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The 4 Top Reasons You Don’t Get Responses

freelance writing jobsOne of the biggest complaints I get is that people responding to ads get no information back. Believe me I know that it often feels like your responses end up in a black hole. But consider it from the employer’s point of view. They receive 100s of responses every time they post an ad; they simply don’t have time to respond to everyone, even automatically.

That said, most of the ads you see result in someone getting hired to write something for pay. You can be sure that most of the responses get ignored for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. You didn’t follow the instructions. If that ad asks you to put a number or phrase in the subject line of the email and you don’t, your email will be deleted without opening. If you attach a document when the ad specifically says not to, you might as well have not applied at all. If they ask for a sample pasted into the body of the email and you link instead, you’re probably wasting your time. If you don’t want to risk a new sample, paste a sample of something else you’ve already published, and mark it as such.
  2. You didn’t respond to the ad. It’s amazing how many people don’t actually address the kind of writing the ad calls for. If they want SEO and you link only to consumer magazine articles, they assume you don’t understand SEO. If they want blog writing and you don’t mention blog writing in your response they will assume you didn’t read the ad. Read the ad and craft your reply using some of their words and phrases.
  3. You don’t respond promptly. Well, this is a mixed bag. A couple of times I’ve actually waited a week to reply, but I’ve stated the reason, saying something like “I’m sure you were overwhelmed with the response to your ad posted on (date). Just in case you haven’t found the writer you need I want let you know I’m a fit.” This works best with ads that have fairly sophisticated requirements. It also can work with ads that you know are repeated often. But on the whole, you have to throw your response in with everyone else and do good enough job to come to the top.

  4. You focus on you instead of them. If you don’t show the employer or publisher how you and your writing will solve their problem you won’t get hired. An employer doesn’t care about you beyond your ability to do the kind of writing they need. Period. Show them how you can solve their problem and you probably will get hired.

Avoid these mistakes, make sure you’re answering the ad and can help the employers solve their problems and you’ll soon be getting responses when you reply to ads.

What did I leave out?


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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • I am so guilty of the 3rd one…Even when the client approached me in the first case! This is the problem of a busy freelancing writer.

    • Doesn’t happen to me often because I put em right in my calendar… but I have lost track from time to time.

  • I’m so printing this out and keeping it with me at all times:)
    Well, I pay the most attention to 1&2 and they don’t grant responses. I am guilty of 3 sometimes, so I really appreciate the tip. As for 4, I suppose we will improve in that as we write more queries and respond to more ads.

    Thanks for the tips:)
    Pinar Tarhan recently posted..Soon- Scream 4 starring Neve Campbell- Courteney Cox- David Arquette Feat Adam Brody- Hayden Panettiere- Emma Roberts- Kristen Bell&amp Anna PaquinMy Profile

  • I don’t tend to look for ads as a source of new business except when things have slowed way down or if I’m bored and surfing around — there’s simply too much fishing and not enough catching.

    On the occasions that I have responded successfully, it’s because I’ve done everything I can to ferret out what’s *behind* the ad: Can you figure out what the company is, and therefore create a better, more customized pitch? Sometimes the ad seems anonymous, but the email address gives it away. Sometimes you can figure out a better contact than “jobs@acme.com”. Anyway, it’s worth taking a few minutes to play Sherlock Holmes in order to differentiate yourself on the receiving end.
    Jake P recently posted..Freelancing in the sticksMy Profile

  • The instructions are submission guidelines and must be treated as such. Far too many writers respond in the manner that’s easiest for them, not the way someone receiving hundreds of submissions needs in order to cull the herd.

    Also, often there’s such a rush to submit that the query/pitch isn’t proofread carefully. Since that’s the first impression, if you have a mistake in there, why would they hire you?
    Devon Ellington recently posted..Thursday- February 24- 2011My Profile

  • This is an interesting article. Still, it doesn’t address the reason(s) as to why one doesn’t get a response after doing everything according to the post. I have had that happen before. I always paid attention to what the ad says and follow it to the letter. Hell, I even explained why I wasn’t sending samples (because they didn’t ask for them), and there were plenty of times I still didn’t get a response. Isn’t one strong possibility that the poster found the right person before reading your email and so it therefore didn’t have anything to do with what you sent?

    In any case, that was in the past. I am now focused on publications and other more lucrative avenues. This helps, and it is a better bet for a writer to get a response either way.
    Mark recently posted..Resource and Data Acquisition- Ten Important ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ on How to Conduct Solid- Effective and Conscientious ResearchMy Profile

    • Mark, yes, of course… they found someone else, they have too many to respond to. There’s no way to know. Focusing on higher paying gigs makes sense.

      • Anne,

        The point I was making is that rejection (i.e. the lack of a response by a poster) need not be due to an error on the part of the writer. The four items above seem to suggest that rejection always is. Timing means everything, as someone else already stated.

        That said, the article is a good one with helpful tip for writers to remember while devising those queries. Every situation is different, but general rules, such as these, will help more than not.

        • Mark, I’m sorry. I know that much of the time its bad luck or bad timing. But if a writer is getting rejected regularly, this is one place to start to find out what needs to be changed.

    • And Mark, so often it simply boils down to the advertiser isn’t willing or doesn’t know how to respond to every submission. It’s one of those things we can complain about, but it won’t do any good… acceptance is the key here I think.

      • Hello Anne,

        I am in tune with Devon here, but it still becomes frustrating. I remember earlier on having to deal with that. Many writers still do. I never said the writers aren’t to blame. Yes, they need to be careful and follow instructions because those guidelines provide an indication of what the client is like, what is sought, and how submissions are handled. This is why writers should not barrel through thoughtlessly.

        In any case, sites such as yours are so invaluable, because they provide key insights that are useful to all writers, not just newbies.

        If I haven’t said it yet, thank you again. 🙂
        Mark recently posted..Resource and Data Acquisition- Ten Important ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ on How to Conduct Solid- Effective and Conscientious ResearchMy Profile

  • Being patient and persistent is another attribute that gets writers in a rut. Often, as a writer you want to see immediate results, in fact your bottom line depends on it…but when you’re trying to get jobs online, you have to be patient and persistent. When you finally do get a client, make sure to blow them away with your professionalism, skills and courtesy.
    Ahlam- ProWriterInc recently posted..18 Steps to Revolutionize Your LifeMy Profile

  • I second Ken’s thoughts on standing out from the crowd. And noting that there are hundreds of other potential writerss makes it reasonable to think not all will be answered. The key is developing a strategic response to these type of ads that highlight what makes you different and what you can bring to the table for them!
    Rachel @ Pen Meets Wallet recently posted..Filing Taxes as a WriterMy Profile

    • Strategic response is a great term. And not getting discouraged or being persistent is also required.

  • Anne: I’ll second & third that. Great advice that on the surface sounds simple, but somehow is consistently overlooked.

    Another thought, if you go in with a defeatist attitude, it shows in your response-in one form or another. Believe in yourself and it shows.
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Will BUMP Safety Membership Cause More BumpsMy Profile

    • Amen to that… it’s amazing how negative attitudes show up even when we’re trying to hide them.

  • I’ve already tweeted this one for you, Anne. Great post!

    I’m amazed at how many writers break even one of these rules, but more often they break most, if not all. The worst is not following instructions. If you can’t do that when asking for the gig, that’s a huge red flag. Who wants to work with someone who can’t follow simple directions?

    • Well said, Lori, and thanks for the retweet – as you know, those help.

  • Ken

    Great post that should serve as a reminder to us all. I think part of the problem is rushing to answer the ad knowing hundreds of other writers are also responding. Stand out from the crowd and take the time to read the ad over again and then respond.

    Thank you again for the reminder.

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