In the traditional brick & mortar workplace, cover letters may often get skimmed over or ignored altogether unless you really make a hash of it. Then it gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. However, due to the rise in online employment, cover letters have become more important than ever in securing clients and winning bids. Going from the traditional office job to work-at-home gigs can change the rules.
No Face-to-Face Interviews
Why are cover letters suddenly so important? Since many freelancers work from the comfort of their own homes (or the nearest wi-fi coffee shop), meeting the client in person is a rare thing. If you are 5000 miles away from your target audience, you’re not likely ever to meet them. All your potential clients know about you is what you give them. With that in mind, give them something to wow over! The cover letter is your chance to get their attention, and then convince them that they can’t afford NOT to hire you.
Highlight your strongest skills
No one reads everything completely without first scanning. If you don’t see something that catches your eye during the initial scan, you probably won’t be bothered to continue reading in depth. Think about when you go to the bookstore. Logic tells you that you can’t stay all day. What little time you have isn’t enough to read every book that kindles your interest, either. What are you going to go for? Something that can grab your attention in less than a minute, then keep it. Much like the first page of that book, your cover letter is the first thing the prospective client will see from you. Use it to set yourself apart from the “canned” cover letters. After a brief introduction to gain your target’s attention, highlight your expertise and anything specific to what THIS client is looking for. A cover letter which is tailored to the specific job bid in question shows you understand what is desired and are eager to provide it.
Link to sample work
More often than not in web work, you will send your cover letter via the internet. Take a few sentences to link to some samples of your work that are similar or relevant to the job you are bidding for. You can make them bullet points to keep the cover letter clean and easy to scan. If you don’t have any published works available online, consider setting up a portfolio website to showcase your work. YOU know what you can do, but someone who has never met you or worked with you needs proof that you are what they’re looking for.
Avoid scheduling conflicts
If you’re like me, you have other obligations and clients to take care of. A single sentence in your cover letter detailing hours of availability can save you and your client time and avoid potential frustration. Be flexible where you can, and make that clear. This kind of foresight can even win over a client to offer you a later bid, even if time constraints rule you out for the current job. Busy people like when you respect their time, and don’t waste it.
Get your creative juices flowing
Spotted at an intersection:
A man holding a cardboard sign and asking for money. His sign said “I won’t lie, I need a drink”. Ignoring for the moment the sad social commentary, how well do you think he did? You might be surprised. He got three or four times the attention of the other panhandlers on that same intersection. Why? Creative marketing. Those who weren’t impressed by his sheer honesty had to at least respect that he had a new approach we had not seen before. Back to what I said about getting a potential client’s attention in the cover letter- be creative! Don’t do this. Think of an introductory sentence that will snap someone out of that mental fog caused by endless cover letters and resumes. Make a clear, concise statement which will make an impact and ensure that your cover letter gets read AND remembered.