How to Respond to Job Postings Faster than the Competition (Without Canned Responses)
Ever wanted to know how some freelancers jump on those job postings before everyone else, and still manage to get the gig?
It’s not with canned responses, I can assure you. These don’t go over well when it comes to pitching for a job. But there are techniques one can use to get their name in the hat early in the piece.
Some have questioned the point of jumping on a job quickly. Let me tell you, as someone who has advertised for and applied for many, it counts. I know a whole slew of people who employ freelancers who stop reading applications after the first 50 or 100 come in, and that can be anywhere from twenty minutes after posting the job, to twenty hours later.
That’s not the only reason to get in early, of course. If a client only has to see two or three applications before finding the perfect match, they’re usually ecstatic. Nobody enjoys wading through applications.
To get inside that first batch of responses, we’ll be using a little bit of automatic “here’s one we prepared earlier” magic, but piecing these together in a way tailored to each job —as such they’re not canned responses, but we’ve made sure those things that will stay more or less the same across the board are quickly dealt with.
RSS Feeds Are Your Friend
If you don’t find out about a job until the day after it has been advertised there’s little point in using efficient techniques, so you’ll need to get the job boards you rely on in your feed reader, or via a feed to your inbox. Don’t rely on mail-outs manually compiled by the job board owner; they wait until they have a certain amount to send out, and that in itself can be too long.
Put the feeds in a folder, perhaps with an @ symbol in the name to place it at the top of the list, and monitor it often. I hate getting notifications from feed readers, they’re perpetually distracting, but if your software enables you to receive notifications from only certain folders and feeds, this would be one case where they are worth the disruption.
Prepare Situation-Specific Portfolios
Most of you will be on the hunt for certain types of gigs with portfolios specific to each. For instance, I wouldn’t apply to write a column on motherhood advice; my areas are audio, productivity, and technology, for the most part. So I have specific sets of past experience and portfolios for each one of these.
However, I’ve always found piecing together a relevant set of examples for the client the most time-consuming part of putting a pitch together. It almost seems as if, by the time you’ve decided on the pieces of work you’ll pitch, found the links or attachments, briefly described each one, and gotten ready to send—oops, someone’s already got the job.
So what do you do? Define the core areas you’ll need individual portfolios for. It doesn’t matter if you want a job at Lifehack or Lifehacker, your productivity portfolio is going to be the same—so find the right balance between too targeted and too general to come up with a set that’ll be useful in any situation.
All you need in each are the titles and links and a brief description of each. Easy.
Get TextExpander, or something similar for your operating system. It really makes these things a breeze to drop into correspondence. If you don’t have that sort of software, then just save the templates in a document and pull them out as needed the old-fashioned way.
Here’s another thing freelancers get stuck on: that first or second paragraph, which is almost always the “who I am” paragraph. Here comes the existential crisis. The freelancer stares at their screen for a while, thinking about who they are, life, the universe, and everything, and eventually becomes too depressed to work because they’ve realized the pointlessness of it all. Or, they just can’t think of a way to describe what they do and why they’re a great fit for the job on the spot.
So here’s what you do: you take those same areas that you created individual portfolios for, and you define yourself in relation to each, and what you bring to each of these particular areas. You do it in the mental context of preparing for a pitch, so you’re not just rambling and spouting, but creating something you can use to start with in a pinch.
Unlike your portfolio templates, these introductory paragraphs can never be used as-is. You have to extend them in light of each individual job, and always take statements you make back to a point of relevance. These are just starting points to prevent you from getting blocked up on existential issues as you scan the boards late at night!
So, define yourself, define your skills and what you bring to the particular field, and then tie those attributes as closely to the job posting as you can and make it super relevant.
How Quickly Can You Quote?
It’s not always a good idea to provide a quote off the bat. This isn’t a debate about that. Sometimes a job poster will ask you for a quote in your pitch (and as I’ve written here before, you only get a job when you give the prospective client all the information they ask for), and there are times when it is a good idea to provide a quote anyway—they may have been specific enough about the job in the ad and requested only pitchers with a certain price range apply.
These ads are great if you’re happy with the price range they’ve suggested, because the poor job poster doesn’t realize that 9 people out of 10 will be overly cryptic with their pricing and they’ll get sick of extracting teeth to find out, so give the quote and you’ve got a good chance. And if you’re going to bother at all, make sure it’s a quote within the budget they’ve provided (if they’ve provided one to start with).
Editorial Note: A few times a month we revisit some of our reader’s favorite posts from throughout the history of FreelanceSwitch. This article was first published in November 18th of 2008, yet is just as relevant and full of useful information today.
Photo by Indigo Goat.