Digital Mined

Top 7 Cover Letter Mistakes That Cost Freelancers Work


When you put out projects as an employer the first thing you see from freelancers are cover-letters. Depending on how they are written, an employer can choose to hire, shortlist, reject or ignore. As an employer, I usually read a few paragraphs and then either shortlist or ignore.  This is quite simply because most cover letters are downright awful.

However, it does not have to be that way. Creating a good cover letter is actually quite easy. Just make a convincing argument for why you are a good pick for the project by reading the brief; referring to your skills, passions, and experience; and backing it up with evidence. If you do that, you are ahead of 90% of the other applicants. At times, only 1 in a 100 does that.

As an employer, here are the top cover letter mistakes I see that cost freelancers work:

  1. Sending the same cover letter over and over again. Most of the time, I receive generic replies that show the applicant has no clue about the job that he or she has applied for or even care, for that matter. Well, this attitude is paid in back full when I click “next”.  Ninety percent of applicants do this, non-native English-speaking applicants are the worst by far.

  1. Not addressing the brief in the cover letter. This immediately makes employers feel that the freelancer has not read or understood what is asked for. At times, employers specify what they want applicants to include in the cover letter. If that is not found in an application, it is almost always an immediate rejection. Ideally, you should read the brief enough times that you understand exactly what the client is looking for, and then, reply with a thoughtful response addressing everything that is asked for.

  1. Spelling and grammar errors. This is a particular large offense if you are applying for a project that involves writing in English or if English is not your first language. It usually takes 2–3 sentences to find out if the applicant has simply made a tiny cover letter mistake or if it is an indication of poor English skills. The latter is almost always an immediate rejection.

  1. Suck-up language. Usually in the form of over-polite language and irrelevant pleasantries. Good manners are always welcome; however, there are limits. Some Indian applicants, in particular, write about “what a great pleasure” it is to work with me and how pleased they are to introduce themselves to me. I get that there are cultural factors to blame for this, however, the bottom line is that, if you don´t get to the point quick, I will think you are doing this because you don´t have the English skills or the skills required to pull of the project.

  1. Not making a good argument for why they should be picked. Most employers are quite simply looking for the best possible alternative for their particular project within budget and time. So answer this question in every cover letter: “Why would you be a good fit for this project?” If you just answer that question well in your cover letter, you will have done the most important thing required to find a job.

  1. No evidence to back up skills and experience. This is particular important if the applicant has obvious weaknesses. A good way of doing that is by saying “As you can see on my language scores, I am among the top 10% on Odesk.” Alternatively, by referring to outside sources that confirms the story in your cover letter. A good profile should have a portfolio, skill-tests and testimonials.

  1. Pushing the employer to make a speedy decision. This is usually expressed by the applicant being very keen on moving the conversation over to another platform like Skype. If the applicant spends more than a line on this, it comes across as if the freelancer knows he or she is weak, and needs to get close to the client in order to have a chance of getting a yes. If you are good, you should have the confidence to know it, and let the client come to you.

These are the top mistakes I see in cover letters. However, it can be wise to also take into account that they are not the only reason why a freelancer can be rejected. If a candidate has been shortlisted based on the cover letter, the next thing to evaluate is the profile. If both of them are promising, then the client has a good reason to contact the candidate.

1 Responses on Top 7 Cover Letter Mistakes That Cost Freelancers Work"

  1. Neha Kumari says:

    I like your article and i am working from a 2 years. Is it always happened, i mean to say from 2 months, i am struggling from it. Do you have suggestion for me because this is very important for me. I tried to use different cover letter but it did not work.

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