Your Cover Letter: The Secret to a Good First Impression

You’re a skilled freelancer. You’re at the top of your game, and you know you could do a great job for any prospective client. But they don’t know who you are. They don’t know the caliber of your work and, in fact, yours is just one of many proposals they’ve received for their next project.

If you want your proposal to stand out, grab their attention, and get the contract, it helps to know how you can optimize your best shot: your cover letter.

Why it pays to improve your cover letter
Not to make you nervous, but research from Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov suggests that we form first impressions in as little as a tenth of a second.

And, despite how quickly they’re formed, changing these first impressions is rarely easy. The University of Toronto’s Nicholas Rule, in a presentation to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference, explained that, “With effort, we can overcome this to some extent, but we are continually tasked with needing to correct ourselves. The less time we have to make our judgments, the more likely we are to go with our gut, even over fact.”

Put simply, you have a tiny window in which to make a good first impression—and little chance of changing it once it’s been established. That’s what makes your cover letter so critical.

What makes a good cover letter?
To understand what a potential client might look for in your introduction, try to put yourself in their shoes and make it easy for them to find the details that will be most helpful when it comes to making a decision.

1. Tailor your letter to the project description
Customizing your cover letter is a balancing act. Although a fully personalized cover letter may be more likely to get attention, creating one for every project may not be feasible if you send out a lot of proposals.

A different solution might be to create a template for your first and concluding paragraphs, with a middle section that can be modified to address the project’s description. Then, to the degree that’s appropriate for your circumstances, you can:

Relate your skills and experiences to the project’s unique requirements
Share examples of similar projects you’ve worked on in the past
Reference any research you’ve done into the client’s background and your understanding of their needs
Another note: Watch out for questions that might seem out of context. Some clients include questions designed to serve as an initial screening test. For example, if a potential client asks you to list your favorite color, give your favorite movie, or tell a funny joke, make sure your answer is included.

2. Differentiate yourself
As you customize your cover letter, keep the following two objectives in mind:

Emphasize why you’re the best fit for the project
Highlight the specific benefits of partnering with you
Some freelancers describe the benefits of engaging them in terms of their own needs—for example, by saying things like, “Working on projects like this one give me the flexibility to take care of my family.”

While that may be true, a client’s focus is finding the right talent for their project. Whenever possible, frame your statements in terms of the benefits to them. For instance, you could reframe the above example: “My flexible availability means I can take care of projects when you’re asleep, so you’ll be ready to go in the morning.”

Your cover letter checklist
Once you think you’ve nailed down the meat of your cover letter, run it through the following checklist to prevent unintended errors from making a bad first impression:

Are there any spelling or grammatical mistakes?
Did I leave any sentences or sections unfinished?
Did I spell the company’s name correctly?
Have I used the appropriate salutation?
Did I answer all the questions the project description requested?
Did I reference the skills or experiences they’re looking for?
Have I formatted my cover letter so it’s easy to read?
Does my proposal need any supporting documentation, such as specific work samples or references? If so, have I included all required documents in the appropriate format?
A little due diligence can be your friend here: Searching for information that can help your introduction come across as thoughtful, professional, and personalized can go a long way toward getting your proposal on the short list.

Test responses to your cover letter
Think of your cover letter as a living, breathing document. Experiment with the length, content, and different types of appeals. Eventually, you can find a winning combination that leads to higher response rates and projects won.

Got another tip on writing a great cover letter? Leave it in the comments below.

News source
Your Cover Letter: The Secret to a Good First Impression Your Cover Letter: The Secret to a Good First Impression Reviewed by proville on 1:03 pm Rating: 5

No comments