Freelance Writing in a Query Letter?
As writers, many of us have lots of irons in the fire at once; a picture book we’re editing, a flash fiction piece for a contest, a novel we’re outlining, the list goes on. For some, that includes customers where we take our writing and use it in other ways; freelance jobs, website copy, maybe even grant writing or professional editing.
First, I’d like to point out what I mean by “freelance writing”. If you ghost wrote a book that was published, have a published non-fiction book in the educational sector (such as my Bees Matter book some of you may remember) or have written articles for magazines, that means you have published work! Congratulations! Published work should definitely go in a query letter.
So to be clear, in this post, when I say “freelance work” I’m speaking more of things generally outside the realm of any kind of narrative; website content, business plan writing, press releases, technical writing, advertising materials, those sort of things.
I’ve had a few people ask me if I put those in my query letters. Like most questions, the answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
As with any query letter topic, it varies depending on the person you’re sending it to. Read interviews, study their website, Google their query preferences in any way you can. It’s definitely a different animal. And sometimes you’ll actually find a comment they made about not being particularly interested in seeing freelance work.
But what about when you can’t find an answer one way or another?
In that case I take a look at what I’m sending the person, what they may want to know about me and how my freelance writing fits into that. If I’m sending a completed piece into a publisher that I know is looking for that specific topic I may chose to not waste space in the query letter by talking about how I write copy for various websites. I’d rather use that valuable real estate telling them why my piece is such a perfect fit.
When I query agents with a picture book, I often include some mention of my freelance writing. But even here, I don’t give a list of every type of work I do.
Personally, my freelance writing is mainly in three categories, product description stuff for luxury items, (furniture, clothing, perfume, makeup, etc), educational curriculum work (reading comprehension essays, testing materials, teacher’s scripts) and writing advertising copy (brochures, website copy, etc).
I try to put myself in the agent’s shoes. If I were an agent, I wouldn’t care if someone had written product descriptions for shampoo. At all. In fact, unless my manuscript wish list had specifically mentioned I was looking for something with a sudsy rinse-and-repeat style flow, I may find it a bit random, confusing and even a turnoff. But, knowing that they had commitment to writing, that it was a part of their life, a part of their constant world, that WOULD matter to me.
For this reason, in “The Cook” section of my query letter, I will often include a line that highlights my freelance writing in general.
If the piece I’m querying has an educational connection, for example an agent or publisher is particularly interested in picture books with a focus on education, I will likely include a line such as:
I have also been a freelance writer in the educational sector for years, working with Common Core Standards in curriculum development.
Another example of a phrase I’ll toss in is something very general and simple such as:
… as well as a variety of freelance writing in both the educational and marketing industries.
I think it’s important not to spend too much time in the query letter on this topic. A quick mention and then move on. Query letters must be quick and to the point. Every word is precious. If you are finding yourself with too many other things to say, perhaps in this particular letter, the freelance writing line isn’t necessary.
But at the same time, you worked hard to establish your freelance writing clients, and they’ve likely help you grow as both a writer and a professional. In many query letters, including your freelance writing as a part of your qualifications can help to demonstrate your overall suitability to take the next step.
And your manuscripts are worth it!
Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!
Thank you Erika for another great post.