You’ve probably noticed that many of the higher-paying freelance jobs require applicants to include a cover letter with their resumé. A cover letter should highlight all of your strongest skills, telling employers who you are, and why you should be hired.
Note: much of the advice given here will most benefit those working with newer versions (2013+) of Microsoft Word.
The layout of the land…
Traditional cover letter formats usually mean:
- 1-inch margins (top, bottom, left, and right)
- Heading (your name and contact information)
- Date aligned right.
- Employer’s address aligned left.
- The cover letter itself.
As for selecting a font, I would suggest sticking with Times New Roman (a true classic), although Calibri or Verdana are sometimes used, too. It’s also a good idea to convert the completed cover letter (and resumé) into a PDF document before emailing it to an employer. So:
File > Export > Create PDF/XPS Document > File Name: (your choice) > Save as type: PDF > Publish
The content creation…
As with any form of writing, the first sentence or two have to get the reader (in this case, the employer’s) attention. Since employers sometimes post job advertisements on several different websites, it’s a good idea to begin a letter with:
To Whom It May Concern,
I’m writing to apply for the (name of the job) that I saw advertised on (name of the website).
The next sentence should sum up what the cover letter will be about. For example:
My education, work experience, and good personality make me an excellent candidate for this position.
Proceeding from there, you could devote one paragraph to education/work experience, and another paragraph to your character and what you can and/or want to bring to this job.
Indicate that you’re willing to provide references if asked, and thank the employer for considering your application. Close with “Sincerely,” and your handwritten signature. How do you add a signature to a Microsoft Word document? Read this tutorial.
Brevity is best…
Of course, you’ll have to revise your cover letter for every job that you apply for. However, you can save some time by keeping a “universal” cover letter version in your files, and inserting details as necessary for each application. Always avoid a “cookie-cutter” feel, though – write from your (professional) heart.
It’s a delicate balancing act between honestly conveying how much you’re interested in the opportunity and keeping it to about three paragraphs. Remember that hundreds of people might apply for any one freelancing opportunity, so time isn’t on anyone’s side here.
Yes, employers do sometimes use software to search for preferred keywords and sift through applications before an actual human ever sees them. Don’t be discouraged, be prepared – research trends in your niche, and authentically pepper your cover letter with strong keywords accordingly.
Tip: Andy Talajkowski’s article for Glassdoor, “15 Words That’ll Drastically Improve Your Cover Letter” might serve as inspiration.
Employers need to be able to quickly assess who’s right for what. Think of your cover letter as a VIP pass of sorts. With a polished layout and crisp, succinct content, the doors of freelance job opportunities can’t help but swing open for you.
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