5 Reasons Why Your Letter of Introduction Isn’t Getting You Writing Gigs

Have you been sending out letters of introduction, trying to get freelance writing gigs — and nothing’s happening?

I’ve learned this is a fairly common problem.

How do I know? I started a letter of introduction review thread in Freelance Writers Den and began reviewing LOIs every week.

It’s been very educational.

Most LOIs could be improved, I’ve discovered.

The first step to a winning LOI

To start at the beginning, you want to know whether your prospect is the sort of market where a letter of introduction will even work.

I had one new writer tell me she’d been sending LOIs off to consumer magazine editors…who no doubt threw them straight in the trash.

Those editors, you have to pitch story ideas in a query letter, not just write them to say hello, please hire me.

Where does an LOI work? They’re a good marketing tool for pitching your services to businesses and trade publications.

They can’t expect you to guess what subject matter they might need covered, so you can send a letter that simply pitches your knowledge of their industry and your writing experience.

Once you’ve got an appropriate prospect identified, what are the biggest LOI pitfalls? Here are my top five:

  1. No market research. Many writers ask me if there’s a template they can write up and send to all the companies or publications they want to target. You could come up with one, but it wouldn’t be very effective. Good LOIs reflect your research into each prospect and include an appropriate pitch for the kind of writing work they might need. For instance, you research a business site in your niche and discover their blog hasn’t been updated in six months — and bingo, there’s your pitch.
  2. Lacks a ‘warm’ connection. The best situation is if you meet someone who knows this prospect and you can use their name as a calling card. Barring that, you need to use that market research you just did and comment on a recent article or piece of company news in your LOI. That sets you apart right away as somebody who’s done their homework.
  3. Reads like fan mail. The next problem that crops up is after writers research their prospect, they often want to gush for several paragraphs about how great the company’s news is, or how fascinating they found a recent trade-mag article. With this type of intro,  your email may easily be mistaken for a fan letter and zapped without being read to the end. You’ve got to mention that you’re a freelance writer early, so your target knows why you’re writing.
  4. Stiff as a board. A lot of LOIs are written like business letters from the 1950s, as in: “I am a freelance writer focusing on healthcare topics.” New writers seem to think companies and business publications want a formal tone like this, but few of them do anymore. While you’re studying your market, soak up the style of how they talk to readers or customers…and then use that (usually more casual and conversational) exact same style in your LOI.
  5. You don’t prove you’re the right writer. The main point of the LOI is to demonstrate to the prospect that you have something to offer that most writers don’t — knowledge of their arcane industry such as agribusiness or metalsmithing, for instance, or past work experience in banking or retail. If you target your pitches only to prospects where you can stand out with your knowledge, you’ve upped your success odds.

 

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11 comments on “5 Reasons Why Your Letter of Introduction Isn’t Getting You Writing Gigs
  1. J. Delancy says:

    I firmly believe in using templates for all sorts of things but there are certain types of writing that demand a truly personal touch, I’m guessing that LOI’s fall into that category.

    Thanks again Carol for providing the tactical information necessary for success as a freelancer.
    J. Delancy recently posted..How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Sharks, Travel, Money)

  2. John Soares says:

    Excellent advice Carol.

    Turns out that I’m spending a couple of hours marketing this morning. Several of my e-mails will be to existing clients, but a couple will be to editors I don’t yet have a direct connection with. I’ll definitely be using these techniques.
    John Soares recently posted..The Freelance Writing Project Hiding in Your Spam Folder

  3. Hi Carol,

    Great post. I’d also like to add that, in my experience, an LOI should be as stellar as it is brief. Many writers tend to be wordy and state their life’s story in a letter and let’s face it, no matter how qualified, no one wants to read a candidate “dissertation.”

    Doing your research, boldly (but factually) stating why you “rock” more than the competition and stating what you can do for the company/publication is even more effective when the info. is short and sweet. Oh and an eye catching headline always helps!

    • Carol Tice says:

      So true! I’ve reviewed LOIs where the writer tells the whole story of how they came to be a freelancer (often along the lines of “I got fired last year so I started freelancing…” NOT exactly the success story you want to put in front of clients!)…instead of focusing on how hiring them would solve problems for the editor thanks to your knowledge of their topic or industry.

      What most writers miss is that your LOI is a writing AUDITION. And the brevity, along with really strong writing, is a big part of winning the part.

  4. Thomas says:

    Wow, looks like I got some tweaking to do.

    I usually use the phrase: “Part of my research has revealed your home address, no doubt this information will be very beneficial in the event you don’t hire me.”

    Althiough it does get remarkable amounts of responses, it isn’t always faavorable.

    Great post, Carol!

    Cheers
    Thomas recently posted..Thomas Ryan: Environmentalist-keyword: ‘Mental’

  5. Michael says:

    As a budding freelance writer, I often find it tempting just to make contact with editors rather than taking time to do research beforehand. I want to jump in and start writing but it’s important to increase your chances of forming a long-lasting relationship with an editor by showing them you know what your talking about.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who would rather write than research, but it’s all part of the process.

    • Carol Tice says:

      The thing is, editors can just smell you don’t know anything about their publication or company…and that means you’re not very useful to them.

      The real thing your LOI needs to get across is, “Working with me would solve your problems and make your life easier.” Often, it might also save them money versus hiring a staff writer, too…but selling that angle that your unique understanding of their audience — based on your research and your experience — would be an asset to them is what gets the gig.

      Just popping up and saying, “Hey, I’m a freelance writer, dontcha wanna hire me?” I think you can see isn’t a compelling offer. ;-)

  6. Jamie says:

    Hi Carol
    Top quality content once again.
    Research is so important. We know we have to make an impression for our clients – just like in a job interview.

    As you say in The Writers Den – if you put yourself in the position of the client and think what s/he is looking for it makes pitching so much easier.

    From what I’ve read it also seems that by avoiding these mistakes and adding a bit more due diligence you can stand out from a lot cruddy LOI’s. If you aren’t willing to put in the time to read up and learn about the client then how can you expect to be trusted as a quality writer!

    We have to remember that we are writers first – but must also be shrewd researchers, marketers and personable colleagues if we are to achieve real success.
    Jamie recently posted..How to Create a Daily Writing Habit

  7. sandra says:

    hello

    this was very helpful posting– do you happen to have an example of a good LOI–can’t seem to find on the site –thanks!

    • Carol Tice says:

      I don’t think I have an example, but we do have several in the Resource Library of my Freelance Writers Den community. Also one of the Den perks is that there’s a query/LOI review thread and you can submit an LOI and get a critique before you send it out.

      We’ve been seeing really high response rates for the LOIs we review…it’s a pretty awesome member perk, along with the writer website reviews we do.

2 Pings/Trackbacks for "5 Reasons Why Your Letter of Introduction Isn’t Getting You Writing Gigs"
  1. [...] that, you might send a letter of introduction, call them on the phone, or reach out to them on LinkedIn with your pitch, to name just a few [...]

  2. [...] sum up, your job when you’re pitching prospects is to emphasize your strengths. Tell them what you can do — that you’re prompt, responsive, and focused on meeting clients’ [...]

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