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Responding to Online Ads For Writers Works!

Guest article by Kristen King

When I started freelancing, I had great experience and solid skills, but very little in my portfolio to help me get work. Rather than wallow in self-pity of the “I’ll never be a successful freelancer!” nature, I built up my business - and my résumé -  with jobs I found on Craigslist (www.craigslist.org). Now that I’ve got two years of freelance experience under my belt and several regular clients, I still use CL when my calendar is empty, and even sometimes when it’s not.

I hear a lot of freelancers complain that CL jobs are all low-paying and, thus, a waste of their time. Frankly, a lot of them are - but not all of them. I do only CL jobs that pay well. My very first one was for $40 an hour, and that’s the absolute lowest I’ve ever gone. Since then, they’ve been mostly in the range of $65 to $85 an hour and higher. The jobs are there - you just have to know how to land them.

Regular Job Searches Required

Check hotspots (places where you typically find a lot of good possibilities) every day or every other day and respond immediately. If you’re responding to ads that are more than a few days old (or, in some cities, even a few hours old), the position has already been filled-- or they’ve gotten a ton of responses and there are 500 people ahead of you in the advertiser’s inbox.   

You can also get leads on CL jobs without having to wade through the listings yourself, by visiting job sites like Deborah Ng’s Freelance Writing Jobs  or subscribing to a newsletter like Anne Wayman’s Abundant Writing News.  Several Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups also provide job listings for various areas of expertise. 

Once you get a feel for how the whole CL thing works, you’ll find a system that’s right for you. Although I do use shortcuts like Deborah’s site and Anne’s newsletter, I also visit CL myself to hit up the listings under the major cities. Once I find something that sounds good, I use the “e-mail this posting to a friend” option to send any possibilities to myself. Then I sit down for 30 minutes or an hour and blast out the replies using a couple of form letters I’ve created for various types of work. 

How You Respond Makes the Difference

When you respond to an ad via e-mail, your first impression starts with the subject line. It has to be more eye-catching than “Your Craigslist Ad.” If you start selling yourself from the very first point of contact, your chances of landing the gig improve immensely.  Tailor your subject line to the ad: “Awesome Editor Available Immediately”; “Killer Copywriter for Your New Website”; or “I’ll Make Your Manuscript Flawless.”
Once you get past the subject line and into the body of the e-mail, this is not the time to be modest. Tell the potential client exactly why you’re the best person for the job. If you’re not sure yet, tell her exactly why you’re the best person for most jobs and then tell her that you’d love to learn about exactly what she’s looking for.
Your writing should demonstrate whatever skills you claim to have. If the advertiser wants someone with good grammar, yours should be impeccable. If he needs someone who can write snappy copy, your letter better snap like crazy. If he’s looking for a humor writer, it’s okay to be a little funnier or a little more casual than you might be when replying to an ad looking for someone to write an annual report for a huge corporation.   

Of Resumes, Samples and Closes Oh My

Have an awesome résumé. It doesn’t have to contain a lot in it to be awesome, but it needs to highlight your strengths and make you sound like someone the advertiser can’t live without. Send it even if she doesn’t request one, and tell her that it’s attached for her convenience. If the ad says “No attachments,” paste your résumé into your e-mail message after your signature.   

If the advertiser requests writing samples, handle it the same way according to his attachment preferences, or provide links to samples that are available online. Anonymized CL addresses have a limit on attachment sizes, so keep that in mind if you have a lot to send. 

When it’s time to close your letter, be sure to include your contact information and a call to action for the potential client to get back to you. I like to say something like, “I am eager to talk with you further about how my excellent fill-in-the-blank skills can turn your whatever into something extraordinary. Please contact me at your convenience at 123-456-7890 or me@fake-email.com. I look forward to hearing from you.”   

Finally, sign your letter professionally, using “Sincerely” or “Best” or something equivalent, along with your full name and a signature block that contains your contact information and a link to your website so the advertiser can check you out further if so inclined. Ultimately, you want to make it as easy as possible for the potential client to hire you and give you scads of money for your amazing work.

Online ads can provide a wealth of high-paying opportunities for talented freelancers-- and snagging those positions is as easy as sending a well-written e-mail. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be an Internet-job-finding machine. 

Kristen King is a full-time freelance writer-editor from Virginia, where she lives with her husband and their two cats in a too-small townhouse with a too-big desk and too few file cabinets. Visit her online at www.kristenkingfreelancing.com or http://inkthinker.blogspot.com.



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