What Children's Literature Can Teach Copywriters
What can writers learn from children's books? Turns out, a lot.
Unpopular opinion? Let’s say controversial at least: I love Upwork. I get jobs on Upwork, I hire people on Upwork and I think it’s an awesome platform with plenty of high-value talent and clients. Don’t screw Upwork or play shady on Upwork and it can be a major source of income for you. It is for me.
I’m not going to say I’ve cracked any kind of code with Upwork, but I do make a chunk of my income on the platform, and have found some success by writing cover letters a certain way. If you want to score more jobs on Upwork, I think you should think about your cover letter copy as like you would an email.
In email copy, the subject line is the MVP, but you don’t have a subject line here. However, you do have an opening line, so I suggest you treat it like that.
Your first line should contain a simple greeting, with a few specifics. If you’ve been invited to the job, go back and double-check the name of the person who invited you, and be sure that’s included in your greeting. DO NOT say “to the hiring manager” or some other nonsense (people really do this to me as an employer on Upwork and it’s a major turnoff). Upwork is casual. Be cool.
Upwork is also super busy and full of people, so be sure your opening line is VERY SHORT. Like, 3-5 words.
“Hey, Jane, thanks for reaching out!”
If you haven't specifically been invited to the job and are just applying cold, you obviously won’t have a name (unless it’s in the job description, in which case, use it). In this case, you should launch into a description of yourself.
“Hey, I’m a professional copywriter with 7 years of experience.”
“Hi there! I’m a copywriter who specializes in on-page SEO and conversion-oriented copy.”
Yes, boring, but important details like that are going to immediately catch someone’s interest or not.
The job may be more specialized, in which case immediately speak to that in your opening line.
“Hello! I wanted to connect on this project because I specialize in robotics copy!”
Make it clear right away that you’re friendly, professional and qualified.
In the body of the copy is when you can go into SOME detail, but not MUCH. Frankly, I only read about 10% of the applicants to an average Upwork job that I post. Freelance writers, developers, designers, any of it. There are usually dozens and dozens of applicants. The body copy needs to contain very little information:
Your years of experience and credentials
A link to your portfolio
Links to specific, topically relevant samples
I’ve started doing the latter more because I have several areas of expertise, so I’ll send industry-specific examples. Or, if they want proof that I’m an SEO expert, I’ll send a one-sheet I have of my most recent SEO wins. This is a good moment to remember just how vital it is to have a rocking digital portfolio that you regularly update.
Since you’re typing this, you’re in charge, and I *always* end with a CTA. For example:
Feel free to reach out if you’re interested
Happy to chat if you see potential
Let me know if you want any more samples or info
Don't force them to make a decision about you on the spot, because that’s pushy and annoying. Rather, leave an open-ended, cheerful and breezy statement of how you can be reached and affirm that you’re interested in making a connection. You want them to want you, and people hire people they like, so be likable.
The last part of a cover letter is your name. I decide whether to put just my first name (Joy) or my full name (Joy Youell) based on the client. For instance, if it’s a company in accounting or something I clearly see to be a more corporate or old-school business, I’ll use my full name. If it’s clearly a start-up or marketing agency, I’ll just use my first name. Adapt how you represent yourself so that it’s clear you’re a great fit for their culture.
The best cover letters are SHORT, distinctive, descriptive and bright. Keep the tone upbeat and positive, and very briefly delineate why you’re the best writer for the job. Upwork will give back to you if you learn how to use it. It’s worth doing well.
There are link building strategies that actually work - learn what they are!