9 Rookie Blunders that Will Cost You Freelance Gigs

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on September 21, 2012 in Freelance Writing Jobs
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by Marya Jan

Ever wonder why you never hear back from the jobs you apply to?

If you have done everything right, chances are that you are not the best fit for the position – maybe they can’t afford you or maybe they are looking for something else. Or, they have found someone even better.

If that’s the case, at least you rest knowing that you did everything right. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t simply meant to be.

But sometimes, you just don’t know. You wonder if there was something you did or didn’t do. Let me walk you through the obvious and most painful mistakes that can cost you gigs.

You should always start the process by doing your homework first. Begin by doing some basic Googling. Find out the kind of company, organization or publication you are applying to. Read through the application to thoroughly understand their job requirements.


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If you still don't get the gig, here are some mistakes you might have made.

1. You didn’t send a cover letter.

Unless they tell you specifically, always send a cover letter which serves as your job application letter.

Never, ever send in a copy/paste (generic) response. If you have spent some time researching the company, you should be able to put a brief, decent cover letter tailor-made to a specific opening.

Discover what your client is looking for, what their goals are, and how you are going to help achieve them.

2. Your pitch was too long.

Remember the person you are dealing with is busy and he will appreciate a direct pitch rather than an overly detailed one. Keep it brief. Send an email or a letter rather than trying to call them or meet in person (unless the job listing says otherwise or you're making cold calls from your own marketing list).

3. Your pitch contained typos.

It goes without saying that you should double or even triple check all your material to prevent them from leaving your hand with any errors.

This includes typos, grammatical errors and any other glaring mistakes such as getting the name of your contact or their company wrong, or addressing them as Mr when they are in fact a Ms.

I know it's hard to restrain yourself from quickly shooting an email for a position that looks perfect – and I am guilty of doing just that. Holding off for a while will help you catch any errors that bypassed your earlier attempts. You don’t want the person on the other side to stop reading just because they are put off by seeing one little mistake.

4. You showed a lack of enthusiasm.

Avoid making half hearted attempts at applying at jobs --  your prospective client can tell, believe me. They can smell a lukewarm attempt a mile off.

You’d be better off by being selective about the positions you pursue and spending more time on each application. Alternatively, don’t come across as desperate. There is a fine line between sounding interested and signaling desperation, so tread carefully.

5. You failed to sell yourself.

Sell yourself. Tell them exactly why you are an ideal match. Explain the value that you bring to the table.

Identify how you are different. Do you specialize in their niche and have insider knowledge that gives you an edge? Do  you currently work in the same field? Have you just finished similar kind of work and you can boast about great results?

Don’t be shy, but don’t be over confident and brag about your accomplishments either. Strive for balance.

6. You sent poor samples.

Any claims that you made in your application – be prepared to back them up.


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If you say you have written for so and so company, send a relevant sample. If you have published content online, send them a link.

The biggest mistake you can make here is to attach samples that don’t mean anything to them. Select your best ones and the ones that your client will find useful.

That brings us to our next point. The perfect place to show all that proof – testimonials, links and your portfolio – is your writer’s website.

7. You don’t have a writer’s website.

It is hard to believe that, in this day and age, some writers still need convincing on the value of having a decent, professional website.

You must have one, there are no ifs and buts around it. Lack of one puts you in a less than perfect position. You don’t want to give others a chance to wonder why you don’t have one or what are you not telling them.

Invest in a fairly professional looking site and start getting active on social media. A dubious social media presence won’t earn you any favors.

8. You brought money into the equation too soon.

Your first point of contact is to capture your prospect’s interest. Now is not the time to talk money, length of the project or any other details.

Unless the client has asked for your rates, stay away from mentioning money. If you have to, present ballpark quotes and specify that you quote your prices based on individual project needs. Get a first response before you talk money.

9. You forgot to follow up.

If you don’t hear back in a week or two, it never hurts to follow up. This is a classy thing to do and shows that you are really serious about helping them. It also helps separate you from the rest of the pack.

Remember to sound professional, keep it brief and refrain from begging. Which is of course anything but professional.

So there you have it in a nutshell -- everything than can possibly go wrong on your application, and everything that you can fix before the application leaves your end.

What would you add to this list?

About the Author

Marya Jan is a blog coach and a content creator for Open Colleges, which features writing courses. She can be found helping small business owners revamp their blog content at Writing Happiness. Grab her free ebook How to Write Blog Content that Works.

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