ABCs of Freelance Writing: L is for Letter

mailboxIn my not-so-humble opinion, freelance writers need to master writing a few things right out of the gate: the query letter, the letter of introduction and the cover letter. No, you won’t necessarily use all three of these things all the time. But when it’s time to whip one out, you don’t want to be fumbling and bumbling all over yourself.

Every freelancer needs to reach out to new clients from time to time. It might be to replace income lost from a project that’s ending. It might be to find higher paying gigs to make ends meet. Or it might be to to build a more impressive resume and break into new industries.

Each of these letters gives you a different way to approach a potential client. Just pick the one that’s right for the client you have in your sights, and send it along posthaste. The thing you don’t want to do is get hung up on writing one of these letters when you still have projects in the queue for current clients.

Time is money, let’s not get in the habit of wasting it, m’kay?

The Query Letter

Querying in a nutshell: The query letter is a brief proposal or pitch you use to try and sell your writing ideas.

When to use the query letter: Most of the time you’ll use query letters to solicit magazine editors and literary agents before you write an article or book. This query process can be extremely beneficial for writers. Why? Because if you don’t get any takers, you don’t waste otherwise billable hours writing a piece you can’t sell.

To get started: View a sample letter on How to Write a Query Letter and read Janet Reid’s list of query no-nos.

The Letter of Introduction

Intro letters in a nutshell: The letter of introduction (LOI) introduces you to an editor or client, highlighting the awesome reasons why they should come to you every time they need a freelance writer.

When to use it: Write LOIs when you’re looking to get your foot in the door with a new client. The major difference between the introduction letter and the query letter is that in the former you are touting your general awesomeness while in the latter you are touting the brilliance of a specific idea.

To get started: Learn why the letter of introduction matters to freelancers and learn how to use  templates while still ensuring your LOI doesn’t read like a form letter.

The Cover Letter

Cover letters in a nutshell: A cover letter is used to clarify or explain other supporting documents. For freelancers, the cover letter highlights important details included on your resume and introduces your supporting clips.

When to use it: Send a cover letter with your resume and writing samples (if requested) in response to an advertisement for a specific freelance writing job or project.

To get started: Scour the Cover Letter Clinic posts and comments for useful information on improving your freelance cover letters. (Because it’s hard to navigate the entire clinic from the actual site, you might want to use these follow-up links: Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, Day 7.)

If you use templates wisely and fine tune all three of these letters ahead of time, you can send them out without disrupting your workflow. They key to attracting new business without losing valuable time is streamlining the process.

Photo credit: dancerinthedark


This post is part of the ABCs of Freelance Writing series. See the full index of posts here.

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0 thoughts on “ABCs of Freelance Writing: L is for Letter

  1. Stacia Rogan says:

    Thanks, Emily.  I just submitted for my first two freelancing gigs using information in this post.  Do you have any posts about dealing with that whole waiting period?  I’m not the most patient girl…

  2. These are incredibly helpful tips. I admit to being a bit mind-boggled by the query letter, how to write it, when to send it, etc. Bookmarking this for future reference.

    So glad I’ve discovered you! 

  3. Excellent ideas. Have to admit I’ve never given this much thought. Freelance might be the way to go for me, I just wish I had more time to devote to my writing. Working a full-time job has its disadvantages.

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