10 Tips for Freelance Writers Applying for Blogging Jobs

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For those of you who don’t know, I work for a company that has created a comparison website called This or That. We’re a soon-to-be four person operation and have gone through a few different design iterations since we launched in June. Our most recent design change mixes user-generated comparisons with blog posts and news items in different categorical feeds. This shift means we’ll need a lot of content for the site, and since I’m the only content creator, that means a lot of work for me. Considering I, like many people in small companies, have a lot of different responsibilities, I can’t necessarily spend all day writing content when there’s other stuff on my plate. What’s a girl to do?

Fortunately, the boss man is behind the idea of hiring freelance writers to contribute blog posts, lists, charts, editorials, and other interesting content to This or That. One Problogger ad and several Craigslist postings later, I was up to my eyeballs in emails. I’m not kidding — I received over 700 emails from people who want to write for This or That. Hunting for writers was quite a learning experience for me (which I’ll cover in next week’s post), but I also learned a lot about freelance writers and the application process in general. Once you sift through hundreds of emails, you tend to recognize what works and what doesn’t when it comes to getting noticed and seeming fit for the job.

I thought I’d outline some tips for freelance writers who apply for blogging jobs — hopefully this will help any of you who do freelance writing and are constantly on the hunt for new jobs or opportunities.

1. Have a Catchy Subject Line

Unless the job posting specifies a particular title you should use for your email, think of something catchy and creative. If someone is sifting through tons of applicant emails, a unique subject line will catch their eye and make your email stand out among the rest. Instead of “Applying for the blogger position,” think of something a little less stale that showcases your creativity and ability to think outside the box.

2. Be Font-Smart

Be mindful of the Three Golden Rules when it comes to email font: Type, Color, and Size. Don’t customize the look of your emails because you think it’ll be fun and you’ll stand out. Oh, you’ll stand out all right, but not in a good way. I’ve had emails in Papyrus, Comic Sans, and other craptacular fonts that make me question the professionalism of the applicant. If it’s a stupid, unreadable font, I’m judging you as someone who doesn’t make good decisions. It’s akin to showing up for a job interview in sweatpants. You need to make a good impression because this email is the only reflection of you I have. Pick something simple, professional, and readable. The same goes for font color — I’ve seen pink, blue, purple, you name it. This isn’t a forwarded gif-laden chain letter from your great aunt, it’s a job opportunity. Stick with basic black and keep it simple, stupid.

Lastly, font size. I received one email with a font size so small, I’d need a jeweler’s loupe to make out what the person was saying. On the other side of the coin is font so huge, it makes me want to ask you what it was like living through the Great Depression instead of wanting to hire you to write for me. Pick a standard font size — it’s not that hard.

3. Personalize the Email

If you know the name of the person who will be reading the email, use it. If not, make references to the site or company you’re applying to write for in a way that makes the reader think you’ve done your homework. I’ve seen some really lazy emails where people have blatantly used search and replace to fill in the name of the website (all distinguishing details were in bold or italics). It doesn’t take long to do a little recon of the site or company and highlight some things you love about it in your email.

4. Get the Details Right

Of course, if you’re going to use someone’s name or the name of the company/website in your correspondence, don’t make any mistakes. When we were hunting for a new programmer, I had applicants email me and call me “Kelley” (my last name) or “Kelly” instead of Rebecca. I received a few emails from writers who referred to the site as “This and That” instead of “This or That.” Sure, they’re small, honest mistakes, but it’s the inattention to detail that makes me dismiss you as a viable candidate.

5. Show Some (Appropriate) Personality

Your personality should complement that of the site you want to write for. If it’s a serious site, be serious. Crazy right wing conservative site? Make Glenn Beck look sane. This or That is an entertainment site, so I want to see people who are, duh, entertaining. I don’t need to hear what boring awards you earned in high school and college or how you’re working on your third self-published novel about existentialism. I want people who seem fun, laid-back, and witty, and if that doesn’t shine through in your email, it makes me wonder how it’ll come through in your work. Remember that what you write in your email is just as crucial a writing sample as the ones you attach or link out to.

6. Follow Instructions Outlined in the Job Posting

When I posted the job, the only thing I asked for a writing sample. You’d be surprised how many people didn’t comply with my one request. If the job posting asks for something, supply it. Do they want a resume? Provide one. Are they looking for writing samples? Include them. Don’t make it hard for me to determine whether you’ll be a good fit for the site — if I don’t have everything I need in that one email from you to determine if I’ll hire you, I won’t. It’s as simple as that. If you can’t follow basic instructions outlined in the job description, what makes me think you’ll be a reliable writer?

7. Include Web-Appropriate Writing Samples

Your sample should reflect the tone of the site you’re applying to write for as closely as possible. I’m not a book publisher, so I don’t want to see excerpts from your Great American Novel. The same goes for poems, speeches, essays, dissertations, etc. Writing for the web is different than cranking out a paper for your college Literature class. Even if your writing sample is well written, it doesn’t show me how well you can craft content that’s succinct, to the point, audience-appropriate, and interesting. I want to see editorials, lists, and content that has the potential to be viral/share-worthy. Your emo-angst poetry isn’t something tens of thousands of people would want to bookmark and share with others.

However, if you’re applying to write for an emo-ansgt poetry site, your poems are perfectly appropriate. It’s all about context and relevance. Don’t send misogynistic ranty editorials to a women’s rights website, profanity-laden lists to a family-oriented site, or boring, dry reading material to an entertainment or comedy site. While I personally don’t want to read your book excerpt because it’s not relevant or appropriate for This or That, there are some instances where that type of writing is an appropriate sample. You need to be smart and know which writing sample from your portfolio is best for that particular job you’re applying for. Pull an Indiana Jones and choose wisely (and forget that the Crystal Skull turd of a movie ever existed).

8. Provide Your Three Best Samples/Links

I don’t need a list of everything you’ve ever written in the history of ever. Compile your three best samples that reflect your talents and are relevant/appropriate to the site and include those in your email. If you include a dozen links, I’m just going to randomly click on two or three and ignore the rest.

9. Highlight Specific Topics of Interest/Areas of Strength

If you’re applying for a site that has various topics or categories, highlight which topics interest you the most. This or That has several different categories, and it really helped me out when someone would specify that they really enjoy writing about politics or sports. If you’re especially awesome at writing about a particular niche or topic, make sure you say so because you’ll end up standing out more against the 300 people who all want to write about the more popular stuff.

10. Proofread That Shiz!

I’m an editor, so I understand that people make occasional spelling and grammar mistakes. Misspelling a word doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad writer. However, if your email is rife with spelling and grammar errors, there’s a point where I’ll stop thinking “Eh, everyone makes mistakes” and start to think that you just suck at writing. Err on the side of caution and be as typo-free as possible. You’ll make your editor’s job much easier and will appear more professional and legit as a writer.

I hope you enjoyed my 10 tips for freelance writers who are applying for blogging jobs. Next week I’ll go over the same process from the job poster’s perspective and will highlight some do’s and don’ts when it comes to hunting for freelance writers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some emails to sift through…

About Rebecca Kelley

Rebecca Kelley is the Director of Marketing for This or That Media. She also runs Mediocre Athlete, a hobby blog about exercising and training, and My Korean Mom, a blog about her harsh but amusing Korean mother. In her spare time, Rebecca is a freelance blogger for hire, loves food and movies, and trains for marathons and triathlons.

101 thoughts on “10 Tips for Freelance Writers Applying for Blogging Jobs

    1. ILoveMemes

      I often find it hard to come up with catchy subject lines. I’d really have to work on that more.

    1. F2Xsites

      Some of the tips are so simple that you’d think a freelance writer would be able to have it covered. But it’s in the simple things that most of them often fail to get the jobs they want.

        1. Mark Mead

          LOL! Good point. Either it’s not as common as we assume it to be or it’s not used as much as it should be.

    1. internetFTW

      I tried to learn more about the company’s culture when I applied for my current job. It helped me a lot since I got picked for the interview. I got the chance to highlight my qualifications that I think were best suited for the job.

      1. Bryan Jake T

        Personality and the sense of fun matters. The most interesting articles are often those those that resonate with confidence and character. Writing an email for a job application should be no different.

  1. WhoisDoyle

    These are very helpful tips. I’m not a freelance writer but there are a some really good pointers you mentioned that would be helpful in anyone who’s trying to apply for a job.

    1. California Dreamin

      For me, blogging is still a hobby. But if I can manage to make some extra spending money in the process, I’m all for it! Great post and excellent tips! Thank you!

  2. Husher50

    The (in)ability to follow instructions specified on the job posting always gives a fairly good idea as to how a person works. Either he/she is too eager to read the details or doesn’t care much for instructions.

    1. Yes2Freebies

      I was guilty of that in one of my first job applications. I didn’t get the job but I got an email telling me to follow instructions next time I apply for a job.

      1. NicMoon

        I believe that the best resume is one that doesn’t involve any typographical errors, spelling errors as well as grammar, syntax, or punctuation mishaps. No errors of fact as well.

      1. joonlee97

        This comment definitely takes the cake. As a former HR consultant for a construction firm, I have had my share of shady emails and even shadier employment proposals. Kudos for this very insightful post, Rebecca. Best wishes from Des Moines.

  3. Ivan Walsh

    Something that works very well for me is to ask the blogger if they have an Editorial Calendar.

    Then see what content they need, when it needs to be deliver, and work with them to create a SERIES of articles rather than one offs, which are very time-consuming.


  4. TheSandMan5050

    Are you still accepting applications? The information you shared will definitely come handy for those who still wish to apply provided of course they do their homework and find this awesome post.

      1. Rylan Howie

        My Creative Writing professor way back in college related that on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.

  5. WhoSaysWhat01

    You really have the knack of writing interesting and entertaining articles. I really enjoyed reading this post. :)

    1. georgeblanco

      I think freelance blogging would be fun. I do freelance web design and it can get too stressful sometimes. Makes me think about switching jobs.

  6. socialanim00

    This will be very helpful when I start writing my email applications for internship this summer.

    1. Alan Alan

      People are curious by nature. To write catchy subject lines for emails, you could appeal to that inherent curiosity by leaving something that suggests full disclosure during the interview.

    2. PattyT12

      It’s fairly easy to find templates, outlines and general suggestions about writing a resume these days. However, good structure and nice formatting are not enough for an excellent resume that would get you interviewed and hired. You need an edge, you need to grab the reader’s attention and make sure they read your resume all the way through. A well-made yet generic and bland resume won’t do that.

      1. Laney Pitt

        Remember kids, before you sit down to write that resume, the first thing you should do is make a list of everything you have ever done or accomplished in your entire life. This means everything. Every single job, award, honor, volunteer work, skill, language, hobby, wart, bad dream and witty retort.

  7. RedBlack88

    Thanks for the great post. I think that flexibility and a lot of creativity helps in showcasing one’s skills and talents especially if it’s for a writing job.

    1. Get That Ball

      It’s really important to work on the email subject lines. One thing you don’t want is for your email to land in the spam inbox. Since you’ll have to think about your subject line anyway might as well use the time to come up with a catchy one.

  8. WhateverWorks

    I love the site. I have shared this article with several of my friends who might be interested in applying for the job, too.

    1. sasha_482

      Based on experience, I’d say be “professional” at all times. I think this post provides all the important tips on how to do that. Following instructions is a must because that would always guarantee if you get a shot at an interview or not.

    2. nealcal

      I think the true purpose of making a resume is not to get you a job. The purpose of a resume is to get an interview, not a job. Once you get in the door, it’s your winning personality and discussion of your lifetime of experiences that will get you the job. Anybody else agree to this?

      1. SmallBiz Sue

        The cover letter and resume may not guarantee the job but they sure bring you closer to the best position where you can get a good shot at it.

  9. melg

    I recently started thinking about doing freelance writing for other blogs. But I wasn’t quite sure how I would go about it. The tips you listed here would definitely come handy one I start submitting my applications.

  10. EllaineR

    I think I could use your list when I start hiring a staff. The tips you shared here would make an excellent criteria in choosing a future employee.

      1. ExclaimedIdeas

        A colleague shared that submitting a resume is just like having a date with a person. Mention something about how you bring enthusiasm to any team — your potential employer will love that. If you’re not very articulate normally, have someone who is look over what you’ve written before you print it out or send it off.

  11. Andrew Says So

    Great tips on how to stand out and get noticed. It would help to keep in mind that every applicant would want to put his/her best foot forward. The best thing to do is to outshine everyone else by coming up with a unique and compelling application letter.

    1. Runs With Scissors

      You’d likely have a few precious seconds to capture the attention of the recipient, which is why an excellent subject line matters a lot.

  12. Richard Pascal

    Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a compelling promise that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist. Fail to do that and your article — no matter how brilliant — will be ignored.

    1. Dmitrii Anastas

      Every element of compelling copy has just one purpose — to get the next sentence read. And then the sentence after that, and so on, all the way down to your call to action. So it’s fairly obvious that if people stop at the headline, you’re already dead in the water.

      1. WanderingMommy

        My favorite headline formula is stating the big benefit. After all, your number one selling point should be up front. It stands the best chance of selecting the right audience and preparing them to respond.

      2. medomoc

        Mine is announcing exciting news. People read newspapers and magazines because they love news. It’s just basic human nature. We’re curious. We not only want to know, we need to know. Casting your headline in a way that suggests news, rather than advertising, can have the same powerful appeal of a feature story in the morning paper. An important note: the product or service doesn’t necessarily have to be newly created to qualify as news. It merely has to be news to your reader.

  13. Heinrich Sture

    I totally agree with your post but there is one thing that is not emphasized enough: content is the basic building block of the Internet. It’s still king of the web in my book.

  14. John Dillon

    It’s not hard to write really. You just need to find what you want to write about and then you need to research that subject if you happen to not know very much about it. I think the most important is the latter. You need to know what you are talking about if you want to write about it.

  15. Ethan

    Since you are submitting an email to a potential employer, it would certainly help if you could at least make an effort to make his or her task easier. Make sure that you provide all the information to save them the time of replying just to get the details they seek. Most of the time, they won’t even bother to ask you. They’ll just move on to other applications.

    1. Tammyexperiments

      A resume must have the following key information: your name, address, phone number, and your email address at the top of the first page, a listing of jobs held, in reverse chronological order, educational degrees including the highest degree received, in reverse chronological order. Additional targeted information will of course accompany this. Much of the information people commonly put on a resume can be omitted, but these basics are mandatory.

      1. WilmaP

        Don’t draw attention to your inadequacies, or otherwise undesirable traits. This rule applies to life in general, too. If you harp on about your huge nose, terrible typing skills or body odor problem people will know — how couldn’t they? You are constantly blabbing about it! But if you don’t mention it, people will probably not even notice. Our flaws are always more obvious to ourselves than they are to anyone else.

    2. FirenzeZ

      A resume should be visually enticing. It should be a work of art. It must have a simple yet uniform structure. Very easy to read. Symmetrical. Balanced. Uncrowded. As much white space between sections of writing as possible; sections of writing that are no longer than six lines, and shorter if possible.

  16. Sanjay

    Say what is necessary to encourage the recipient to take a closer look at your email. Clear, concise, specific, and creative descriptions help.

    1. moolahmachine

      I’ve got an ace up my sleeve, too, when writing resumes. Always remember that for every skill, accomplishment, or job described, use the most active impressive verb you can think of (which is also accurate). Begin the sentence with this verb, except when you must vary the sentence structure to avoid repetitious writing.

  17. Undercover Affiliate

    Build up curiosity in your email subject line then follow through with compelling letter that would prompt the recipient to open your resume.

    1. Bputitout / Putitoutthere

      Craft your subject headline first before moving on to other details. It is a promise to readers (and potential employers). Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you’ll deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time.

      1. newmediaist12

        I’ve always found writing an impressive resume a waste of time and effort. This post of yours have changed my mind. Thanks very much. Looking forward to your follow-up post.

  18. floresparati

    The resume’s primary impression is most important. It should be *exceptionally* visually appealing to be inviting to the reader. Remember to think of the resume as a strategical advertisement and not just a mandatory list of random items in your life.

  19. Fields of Clover

    The subject line is what grabs the attention of the person the email is meant for and entices them to open the email. If it sounds too much like spam then it’s more likely to be ignored or deleted. A word(s) that grabs the attention should help do it.

    1. KrisM77

      Interesting information here. I really appreciate your input. Some things to definitely keep in mind for future writing projects and, of course, resume submissions. Thanks a lot!

  20. Ara600_m1

    Great tips! I think that if your prospective employer doesn’t quite hit it right off with your resume then you’re in for a huge disappointment (especially if you’re applying for your dream job).

  21. Cristina Dy

    I have been writing online content for sometime now. I’m also picking up tips and tricks wherever I can. I can honestly say I have not come across a better resource than this which encompasses everything you need to know to write a really great article and whip up a superb resume.

  22. CommDiscussion

    Another way to get quality writing is to actually pay someone a salary. Your wading through so much crap b/c you’re not paying enough to attract professional talent. It’s a tradeoff. Professional writers who are actually good know all the tips above and then some. If you don’t want crap in your Inbox, then pay someone a real wage.

  23. Pritam @ Specky Geek

    A lot prospective writers don’t even bother to go through the job listing properly. They will just fire a template-made letter with samples that might just not be of any value. Putting some more effort can give you an edge.

  24. Ali

    thank you so much. For running a website related to this subject, I will make sure to use some of your ideas Shoe. Thanks again.

  25. Jerrrick

    Most of the freelance writer may write a blog which too formal. Sometime even a company blog also cannot too serious which will scare away your reader.
    I do not like to study a blog wihch look like wikipedia even i do know that i may get information there but lazy to study it.
    Try to change to be more story form or case study which would be more interested.

  26. Jarvis Linnan

    Next time We learn a blog site, I really hope it doesnt dissatisfy myself as a whole lot as this 1. After all, I do know it absolutely was my own option to learn, nevertheless I actually considered youd possess some thing fascinating to state. Almost all I listen to is a few whining regarding something you might fix if however you were not too hectic on the lookout for interest.

  27. Best Prepaid Cell Phones

    In my regular job I have staff I supervise who can’t write right. They are not writers. But it’s rather amusing that you get potential writing candidates who can’t express themselves in a way that’s appropriate for the writing jobs that they are applying for!

  28. John Carr

    I believe this is useful not just for writers but in general for any freelancers or outsource workers.. presentation is everything in this day and age :/

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