At Icons8, we use Upwork and Fiverr a lot. We hire people for usability testing, proofreading, translating, and other tasks. Every time we publish a new job posting, we get hundreds of cover letters from all over the world and have to spend hours and days digging in candidate profiles.

And many of us have been those freelancers. So we know firsthand how difficult it can be. And how frustrating it is to wait for the reply and guess why they chose another guy. So we are truly thankful to all the people who respond to us.

The aim of this post is to:

  • Help freelancers write efficient cover letters for Upwork, Fiverr, or other freelance marketplaces, and thus get more exciting jobs
  • Ease up the employers’ job with straight responses
  • Save a lot of time for freelancers’ and employers’

Here is one of our typical job postings.

Writing Cover Letters on Freelance Marketplaces: tester job description at Icons8

Now, here are some typical responses from the candidates and honest feedback on them, without sweet bs.

Exhibit A. Fluffy

Writing Cover Letters on Freelance Marketplaces: example of a job application/ Fluffy response

Hello, Template User! Obviously, your cover letter is based on a template from one of a gazillion sites on the internet. Moreover, it seems that most templates were written somewhere in the middle of the last century. They are lengthy and feel old-fashioned and outdated.

Let me show what I, as the employer, see here and give a few tips on how to do better.

1. Cliches like “Hiring Manager”. All those Sirs/Madams and Hiring managers to show that the applicant is not paying attention to the person he is writing to and, most likely, to other details, either. So you’d better use the name if you know it. People love when you call them by name.

2. A sweet but too generic compliment. If you want to say something nice, first, find something worthy of praise, then be personal and use specific details to show you mean it.

3, 5, 6, 7. Fluffy wording, zero payloads. I’d recommend avoiding such things and focus on demonstrating your real strengths instead.

4. Bragging. Another problem with templates. Thanks to them, every second candidate graduates from some fancy college with honors. Even if it’s true, you better skip it and show real results. Reviews of your work from real people on your profile page will do the trick.

Exhibit B. Shorties

Writing Cover Letters on Freelance Marketplaces: example of a job application. Shorties response

Anton Chekhov, a famous playwright, once said that brevity is the sister of talent. But the above examples show no clues of any talent at all. So please keep it short but show what you’ve got.

Exhibit C. Nice one

Writing Cover Letters on Freelance Marketplaces: example of a job application. Nice response

This one is good and worth attention. It has everything I want to know and it’s brief. Congrats to the guy who got the job!

So, now when I’ve provided some feedback and highlighted a few tips, let me share more detailed advice on how to write a good cover letter and succeed in this tough race.

Choose a good template or write your own

Good templates save lives. But they are rare species. Most of the cover letter templates are wordy nonsense about your great pleasure and sincere excitement to apply to a globally acknowledged company. And your genuine passion for building strategic relationships. And resolving problematic issues. And all sorts of blah-blah-blah…

Avoid unnecessary politesse and high-flown clichés. Unless you are applying for a job posted by Buckingham Palace or J.P.Morgan, but they seldom do it on Upwork or Fiverr.

Write your own frank cover letter. Or choose a good template (for instance, see Exhibit С above) and wisely customize it.

Be concise and to the point

Your message should be as short as possible. But you should cover all or most of the employer’s requirements and show your relevant experience.

Here’s a sample structure:

  • Briefly introduce yourself (name, years of experience, location, the time zone can also be important) and then get straight to business.
  • Focus on the details mentioned by the employer. Don’t be like those guys sending the same response right and left in the hope that at least one of a thousand will hit the target.
  • Respond to the specific request. Demonstrate that you’ve carefully read the job post.
  • Provide links to 2-5 most relevant items in your portfolio. Don’t make people scroll through tons of your arts, no matter how awesome they are.
  • Don’t attach large files. Better don’t attach files at all. It’s really inconvenient to download all those massive PDFs, especially when you’re on mobile. There are lots of ways to store your portfolio online these days. For example, Behance, Dribble, personal portfolio pages, and even links to certain projects in Figma.
  • Call to action. For instance, you can offer to design some free samples for the project and continue negotiating the job if the employer likes what you’ve done. With this approach, you have more chances than other applicants, provided that you’ll do quality work.

Use grammar checkers

Spelling and grammar mistakes won’t do you any favor. So, make sure to thoroughly check your first message before sending it to the employer. Strange as it may seem, especially if you’re writing in your native language: if you’re negligent about what you write, you can also be negligent about what you do.

Be prepared

Decide which types of jobs you’re going after and prepare several templates for each of them. If you’re good at designing landing pages, logos, and mobile apps, you should have three templates at hand. When a respective job posting appears, all you need to do is edit the part relating to a certain project.

Don’t miss the train

Once you’ve applied for a job, be ready to promptly respond in case the employer writes you back. This does not mean that you should keep staring at the screen and refreshing the page for hours, but some reasonable timing should definitely be observed. Great, if you can reply within an hour or a few, tops. This would show that you’re interested and staying in touch.

Key points to wrap it up

  • Focus on key requirements and show your strengths
  • Avoid fluffy wording and high-flown clichés
  • Send links to relevant items in your portfolio, do not attach files
  • Use call to action
  • Check your spelling and grammar
  • Prepare a few templates if you are applying for different types of jobs
  • Respond promptly when an employer writes you back

Related articles

Design Career: Benefits and Pitfalls of Being a Freelance Designer

Freelance Marketplaces – How to Choose Them and How to Easily Collect Your Hard-Earned Cash

How to Expand Globally as a Freelance Designer

5 Solid Tips for Outstanding Graphic Design Marketing




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