How NOT to Get the Freelance Job – and What to Do

How NOT to Get the Freelance Job - and What to Do

After posting some open job positions here at Men with Pens, we received a slew of applications. People were really excited to have the opportunity to work with us.

I even noticed a woman tweeting she’d wet her pants if she was hired.

Kind of flattering.

In most part, I had a lot of fun reading through applications and learning more about people. There are some interesting folk out there, from quietly professional to boldly courageous, and whether they fit the profile or not,  it was nice to “meet” some of our followers and readers.

There are some, though – this really means there are a LOT – who applied for the jobs but did so in a way that guaranteed their applications hit the trash can. So many, in fact, that I decided to write a post about it.

Here’s a list of what to do – and much more importantly, what NOT to do when applying for freelance work:

DO read the job ad. No, really. Read it. The whole thing. Top to bottom. It isn’t just there to look snazzy. A job ad is there to give you useful, helpful information so that you can see if you’re a good match and to help you apply in a way that doesn’t annoy the hell out of us. Like, say, emailing us to ask if this is the right email to email us at, when the email you should use to apply is written on the job ad.

DON’T show you’re lazy. I know. This is tough, especially for freelancers, because we all pride ourselves on being able to make our own schedule in our pyjamas. (Playtime hours: 8. Work hours: 1) But try to hide it. When the job ad says email us with information and samples, don’t tweet us and say, “Just click here.” If you can’t do as we ask, why should we do as you ask?

DO follow instructions. If the job ad says, “Use the word ROCKINSOCKS in your subject line and send samples or links,” don’t send an email with a subject line of “Responding to your application,” and then tell us samples are on request. Because we won’t. Request, that is.

DON’T point to a really bad website. Speaking of links, if you have an ugly website with horrible copy that doesn’t reflect your skills, please don’t tell us. That way, you’ll have a much better chance of us thinking you actually can write or design. A poor-copy website with a tacky, broken design is kind of like pulling down your pants – at the wrong time.

DO be sane. Yes, I know, this is especially difficult for most freelancers and entrepreneurs. We’re a special kind of unique breed and sanity isn’t the norm. However, if your application reads like you forgot to take your meds (or should double your dose) that’s… really, really not good. We like fun, crazy people – just not that kind of crazy.

DON’T squee. Flattery gets you everywhere, they say, but moderation is key. Applications that start with “Ohmigod ohmigod ohmiGOD!” and proceed to gush on about how fantastically awesome our site is and how you hang on every word we write and how you’ve been stalking us for years and how you just… well…. thanks, but no thanks. Really.

DO make sure you can do the job. Initiative is nice, and we understand that there are diamonds in the rough out there. That said, don’t apply for internet jobs when you just came online, have no skills, no experience, but can definitely learn everything as you go along. (Hint: You’re not applying for a paid position, you’re asking for a free apprenticeship.)

DON’T have low self-esteem. Any email that begins with, “I probably don’t have enough experience,” “I’m not sure I’m what you’re looking for,” or even “I’m sure you probably have much better writers sending in their resume,” pretty much forces the reply, “You’re right. Thanks for applying, and best of luck to you.”

DO take a chance. So you may not have as much experience as the job posting asks for, but so what? If it says 3 years’ experience and you have one kick-ass track record but only 16 months under your belt, you might still be the perfect fit. You never know if you don’t try. Sighing that you wish you could apply is silly – take the damned chance and do it.

DON’T use “I”. One of the best applications I received was all about me. No, really. Every single sentence in this application was all about me, James, the busy entrepreneur. The extensive, gripping, hooking pitch focused entirely on my problems, my needs, my desires and my goals. This person understood me and my pain, and I was nearly begging her for the solution – surely she had it, if she knew me so well?

And that’s the key to winning a job, people.

There are plenty more do’s and don’ts on what makes for a winning job application and how to get eyes on yours. What extra tips can you think of on what you should do – and what you shouldn’t – when pitching for the gig?

Want even more great advice on how to pitch clients and win jobs? Check out these:

Our very own eguide, Write for the Web, lets you learn how to start your own freelance writing business so you can start pitching for those gigs – and win them. Get your copy today.

Once you've learned how to start your business with a solid foundation, pick up a copy of
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Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.