The Way We Work

Landing clients may be the most challenging part of freelancing — especially if you are new to contract work. We know the competition for online work is fierce, so the first impression you make with your potential client had better be a good one.

When you see a job available, it’s tempting to rush your response and be the first application in the door – but slow down! You should always take time to ensure you are presenting the whole picture to the potential client. The complete package is a winning cover letter and supporting evidence in your profile and portfolio to show that you have the skills they need.

Here is a quick guide to the best advice on presenting yourself as a qualified, competent and must-hire package:

The Cover Letter Is King

1. A generic cover letter won’t do. It’s okay to have some basics to start with each time, but always spice it up for the specific client and specific job you want. Every. Single. Time. It really is that important to show that you’ve read the job description, understand the skills they are looking for and can offer value beyond a particular price point.

2. Pinpoint the parallels between their needs and your skills. When the client reads your letter, they don’t just want to see you, they want to see that you read the job description and you have their interests in mind.

It’s the Internet, and we know jobs are advertised and contracted quickly. However, taking the time craft your cover letter is a detail that makes a difference and can have an invaluable payoff.

Keep Your Online Portfolio Alive

1. Your portfolio must sell your skills. If the client heads to your online portfolio and doesn’t see precisely what he or she is looking for, you can bet that you won’t make the final cut for that position.

2. Your portfolio must contain relevant work samples. You can say all you want about your “mad skillz” but a smart client looks for proof that you can actually do the things you say you can. If you have any samples of your work that are relevant to the job at hand, get them onto your portfolio. If you don’t have current samples, create a sample piece if you have the time.

3. Your portfolio should contain references. Just because you aren’t holding a clipboard filling out a paper job application doesn’t mean references are dead. If you have letters of recommendation from former clients, include them in your portfolio, and always offer to provide references for potential clients upon request.

Your portfolio should be considered a living, breathing “document.” Always update it, and always — this is crucial — verify that it contains the right work history, work samples and relevant skills for every job you apply for. Check it out BEFORE that cover letter gets sent. In the lightening-speed Internet world, once you click ‘send’ may be too late.


Tamara Rice

Freelance Writer and Editor

Tamara Rice is one of several freelance writers on the oDesk Blog team. She joined the oDesk marketplace in 2009, after more than six years on staff at an award-winning national magazine.