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How a Freelance Writing Job Application Differs From a General Job App

You may be used to traditional ways of applying for jobs, but do you ever wonder how applying for freelance jobs can vary? There are many differences in the two, and you may, in fact, be surprised on how much the two can vary.

Common Ways of Applying for Traditional Jobs

The most common way of applying for a traditional job is composing a cover letter that shows how you are qualified. The cover letter is a business letter that has been customized to showcase your expertise and qualification for the job you are applying for.

You should also send in a resume. The resume is more detailed than the cover letter, and most often accompanies it immediately, right from the beginning of the application process. The cover letter and resume are sometimes static documents, but if you have the time (and you probably should), you should rewrite or at least rework both toward the specific position you are applying for. It is always recommended to have several templates of each  so that you can customize them more easily. For example, I have resumes that highlight my work experience in writing for educational clients, and those that highlight my experiences working with biz-tech clients. 

How to Get Writing Freelance Jobs

Applying for writing freelance jobs is very similar. You will likely be invited to use a cover letter or a cover email. The cover letter will show your qualifications along with referencing the posting of the job.

You should also send in a resume that specifically lists your writing qualifications. A portfolio is excellent to have linked to your resume. The portfolio can show actual writing that you have done. If you have had any of your writing published, then this should be added to your portfolio and your resume.

Sometimes the employer uses the cover letter and resume to screen applicants before asking some candidates to submit samples of their writing. The samples should always be some of your best work. It is best to send in samples that are similar to the job you’re applying for as these will best show the employer that you have the qualifications for the job and the ability to compose in the genre.

Similarities in Traditional Jobs and Freelance Writing Jobs

Applying for a traditional job and a writing freelancing job require a few of the same types of documents, although there are differences in the composition of these documents. In addition, the importance of tailoring the application pieces is similar in both processes. Last, but very important, it is absolutely required that the submission materials are perfect (grammar, spelling, etc.) in both instances.

Differences in Traditional Job Application and Freelance Writing Job Application

One of the main differences in getting a traditional job versus a freelance writing job is that most people expect the traditional job to last a while. It’s not likely that you’ll need to keep sending out resumes and looking for work, which is often the practice of freelancers who are trying to establish their client base.

This is an exhausting process, and it is no wonder that freelance writers are often top-notch resume and cover letter writers—we get a lot of practice! Another difference between the two processes is that a writing resume only requires you to cover your applicable writing experience, whereas a more traditional job resume would have you cover more of the employment you have had in the last ten to fifteen years.

In addition, a writing freelance job usually (but not always) lasts as long as the client needs a certain amount of articles, blogs or similar writing projects done. It could last a day, week, month or year, but it will most likely come to an end, and you will be back to searching for another writing project to replace it. Applying for writing projects is often a volume game, especially at the beginning of your writing career.

The higher volume of projects that you apply for, then the better chances of building up a client base.

The last significant difference we’ll touch on is the provision of extra materials. A potential freelance writing job client will quite often have you provide a writing sample, whereas a traditional job doesn’t generally ask for such supporting documents as a matter of course.  

The Final Word on the Different Applications

As you can see, it’s quite likely that you can swing either submissions process if you’ve had some experience in the other kind. You simply just need to be aware of the slight differences and follow the directions of the freelance writing job posting that piqued your interest.

5 Cover Letter Writing Tips for Freelancers

Arguably the trickiest part of the job hunting process comes long before you start picking out interview attire. Writing cover letters is difficult, dull, and can feel like an exercise in futility.

This is especially true when you're looking for a freelance gig instead of a full-time job. If you're not even trying to talk someone into covering your health insurance costs, should you have to go through the teeth-pulling and self-promotion?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Cover letters are even more important when you're looking for freelance work, because you're not just trying to woo a hiring manager into investigating your resume: you're flat-out selling yourself as a provider of a service. In short, it's a sales pitch, and you need to know how to create one that works if you want to stay in business.

The good news is that wrapping your head around that one fact -- that you're selling your services -- is enormously helpful when it comes to simplifying the process. Here's how to do it.

5 Cover Letter Tips for Freelancers

1. Focus on being the solution to the problem.

Why do they need you? Because they have a problem they need to solve. Your goal is to show why you're the best person to provide that solution.

This focuses your cover letter right off the bat. No longer are you thinking of your entire work history or even the skills of which you're most proud.

You now have a laser focus on the thing that really matters: fixing what's broken, turning the merely good into the truly excellent, and saving the company time and money as you do so.

2. Format for the bored and busy.

At its most basic, the freelancer's cover letter looks a lot like everyone else's.

You need at least three paragraphs in your letter: an introduction explaining how you found the job or lead, a middle paragraph outlining your skills and abilities, and a closing paragraph indicating how you'll be following up.

Beyond that, focus on making your letter easy to scan. Bullets are your friend, especially when you're listing your relevant skills or projects that demonstrate your talents. Assume that the person reading your cover letter will spend only a few seconds on it, and make sure that he or she can see the highlights in just a quick glance.

Don't forget to include keywords, especially if your materials will have to go through some sort of screening software in order to make it to a real, live person.

3. Give it a personal touch.

At least 60 percent of all jobs are acquired through networking, and freelancing is no exception. It's always better if you can have a mutual acquaintance pass along your materials, including your cover letter.

If you can't dig up a connection through colleagues, friends, family, or social media, take the time to find an actual name to include in your salutation. Avoid "to whom it may concern" if all possible. Generic addresses let the hiring manager off the hook.

Think of how responsive you are to email solicitations from companies that can't even be bothered to figure out your name. (Not very.)

4. Let your work speak for yourself.

Don't forget to include URLs to online clips, sites, or projects, or references to an attached portfolio of your work, along with an explanation for why these particular work samples are relevant to the company's needs. Don't include everything you've ever done, or anything unrelated to the industry or the company.

5. Follow up, but don't stalk.

Close your cover letter by letting the hiring manager know when you're going to follow up, and then keep your commitment -- but don't continue to pursue the contact if things don't pan out.

If you don't hear back after your initial communication, or at the designated time of follow up, it might be appropriate to try one more time, after two weeks or so, to make sure that you haven't slipped the manager's mind.

After that, though, you have to assume that it's not going to happen with this particular potential client, at least at this time, and move on. If you exercise restraint, you won't close yourself off to future opportunities to work with the company.

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