I've written before about letter of introduction, or LOIs. A strong LOI is an essential weapon in any freelancer's arsenal, and you may have more than one. (For example, I have an LOI I use for possible ghostwriting gigs, another for possible speaking gigs, and other for general freelancing gigs. Each highlights a different area of my expertise and experience.)
In some instances, you'll know something about the market or client you're pitching, and you can customize your LOI to reflect that fact. But what about when you're pitching "blind" and have no info about the market? Then you just "dance with who brung you," so to speak, and highlight your qualifications that are likely to make you stand out from the pack.
Here's an LOI I sent to a post on craigslist seeking health/wellness writers. This pitch resulted in multiple assignments for a custom publisher. My comments are in green:
Dear Sir or Madam:
I’m replying to your craigslist.org ad seeking experienced writers who can cover health and wellness stories. I’m sure you’re inundated with responses, so I’ll keep this brief. I’m a full-time freelance journalist who specializes in health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness pieces; my work has appeared in more than 50 national magazines including Self, Fitness, Muscle Media, American Health & Fitness, Shape, Woman’s Day, Redbook, and Family Circle. I’ve attached two recent articles to give you a feel for my writing style. [Pretty simple, yet effective. I've described my relevant background and attached the two writing samples the ad requested. This lets the editor know that I'm good at following directions!]
I’m a skilled researcher and writer, and know how to translate complicated health topics into “plain English” for a lay audience. I’m also an ACE-certified personal trainer, and speak and consult about subjects ranging from time management to goal-setting to getting (and staying) fit. (That's the "BodyWise" part of my business.) I enjoy helping people make positive changes in their lives through my work as an author, journalist, and speaker. [The ad is looking for writers who can write about health and fitness and my background as a personal trainer gives me a unique perspective on the subject. If I was pitching a parenting magazine or business magazine, I'd probably omit this. Also note that I make no mention of my book-writing or ghostwriting experience. It's simply not relevant for this LOI, and I want to keep it short and sweet.]
What else should you know? I’m reliable, professional, and easy to work with, and strive to give my clients just what they want. It sounds like I have the background and experience you’re looking for, but if you have any questions about my skills, please let me know. [I always have a paragraph like this in my LOIs. When I pitch a ghostwriting client, I mention my sense of humor and my pleasure in collaborating. Here I'm letting the editor know that I'm just the kind of reliable freelancer he's looking for.]
Many thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Readers, what do you think? Do you like this LOI? How do you pitch yourself when you have to pitch "blind"?
Writing Is Hard Work
4 years ago
I've been inspired by your posts on LOIs on this blog and have sent out dozens in the last few months. The response, though, hasn't been too good! I'm using your template and find that my queries get a better response than LOIs.ReplyDelete
To illustrate, I sent 32 LOIs in 2010, out of which FOUR received responses and only 2 LOIs resulted in commissions (multiple articles, admittedly, but still...)
I'm going to use your latest post to tweak the LOIs I'm sending out this year and see what happens!
Happy New Year, Kelly. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your comment, Chryselle. I find queries more effective with consumer magazines, and LOIs more effective with trade/custom magazines and other work (i.e. ghosting, etc). Just curious...do you send follow-ups on your LOIs? I find that produces a higher response rate.ReplyDelete
Thanks and good luck! :)
I've been unclear on LOIs when I don't have specific background for a custom pub, so thanks for the format. It gives me a better idea.ReplyDelete
I've got a question, Kelly. If you've queried the publication before, is a letter of introduction superfluous? Thanks!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Eliana! And Leigh, I don't think it's superfluous--but I would mention your earlier query/pitch in your LOI to help trigger the editor's memory.ReplyDelete
I like this advice and have followed your LOI examples in past years. While I can't think of an LOI that has yielded a result to a consumer mag the first time out, I've had great success, by using the LOI to introduce myself and qualifications and then follow up with a specific query to that editor a week or two later. It seems as though they are already familiar with me (because of the LOI) and maybe they are more comfortable then making the assignment. This post has inspired me to start on this track again. Thanks!ReplyDelete
Thanks, Polly! I like your strategy of sending an introductory LOI and then a query afterwards. Very smart! :)ReplyDelete
Using your advice for LOI's in Six Figure Freelancing, I sent a note to a custom publisher. We met for coffee and discussed my background and her needs. Since then, I've written several articles for one of the newspapers she publishes and I've also secured a contract writing a quarterly city newsletter, which the custom publisher has produced for some time now. The publisher is now a steady client and it would not have happened had I not sent that initial LOI. While the relationship has developed over time as the publisher has gotten to know me and my work, the LOI definitely opened the door.
Wow, Rachel, what a great success story! Thanks for sharing it here. :)ReplyDelete