[box type="info"]This is an updated and a republishing of an article that was first written and sent to subscribers in the old TFP newsletter (then powered by TinyLetter). I’ve closed down the mailing list and am now sharing this with everyone on the blog.[/box]
Cover letters have evolved over the years in that they are no longer just typed sheets of paper clipped onto the resume folder.
Freelancers write and send out cover letters when applying for freelance jobs that they’re interested in. The best part is that you can easily send your cover letter as either the body of your email or as an attachment. If the client likes what he or she has read, you’d get a response.
That’s the tricky part. It’s getting the client to sit down and take the time to read your cover letter out of thousands that he or she has received that would test your ability to brand and market yourself as a freelancer. Without unique qualities that make you stand out, your cover letter would just get tossed aside like all the others.
Let’s take a look at what a stellar cover letter should have—one that would really push buttons and convince the client that, “Hey, this guy/gal is THE freelancer I’m looking for.”
The 5 Keys to a Powerful Cover Letter
Whatever you may decide to do with your cover letter—and ideally it’s reflective of who you are as a freelancer—keep in mind these five key elements:
- Personality – This is your personal touch, the unique energy resonating from the page top to bottom. It’s your voice speaking through it, which is what clients will pick up instantly after sifting through hundreds of boring and generic cover letters. A professional but enthusiastic greeting and a lively self-introduction may be all you need to get the client to call back.
- Relevance – A cover letter must address the needs of the client. She has no time to read about how you’d still make a good fit for her project, despite not having the skills she’s looking for. Touch on important aspects of the project in the cover letter and briefly describe how you plan to tackle these areas or problems.
- Credibility – You only have a couple of minutes—no, seconds—to keep a good hold onto your client’s attention. Establish your credibility as a freelancer upfront to prove straight away that he or she shouldn’t look for anyone else. A great way to do this is by providing or inserting 1-2 links to existing portfolio samples that match or are similar to the kinds of services in need.
- Genuine Interest – Clients want to work with freelancers who share their vision-mission. They love working with people who are not only talented and skilled, but dedicated and loyal as well. Asking 1-2 questions about the company, the project, and/or background history of the client are good signs of genuine interest. Moreover, based on past experience, sharing brief but interesting concepts in line with the client’s project is another great way to add value to your cover letter.
- Transparency – By transparency, I’m referring to transparency in terms of pricing. I find this to be a good way to filter clients, leaving out the bad apples that have no interest in working with me after all. Stating your estimates and what particular services are included can also give the client an idea of how much hiring a freelancer (like yourself) would cost in the long run. Just make sure that your price quotes are reasonable.
Finally, as a takeaway tip, your cover letter must be the client’s access point to you.
Provide your updated contact details and communication channels to choose from. The most common today are via email, Skype, mobile, and landline numbers, so choose which works best for you and insert it into your cover letter.
What If You Don’t Use Cover Letters?
So, what if you don’t use cover letters to land freelance work?
What if you’re able to gain rapport in your specific industry and are landing work through referrals, your blog, or social media? Are cover letters still relevant then?
The way I see it, “cover letter” is just one of many terms for the different ways of pitching your freelance services to potential clients. When looking at it at a freelancer’s perspective, it’s a basic marketing tool to inform clients that you have services they need and that you are the best person for the role.
Even if you’re using your blog or word-of-mouth referrals to land freelance work, you can still use the 5 key elements to attract and persuade clients to hire you. By showing genuine interest in the project while presenting yourself as a unique individual with knowledge and skills under his or her belt, clients will want to know more about who you are and what you can do to take their businesses to the next level.
What are the most effective tips you’ve learned or encountered when crafting a really good freelance cover letter? Go ahead and share your ideas in the comments.