“I need clients!” It’s a common refrain among freelance writers. At least two types of letters pave the way for you to get paid writing gigs. When you take the initiative and write these letters (and lots of them!) you let clients know you're available.
These two types of letters have very different purposes and are written to different kinds of clients. Let me explain.
A query letter is a proposal, sent from a writer to a publisher, agent, or editor. It’s a way to introduce your project – one that you’ve conceived – to an editor or agent and explain why you’re the person to write it. Some writers refer to a query as a “pitch.”
You write a query letter to magazine editors (who want to see a query before reviewing a full manuscript for publication) and to agents and book editors (who want to see a query before agreeing to represent you or before agreeing to see a full proposal.)
A query letter’s job is to convince the editor or agent that she wants to see your full article or book proposal.
While a successful query doesn’t guarantee publication, it opens the door for you to send your manuscript – which is the next step in the publication process.
Use a letter of introduction to introduce yourself to potential clients. To be clear: a letter of introduction does not pitch a specific project or story idea. Instead, a letter of introduction sells your writing skills and services.
If you’re a freelancer who is looking for content writing gigs, a letter of introduction (LOI) can be a useful part of your plan to get freelance content writing clients. “If you approach the right client with the right messaging,” says Jennifer Goforth Gregory in The Freelance Content Marketing Writer, “then you will land well-paying clients quickly.” Some freelancers, like Bob Bly, refer to an LOI as a “prospecting letter” because you use it to “mine” for clients.
Why the need to introduce yourself? Brands, organizations, small businesses, and ministries hire freelancers to write content. Typically, they already have a content strategy or editorial calendar, but outsource these projects because staff are too busy or lack decent writing skills.
Small or niched-down businesses may not even realize they can hire a freelancer to help with content. A letter of introduction helps you cut through the noise and speak directly to the person that will hire you. Even if a leader knows she needs content and knows she can hire a freelancer, she may not have time to find one. So when your letter lands in her mailbox or social media message application, she is ready to bite. You can follow up your letter with email, direct messaging, and a phone call.
Content marketing is niche-specific, so when you approach a potential client with language that “sings her song,” she will be more disposed to talk with you about possible projects. I got my first ministry content writing clients by sending out letters of introduction that touted my membership on two nonprofit boards and my article clips in ministry magazines.
Which explains the most common scenarios in which you can get traction (and assignments) from a letter of introduction:
No matter what writing season you’re in, you can get more writing gigs when you know how to write two types of letters and send them to the right client with the right messaging. A successful freelance writer uses both. Plenty and often.
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Content by award-winning content writer and author Kathy Widenhouse, who specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
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