By Glenn Murray
I recently advertised for freelance copywriters to work for my
copywriting business and received some 200 applications. I've
done quite a bit of recruiting in the past, so, from the
outset, I knew exactly what sort of expertise I was after. I
also knew I'd be inundated with applications, and that the
applicants would come from all sorts of backgrounds with
varying levels of copywriting expertise. I was very specific
about the application requirements, and I had systems set up
filter and categorize applications. I thought I had it all
covered. I should have known I couldn't be that lucky!
When the applications started rolling in, I was dumbfounded.
All of my best intentions and systems notwithstanding, the
applicants seemed intent on ruling themselves out of
by sending sub-standard application emails. They were so bad
that, at times, I felt like I was shortlisting based on the
quality of the application, rather than the quality of the
This article is for any writer - experienced or not - who
to apply for a copywriting job. It presents 12 tips (in order
importance) on how to apply in such a way that you stand a
chance of making the shortlist.
1) Follow Instructions
If the job ad contains instructions, follow them. If it
contains instructions which are labelled "IMPORTANT", and
are formatted bold and red, you can assume they're somewhat
important and that there's a reason for them. Follow them!
and re-read the ad to make sure you've followed every
instruction. If the ad says apply via email, apply via email!
If it says to use "Copywriter Application" as the subject
use "Copywriter Application" as the subject line! If it says
visit a website, provide a quote, supply three copy samples,
and include your resume, DO ALL OF THOSE THINGS! If you don't
follow the simple, obvious instructions in a job ad, the
employer will have no faith that you'll be able to adhere to a
complex copywriting brief!
2) Less is More
Don't waste the employer's time. Remember, they're hiring a
freelance copywriter because they need someone to take on a
of their workload. They're 'time poor'. Keep your application
short 'n' sweet. This is your chance to show what you're
capable of, so don't fall into the trap of using big words and
complex sentences. Less is more.
3) Show How You'll Help Their Business
Try to see things from the employer's perspective. Most
employers who advertise for freelancer copywriters are looking
for people who can help them streamline their business.
Employers - particularly copywriting studios, advertising
agencies and web design agencies - who want freelance
copywriters are trying to 'productize' copywriting. They want
to be able to 'turn the handle': they want an affordable
freelance copywriter who can be relied upon to deliver
client-ready first draft copy, with minimal supervision.
They're trying to build a copywriter factory line. Remember
this when you apply, and try to show how you'll help them
achieve this goal.
4) Make Your Application Scannable
Once again, remember that the employer doesn't have a lot of
time. So make your copywriter application easy to scan. Don't
just write one long block of text. Use short paragraphs,
headings and bullets, and bold the important bits.
5) Address the Requirements
If the copywriter ad lists the requirements of the job, make
sure you address them, individually. (But remember, keep it
short 'n' sweet.)
6) Be Open and Honest
Don't oversell yourself; if the story told by your samples and
resume doesn't match your sales spiel, you'll be discounted.
you don't have the experience or expertise to satisfy one or
more of the requirements, say so. And don't lie about your
experience or include samples you didn't actually write. This
may get you one job, but you may not get paid for it, and
you'll certainly never get another. And remember, the
copywriting world is very small; everyone knows everyone, and
warnings about deceptive freelancers travel very fast along
7) Provide Relevant Samples
If the job ad asks you to supply samples of your copy, do
everything in your power to find and supply samples that are
relevant. The ad may specify the kind of samples you need to
supply, but if not, take a look at the employer's website, and
send samples that are relevant to their main service offering.
If they do mostly web copy, send web copy samples. If they do
short copy, send short copy samples. And if you don't have any
relevant samples, try to identify the core qualities required
by the employer, and send samples that show you possess those
qualities. (e.g. If the employer does mostly online
brochure-type web copy, you'll need to supply samples which
show your ability to simultaneously capture a product and an
audience, and maybe even educate the audience.)
8) Don't Expect Immediate Feedback
Because most job ads attract hundreds of applications, and
because the employer is still trying to run their business,
can't expect immediate feedback on your application. Don't
a reminder email after a day or two days. If you're going to
send a reminder, do it after a week or two weeks. And, unless
the ad says to call, don't call! Phone calls take up a lot of
time, and this can be very frustrating to a busy employer who,
most likely, has no feedback to give yet, anyway.
9) Don't Use Broken English
If you're applying for a job as an English-language
you have to have a solid mastery of English. If your
is written in broken English, you WILL NOT get the role;
simply wasting your time and the employer's time.
10) Proof-Read Your Application
Nothing undermines a copywriter more than mistakes in
punctuation, grammar and syntax (he says as he nervously scans
his article!). Pay close attention to detail. You may be
applying for quite a few roles, but don't hurry through your
application; always take the time to proof-read and
spell-check. TIP: Although it's not a show-stopper, try to
spell the employer's correctly!
11) Don't Ask for Work Experience
Unless the ad specifically states that unpaid work experience
is a possibility, don't ask for it. While it certainly
indicates great enthusiasm, most employers simply don't have
the time to mentor a junior copywriter, even if they're not
paying the writer anything.
12) Don't Ask for a Critique of Your Writing
If your application is unsuccessful, feel free to ask why not,
but don't ask the employer to critique your writing.
why your writing is inadequate is a very time consuming task,
and it's not the responsibility of a prospective employer. If
you ever had a chance at a call-back somewhere down the line,
this is the surest way to lose it.
You'd be surprised how many freelance copywriter applicants
DON'T observe the above guidelines. These applicants make the
employer's job extremely frustrating and time consuming, and
they all but rule themselves out of contention. Follow all of
the above tips when applying for your next freelance
position, and you'll be a very big step ahead of your
About The Author: Glenn Murray is an SEO copywriter and
submission and article PR specialist. Visit
www.DivineWrite.com or www.ArticlePR.com for