In the last blog post, you read about mistakes writers make when approaching a prospect to ask for a job. Here are some points that will help you develop interest in your work.
1. Be certain about your writing. Writing good content is hard. But it is the most important part of converting a prospect into a client. If you are not a native English speaker, make sure you can write idiomatic English. I know it’s hard–I teach business writing. But if your syntax is sloppy, you don’t understand subject/verb agreement, you routinely omit articles (the, an, a) in front of nouns, or you don’t understand the importance of word order (“the speaker talked about the high cost of living with several women”), you aren’t ready to write for others yet.
2. Offer links to examples of your work. Haven’t published anything yet? Put up a website with examples of your unpublished (but edited and proofed) writing. You won’t be hired on charm alone.
3. Look at your prospect’s website, blog, or listen to the podcasts. Learn what they write about. If your client specializes in recycling and you write about travel, pitching the connection between the specialties may be tricky. A smart writer will make an effort to show they are good researchers or problem solvers–some skill a prospect needs.
4. Show that you have looked at the prospect’s site. Your prospect knows when you did not. Vague sentences and inaccurate guesses will get your email sent to the spam file.
5. Show your prospect how you might help. Telling your prospect “if you are already the best, that’s the only way you might not need me” (quote from a real query letter) sounds both tortured and arrogant. Tell your potential client how you can save time, effort, or resources. But do not criticize the prospect’s site. Making people wrong does not help your cause. It promises perfection, and that’s a hard promise to deliver.
6. Don’t talk just about yourself, don’t inflate your experience, don’t lie about your education. If you are a recent graduate, make sure you spell the name of the school or university you attended correctly. It’s easy not to believe any of your claims if you say you graduated from “Druke” University.
7. Don’t be too chummy. Yes, our culture is very informal, but query letters that start with “I know you are busy jamming your groove today, so I won’t take up too much of your time,” just took up too much of my time. So does, “You didn’t answer my last email so you must be way too busy to pay attention to a winner,” does not encourage my interest.
8. You don’t have to say you will work for free. And you don’t have to quote a price in the query letter. You should mention how you charge–by the article, by the hour, by the word. Leave the details until you have interest.
Keep your query email simple, engaging, and truthful, and be prepared to send out many emails to many people. It is hard to get a job writing, but persistence does pay off.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing, and is a creativity coach for writers and those who want to put their creativity to work. She is writing a book called The Invisible, Visible World.