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How To Answer A Writer Wanted Ad and Get The Job

help wanted2I suspect most freelance writers spend at least some time looking at ‘writers wanted’ ads.

It might be from the job list here or you might respond to a job that shows up through LinkedIN or ProBlogger.net or… well, the list is pretty endless on the ‘net these days. And if you’re in a city with a good-sized daily you might even find a writing job in the Sunday classifieds. It’s rare, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

What you need to know about writers wanted ads

The people who post writers wanted ads have a problem. They only reason someone posts an ad is they have a problem and they want to find someone to solve it. People look for writers because they need something written. All sorts of things get written by freelancers from ads through books. From white papers through back-of-jacket copy to what you read on a milk carton.

They will receive far more responses than they can handle. The number of responses to even a simple craigslist ad for a writer is staggering.  I recently talked with a fellow who wanted someone to write short ads and posted his need on a single craigslist site. He took it down after 45 minutes because he got so many responses.

When a big company asks for a resume it probably goes through some sort of automatic process. These automatic processes look for keywords, degrees and other criteria. While this undoubtedly eliminates many good prospects, it also winnows the responses to a number a human can deal with.

You will get the writing job if they believe you can solve their problem

Many writers apparently don’t really understand that they will only get hired if the employer believes they can solve the problem. They don’t read the ad closely enough to discover what the problem is, or to take their best guess. 

Yes, it’s true potential employers are often way more vague than they should be. But since there are rarely any opportunities to ask questions, you’ve got to give it your best shot. (And don’t bother to send a question unless questions are specifically invited. Even then it’s unlikely you’ll get a helpful answer.)

Try walking in their shoes as it were

Take a moment to carefully read the ad you’re going to respond to – read it through at least once, twice is better. If it sill seems like the gig might be a fit stop and notice how they want you to respond. If they say ‘no attachments’ or ‘in the body of an email only’ believe them. If they want you to put some strange code in the subject line, do so – these instructions are sort of mini-tests to see if you can actually follow instructions.

Pause again and imagine how you will solve their problem. Tell them exactly what you would do, and if you can, give them an example. If they ask for a resume, explain in your cover letter how you will solve their problem. Keep it short, make it your best work, and move on.

I actually answered the ad of the man I mentioned above. He wanted someone to write ads for selling things through online classifieds. I just happened to hit the ad before he took it down and I wrote three sample ads of products I looked up on a different craigslist.

When we talked I asked how many people had responded.

He described the stack of resumes he had, saying there were obviously some talented folks. “But,” he added, “you’re the only one who wrote sample ads.”

I was surprised. He hadn’t asked for samples, but it seemed the best way to respond. Of course, I write pretty good ads quickly and it was easy for me.

Now, I’m not talking about creating samples for every gig you want to apply for, and certainly not talking about setting yourself up to be ripped off by whole sample articles.

No, I’m talking about walking in the other persons shoes a bit. It’s from there you can tell them how you’ll solve their problem and point them to something similar you’ve done, or give them an opening sentence or two, or just describe your approach.

It won’t always get you hired, but this approach will get you hired more than the folks who only send out a resume.

Get a series of articles about finding Freelance Writing Jobs – it’s FREE; all you need to do to get it is sign up here.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer



Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Sam Howzit


{ 6 comments… add one }
  • These are some great reminders. As a writer, when companies and individuals are not banging down your door, you have to go out and find your own clients. When I answer these ads, I find it useful to remember that those who post the ad do need a lot of help and usually only have a little bit of time. So, I make it my job to make my reply easy by telling them how I can help, how long it will take and what it will cost. Finishing off with some key skills and my contact information has also been very helpful. I love that this blog post mentions that posters look for keywords because that is becoming so popular.
    Charlene Rossell recently posted..Writing eBooks & Kindle Worlds: Glamorous, Enticing & oh, so HollywoodMy Profile

    • Yes, keeping your response short honors their time restraints… good point.

  • Sarah

    And don’t have typos. 😉

    “Try walking in there shoes as it were”

    • fixed… thanks I think.

      • Sarah

        It happens to the best of us, but when I’m on the hiring side of the table, typos usually land the resume/letter in the recycling bin.

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