When you reply to freelance job ads, you’re often competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of other people on the same mission.
Here are some tips to help you improve the results of your freelance job search.
Provide What’s Requested
If you’re going to reply to an ad, do what’s asked of you. That seems like common sense, but one of the major mistakes freelancers make is not following instructions in an ad.
If an ad asks for five samples, don’t send 10. If the ad says to only send links to samples of your work, don’t send a long cover letter and resume.
Slamming a prospective client with a lot of extra stuff can backfire. You may think it shows you’ll go the extra mile, but really it shows that you think you know what’s best and you have a problem listening.
On the flip side, don’t omit things that a prospective client asks for.
If they request samples, don’t decide that you’re only going to send your resume. If the prospective client asks for a list of ideas, don’t decide that you’ll do this if and when they show interest in your offer. Many clients won’t show any interest because they won’t give any thought to you as a candidate for the job.
When an ad specifies what you need to send, do it. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Address a Need
Every time you respond to a freelance job ad, make it a rule to repeat or reply to one topic that’s raised in the ad.
For example, if the ad says the company needs someone to write three to five blog posts a month. Specifically, state that you can write three to five blog posts.
If the ad says the company needs someone who can be reached at certain times of day, reply with, I understand you need someone who is available from 6 to 9 a.m…
Repeating and addressing the prospective client’s needs lets them know that you thoroughly read the ad, that your focus is on providing what they need and that you aren’t mass applying.
Limit Unique Samples
If you’re going create freelance work samples for specific job ads, choose wisely and don’t spend too much time.
Recently, The Motley Fool, a finance site, posted a job ad for an editor/analyst. I started to add it to the weekly jobs list, but I didn’t because of their request for a sample.
“As part of your application,” they wanted you to “pick one of the companies below and write an interesting and analytically sound article (around 500-800 words).” Oh, and by the way, they also wanted you to include links to your sources.
The Motley Fool has been around far too long to pull stunts like this.
I don’t write samples for a number of reasons, and one is because it takes too much time. Researching and writing an 800-word finance article could take all day, if not more than a day. That’s too much to invest in one job opening with a company that hasn’t expressed any interest in working with you.
It makes no sense to work for hours or a day just to have your application deemed worthy of consideration and you don’t know if it will get read. It’s better to use that time applying for more jobs.
Make a Record of Your Submissions
Make a record of what positions you have applied for and keep track of the contact names and important details from the ad. That includes things like the type of work they’re requesting, additional responsibilities, and the pay rate they offered. For best results, screenshot or copy and paste the entire ad.
A lot of times you’ll need that information later. But people commonly remove their ads once they start narrowing down the freelancers they want to work. And, on some sites, like Craigslist and certain job boards, the ads expire after a certain amount of time.
When I started freelancing, there were times when I got responses and the people referenced something they wrote in the ad, but I had no idea specifically who they were or what they were referring to. And in many cases, I either didn’t know how to find the ad again or it wasn’t available anymore.
In a case like that, you have two choices. You can operate in the blind, basically agreeing to whatever the prospective client says, which could get you into a deep mess. Or you can find a polite way to say, Sorry, remind me who you are again and which job you’re referring to. And trust me, that’s not a good look.
Save Your Replies
You may have heard that you should tailor your resume and cover letters for different positions. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch each time.
Keep copies of your cover letters and resumes so you can rework them. Doing so will allow you to apply quicker, respond to more ads and save you time. It also helps on days when you’re trying to apply for freelance jobs but the words aren’t flowing.
Don’t apply and just hope for a response. Apply and follow-up.
People who hire freelancers often get more emails than they will read. There’s a chance yours could be one of them.
Even if prospective clients did see your email, checking back allows you to get your name in front of them twice. And, as we all know, repetition is often a very good friend.