Oh, the things that I’ve seen…

Statements like these do not belong in cover letters.

“I love writing. All I want to do is write. I have just returned from Spain, and I’ve written about it.”

Well, I love watching Masterchef Australia in my pyjamas, but no one’s rushing to pay me for it (offers welcome).

What makes you the right copywriter for the company in question? Why should that person hire you, rather than any of the other the millions of people who like to write? It reminds me of the time I tried to get a part-time job at Waterstone’s. When asked why I wanted to work there I said I liked books. (Well, I was 17 and it was my first interview ever…yeah, didn’t get that job.)

“I am an elemental, creative being. I need to write. I must write. I will write.”

Ha! Look, I know how great it feels to write your own stuff. I’ve created entire planets in my head – I get how amazing it feels. Copywriting is not like that. It’s getting a brief and delivering on it. Creative writing can be a blast, but on a good day I’d describe copywriting as satisfying rather than fun.

“Why do I want this job? Well, it all started one dark and stormy night when my mother – a timid woman – met my father. They were six at the time…”

I get it, you love to write and therefore I now have an epic ode to your love of writing sitting in my inbox. However, this is not the story of your life; it’s a cover letter for a job. You need a bit of personality and backstory in there, but not so much that you look like a raving egotist.

“I have written countless articles for well-known publications.”

Great! Let’s see the portfolio and/or client recommendations. Don’t tell me – show me.

“I can’t play cricket, but I’m a great baseball player so you should really hire me for the cricket team.”

You may be the best Elvish language copywriter in the known world, but if you can’t construct a sentence in English, and the company you’re emailing only works in the English language, you’re going to stand out for all the wrong reasons. (Although, personally I’d take a course in Elvish language copywriting – I’m betting the press releases would sound awesome.)

The obligatory top ten list

If you’re like me – a copywriter and a creative writer – you have to distinguish between those skills. You could be a great fiction writer, but suck at writing about obscure technical things that the real you knows nothing about. After all, not every amazing copywriter can write a novel.

You need to know your audience. That CEO you’re emailing, does she really care about the plot to your novel? Or would she rather know about your previous copywriting work? Could you imagine sending an agent a press release you’ve written as a demonstration of your fiction work (hush!).

Anyway, these are the ten things I think a copywriter needs to get in order if they want to make the right impression:

  1. Have you own blog and/or website
  2. Post on other blogs in your industry
  3. Post thoughtful comments on articles that interest you (and if available, link the comment to one of your social accounts or your site)
  4. Join G+ and LinkedIn communities
  5. Be active on social media
  6. Keep a portfolio
  7. Know who to go to for recommendations
  8. Keep up to date with industry trends (including recruitment practices)
  9. Research the company before you apply…
  10. Be professional and friendly

But whatever you do, please learn how to write a cover letter ( the fab askamanager.org has some brilliant examples).