Writing a cover letter can be a daunting task for even the most seasoned job hunter. Each cover letter, just like the resume, should be personalized and should focus on the specific job. Mentioning the qualities, experiences, and characteristics requested in the job ad, and describing your specific match to those needs, is one way to do this. The cover letter is most often submitted via email, directly within the body of the mail, and is generally in response to blind jobs such as those often found in freelance writing job lists.
But don't worry if you're stuck. Here's an example of a cover letter interspersed with tips and how-tos. Look for the italics for more information and specific hints.
Know Who You're Addressing
If possible, always use the proper name of the person in charge of hiring. If you are unsure who that may be, try calling the company or going through online to find the hiring manager:
Dearest Sandra Columbia,
A Great Introduction Is Key
Treat your cover letter like any other piece of writing—it should grab the reader's attention immediately. Notice below, the first word of the sentence is NOT the word "I" or the phrase "I am" or "I have." The focus here is not on you. It is on the needs of the person hiring the writer.
You need a reporter and correspondent with their finger on the pulse of politics in Minnesota. You need a writer who is accustomed to working virtually on short-term, targeted reporting projects. You also need a contractor who is adept at social media and community management.
All these were taken from the job listing, although not verbatim. They are my spin on the needs listed in the ads.
I currently write for the Big Name Network
Always lead with your current client or experience that most matches their needs, or with your most-recognizable "big name" client.
My site at www.hyperlink.com nets approximately 500K hits per month. Managing this site includes providing blog copy, newsletters and articles. The Big Name Network hires for this site in one-year contracts; my contract has been renewed five times. They provide their writers with exceptional training in journalistic integrity, SEO and social media.
Again, all these points should be taken from the ad and massaged according to your interpretation and how the needs match your skills. The next paragraphs are going to include secondary clients and experiences. Only include those that are necessary to meet requirements from the ad—everyone's busy, so keep it short.
I also write for three national-level trade publications and two regional glossies. My editors are quite pleased with my work, and have provided me with references and recommendations both on my own site and on LinkedIn (of course, the LinkedIn reference is linked to your profile).
As far as politics reporting, I work for two Minnesota-based organizations. Organization One is a communications firm, and my contract is funded by a Big Name Charity grant.
I am also a managing editor for Important Political Magazine, a publication focused on social justice and education in Minnesota. I assign and edit political pieces, and do some clean-up reporting myself.
Notice the direct mention of specific duties. You know where those duties came from, right? The original job ad!
These two clients have set me up with many connections that I can put to work for you, immediately connecting me with the constituency you are trying to reach and producing the content you that best targets them here in Minnesota.
Set Up Your Expectations
End with a positive, forward-looking action item:
I would like to schedule a moment to talk to you about specific ideas I have for your Example Section, which I was perusing on your website. I'd welcome a call or an email from you to do so soon. Thank you kindly for your consideration.
This letter may be a little long in the fast-and-furious freelance writing job world, but it does cover many of the major points that you'll need to hit to compete in that world.
In addition to the advice above, be sure to include the pieces and documents asked for in the ad—your first shot at following directions. This often includes samples, salary requirements, and references. Some ads may specifically ask for the writer to forego a cover and supply a short paragraph instead. The concept here is the same: Focus on the employer's needs, and how your past experiences match those needs.
Best of luck to you! Now, go write!