How NOT to apply for freelance writing jobs

last week we advertised for a freelance writer for a large project which we just don’t have time to complete in-house.


To date I’d estimate we’ve had a couple of hundred responses at least. Many of those were from great writers, who had read the advert and replied to it by telling us how they could help us. It’s one of those writers who got the job.

What amazes me, though, is the sheer number of people who just don’t know how to apply for jobs, or who don’t seem to understand that they’re operating in a hugely competitive market, and that they really need to go the extra mile to stand out from the crowd.

For example, there were a lot of what were clearly just standard letters, which had been copied and pasted into an email. This is fine. I know people are applying to hundreds of jobs, and it would be very time consuming to write a personal response to each. But you know what? It’s the personal responses that stand out. Those are the ones that go onto the shortlist.

The standard letters, on the other hand… Well, some of them are fine. Others, though, had no real relevance to the project we were hiring for. They contained examples of writing which was entirely different to the type of thing we were advertising for – i.e. we were looking for article writers, they sent sales letters or short stories. These are very different types of writing. Just because you write a great short-story doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re also going to write great web content, which persuades people to buy things. If you send me a short story as an example of your writing, then, I could make a leap of faith and assume that you’ll also be able to write web content – but I’d much rather take a chance on the person who showed me examples of web content.

The same goes for the people who sent one line saying “send more details”. Now, don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with asking for more details. I’d be the first to admit that, in my haste to get the advert online, I could easily have missed out some pertinent fact. The thing is, though, if you need more details on the project before you can reply to it, it would really help me if you could specify exactly what it is you need to know. There’s no point in making me guess. All that means is that I waste my time writing you an email containing “more details” that I think might be of interest to you, and you don’t get the answer you were looking for, because I didn’t guess right.

Rather than keep on guessing what it is you need to know, I’m much more likely to just move on to the next person, who told me enough about themselves to allow me to make a decision on whether they were a close enough fit to what I was looking for.

These are all minor complaints, though. I have to say that the vast majority of responses we received were very impressive, and I have added a lot of names to my “freelancers I can call on in an emergency” list. So it’s all good. Thanks to everyone who applied – we’ll be back in touch if we have anything suitable for you in the future!