corporate writing

The most common mistake writers make with letters of introduction

By August 27, 2019 October 1st, 2019 8 Comments

Letters of introduction (commonly called LOIs) can be intimidating for freelance writers. It can be hard to find the exact words to interest and entice potential clients. And if you don’t get many replies to your LOIs it’s easy to feel that no one wants your services and give up. But I’ve found that many of us are doing LOIs wrong. And what we should be doing instead is simple.

What freelance writers get wrong with letters of introduction

Letters of introduction (LOIs) are exactly what they sound like – they are a piece of communication you use to introduce yourself to a potential client.

When I first started sending out LOIs, I spent so much time composing what I thought was an enticing introduction to myself and my services (you can read one of sample letters of introduction here), but I’ve actually realised that I had it wrong.

Even though that example isn’t terrible, I now think it’s too long.

I’ve learnt that the key to a great LOI is to get in and get out as quickly as you can.

You want to introduce yourself, establish your skills, sell your value and get out of there.

Sometimes you may only need to introduce yourself.

Most potential clients are so busy that they don’t have time to read through a long email that details all your services and why you think they need to engage you.

Most potential clients know within a sentence or two whether they’re interested in what you have to offer.

Here’s a recent example of an LOI I sent out on LinkedIn to an editor I hadn’t worked with before.

A sample of a freelance letter of introduction

And you know what?

That editor got back to me a week later with a commission.

As you can see from my LOI I didn’t even mention wanting to pitch to her.

Sometimes just connecting with the right person and introducing yourself is enough.

I feel like I’m a bit slow on the uptake, because Jennifer Gregory wrote about the importance of a short LOI back at the start of 2017.

Sending out LOIs and getting replies is a numbers game.

You don’t want to waste too much of your time tailoring very specific LOIs when (let’s face it) loads of people won’t even reply to your email or your connection request.

If you don’t have a niche (and believe me, I don’t think freelance writers need one), you need a couple of stock standard LOIs that you can send out to potential clients as part of your regular marketing efforts.

Trust me when I say these do not have to be long or detailed.

If you’re sending an LOI on LinkedIn (which is my favourite way to find high-paying corporate clients) simply introduce yourself and what you do, and then ask if they’d like to connect.

If you’re sending an LOI via email then you’ll need to include a little more information, but again, keep it brief. And if you are including a little more information, the key is to concentrate on the value you offer the potential client rather than on your skills and services.

The aim of an LOI is to interest a potential client or editor enough that they begin a conversation with you.

I think sometimes the temptation is to overcomplicate it, but actually it’s pretty simple.

Reach out, start the conversation and see what happens.

Do you send out regular letters of introduction? Are your LOIs short or long?

8 Comments

  • Halona Black says:

    I actually started doing this on LinkedIn this summer. I was quite ill for 6 months since January. I did no marketing and only had enough energy to maintain 3 clients. When I got better at the beginning of summer, 2 of those clients decided to work with in-house writers, leaving me with just 1 client. So I got busy on LinkedIn sending super simple LOIs using your advice from your blog. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done. No more pecking around for emails. I just locate companies that are interesting to me and connect with the appropriate marketing staff on LinkedIn. Now I can at least start a conversation with people to gauge interest. I’ve gotten a handful of positive responses compared to when I was hunting for emails. Unfortunately we are in the slow summer months so there doesn’t seem to be a lot of work available today, but now that September is almost here, people are getting back to me to talk about work for the fall. So I feel encouraged.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Halona, I’m so sorry to hear that you haven’t been well, but I’m glad to hear that you’re on the mend now. It makes me SO happy to read that you’ve had so much success with this. It’s so much quicker and easier to connect with possible clients on LinkedIn. Fingers crossed that the talks turn into action for you. Thanks so much for your comment.

  • Lori says:

    Hi Lindy! I really appreciate your blog. Thank you for sharing all that you do. I sent out a couple of LOIs early this year—partly because of your blog—and got great responses from both. However, while the second client was interested, I think I scared her off. She asked how freelance writing works, so I wrote back explaining how I work and what I charge. She never responded, even after a follow-up. I’m thinking maybe I should have scheduled a phone meeting instead of emailing those details? I’m curious to hear what you think about this. I stopped sending LOIs after she ghosted, and I’m trying to motivate myself to get back on the horse again.

    • Lindy Alexander says:

      Hi Lori,
      Thanks so much for your kind comments.
      Well done on starting to send out LOIs, and that’s wonderful that you initially had positive responses.
      Without knowing the full situation I would say that from the second client’s question to you, she wasn’t fully across exactly what a freelancer does (and charges) and probably wasn’t ready to engage you (for whatever reason).
      I doubt that it would have been about you, what you charge or what you offer, but more likely the position that she was in.
      I think phone calls are always a good way to immediately check out a prospective client.
      As a freelancer, all you have control over is your own actions, so even though the ghosting stings, you don’t have control over how a potential client acts/reacts. It really is a numbers game, so keep on sending out those LOIs.
      And check in and let us know how you’re going.

  • Lauren says:

    This is helpful. I’ve been starting to send some out in the travel sector. I’m keeping it simple with my name, where I’m based, who I’ve recently written for and my website. I’ll see if anything comes from them.
    Do you put anything special in the subject line?
    Do you use LinkedIn premium? I use LinkedIn for finding names and then figure out the email formula elsewhere. Definitely can be time consuming researching for LOIs!

    • lindyalexander says:

      Hi Lauren, no I don’t use LinkedIn premium. I find the unpaid version is easily enough for what I need. If you connect with people on LinkedIn, you can also access their email address, or you can use a tool like Hunter to help you confirm their contact details. In terms of my subject line if I’m emailing I’ll often write “Freelance writer specialising in XX” or “Freelance writer query”. I usually get a pretty good reply rate. Hope that helps?

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