In the freelance world, selling oneself is crucial to gaining new clients. Sometimes it’s difficult to do this, but the easiest way to do this is to put yourself in your client’s shoes. Giving a detailed description of your experience in your cover letter may not be of best interest especially if your experience is not related to the client in anyway. Instead of giving a detailed description, one should highlight general responsibilities that relate directly to the client. If the client is soliciting resumes for a project that is to design a series of marketing print collateral then you would want to describe briefly your experiences with designing that. You wouldn’t want to send a cover letter describing your experiences in print to an internet based job for example.
There are a few other things to include that a client is looking for.
1) Expertise and skill level
You don’t have to mention the number of years as that should be on your resume itself, but rate what level you are in the skills that you know. In graphic design the three big programs used are, Adobe Indesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. Mentioning you’re an expert in these programs sets you apart from someone who may or may not have mentioned it at all, or mentions that they are beginning level.
2) Client Feedback
In my cover letters I like to mention something that most of my clients seem to enjoy working with me. In my letters I say that clients enjoy working with me because of quick turnaround and being respectful to their budgets. Many freelancers feel that since they are the only ones working under their name they should charge more; I am often seeing graphic designers charge $20-$40 an hour for their efforts. While this may be practical financially, it isn’t necessarily the best way to attract more. Prospective clients look to experience, and with more experience you can charge more. However, I found that it’s better to have several one-time clients paying you $15 per hour than having one client that will pay you $40 per hour. Why? In the end you’ll end up with the same amount of money made, and that one client may drop the ball and you’ll loose that $40 per hour. While on the other hand, if you have 10 clients at once paying you $15 per hour per project, you make more quickly. Some think that quality is better than quantity, but if you are trying to make a living in this field, sometimes quantity is better than quality.
3) Personality on Paper
One of the things my high school taught me about applying to colleges is you have to put your personality on paper. College admissions get 10s of 1,000s of applications each year and if you don’t express yourself in your application, you wouldn’t be as interesting as someone else may be. The same rule applies to your job application. I put my awards and honors on my resume because I can’t tell you how many times it has gotten me an interview… it’s not every day you get an applicant whose work has been at the Smithsonian! The same thing goes for cover letters, state something unique about your process.. did you start in high school? do you have a specialty? formal training (for me it’s printing)? Stating those quirks of your skill set will really set you apart.
4) End something that exudes confidence!
I like to end the cover letter with something that you know you can do well. For me, it is “If you choose to work with me you will not be disappointed.” This is a risky statement because it means that everyone who comes my way, is expecting to not be disappointed by the work I do. While I find this is generally hard to accomplish and many times customer disappointment is due to lack of communication and understanding of the field from the customer. I have had many supporters around me say my work is really good and that is better than most designers at my level of experience – so I feel that I can say “If you choose to work with me you will not be disappointed” because more often than not, the clients that have chosen to work with me take home designs that they are happy with! So, pick something you know you can do really well… if you’re really good at typography you can state something like, “My typographic work will make any project that is tossed my way into a work of art!”
5) Add any essential information
Sometimes potential clients would like to know about your home setup, or pay rate (F.Y.I – adding your pay rate I find helps gain responses, especially if you are priced competitively and fairly), if you have transportation, or what your communication setup may be like. Can you do skype meetings? Phone? Email? In person meetings? Adding this info right off the bat, helps the potential client understand your communication strengths. Don’t be put off by someone requesting an in person meeting – a lot can get done in one meeting than trying to communicate through phone or email.