Why cover letters are a must for freelance projects
MMO Head of Freelance: I thought your application looked great – but are you sure you don’t want to include a cover letter?
Freelancer: No, my CV covers everything the client needs to know – a cover letter isn’t necessary. I’m too busy to write anything right now – the CV should suffice.
MMO Head of Freelance: The CV does look good but a lot of the information is lost. You have some really relevant experience but it’s hard to reach.
Freelancer: It’ll be fine. Look forward to hearing what the client thinks.
As the Head of Movemeon Freelance, I monitor every application made for each freelance project on the site. The conversation above is one I have on a daily basis and the outcome is always the same – the freelancer isn’t invited to interview. Normally, the freelancer just chalks it off in the belief that someone with a lower day rate / more suitable experience applied and they simply lost out to a better-qualified applicant – this couldn’t be further from the truth.
As the freelance consulting market continues to grow and the caliber of freelance candidates improves, simply having impressive brand names and one or two relevant projects no longer guarantees you an interview. Chances are, someone else with an identical profile (good full-time experience, relevant project experience, comparable day rate) has also applied – so why are they interviewed and hired while you’re left stumbling at the first hurdle? It’s because they took the time to write a tailored cover letter detailing why they were a strong fit for the project.
A well-written cover letter not only demonstrates suitability for a project but more importantly, it illustrates that a freelancer has taken the time to read a job description carefully, consider what the requirements are and matched them against their own experience.
It amazes me when freelancers include a very brief / vague cover letter with near to no project specific tailored content, even worse is when they don’t include a cover letter at all. Along with making simple spelling mistakes, not including a tailored, project specific cover letter is one of the main reasons I see good candidates fail to be invited for an interview. There’s no secret answer for why some freelancers win projects over others – successful freelancers tend to do the simple things well and this includes writing a project specific cover letter every time.
Here are the main reasons why including a cover letter in every project application should be a must (even if it’s not a mandatory requirement):
They allow you to ‘sell yourself’ - Cover letters are the only stage in an interview process you have full control over (content, tone, structure). It’s the only place where you can truly ‘sell’ yourself – at interview stage, it’s often the interviewer who dictates proceedings and you’re not always able to cover all the areas you would have liked – that’s assuming you’re even invited to interview. How can you expect a client to ‘buy’ your services if you’re not willing to ‘sell’ them. It’s like listing a product on eBay with only a picture and a price, no description on what the product does, how it works, what makes it better than it’s competitors – would you buy this product if it was listed in this way?
It allows you to personally engage with the brand - are you a customer of the business, do you know anyone in the business who can vouch for you, do you follow the business closely – all things that you can add to your cover letter which put you ahead of the competition as they demonstrate a genuine interest in the project & business.
It summarizes the relevant parts of your experience – CV’s are long, sometimes poorly structured and often very difficult to navigate when trying to find project specific experience. Cover letters give you a nice, neat, organized document with all relevant experience easily accessible. This is especially important when a client receives a lot of interest for a project. Trying to skim read lot’s of CV’s means hiring managers don’t have the time to carefully read every role / project you’ve worked on, so it might be that some of the highly relevant experience is being missed.
It demonstrates you’ve taken some time and really considered the role – A well written, informative cover letter, tailored to a specific opportunity illustrates a genuine interest in the opportunity. It gives employers confidence that you’ve actually taken the time to read the job description and carefully considered whether you’re a match.
It takes time but that’s a good thing – A strong cover letter gives employers confidence you’re selective with your project selection and you don’t just spray your CV to every project available. By tailoring a cover letter to a spefic project, you’re essentially self-selecting suitability for the project – it may be that after really considering the requirements, you’re not a strong match.
It confirms fit for a project – If a freelancer struggles writing a cover letter, chances are they’re probably not right for the project. A cover letter should give you confidence that you have the right skills / experience for the project – if you’re clutching at straws to patch together bits and pieces of experience to highlight your relevance, then chances are you’re probably not that relevant for the project.
The following Movemeon article summarizes what makes a good cover letter. Hopefully, you’ll see an increase in your invitation to interview rate with this small alteration – trust me, it may seem small but it makes a huge difference…
By Irfan (Head of MMO Freelance)
Ps. If you have any questions about hiring a freelance consultant get in touch!
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