5 Things Clients Look For in a Freelancer’s Cover Letter

One of the best advice I’ve learned back when I was still a new freelancer is that writing well-thought out, comprehensive, and personalized cover letters is, in many ways, essential when looking for freelance work.

Why? Because competition for freelance work is fierce. If you want to get noticed, you need to write a cover letter that can really catch the client’s attention amidst thousands of cover letters from other qualified applicants.

The cover letter is your key to getting your client’s attention for the simple reason that clients read and look for specific things in your cover letter. If it does not address their requirements, the client is likely to skip your cover letter and move on to those of other freelancers.

One way of writing effective cover letters is to keep in mind what the client would look for in your cover letter. Let me point out five important things clients would look for in a cover letter:

  1. The client is addressed.  This is the first of many ways to keep the client interested in what you have to say. Cover letters that start with “Dear Sir/Ma’am” or “To whom it may concern” can easily detach the client from your application. Take the time to find out who’s hiring, the company he or she represents, and address the cover letter directly to him or her.

  2. personal touch colored pencils

    A personal touch. I have a friend who hires freelancers for specific projects, and many times she has to deal with generic, lifeless cover letters with no personal voice in them. Clients don’t appreciate laziness, much more being written to by someone with no sensibility, so take the time to write a cover letter and add your personal (and professional) touch to it. Write it in such a way that you’d even read it aloud in this way if you were to recite it to your client. As for my friend, she’s rejected all the applicants who sent those lifeless cover letters.

  3. Your understanding of the required skills. The most important thing that clients look for in cover letters is a freelancer who knows the skills needed for the project and, more importantly, who knows what he is talking about.

    A freelance writer can easily say he knows blogging, SEO article writing, and copywriting, but he doesn’t know the principles behind good web copy or the value of SEO when incorporated into an SEO article. As such, I highly encourage freelancers to apply for jobs they’re particularly interested in and have the skills and knowledge for it.

  4. hire me sign

    Specific reasons why you should be hired. It’s good that you mentioned your 2-year background as a freelancer, but focus now on its significance.

    Try to specify reasons why you, a 2-year freelance graphic artist or a 5-year freelance developer, should be hired for this project. What is it about the project that you believe you are the best freelancer to handle the task? List at least 2-3 reasons, and maybe 1-2 links of previous work in your portfolio.

  5. Professionalism. It’s good to add a personal touch to your cover letter, but slang, lightheaded talk, and bad communication (i.e. grammar lapses and typos, will lead to rejection instantly. Show the client you are a professional, a freelancer with real knowledge, skills, and who can communicate his ideas compellingly.

There are, of course, many more important things to take into consideration when writing cover letters to clients, but keep these five in mind as these give much importance to the value and worth of the freelancer.

I myself have applied these tips into my own cover letters, and it has worked several times for me regardless of how much my professional fees for the project were. If it can work for me and for other freelancers, I’m sure it can work for you.

For further reading on how to write good cover letters, check out these articles:

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  • http://whowritesthiscrap.wordpress.com who

    The biggest put off for a covering letter is a spelling mistake or a basic grammatical error. If you can’t get it right there, it doesn’t bode well for the future.

    If you’re struggling to find who to address your letter to, have a look on LinkedIn. Even if you’re not able to find the exact person, but you should be able to find someone relevant either in that department or in HR.

    • http://about.me/sgonzaga Stef G.

      Great points, who. I agree that spelling and grammar mistakes can certainly turn off a client, or anyone reading the cover letter for that matter. Freelancers should make it a habit to proofread their cover letters before sending them out to the client.

      As for LinkedIn, that’s a great idea. Even a thorough search on Google can help pick up company websites and names that you can address your cover letters to.

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  • http://www.solitarywanderer.com Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com

    I also hire through oDesk, and one thing that makes me automatically reject the application is when the applicants don’t even bother to reply to the questions I’ve posted in the job description. If they can’t even be bothered to read, how will they able to perform the tasks I will require of them? Such a basic mistake, right?

    • http://about.me/sgonzaga Stef G.

      Yup, basic and embarrassing if you fail to notice it. Thanks for pointing this out Aleah. :)

    • http://www.outsourceeffectively.com/ Crystal Stannard

      Aleah, I too hire via ODesk and I get anywhere from 30-100 applicants that I have to spend hours weeding through because i get so many spam applicants. I know the competition is fierce and they need to try to get what they can, but way too many do note even match the job and its frustrating.

      I also have a problem with applicants who have someone else create their profile and take their tests making it even more difficult and in the end I don’t know who is who because they have people that handle the interviews for them due to the language barrier. I get that but 80 percent of the time I find out that the actual person is not qualified and I lose out on time and money. All I ask is be honest when you are applying.


    • SK

      I agree with you, but as far myself, I always read the project and then reply each points, but still not able to get a job there. May be the reason is that I am not able to open my account of work or they want to hire with lower cost. Don’t know, may be one day I will be hired.

      • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

        Keep up what you’re doing SK, and I’m sure a client will notice your initiative and will give you a chance. Is there something in your application process that needs improvement? Maybe you can pinpoint those out and see if you can redo and improve on them.

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  • Bernard Vukas

    One great tip that I learned from @Zokiboy is to attach to your cover letter short ‘draft’ or ‘preview’ of your solution. If you’re a programmer, this can be a sketch of menus or dialog boxes. This way client can see that you’re really engaged and understand their needs. This is incredibly powerful because it engages you both in a conversation: it’s no longer about if he or she likes you, it’s about continuing the conversation. This alone can lead to employment.

    • http://stefgonzaga.com/ Stef G.

      Interesting! For freelance writers, I’d go with either existing work similar to the approach the client wants or a short excerpt of what could be the possible outcome of the project. 250-300 words should be enough.

  • Helal Miah

    I have read all the message carefully. I am really happy to know the points of making a good cover letter. I am a web researcher and data entry contractor in oDesk. I will happy if anybody contact with me regarding these tasks. Here is my profile link https://www.odesk.com/users/~~d57f38c9b83546e5


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  • http://www.freelancewritingdreams.com Samantha Gluck

    Great advice and tips we should all remember. I pitch editors every week (some new, some old). The ones that know me can take a little more of my “quirkiness”. The new ones — well, I let it show through, but try to hold back a little on my…er…”creativity”. If I’ve got the portfolio and experience they’re looking for, I usually land the gig.

    My biggest mistake? Getting too nervous and uptight about a “big and powerful” potential client and writing a nervous and uptight cover letter. I approached the same Potential client six months after and was just my quirky self (same credentials and larger, but similar portfolio profile) and landed it. #likeaboss

    So, those drab , lifeless cover letters are a thing of the past. I also like your point about including specific reasons you should be hired. This is paramount (next to creativity). ;-)

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  • ronald

    Hello, i am not good in writing cover letters and proposal letters, could pls somebody give me a sample cover letter and proposal letter thanks in advance.