Over the past few weeks, I’ve been putting the word out there that I’m potentially looking for a few people to pass on some work to. I haven’t advertised this massively, as I’m conscious of being bombarded with numerous phone calls and e-mails, but if it has come up in conversation, I’ve mentioned it and passed on my contact details.
I’ve done this before and the response was mixed, but – unfortunately – largely negative. I received a lot of responses, but the majority of writers were simply not suitable for a variety of reasons.
Recently, I received an e-mail that initially made the writer look fantastic. When I went back to read through their e-mail properly a second time, however, I realised that there were some glaringly obvious ‘mistakes’ that made me confident not hiring the writer was going to be the right decision and the following three reasons are some of the primary points.
1. Their prices were too confusing and not justifiable
Setting your rate card is arguably the most difficult process any freelance writer will do. Generally speaking, you will continually tweak and adjust it, whether that’s every few weeks or every few years, but getting a basic rate structure down to pass on can be extremely difficult.
With the e-mail I received from this freelancer, whilst their rates were what I would consider to be middle of the road (they weren’t cheap, but I’ve seen higher), the writer provided almost no evidence that they deserved to be paid that amount of money for their writing.
No explanation as to where their previous work had been published. No details of their past writing experiences. No information on how long they’d been writing or who they’d written for in the past. There were a few examples of their writing and although this can be enough to ‘convince’ someone of your worth, I’ll explain more about this below.
What’s more, the writer provided almost a dozen different prices for their writing. Blog posts. Articles. Website content. Press releases. And then an hour rate and day rate for ‘general copywriting’.
Yes, you should be able to give you your potential clients an idea as to how much a certain piece of work could cost them, but shouldn’t there be a difference between a 200 word and a 2,000 word blog post? The same goes for website content – can you really charge by the page? What constitutes an article and what makes it different from a blog post?
And what’s the difference between these individual prices and ‘general copywriting’?
I could of course get back in touch with the writer, but if I’ve got a few dozen potential writers to choose from, the simple fact is I’m more likely to just move on to the next writer.
2. Their writing examples weren’t up to scratch
Attached to the e-mail were four writing examples. The writer had explained they’d attached different pieces to showcase the different styles they’ve produced in the past. Great.
But what they hadn’t done was double checked the pieces. Spelling mistakes. Grammatical errors. Not many, granted, but still.
I’m not a stickler for grammar or typos – we all make mistakes, it’s just something that happens occasionally. But whenever I’m trying to impress a new client, I always do my utmost to ensure the pieces are as perfect as they can be, even if that means spending just as much time – or more – proofing and editing as it does writing.
3. They were overly formal
There’s a very good chance that this is a personal preference, but when people get in touch, I like to feel as though I’m hearing from someone personally. I don’t want a generic e-mail or one that is so formal it makes me feel uncomfortable.
If you know my name, say so when you start the e-mail. Explain where you’ve got my contact details from. Give me a little information about you. I don’t need to hear your life story, but if you’ve got an interesting link to the person who gave you my contact details, tell me it.
Saying ‘Joe Bloggs gave me your e-mail address’ will make me take notice, but saying ‘Joe Bloggs passed on your e-mail address at the weekend – I used to do a lot of writing for him when he worked at XYZ Ltd and we became good friends’ will make me think that not only does Joe believe you’re a great writer if he’s worked with you a lot in the past and felt it suitable to give you my contact details, but he must believe you’re a good, reliable person to take your working relationship to a personal one.
With the e-mail I received, it may as well have been an e-mail to their bank manager. Dear Mr Smith. Yours sincerely. Direct, straight to the point information. I understood who the writer was immediately, but the e-mail had no passion. No personality. It was, unfortunately, boring.
Maybe I’m too picky when it comes to hiring other freelancers, but first impressions really do count and if you get in touch and something isn’t up to scratch, what type of reflection does this have on your skills in general?
I’ve got to point out this writer was supposedly an experienced one – their portfolio could have potentially spoken for itself, but the things they put in their e-mail, when I read it again, made me realise not everything was as it seemed.
Maybe they just got a little lazy, but maybe they weren’t the writer they wanted others to believe they were.
When you’re contacting potential clients, don’t discount the value of your first e-mail or phone call. It might only be a couple of sentences, but get those right and it could lead to a whole bunch more.