How To Launch & Get Paid for Your Freelance Writing Career

Anyone can be a freelance writer. You don’t need any experience or degree.

So, you want to dive into freelance writing?

I get a lot of emails and DMs (on Instagram) from people asking me how to successfully start a career in freelance writing.

With the fact that there are tons of wrong advice out there ranging from excuses like the need for formal training to owning a website or blog, I thought to share my experience and sales strategies on this platform!

Here’s one thing though! If you think that you can’t begin a career in freelance writing as a result of no experience; well, it’s about damn time someone told you that: IT IS POSSIBLE! 


My Story

It’s been almost four years since I became a freelance writer.

When I first learned how to become a freelance writer, I made the mistake of thinking that I needed a blog or website. I also thought that the only way to get gigs was to sign up on freelancing sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, etc. 

Content mills provide cheap content jobs and they usually batch orders. Their goal is to get a lot of content for cheap. After a series of unsuccessful attempts to sign up on these platforms, I gave up.

Then, I switched to scouting for gigs on Nairaland. Most of them paid peanuts. Three years down the line earning little to nothing, I realized that this wasn’t for me!

I was worth more than that! I felt like giving up!

But, I didn’t. I re-grouped and started afresh. I signed up for training, pitched for freelance writing jobs; and gradually began to land high-paying clients. The rest, they say, is history!


If you want that for yourself, here are the steps on how to become a freelance writer you need to get started.

1. Research About Freelance Writing

When I first started, I did a lot of research. I found other freelance writers, read their blogs and learning as much as I could about this business.

While I had some clues about how to write blog posts, I didn’t know the kinds of jobs for freelance writers.

2. Become Familiar With the Writing Skills and Tools Required

While I’ve mentioned that you can start a career in freelance writing with absolutely no experience, you can increase the odds of success by learning a few skills and tools.

Some skills you should definitely have for freelance writing include:

> Organizational Skills

Having a system in place for your projects is key to growing your business. You don’t want to make a mistake or forget to do something.

I use my calendar to keep track of events, Evernote or my phone’s memo to jot down ideas and a list of things I want to do.

> Writing Skills

Writing for an online audience is different than writing in your diary or texting a friend. Know how to captivate readers with your blog topic and introduction.

You need to be able to create insightful, entertaining and educating posts.

> Confidence

Putting yourself out there and trying to land writing gigs is tough. You’ll get rejected, turned down or you may have a client walk all over you.

To become a successful freelance writer, you need to be confident and overcome your fear of pitching (I can’t begin to count how many clients I’ve landed via cold-pitching!) 

> Graphics & Design skills

There is no excuse for ugly photos, therefore this skill is very important to have. My favorite image editing app is Canva.

> Proofreading

While I offer proofreading services as well, it doesn’t hurt to use Grammarly or Hemingway app to give that document a final polish before it gets sent to your client.

3. Practice Writing

While you don’t have to be the best writer to become successful, you need to be able to write sentences and get your message across.

Improving your writing will not only help you become a better writer, but it will also help you market your freelance writing business because it makes you more credible as a professional writer.

4. Create a Portfolio of Your Work

Most job ads you’ll apply for will ask to see your work. They want to see samples of published work. If you’re new, you won’t have any published work – unless you already have a blog.

So, how do you show prospects you can actually write? Besides starting a blog, you can create samples.

Draft up a few pieces and either upload them as a Google Doc or publish them on Medium, LinkedIn or Quora.

Another alternative is to guest post. Search for blogs or websites in the niche you’d like to write about and pitch your blog idea to them.

Don’t think it’s possible? What do you think I’m doing here? Guest posting on She Leads Africa, of course!

5. Start Pitching to clients

Now it’s time to actively search for freelance writing jobs. But where do you go and how do you do it?

Go check out job sites like NG Careers, Jobberman, MyJobMag, etc for content writing positions.

When you find a job you are interested in the important thing to remember is to be one of the first few to apply and make sure your pitch stands out.

Are there other ways to find freelance writing jobs? Yes, there are tons of ways!

6. Hustle Queen!

Being a freelancer means you gotta hustle for work. But, this doesn’t mean you ALWAYS have to hustle. The goal is for clients to come to you.

However, when you’re new in the business, you have to get your name out there. 

Get on social media and network.  Guest posting not only to builds your portfolio but attracts potential clients as well.

7. Stay Learning!

The best thing you can do as a new freelance writer is to continue to learn. Whether it’s writing tips, business tips or pitching tips, hone your skills by learning from those who have done it before.

Are you interested in freelance writing? Connect with me on Instagram via my business page TheCopyWritingChick.


How are you improving your spending habits this month? Click here to join the SLA #SecureTheBag challenge.

FACEBOOK LIVE WITH ANULI OLA-OLANYI: CAREER HACKS FOR MILLENIALS (JUNE 26)

Hello, millennials! You’ve probably received advice on how you can “build a more successful career” from a handful of people. However, very few people give a break down of how you can advance yourself, or what to do when you face a challenge, like when your boss is not paying you what you’re worth – sounds familiar? Designing a career you’re passionate about or deciding on a career path can be challenging, and the chances of getting a good class that can really teach you how to do that are slim. Well, with a few career hacks, you can take small steps every day that will bring you success in the long run and that’s why you don’t want to miss this discussion! Join us on Tuesday, June 26th, for a Facebook Live chat with Añuli Ola-Olaniyi, founder of HEIR Women Development, who will be giving advice on how to achieve the ultimate career for yourself. Añuli believes women are strategizing to become empowered and rule the world alongside men. She has effectively delivered cutting edge training that has elevated people both in their professional and personal life. Design the ultimate career with @anuliolaolaniyi, founder of @heirwoman on June 26th at 1PM WAT! Click here for more: bit.ly/AnuliOla Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • So you got the job, now what?
  • Career habits to avoid
  • How to maintain career capacity
  • How to handle job rejection

Facebook LIVE details:

Date: Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 Time: 1PM Lagos // 2PM Joburg// 3PM Nairobi

Watch Facebook Live with Anuli:

She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Anuli Ola-Olaniyi, founder of @heirwoman, discussing career hack for millenials. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join!

Posted by She Leads Africa on Tuesday, June 26, 2018

About Anuli

Añuli Ola-Olaniyi is the founder of HEIR Women Development, an enterprise created to support young women in capacity and skills building in a career. Prior to this, Anuli began her career at John Lewis Partnership UK and she is currently the Deputy Managing Director of HM Ltd, ED of DV Solutions NG and an Advisory Board Member of the Women in Leadership Institute (WLI). With a wide range of experience across a number of different sectors and having completed tasks for high profile companies, Anuli graduated from the University of Ibadan with a BSc in Psychology and holds a Masters in Human Resource Management from Middlesex University UK. A believer in continuous professional and personal development, Anuli is a CIPD certified Human Resource Professional as well as a qualified Prince2 Practitioner in Project Management. She also holds certifications for Gender studies from the UN Women Training Centre. PMP trained, Anuli is currently working towards her certification from PMI Institute.  

WEBINAR WITH ABOSEDE GEORGE-OGAN: THE RISE OF WOMEN IN POLITICS (MAY 30)

For as long as we’ve known, politics has been viewed as ‘a big boys thing’ and not for women. Well, guess what world? It’s time to take a step back because ladies wanna play too!

From leading political organisations to being at the centre of political movements across the continent, women are increasingly taking charge of the political platform.

Admirable examples of #MotherlandMoguls in politics include Bostwana’s 29- year old, Bogolo Joy Kenewendo, who was recently appointed as Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry and Nigeria’s Ms. Rinsola Abiola, President of the APC Young Women Forum (amongst other titles) – the list goes on!

But let’s be honest! Even though there has been a rise in the number of women in legislatures across the continent, more work still needs to be done to integrate women into ‘political governance’.

That being said, ladies get in formation…let’s talk about building a fulfilling political career!!

To learn more, join us on Wednesday, May 30th for a webinar with Abosede George – Ogan, who is the Chief Facilitator of Women In Politics NG, as well as the Director, Strategy, Partnerships and Stakeholder Management at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. Abosede will be sharing useful nuggets on what it takes to build a successful career in politics.

Kick start your career in politics with @abosedea on May 30th at 11 AM WAT! Click here for more: http://bit.ly/BoseOgan #WomenInPolitics Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover:

  • Why you should be interested in politics
  • The building blocks to pursuing a career in politics
  • Types of jobs available in the field of politics
  • Advice on how to build a successful political career

Webinar Details:

  • Date: Wednesday, May 30th, 2018
  • Time: 11AM Lagos // 12PM Johannesburg // 1PM Nairobi
  • Location: Register below to get access to this opportunity

Watch here:

About Adebose

Abosede George-Ogan is a tri-sector leader with over 14 years’ experience working across the non-profit, private and public sector as a development professional.

She is the Chief Facilitator at Women In Politics NG, an online platform that seeks to engage, encourage, equip and empower women especially young women to get involved and participate in politics in Nigeria. In addition to this, Abosede is currently the Director, Strategy, Partnerships and Stakeholder Management at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund.

Abosede began her career in development over a decade ago with ActionAid International Nigeria. From here, she moved on to lead Corporate Social Responsibility and Corporate Citizenship for Keystone Bank, FirstBank and Samsung Electronics West Africa respectively.

Likewise, Ms. George-Ogan has a degree in Political Science/Public Administration from Igbinedion University and an MSc in Communication for Innovation and Development from the University of Reading.  

She is also the author of the recently launched book, “Building a Conscious Career: How to build a fulfilling and financially rewarding career”. For more information about the book, you can visit www.consciouscareer.com.ng.

 

Starting A PR Career And Finding The Right Fit

PR career

Graduating with a degree in Communications or Public Relations (PR) will indeed feel like a great accomplishment when you have your degree in hand. Many students, graduates or young professionals will agree that when it comes to a PR career, it really can be a tug of war scenario where you get pulled in different directions, until you finally find what works for you. There’s the option to work in agency or in-house, but without real knowledge of how it all works, how do you go about making the right decision?

If you are an aspiring PR girl, or in the early stages of your career, but still haven’t found your silver lining, here are some pearls of wisdom to help navigate your PR career.

 

 

Don’t Take Anything Personally 

Before you even begin the job hunting process write this down somewhere: “don’t take anything personally.” As with any creative role, you’ll be asked to come up with a whole bunch of out of the box ideas and work well in a team. This will often be epic campaigns, newsworthy story ideas, client management and working well under tight deadlines.

With this, can come a great deal of internal conflict. You have to learn to manage yourself well when your ideas aren’t received well, or a journalist belittles the relevance of your hard work on a press release.

In theory you might be thinking nothing can shake you, but until you are in this situation, you will find true meaning to these words. If you learn to brush it off quickly before it gets to you, you will develop a thick skin that will give you that Olivia Pope “gladiator status.”

 

Don't take anything personally Click To Tweet

 

Seek Environments That Will Foster Your Growth

There was a post on LinkedIn  that every young professional and hiring manager/trainer should read:

If we want our juniors lawyers to be great then we need to see things for what they are. In terms of the somewhat unpredictable boss buffet, I was extremely lucky, I started out my legal career with the best possible boss a junior lawyer could have.

I was always supported, never scapegoated or scared to ask questions or admit mistakes. I was given responsibility, lots of client contact and lots of coffee. I was allowed to be me and do things my way (to a reasonable degree and supervised, of course!) The poor man had to put up with me working Beastie Boys references into my first ever firm presentation (admittedly this was for the firm only not for clients). I’ll stir fry you in my wok!

I once remember a client calling me and, after a brief discussion, demanding to be put through to my former boss. My boss took the call and said loudly (so that I could hear him) that everything I’d told the client was correct and he couldn’t have said it better himself.

We all know some lawyers who aren’t good at managing people. But this isn’t good enough because junior lawyers can’t grow into something great unless the senior lawyers around them are willing to support and mentor them, especially in their early years. Eyes on them because their eyes are very likely on you. -Eleni P (Lawyer)

Linking it all back to PR, this reflection from Eleni should serve as a reminder that when you place yourself in the right environment, you will flourish. But if you find yourself hard pressed for options, and in spaces that don’t allow you to grow, never stop searching; whether its through mentors, old college professors or anyone who knows and understands how the PR industry works.

The Learning Never Stops

Just because you have your shiny degree doesn’t make you an automatic PR expert. You have to keep pushing the boundaries and challenging even the very information that was fed down your throat by lecturers, stay hungry and don’t become complacent.

Lerato Chiyangwa, an Account Executive for Djembe Communications and contributing writer for various platforms says: never stop asking questions. If you want to show how valuable you are, consistency and practice are key.

 

 

Have a go- to person

Never underestimate the ability of having a go- to person who knows and understands the industry well. This might be a hard one because everyone is so time poor, so it might take a while to find someone who is willing to invest in you and serve as a guide from time to time.

In the meantime, reading articles such as this one is a great place to start.  From here you start to unpack different elements of your career journey, take what works for you, leave what doesn’t and keep fighting the good fight.

 

 

These are just a few tips to be mindful of when stepping out into the real world and figuring things out for yourself early on in your PR career. Remember, there will be bitter failures along the way, but also success. Take the good with the bad. If PR is what sets your heart on fire every morning, you will find the right fit.


Do you have career tips for an aspiring PR student?

Let us know here.

6 tips for successful networking in the big city

The question now is, What are you doing to increase the size of your network? Click To Tweet

You have probably heard the saying that “your network is your net worth”. In this article’s context, net worth is not limited to finances alone but includes knowledge, skills, and access to opportunities as a result of your network’s size. The question now is, “What are you doing to increase the size of your network?”

Networking simply means to form personal or working relationships with people in your industry as a means of knowledge acquisition or landing deals. We are officially in Quarter 3 of 2017 and if you have not already started, now is the time to build your network. Here are six tips for successful networking in a big city:

Step outside your comfort zone

Dreams are not fulfilled by staying in your comfort zone but by stepping out and engaging in new activities, attending events and meeting new people.

For example, you can’t expect to be the best entertainment lawyer if you don’t network with people in the media and entertainment industry with a view to growing your clientele and offering the best services to them. Stepping outside your comfort zone paves a way for your career growth and development.

glitter work work work GIF

Stepping outside your comfort zone paves a way for your career growth and development. Click To Tweet

Be the master of your craft

In whatever industry you work in, you should aim to be the master of your craft. Strive to perfect your knowledge in a certain industry by keeping up on current affairs so that you will be able to engage in thought-provoking discourse with the people you choose to network with. Having a view on a current issue in your industry that’s different from most views usually sparks interest and will have people willing to know more about your philosophy on that issue.

Working in the creative industry will force you to practice your craft regularly so that you may gain more knowledge and an appreciation for your skills that will not be influenced by anyone. If your networking goals include getting a mentor, then honing your creativity by a schedule of practice will be a catalyst to your progress; experienced people would rather mentor people that have a resilience for hard work. Is ‘hard work’ your middle name?

 beyonce you ready GIF

Introduce yourself first

There will be times that you will be in a room full of people unknown to you. Imagine you’re an introvert that made it this far to an industry conference, your instinct may be to grab a coffee and sit down at the nearest table. Networking in the big city involves taking a plunge, so rather than following your instinct, you should join a table full of people who are not yet deep in conversation and introduce yourself or walk over to someone standing alone and find common ground.

Using an icebreaker to soften the atmosphere may get people smiling and will create a perfect opportunity to say, “Hi, my name is Rachel and I work for 1 Media Ltd. It’s nice to meet you, what’s your name?”.

Unresponsive body language while networking can be a deal breaker Click To Tweet

Communicate with body language

There are many ways you can show courtesy and attentiveness from your body language. Unresponsive body language while networking with other industry professionals can be a deal breaker. This may give off a vibe of having a short concentration span or succumbing to distractions from passers-by, implying that you may have the same attitude towards a particular job.

 michelle obama GIF

Shaking hands, smiling, and maintaining eye contact with someone you have just met shows your confidence and eagerness to partake in a serious discussion. This sort of body language will be reciprocated when delivered properly and not aggressively. Try not to scare your business targets away by being overly expressive or not expressive enough!

Never forget your business card

Networking with your business card is a recipe for success. At corporate or private events, many people may be able to introduce themselves and speak for a couple minutes but not engage in a full conversation. Sell your personality and your business but solidify this with a card that clearly states the name of your business, nature of the business, your role in that business and your current contact information.

Talking about a business or representing a company with nothing to signify your affiliation may not be convincing to other people and may prompt people to perform extra due diligence to ascertain your true identity.

Follow up

After all the hard work involved in attending seminars or making connections at a meeting you followed your boss to, don’t take a step back by not following up on the conversations you’ve had with colleagues and seniors in your industry. Follow up on your networking attempts by sending a short email, setting up a meeting or a friendly phone call (with a purpose) to inquire an opinion.

Networking can either be impulsive or very strategic but whatever the case, ensure that you are using your network to achieve your net worth!

How to land a legal job: The dream cover letter for the future attorney

Don’t expect anything if you don’t work for it Click To Tweet

It seems obvious but a lot of the time we wish for things and then wait around for them to happen to us. This as opposed to grabbing opportunities and making things happen for ourselves. Particularly when it comes to seeking employment in the legal profession, competition is unavoidable.

You need to differentiate yourself and be proactive in getting yourself that job of your dreams. Your first shot to get through those doors is just two pieces of paper, your CV, and your cover letter.

What is it for?

There is a common misconception that the cover letter is redundant and the magic is in the CV. However, if we analyse the objectives of these two documents, it becomes clear that the CV is a list of information. Important information, yes, but not necessarily relaying your personality and charisma.

The cover letter should be just that, your emotive selling point and the document that can push you over the edge when the employer is stuck with a pool full of like-minded CVs. It, therefore, has the power to be a critical document in your pursuit of employment. You can take your list of achievements and translate them into relevant skills that your prospective employer is looking for.

The CV has important information but not it doesn't relay your personality & charisma Click To Tweet

The law degree will see everyone in much of the same position in terms of subjects. So the extracurricular activities and interest areas will be what makes you stand out – it is important to highlight this and make it clear in your cover letter.

What should I include?

The contents of the cover letter are dependent on what you are applying for. So before you jump into writing, take a few steps back and spend some time engaging with the requirements of the position you are applying for.

Is it a position at a big corporate law firm? Then your cover letter should focus on your ability to work long hours and maintain attention to detail; your ability to translate constructive criticism to a change in your work product and motivated attitude (to name a few).

If it is a position at a human rights non-government organization, then the cover letter will be completely different to the aforementioned. Mention motivated attitude again but now link it to previous experience highlighting your passion for the cause; determination to work regardless of the barriers and interest in following court decisions in this area and the trends you have seen.

Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order. Take that vacation work experience and make it work for you! Highlight how you learnt the value of networking and even though it was a long work day, you are excited at the prospect of challenging yourself and learning more.

Don’t make your cover letter another list of skills in a different order Click To Tweet

Should someone else read through it?

It can be nerve-wracking once you have poured your heart into this document to then expose yourself to a third party prior to sending it on to your prospective employer. However, there is a lot of value in getting insight as to whether you have sufficiently sold yourself for the position you are applying for.

It is important for a third party to read your cover letter together with your CV to assess whether there are any achievements or skills that you have missed out on including or whether something else could be more relevant to include.

Am I going to use this again?

I think it is helpful to start off with a generic cover letter that covers some of the transferable skills that will be relevant regardless of the position. Then working off this, tweak the original to suit the specific position.

Of course this means that your base cover letter needs to be cracker, and by cracker I mean a strong reflection of some of your core skills that differentiate you from the masses. Then for each new position you are applying for, go through the same process of analyzing the position and your suitability to it and amend your base cover letter accordingly.

Selling yourself is never a bad thing

You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that Click To Tweet

You are amazing, you just need your prospective employer to see that. The benefit in taking the time to reflect on the position and your ability to fulfil the position can result in you realizing that perhaps you are not suited to being a corporate law associate because you don’t like working long hours and you have not really had an interest in corporate law given your previous experience.

Through spending more time and effort on the cover letter process, hopefully you manage to match yourself to position that will fulfil you and to which you are happily suited – it shouldn’t be a strain to sell yourself for a position.

Revolutionise your business cards with these 6 easy-peasy tips

By handing over a business card you are literally handing your business name in their hands Click To Tweet

One of the smartest things to do upon meeting a potential customer, client or partner is to hand over a business card. However, I’ve noticed more than 80% of the business cards I have collected over the years have one thing in common- a blank space at the back.

By handing over a business card to a potential client/customer you are handing your business name in their hands; quite literally. This is your chance to capture their attention by making use of that awkward blank space at the back of your business card, (you know they will turn it over to explore, right?) or for some that repetitive business logo that does nothing.

Think of your business card like having two billboards on the roadside whereby you opted to use only one simply because all your information could fit in there and leave the other one empty. What a waste right?

If you are not using the back of business card, you are definitely wasting one of the most effective budget friendly marketing resources at your disposal.

I have searched the web and found some examples of how creative entrepreneurs are using the back their business cards. Here are some useful and easy ideas to you get you started.

Boost your credibility

Every person, brand or company can quickly tell a story of why they are relevant by adding one of the following to the back of their business cards;

  • Customer testimonials
  • Brand promise or a statement quote
  • Career achievements, or honorary degrees
  • A short list of important media features
  • A translation of your business card will make a great first impression on your foreign clients and customers.
  • Names or logos of your major clients or customers.
  • Charities you support
  • Titles or cover photos of any books you have published.
  • The hours you are open for business
An example of a business card with a strong personal statement

2. Give a special offer

Use your business card to give your potential clients offers they can’t refuse. The important thing is to make offers depending on your business model and clarify in your wording that the offer is exclusively available to those holding your business card when they walk into your shop and not otherwise.

Such offers can be:

  • Free consultation offers for client attraction
  • Offering discounts for your client first purchase or first project together
  • “Buy one get one free” deal to incentivize customers to purchase
  • Offer a free recipe or great tip relating to one of your products.
An example of a business card with a special offer

3. Add a QR CODE to your paper business card

Another great option is to print a QR code on the back of your card to generate leads for your business. A variety of QR code scanners are available as smartphone applications and when a client scans a code, it will bring up anything you choose to link to such as your website, links to social media profiles, email subscriptions page, adding to their phonebook etc.

You can learn how to make your personal QR code online very easily. Important to make sure you have a call to action on your business card. Don’t just print the QR code, write something with it; for example, “Scan this QR code to know more about me”.

You can also use the back of business cards to show a short description of what you do Click To Tweet

4. Showcase your skills and services

You can also use the back of business cards to show a short description of what you do/who you do it for. You could opt for one of the following:

  • If you are a restaurant, you could put a small menu with a best selling dish especially for takeout customers.
  • Titles of courses and the number of people you have trained in your career are great for teachers.
  • Public speakers can include the titles of their talks.
  • A before/after photo can be very persuasive for professional services providers such as fitness coaches, event decorators, and furniture repair or restoration services.
  • If you are an artist, you can add one of your favorite artworks.
  • Price menu including prices of your best services or products.
Example of the back of spa business card showing the prices of treatments and spa location.

5. Choose a meaningful background

There might be times you don’t want to add any text on the back of your business card. Instead of selecting a coloured background, which is no better than a blank white space even if they are pretty to look at, how about adding an icon, a symbol or a photo that describes your brand? This particular style can work great for creative professionals in the visual arts, such as architects, photographers, graphic designers and many others.

An example of a makeup artist business card with an eye catching background
Whatever you decide to add to the back of your card, make it something valuable Click To Tweet

Conclusion

There are limitless possibilities for the back of your business card to add additional information beyond the basic and showcasing your unique personality and brand. Whatever you decide to add to the back of your card, make it something valuable and favorable to your customers or prospects.

Writing cover letters for jobs in media or communications

Remember, it's not about you, it's about what you can do for them Click To Tweet

The media industry is a very cutthroat place driven by extreme timelines and deadlines. That being said, most media professionals will not have time to read through pages of a cover letter explaining every single job you have ever had or what clubs you chaired in high school. They simply want to know these five things:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why should we hire you?
  3. What do you know about us as an organization/company/institution/publication?
  4. What sets you apart from the rest?
  5. How do we find you?

Put all this in a cover letter and you’re on your way to getting that interview call back you are hoping for. How to go about this though, is where most of us get it wrong. The world changes every day with each passing day, hour, minute and second, therefore it is imperative to keep up with the constant changes going on.

What worked as a cover letter say 5/6 years ago, is definitely not the case today in 2017. Check out the dos and don’ts below which I hope will be a quick guide to writing a great cover letter.

DO: Start off with a very intriguing first sentence

The media/comms industry is all about being creative and thinking of different angles to put points across. Do not just say, “I’m applying for this position because I really need a job and I feel this would be it”… Let’s avoid the tired cliches, shall we?

Start with what you know, which is your field, where you saw this vacancy and that you are interested in the position. This, first of all, gives them an assurance that their ads are being seen. Secondly, it tells them you know you fit the description by saying what you do already and lets them avoid wasting time reading the entire letter only to find out you don’t even know what you are applying for.

DON’T: Start writing out a detailed description of your resume or LinkedIn profile

By the time an editor, HR officer or head of department is receiving your cover letter, he/she has already looked at your resume. Do not waste time filling cover letters with repetitive content.

DO: Tailor your cover letter to the job description

Generic cover letters are a lazy way of applying for a job and they can be sniffed out from a mile away. A good example during my time working at an NGO, I was tasked with the job of going through various applications that had come in and had to cut them down to at least seven from 30 files.

Out of the 30, half the group had exactly the same cover letter, copied and pasted from a popular career website, just different names and sent on different dates. That saved me a lot of time in terms of evaluation but it cost those candidates a job because they did not bother to actually write a detailed cover letter.

Answer the questions they are asking by saying exactly how you fit the job requirements and you can provide one or two examples of what you have done in relation to the position.

Applying for a job in media/communications? Here are tips to write a stellar cover letter Click To Tweet

DON’T: Go overboard with selling yourself

Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can do for them. Focus on that. Don’t talk so much about where you went to school, or the accolades you achieved. In this industry particularly, your honours, summa cum laude nod, distinction… aren’t prioritized as much.

Someone with a Ph.D. can just as easily be outshone by a freshly graduated senior from college, it all boils down to efficiency, skill and how badly you want this job. Show them you are worth the investment, don’t tell them what they could have easily looked up on Google.

DO: Your research

Find out all you can about the place you are applying to. Talk to them about their visions, their values, their goals. Show them how adding you to their team will contribute to bringing about even better communication campaigns or how efficient of a designer/copy writer/editor you are thus providing a fresh approach to their brand/publication/business.

Show them you know them and that you are ready to not change things around, but contribute to an already well-established organization.

DON’T: Have grammatical errors

None whatsoever. Cross all your Ts, dot all your I’s, have every comma, period and apostrophe properly placed. Proof-read your letter once you are done writing to make sure there are no typos, spelling errors etc. Have someone else check it as well to have a fresh set of eyes on it.

There have been cases where an entire application has been cast aside due to one single typo in the cover letter. This industry is very detailed in the work they do and a simple mistake such as wrong spelling or a missing piece of information can cost them millions in the long run. A cover letter with grammar mistakes shows you are not meticulous and are sloppy with your work thus a liability to the company.

DO: Be brief

I’ll reiterate the concept of time. Most people in these industries will most likely skim through these applications than actually read through them. They will look for the five things mentioned above and tick off or cross out where appropriate and move on.

Anything more than a page will not be considered at most organizations because again, no one has time to read through all that. Do be brief and concise yet include every detail you deem important to you and them on there. The art of paraphrasing comes in handy when applying to fields such as these.

A cover letter to the UN will be very different from a cover letter to a travel magazine Click To Tweet

DON’T: Forget to provide contact information

If it is not located on your CV, the cover letter is the place one shall look for a way to find you. Also, provide a period of availability (if asked) and when you can be reached. These industries do not work with your typical 9-5 schedule and may sometimes want to call you after business hours. Make sure you can be reached.

DO: Be gracious

Treat this is as a once in a lifetime opportunity and say how fortunate you would be to join such a great work place. Make them feel good as a business and show that you will do this job to your absolute best if considered. Sign off politely, prompting that you hope to hear from them soon.

DON’T: Forget to follow up

This is especially if you are applying to someone directly and not going through the HR office/automated job portal. Send a follow-up email to he/she asking if they received your application.

Give it 3-5 business days before sending the first follow up email and when you do send it, kindly ask when you are likely to hear back from them if it is not indicated on the vacancy announcement.

Now I’m no expert at all things resume/cover letter writing but these are tips I learnt in school and picked up in my time as a job seeker. My cover letter went from a generic 2-3 paragraph email to a concise, one page word document, tailored to the different positions I have applied to over the years.

A cover letter to the United Nations will be very different from a cover letter to a travel magazine or an advertising agency. Keep these tips handy and keep practicing on your writing, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I wish you all the best!

This is how you get your resume to the top of the pile

We’ve all seen our fair share of resumes. And to be honest, most of them had room for improvement.

And because SLA loves seeing you slay professionally, we are spilling the beans on how to create a memorable resume with these 5 tips.

Resume or curriculum vitae?

Whereas a resume is a brief overview of a person’s educational achievement and work experience, a curriculum vitae (CV) is not.

gif2

A CV is a detailed version of a resume. Decide which one suits your needs best, or better still, create two templates for different job applications.

The order of things

Do you know those people who get lost in the layout of their documents? Or those who start without a layout? I was one of those people,and can tell you it’s not having one is counterproductive.

gif3

To create an outline, draw up all the information your resume need, splitting them into clear categories. Then arrange the work experiences either chronologically or based on functionality.

Last, work on overall look. Try to stay away from fancy fonts, and please no funky colours unless you’re applying for creative position.

Stay serious

I’ve performed stand-up comedy that left people (OK, just my mom) in tears. Nowadays, I think twice before cracking a joke. Humor is subjective, because it’s personal.

cute

To a potential employer, your resume is just a piece of paper, or a pdf. Getting clever or artsy on your resume can destroy your chances of getting a job.

Applying for a job is serious affair, so make sure your resume reflects that.

Be honest

Remember when Joey from Friends acted like he danced with the National Ballet? He looked like a fool at his audition with his poor excuse for jazz hands. Tribbiani taught me to never, ever lie on my resume!

honest

Holidaying three weeks in Paris does not make you fluent in French, and does not count as an ‘intense course of European languages’ either. 

Do yourself a favour and list only those skills and achievements you can prove.

Show initiative

A lot of companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS). Avoid these whenever you can. Headhunters and recruitment professionals tell us the more pro-active and personal we are in reaching out, the more likely we are to be invited to an interview.

huger

In your email, compliment the company on their recent achievement or a speech given by the CEO, and share your interest in ongoing projects. These will demonstrate you’re interested in the company, and who knows you might just be getting that call saying you’ve been hired.

So there you have it, our top 5 tips to creating a memorable CV. What other tips do you have for keeping your resume above the rest? Share them with us.