So times are tough. That’s been established. What are you going to do about it? A lot of people have taken to Craigslist, searching for odd, temporary, or freelance gigs to get them through the holiday season with heat and electricity. Many of those able to work from home are even cleverly scanning the telecommuting gigs in other, more populated cities. Regardless of your skills and expertise, there are some things you should know to include — or exclude — from your emails to employers. Everyone knows the obvious ‘don’t call the company by the wrong name in your copypasta email template’, but there are a few subtler tips to help you put a respectable edge on your resume. Here are five things to avoid when applying for freelance jobs.
Using Irrelevant Samples
Be prepared to reply to each ad with a response that is catered to that specific company. While this may be tiring when applying to multiple companies a day, it’s best to avoid copy and pasted cheat sheet emails. The biggest case against the copy/pasted email is that misinformation will often be accidentally sent to one company or more. You may be applying to a number of stiff, all-business companies looking for a social media guru, but that template probably won’t work for the quirky startup who wants a fun and interesting candidate. Even small differences, like mentioning the fact that you have a car, can make it obvious that you copy and pasted — especially if the company never mentions the need for a vehicle.
If you have samples to send, make sure they’re relevant. It may be a good idea to split your online portfolio into sections, if this applies to you. Just like you wouldn’t send your personal blog to a college as part of a student application, it may not be appropriate for the financial firm looking for a website copywriter. On the other hand, you want to avoid sending samples of your business writing in response to an ad for women’s lifestyle bloggers.
Making sure your samples are relevant can make a world of difference in your job application; don’t try to make the employer imagine what your work would be like in their field. Show them what you’re capable of doing in a relevant area; not only will the employer be more likely to hire you because they don’t have to decipher your work, but you will seem more competent and understanding as well. If you’re starting out or don’t have a heavy track record, it’s okay. Try and mock up some samples which you think would be relevant to the types of jobs you’re applying to. Starting out in the field of creative writing? Create some short stories or articles which sound like they would best represent you when being presented to a potential employer.
RE: Your Email’s Subject
When applying to a number of jobs, the brain can become exhausted — especially when it comes to creativity. But unless a listing asks for you to respond with a specific subject line (such as “Editor Applicant, November”), it may be best to get a little inventive.
With a mailbox full of applicants who use the Craigslist ad’s title as their subject line, you can make your email stand out simply by spicing up your headline — which is the first thing anyone is going to read about you. Instead of “Designers Wanted for December” try responding with something a little more personal or specific. You want to stay professional, so avoid using exclamation points, misspellings, or silly characters. A good option in this case might be “Designer w. 8 Years Exp at Disney” or “Quirky Designer Experienced w Children’s Books” — whatever is relevant to the job at hand.
If you’re feeling sluggish after a slew of applications, don’t rush. It’s okay to take an extra hour or two to refresh your mind.
It’s always good to have questions — it means you’re interested and want to be informed. However, make sure those questions don’t interfere with your application. It’s never a good idea to respond to an ad asking questions before sending your resume; employers don’t have time to engage you in a conversation before they know anything about you — they’re hiring you, not the other way around. This is especially true of coveted positions which can garner hundreds of resumes per opportunity. A short, incomplete email will get lost in the abyss.
Is the position still available? When was this posted? Can you tell me more? What’s the company called? I will only do this for X amount of dollars more than you’re offering — can we work something out?
If it’s still listed, assume it’s fair game. Check the date on the top of the ad. Prepare to learn more upon receiving a response, and don’t expect an insta-raise before you’re even hired.
Looking for information is a great way to protect and prepare yourself, but save the questions for the bottom of your application and at least include your resume for the employer. Otherwise, you look somewhat uninterested and a little arrogant, which are both great qualities for earning a place in the trash bin.
You published two novels. You designed an entire book. You acted in an entire play which, quite frankly, paid more than what this guy is offering you now. Your accomplishments are undoubtedly something to be proud of, but be careful how you portray that pride.
There is a delicate balance between sounding qualified, sounding overqualified, and sounding somewhat arrogant. While you want your employer to know about your background and achievements, you don’t want to sound like you’re too good for the job.
Responding to a design job and immediately rattling off a string of awards and accomplishments in the first sentence of your email is not a good idea. Firstly, your work will speak for itself. Whether it be writing, design, art, performance, or social media, your track record speaks volumes. Then comes your resume, and finally, your cover letter. Although you may want to repeat the shiniest bullet points from your resume in the cover letter, try not to cram everything into the first sentence.
It’s especially a bad idea to tell the employer that others have paid you more than they are offering, unless that person is asking for you to provide your rates. Without a question of rates, talking about how much you were compensated for your last job sounds a little cocky and can be off-putting.
Not Following Directions
You may think this is a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many people fail to follow simple directions. Whether it be because the person didn’t read the whole ad, forgot a part of the instructions, or merely doesn’t think directions are imperative to the job, straying off the path is never a good idea. The employer wants what the employer wants, and with so many applications, the hungry job hunter better follow instructions or move on.
Not following directions can make the applicant look rude or a little dull around the edges — neither of which are good for business. Make sure to read the entire ad, especially if it’s longer than usual; companies will sometimes hide little bits of info (such as “put the date in your subject line”) just to see if you’re paying attention and being thorough.