If you’re selling your writing services to others you are no doubt familiar with the ‘I’m throwing my hat in the ring’ email. This simple marketing tool is the combination resume slash cover letter that determines whether you’ll get a response from an editor. While you should tailor each individual email to the publication and position you’re applying for you can save loads of time by streamlining the application process with a customize-able template email.
If you’re wondering where you can find writing jobs, I’ve compiled a list of job boards worth bookmarking for you.
My template email is nowhere near perfect and as a living document it’s always evolving, but I’m going to share it with you so you can see the different sections, the format and style, and where you should be making alterations to personalize your message. And if you guys have your own templates or advice on emails that land you work, we’d all love to see them in the comments.
Format and Style
The first things I want you to notice about the email are the length and the amount of negative space. The paragraphs are kept short, as is the length of the email itself. No editor wants to open your email and see pages of unending text. My email clocks in at around three hundred words so that the recipient should be able to see the end of my email without scrolling. Changing paragraphs often and adding bullets increases the readability of the message as well and helps keep the editors attention. Remember, this person is probably receiving hundreds of these emails. Leave the impression that you value their time.
#1 – Subject Line
Not always, but commonly enough, a job posting will designate a phrase to include or use as the subject line for your email. Make sure you check each and every listing when titling your emails. Failing to follow this simple direction will automatically get your email deleted. It’s that simple. Editors and publishers include this requirement to automatically narrow the competition…and the number of emails they have to slosh through. You’ll also need to include any other information they request. This may include links to your work, your rate for the assignment, or how many pieces you feel comfortable completing each week. You’ll need to show that you can follow directions. Bottom line.
#2 – Opening Lines
I’m sure there’s something wittier than ‘Hi there!’ but I felt it was more personal than ‘My name is Kristy and I’m a freelance writer’. (Everyone together: Hi, Kristy.) Depending on the type of job I’m applying for, this greeting changes and becomes formal. It also changes if I know the name of the person receiving the email. Sometimes it will be included in the email address or somewhere within the job posting itself.
In emails to formally-toned companies (think financial sites, corporate content creation, anywhere that gives a professional vibe) this entire opening paragraph would be reworked. The parenthesis would be eliminated, while keeping the text. The word portfolio would become resume.
To customize the opening further, replace ‘my interests’ with something more specific: my knowledge of the hospitality industry, my work with local homeless shelters, my experience researching case studies or my interview abilities can show the editor why you’re the most qualified for the job.
The last line (in parenthesis) is a great way to showcase your best work if you don’t have clips directly related to the topic or position you’re applying to write about. In the template, if a possible client is looking for research-driven blog content about sustainable agriculture and its effect on the current food system, but you’ve never written on the topic you can still highlight your aptitude to both research and write stimulating blog content.
When targeting a specific position, change the focus of your samples (and the phrases in your opening paragraph) to highlight your ability and experience with the requirements of the job. Blog content becomes feature pieces. Research-driven writing becomes advertising copy. Interview skills. Scientifically-sourced. What have you done that shows your ability to succeed in this position? Hint at your abilities here, we’ll showcase them later.
#3 – If You Got ‘Em, Smoke ‘Em
Before beginning my digital writing career, I worked as a reporter for two local papers. It wasn’t investigative journalism but I learned to interview, meet a deadline, and got some good clips. The thing is, both magazine and blog/content editors see journalism and newspaper reporting as a highly respectable addition to your experience. I read this advice years ago in a complete guide for dipshits book and went for it.
If you’d like to add reporter to your resume, stop in at your local newspaper office and ask to meet with an editor or make a future appointment. If you have business cards or a portfolio of printed work, bring it with you. If you’re somewhat inexperienced, skip the big-city paper and find a smaller publication that serves a nearby village or town. You’ll have a better chance at being given a shot to prove yourself. If you have a digital camera, offer to submit photographs to accompany your articles, as this can sometimes be a deal-maker.
My experience as a journalist leads the editor to a link that opens my professional website where I showcase my printed work, a list of articles I’ve written with links to them online, and my full resume. I cannot stress the importance of building a website for your writing business enough. Especially if you have a blog, there is no excuse not to. You know how. You don’t necessarily need hosting. Chances are a free site will meet your needs and having a professional site can help you track the amount of traffic you’re generating with these emails. It also shows editors and hiring agents that you are a genuine writer with skills and experience, not someone hoping to land a job working in their pajamas…though that is a bonus.
#4 – Show Your Availability And Drop Some Names
While I don’t have statistics to back this, I’m pretty sure hiring agents show greater interest in writers who are already working. While I don’t come out and state my open availability, I do mention any work that is winding down or projects that are ending. This also gives me the opportunity to name-drop my current clients and assignments. Okay, name-drop might be overselling it (though if you got ’em, smoke ’em). I’ll admit that Scribblrs is a young blog and the name doesn’t carry much sway, but I include it to show that I’m professional, employable, and a working writer looking to increase her workload.
If you’re not currently working, you can skip these opening lines and instead mention the last project you (recently) completed to show your open availability. (Or get that reporter gig and combine #3 and #4.) If you have neither of these to share, skip straight to the last line. You could also include it at the end of the previous paragraph:
You can view my print and digital articles, along with my full resume, on my website and below I’ve highlighted three (check how many they want) samples of my work that show exceptional blank blank blank:
Your blanks might show something other than post format, research, and voice, and depending on the job description you should change these blanks to highlight any relevant experience. This is where you reinforce the claims you made about your clips in the first paragraph. Ask yourself exactly what skills this position requires, then list those attributes you’ve cultivated and can show with your work.
#5 – Show What You’ve Got
First, let me say that if you have clips demonstrating your experience with the subject matter of the position (this works well when creating blog content), highlight it here because it bolsters your credibility. Repeated work with a subject will help you land future work in the same field. Purposely building a niche or specialty is a powerful career plan.
The first clip on my list is a current fixture for applying to blog content positions. It’s new and it carries a recognizable and popular blog that creates social validation in the hiring agent. They see Forbes or Upworthy and are immediately assured of your ability and professionalism. If your work has been featured at an impressive publication, relates to the position you’re applying for, and isn’t ancient, you should be highlighting it. If you’d like to learn more about pursuing clips that will build your career (and the caliber of your clientele) I’ve got you covered.
Since I didn’t have any agricultural clips outside of my own blog (but spend my free time watching homesteading videos) I highlighted my ability to create engaging blog content and research a topic thoroughly…and added a somewhat-related clip from my site to show my on-going interest in the subject matter: all aspects that were mentioned as desirable in the job listing, especially the interest in sustainable food production. There is also a short synopsis of how each clip relates to the skills needed to be successful in the position.
Obviously, whether I get this gig or not, I’ll be pitching an editor somewhere an article idea in the sustainability and agricultural market. Then I’ll use the clip to add credibility and experience to future positions that explore these subjects. You can do the same. Identify your interests and passions, then proactively create a portfolio that lands you work in that field.
#6 – Corporate Validation And Your Thoughts
I’d like to hear your thoughts on this paragraph as to whether you think it’s relevant. I state why I’ve included it, though it’s irrelevant to the position, but do bloggers and editors care that I contribute to corporate projects or that I have experience writing sales copy? Personally, I compare corporate work to industrial-grade writing. I’m not a hobbyist and am familiar with 1099’s is what this section says, which adds social and professional validation.
#7 – Skills, Upcoming Publication, And Blogs
I choose not to list every program I’ve ever opened as a skill, though a comprehensive list could be a useful addition to your website (you could link from some text here) and if a job listing specifies experience with certain programs (or other skills), I will mention my abilities.
Because I focus on content creation positions (many of these blogs) I mention my familiarity with WordPress and give links to my blogs, which verify that ability and showcase lots of my writing. Depending on how my blogs relate to the position, I may expand on this in the final paragraph. (Blogging in a niche you’re pursuing is another way to direct your growing career and create clips.)
If you have any accepted articles awaiting their publication dates you can mention them here. They might not be clips yet but take advantage of a couple that are either closely related to the position you’re applying for or are for well-known publications.
#8 – Give ‘Em What They Want
The job listing for this position repeatedly mentioned their preference for a writer with an interest in the subject. Hence this paragraph. I might have gone overboard. That is one long-ass sentence and in hindsight I should have done more editing, but it shows my understanding of the impact sustainable farming and local food systems could have in improving many current challenges. If a job listing stresses the importance of being knowledgable, having a certain amount of experience, or holding a degree be sure to include how or why you meet this criteria.
#9 – Salutations
Again, this may vary depending on the formality of the position but my salutations are pretty standard. Obviously, I haven’t set a signature for my emails. Depending on your service, you can attach your latest blog post, a web address, your email, pretty much anything to your signature and insert it instead of typing it each time.
Speaking of service features, I recently switched my email service. My old service (for which I have an email attached to my website, giving me an @ricekristytreats.com email address) did not offer the ability to embed links into the text of my messages. Drove me nuts and my emails looked like shit. You should have an email address attached to your professional website…and using Google Business Email (or Gmail for Work) lets you add links to your text.
Tips For Tracking Submissions
If you’re trying to fill your availability and are sending even five to ten emails a day, half-way through day one you won’t remember which one is which or what it paid or how many articles they expect a week, not to mention the word count.
Because of this, I bookmark the job listings I’ve applied for and keep them in a folder. This helps me easily locate the position’s details and the pay rates stated in the original want ad. I’ve finally stepped away from using a spreadsheet to track submissions and begun bookmarking. The downfall is that if the ad is taken down, expires, or is deleted it becomes nothing more than a dead link. If you prefer a spreadsheet, I’ve created a template and included it in the blogger toolkit.