Cover letters for freelancers are a vitally important tool for running a successful writing business. No matter what type of writing you hope to do, knowing how to write an appropriate cover letter is key.
About Cover Letters
In the freelance writing world, a cover letter serves as an introduction of sorts. Cover letters are most often written in response to a particular request, such as an editor seeking to hire freelance writers to be assigned topics for a bridal magazine or a business owner looking for a copywriter to revamp his Web site.
A cover letter should provide the answers to two basic questions:
- Who am I?
- What do I have to offer you?
For your bio, provide a brief statement of your qualifications as they relate to this particular writing opportunity. This could include where you received your education, what other publications you've worked with, awards you've received, related association memberships, or any other information you feel is relevant.
To answer the "What do I have to offer?" question, try to focus on reasons why the editor or potential client should choose you over the competition. This could include that you are very deadline-oriented, already familiar with the topic area, or have access to expert sources to use when researching the project.
Cover Letters vs. Query Letters
In the freelance writing world, cover letters and query letters are often confused. Generally, query letters are requested by publications that do not want to see unsolicited manuscripts. For example, you would send a query letter instead of a cover letter if you are pitching an article idea to a magazine you read about in the Writer's Market.
A query letter describes the idea for an article or book, helping the editor to quickly decide if the project is appropriate for that particular market. If the editor loves the query letter, he or she has the option of requesting the manuscript.
Tips for Writing Cover Letters for Freelancers
Writing cover letters for freelancers is a skill that takes practice. However, the task will be somewhat less stressful if you keep in mind the following tips:
- Be confident. A cover letter is your opportunity to sell yourself. Even if you're just starting out, don't refer to yourself as unpublished or inexperienced. Focus on what you can do and the positive qualities you'd bring to the assignment.
- Avoid hype. There is a fine line between confidence and excessive boasting. Don't describe yourself or your writing as thoughtful, exciting, brilliant, inspiring, or sure to please. This is something the person reading your letter wants to decide.
- Keep it brief. Editors and business owners are very busy people with a limited amount of time to devote to reading cover letters. If your letter takes up more than one sheet of paper, it's too long.
- Eliminate unnecessary duplications. If you're including a resume with your cover letter, there's no need to provide a detailed summary of all your past writing experience. Stick to a few key highlights.
- Mention relevant referrals. If you've been recommended by someone who previously wrote for the organization or has a working relationship with the client in question, feel free to include this information in your cover letter.
- Don't volunteer your rates unless this information has been specifically requested. You want to allow some room for negotiation once you know more details about what the project will involve.
- Always proofread your work. As a writer, you're expected to know proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Careless mistakes in your cover letter will make it seem like your skills aren't up to par.
If you'd like to see examples of real cover letters for freelancers, Freelance Writing Gigs has a section where writers share their cover letters for comments and suggestions. This popular blog and online writing community is also a great resource for learning of new job opportunities and ways to help build your writing portfolio.