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Freelance Cover Letter: 7 Tips to Land a Job

Updated on February 10, 2013

I won't be giving you any freelance cover letter examples - to the contrary. I would strongly encourage you to not use those cover letter samples all over the internet, especially if you are bidding on a freelance project. Working on oDesk for a few years now has taught me a lot about applying and winning projects online. But being a hiring manager and client on the same site has shown me how little portion of the freelancers there actually read the job posts before applying. So, let this hub help you land the job you want when you are bidding on freelance projects.

Forget about bulk sending the same cover letter

It is obvious for the client when you send a bulk pre-written cover letter to all he projects you apply to. And it is a huge advantage for you if you send a cover letter specially written for the project you apply to. Of course you can’t write 100% different content - after all, it's still you, right? Although general cover letter writing tips apply in any case, cover letters which contain the story of your life and a bunch of links and previous experience won’t do you any good. Include only the relevant to the specific project information from your past - if any.

Always follow the client's instructions

If you have already applied to jobs on oDesk, Elance, Guru and other freelance sites, you most probably have seen many clients requesting the applicants to start their cover letters with some kind of "code word". It is with the sole purpose of filtering those contractors who bulk-send their cover letters and spam. To tell you a secret, it is not a coincidence that the requirement usually is to start your cover letter with a certain phrase. Being in the beginning of the cover letter, that phrase is visible on the client's dashboard even before he opens your full cover letter. This allows him or her to reject your application and even mark you as spam if you have not started your application with the proper phrase.

oDesk Homepage Screen
oDesk Homepage Screen

If there are questions in the job post, answer - and be specific when you do

Often clients want to save time and interview only one or two freelancers for the same job post. To filter the candidates properly and to get the right fit for the job, they will give very detailed project description and will ask specific questions in the job post itself. Make sure to say in your freelance cover letter that you meet all the requirements and to answer all the questions asked. Leaving your answers for the interview won’t do you a favor - it will just get you rejected for not following the instructions.

Ask questions

I have always been confused as of why freelancers are afraid to ask questions, especially before they are actually hired - when it is indeed a good sign if you are proactively asking questions. For the purposes of writing an outstanding cover letter and getting hired afterwards, answering the questions and following instructions may be enough. But! If you want to truly stand out from the crowd - ask questions. It demonstrates attention to detail and real interest toward the contract. It shows that you have spend some time to get acquainted with the project, to think about the details and to make a step toward a solution. If your questions are relevant, smart and to the point - you will be invited to an interview for sure ;-)

Demonstrate your skills and expertise

My experience as both a freelancer and a hiring manager shows that it is a winning formula to suggest a hint of an idea which is specific to the job post. It not only emphasizes on your skills and expertise in theory - it demonstrates them. Of course, don't go into details or you will risk losing your idea, its implementation, and the job. Giving a hint of the idea would be enough to provoke interest and show your way of thinking.

Write proper English

Don't forget the grammar, spelling, writing style, punctuation… Although freelancing isn't only about writing, writing your cover letter should be in good language. Don't use slang or abbreviations in your freelance cover letter. Writing ppl instead of people or smth instead of something won’t make a good impression - and won’t save you time really, so why do it?

Freelance Resume - oDesk Profile Screen
Freelance Resume - oDesk Profile Screen

Be patient and persistent

Almost for sure there will come a moment when everything will seem lost and pointless. Even when you freelance resume is ready and your cover letters - impeccable you will still get angry to contractors who underbid and are willing to work for $2 per hour and thus - "stealing" your projects. You will be tired of reading project descriptions and writing freelance cover letters. You will be wondering if freelancing was not a mistake and a waste of time. You will feel lost and will have lots of doubts. Whatever you feel and think, do NOT give up! You will find your first client eventually - there will be someone that will give you a chance to prove your skills and professionalism. Then a second client will come, and a third, and a forth… And until you realize it, clients will be looking for you and you will be turning offers down because you don’t have time for all.

Until then, be careful and always write specific and personalized freelance cover letters! My experience on oDesk has taught me that there's nothing better than individual approach when it comes to landing a job as a freelancer.

Tell me in the comments - what other tips would you add to this list for better success when landing a freelance job?

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