It’s an average morning in freelance writing land. You’re dressed and fed (maybe), you’ve checked your inbox, and now you’re sipping on a fresh cup of coffee while scanning the Internet job boards for writing gigs of interest.
Then you see it. A job that is so suited for you and your writing style, you may as well have written the advert yourself. It’s ideal, it’s your dream writing gig, it’s perfect for you – and you’d do anything to get it.
But how DO you get it? In what way can you convince the client that from the hundreds of applications they may be about to receive, you are the one that deserves it most?
Here are seven top tips to help you rise above the crowd, and help you bag your dream freelance writing gig.
1. Read The Requirements
It’s kind of obvious, but it’s important, and something that is overlooked by so many. Remember at school when you were told always to double read the questions in the exam paper? That advice still holds true. Always read the advert once, twice – thrice – because understanding what is required is they key to telling the client what they want to hear.
Editors get annoyed when a writer submits an application, query or submission for consideration, when it is painfully obvious he hasn’t read the advert or the editorial requirements. And rightfully so, because it demonstrates a lack of professionalism, and indicates the writer is not serious enough to have researched the publication or the company he is applying to.
An application or query from a writer who has carefully read the editorial requirements, and has used them to his advantage, will always shine through. It will help to ensure he floats quickly to the top of the pile and gets a quicker response.
2. Write a Killer Query
You know what is wanted, and you understand the requirements fully, now you have to write a killer query to grab the editor’s attention. I’ll cover query letter writing in detail in another article, but it goes without saying that a good initial approach in a query or application, as well as demonstrating a respect for the editorial guidelines, should also contain perfect spelling and grammar.
It should be well constructed, be exciting, and should make the editor’s decision an easy one. Query letters or emails that are poorly written will go straight into the bin.
3. Make It Personal
When you apply for a writing gig, it may be you have no idea who the client is other than ‘the editor.’ Obviously, you could address your query to ‘The Editor,’ but with a little bit of time taken to research and personalise the letter, you will stand a greater chance of being remembered and taken seriously as a contender for the position.
Go to the company’s website. If it is not specifically mentioned, look at the email address where submissions and queries are to be sent, and enter the domain in Google. If it’s an anonymous email address, search on the company name.
Read up on the company; their business reports, press releases, company history, ethos, products, employees, etc. If you can find out about the actual person you are applying to, then even better.
Remember, knowledge is power to be used wisely, so use what you learn to beef up your application. Address it to the person mentioned in the advert, and adapt your letter to your prospective employer, making the connection between them and you that little bit stronger.
4. Don’t Be A Designer
If you are querying via email always send in text format only. HTML emails are not always displayed properly by the email system you are sending to, or even appreciated by the person at the other end, so don’t be tempted.
There should be no fancy images, headers, or signatures – just the basics of a strong, positive, attention grabbing query.
The same applies in concept to snail mail letters. Remove fancy and coloured fonts, and forget about images – they only move the reader’s attention away from the content. Letter headings are acceptable, but make sure yours is subtle and contains your contact details.
5. Proofread, Proofread, Proofread!
In the same way you should always proofread your articles, always proofread your query letters or applications. It’s the final line to cross to getting your application considered, so make sure it is perfect.
We’re all guilty of the odd error, but you should always check for:
• Sentence structure
• Formality versus informality
• Contact information
• Strength of hook
Everyone has different ways of proofreading their work. I tend to batter out an article then leave it for a day or two. I’ll go back to it and bring it together over a couple of drafts, then go over it a few times looking for all of the above. Finally, I’ll leave it alone for a day or two, then go back and read it out loud, and then read it backwards.
6. Show Off Your Skills
In the same way the first rule of fiction writing is to ‘show, not tell,’ bagging your dream (or any) freelance writing gig incorporates the same principle: show them how good you are, don’t just tell them.
It’s ok to list your publishing credits and it can be an impressive way of hooking an editor’s interest, but put yourself in his shoes: wouldn’t you rather see evidence of how good this fantastic writer is, rather than taking his word for it?
Send some clips, and if you have some related material you have worked on in the past, make sure that is top of the file. If you are applying via email, consider creating a PDF document you can attach to your submission that highlights your best and most relevant clips.
Some places don’t accept email attachments for reasons of security or stubbornness. If this is the case create a web page with the same information, including links if applicable, that the editor can then go and find.
If they specify in their requirements they do not want attachments, they mean it, and will likely delete your application before it is read. But it also means they will probably be used to clicking on a link instead, and reviewing a writer’s clips online.
If you don’t have any clips, send a sample of something you’ve written. And if you really want to impress, write a short example that is entirely specific to them and the work they are advertising for, and send that along with your query.
Going the extra yard could guarantee you are afforded time and consideration by most reasonable editors, and can be all you need to get your foot in the door.
7. Sell Yourself
As your career progresses make a point of collecting testimonials from clients you’ve worked for. These can be in the form of quotes from emails, letters, or verbal. Include them on your website and in all your marketing and promotional material.
When it comes to winning over an editor, there’s nothing more impressive than reading a personal recommendation.
And finally, never be afraid to tell someone how good you are. Don’t be arrogant about it, but don’t back away from accentuating your positives. Getting the dream gigs is all about selling and impressing, so don’t let someone else bag your gig simply because you were too shy to tell an editor how much you want the job.