Cover letters are the Rorschach test of the hiring process. What is included — or left off — in a cover letter can make or break a job candidate, regardless of the industry.
In a 2020 survey by ResumeGo, researchers found that 87% of hiring managers actually read cover letters, and 65% said that cover letters directly influenced who to interview and who to hire.
Freelance writers applying for jobs on a hiring platform often write these cover letters multiple times each day. In this case, they’re called proposals.
When a professional writer is applying for multiple jobs each day, spending hours creating these proposals can seem tedious, especially if you’re not winning every job you’ve written a proposal for. However, the difference between hiring a candidate and ignoring them often starts with the proposal.
Start by considering how many you’re writing each day. Are you sending proposals for every job you find on a platform or only the ones you feel most qualified?
While the “buckshot” approach might feel like you’re more likely to hit one if you shoot for more, it also comes with negative consequences. For writers who send the same proposals for each job, editors with multiple writing opportunities will start recognizing the same name with the same proposal each time. This can mean they’ll start to ignore those proposals each time they come up, and the time the freelancer spent even copying and pasting the same information is wasted.
Whether you’re starting out as a professional writer or are a seasoned veteran, your proposal writing can make or break your chances on a good freelance platform.
What Makes a Good Proposal
Let’s go back to the ResumeGo survey for a minute. When asked about specificity in a cover letter, 81% of the managers surveyed said they “value cover letters tailored to their specific company and job opening significantly more than generic cover letters.”
The same goes for job proposals. Professional writers should take the time to tailor a proposal to the job posted.
While writers can’t see what other applicants are writing in their proposals, you never want to be the one to ignore a hiring editor’s notes and information in your proposal. That would be immediate grounds to ignore your proposal and move on to the next writer.
Reading the full job brief is essential. Take the extra time to research the industry or company (if a company name is provided). It’s important that your proposal not ignore what’s necessary to complete the entire project.
Make sure that your proposal is free of errors, both grammatical and factual. A proposal that hasn’t seen the light of spellcheck at the most basic level can be an immediate turnoff for an editor. Proposals filled with errors convey that an editor can’t trust a writer to produce good work.
What to Include in a Proposal
Now that you know that you’ll want to tailor each proposal for each job you’d like to apply for, how do you know what you’ll actually need?
Relevant writing experience: If you have written in the industry before, say that. If you have experience with the tone or audience noted, say that, too.
Emphasize your strengths: Even if you haven’t written for a specific industry or company, you can still win a job if you emphasize your vital attributes. Let’s say this job needs a quick turnaround, and your background is in newspaper deadline writing. For editors seeking brand journalists, the ability to hit deadlines is essential. One or two sentences about how you work on a deadline could make a difference.
Make your tone professional: Keep your tone and voice professional unless specifically asked to. Simply stating, “I want the job” probably isn’t enough to get you hired, especially in a crowded field of applicants. Even if you have a great relationship with an editor or hiring manager, they need to know that you can be counted on to follow through on the assignment.
Relevant writing samples: Your profile on a writer marketplace already has links to your best writing samples. When writing a proposal, include updated samples that show work related to the industry. Attaching recent work also shows a content editor that you’ve read the brief. If the job post is for a whitepaper and your profile has only blog samples, including a whitepaper sample shows that you’ve read the job description.
How to Structure Your Proposal
While it’s easy to compare a freelance writing proposal to a cover letter metaphorically, there is one big difference: size. You don’t need your proposal to equal the length of a cover letter (4-5 paragraphs). Maintaining succinct writing — about 100-200 words — is vital to being memorable while conveying necessary information for the editor.
- Create a catchy opening paragraph
- Reinforce your strengths for this particular assignment
- Include relevant experience or links
- Develop a Call To Action about why you’re the best candidate
Proposal templates are OK; submitting a generic template is not. So, consider this structure as you create your modifiable template. You want to ensure that you’re identifying why you’re best for that job as you apply for it, not submitting the same words repeatedly.
That said, be sure not to leave blanks or Xs that you meant to fill in later when submitting your proposal; read it for content and grammar before you submit it.
Win the Job With a Winning Proposal
As a full-time professional writer, your business depends on a winning proposal. Freelance writers can use proposals as a way to demonstrate their abilities as a writer and convey why they’re the best candidate for the job.
Sloppy writing, generic copy-and-paste content and not reading the job description are pitfalls that fail good writers. Showing a hiring editor that you care about the job and are the most capable candidate is as simple as taking the time to write the right proposal.
PowerPublish is a marketplace platform that matches brand journalists with marketing professionals and eliminates the headaches of ordering content. It’s free for expert writers to join, and there are no fees to write proposals or accept jobs. Editors and marketing professionals know they can count on PowerPublish writers to create the best content, starting by showing them the best writer for the job.