an inherent and crucial part of freelance writing.
I’m writing this post from the perspective of someone who goes through job applications on a regular basis. In the past months, I think I’ve seen so many – and deleted even more. I thought it would help our readers, especially beginning freelancers, if I shared my experience.
If you don’t care about your job application being read (at the very least)…
Don’t follow instructions in the ad.
It’s a no brainer, and every freelancer will tell you that they know this. But when it comes to the application of the idea, many fail.
Attach a resume when it’s stated in the ad that resumes are not needed.
When it comes to many writing gigs, the proof is in the writing. Hence, many employers want samples and not resumes. Many ads explicitly say “send samples; we don’t need resumes”. No matter how impressive your resume may be, if the ad states that there is no need to send a resume, why do that? That’s one way to start off on the wrong foot.
Attach Word documents when URLs to work samples are requested.
Many ads also state that samples should be sent as URLs. The reason behind this is that employers want to simply click on a link and see actual published material. Additionally, attachments are a hassle to download, not to mention the risk of malware!
Don’t send any samples at all.
I can’t count the number of application emails I have received which are written in such a way that creative juices just flow out of my screen. Unfortunately, in spite of the ad saying that samples are needed, the applicant writes something along the lines of “Samples and references to be furnished upon request.”
Guess what? When an employer reads that, they won’t send you a request.
Don’t proofread your application.
Another no brainer. You’re applying for a writing position. You may not be the best writer in the world, but you can still get the job. If your application letter (no matter the length) is rife with typos, you can forget about hearing back from the employer.
Open with “Tell me more about the job and the rates”.
In many cases, freelance writing job ads include the essential details that writers want to know: type of writing (blogging, copywriting, etc.), word count, pay rate (even if it’s generic like pay per hour), and topic/s. Of course, it is understandable – and even expected – that a serious writer will want to know ALL the details at some point, before going further.
If, however, you send an email application opening with “Tell me more about the job and the rates” and not add much more, this sends the wrong message. Red flags go up. Bells ring.
I don’t know about other people, but I want to work with writers who are interested in the topic, establishing their voice, and growing their audience – and not simply how much a gig pays. That may sound idealistic, but it’s true.
Don’t get me wrong. I know pay is important. For some, it is a deciding factor; but I consider it a turn off if that’s the first thing you throw at me.
When going through application emails, I really put a premium on how the letter is written and if instructions are followed. If those things are met, I then look at the samples.
What about you? What do you think a freelance writer has to pay attention to when responding to a job ad?
Bonus: If you need help with your resume, here are 6 resume tips for freelancers.