There is an all too common challenge that non-native English writers face when applying for a writing job.
The studies have shown how if your name is foreign-sounding, the chances of the employer getting back at you on your job application is comparatively lesser to a person who has a white-sounding name.
I’m not even here to blame it on racism (although I can’t deny that this is sometimes the case). I’d like to talk about the other culprit – Homophily (the inclination of others to associate with the similar others).
The thing with Homophily is that it’s a subconscious bias. If the person going through the list of applicants isn’t aware of his tendency of leaning towards this subconscious bias, chances are good that he’ll reject the applicants with foreign-sounding names without even properly assessing them. And the sad part is, he isn’t even aware of what he’s doing. He isn’t trying to be racist or anything, he’s just failing to see what’s happening because it’s on his subconscious mind.
When something like this happens, his company would have lost the opportunity to work with possibly the best writer for the project – simply because the applicant has a foreign-sounding name.
Now if you’re the writer applying for the job, this could be a devastating blow to your confidence, let alone your career.
So as a non-native English writer, how exactly do you deal with this? How do you thrive despite this subconscious nemesis that’s depriving you of the opportunities that you supposedly rightfully own? If those are the kind of questions that you keep asking yourself (and yes, I used to be on the exact same spot) and you’re at the point where you’re just about ready to hang your gloves – stop and read on! I’ll share with you the things that I did to drastically improve my situation.
Although I am not a guru in writing (I consider myself to be someone who’s eagerly learning the craft and trying my best to help others grow in anyway I can), I can at least tell you that the number of responses that I’m getting from the prospects whom I offer my writing services has DRASTICALLY increased after I did the actionable tips that I’ll be sharing below. I sincerely hope that it does wonders for you as well and help you take your writing career to the next level.
1.) Use the prospect employer’s first name when greeting them on your cover letter.
Does this tip seem very obvious? Trust me, there’s more to it than just that.
I don’t know if you’ve tried applying for jobs in freelancing sites like ODesk – but if you have, then you’ll notice how majority (and I’m talking about 90% of the time) of the employers DO NOT mention their names on the job post. What’s worse is, the “About the client” section also do not mention the company and the employer’s name.
With this in mind, would you still think that mentioning the employer’s first name in the greeting of your cover letter is out of the norm for them? I ask because it actually is!
If you’ll mention their first name, they’ll be caught of guard and probably think “How on earth does he know me?”. It’s in this situation where you’ve gotten their attention and are in a better position to be considered for the writing project.
So how will you know the employers name if they aren’t mentioning it, you might ask? A simple trick that I do is check out the client’s feedback. You’ll usually find freelancers giving them feedback and mentioning their actual names. While the name that’s being mentioned in the feedback section might not always be the name of the person that you’re connecting with (since there can be several hiring managers), chances are good they are. At least around 80% of the time, you’re spot on on with their names if you use this trick.
2.) Name drop.
I personally think that there’s nothing wrong with name dropping. I’m not sure why others find fault with it since you aren’t really doing anything unethical (unless you’re telling lies).
Just like the other psychological methods that you employ to increase your sales pages’ conversion rate (like changing the colors of your buttons, increasing the size of your font, adding a timer to add the element of scarcity, etc…), name dropping is just the same.
If you mention the name of a highly influential writer in your cover letter (especially if you do this in your first sentence) like Bamidele Onibalusi, Carol Tice or Seth Godin, you’ll most likely pique the interest of your prospect clients.
You should never lie about it. And you don’t have to say anything weird – simply saying that you’ve been trying to emulate their writing style and have been trying to continuously hone your craft is a good start. Saying that they are your inspiration is also another way of going about this.
If you’ve attended a training course for writers conducted by a reputable company or person, you can mention that too.
If you’re worried about sounding too obvious that you’re name dropping – trust me you’re not. That is, if you don’t overdo it. You can do it once within the first two sentences of your cover letter and that’s it. Any more would probably raise a red flag.
3.) Use a mind blowing headline that’s going to catch them off guard.
The secrets to creating a mind blowing headline can be quite arcane. That’s why many people aren’t doing this as effectively as they think they are.
While there are several ways to go about creating a mind blowing headline, here are a couple that I generally use:
– Talk about solving their problems.
Ex. “You Can Stop Editing Articles RIGHT NOW”
– Talk about the benefits.
Ex. “Get Quality Articles on Time AND Consistently”
– Mention something that’s stated in their job post to show that you actually read it.
Ex. “The Best (niche specified in their job post) Writer for Your (target audience they specified in their job post)
4.) Establish your authority as a writer by guest posting on other authority sites.
Instead of sharing an article in your blog, you can share your guest posts instead (or you can do both).
This gives you an air of being a professional writer (sometimes even intimidating depending on which site you guest posted on). When you have the aura of a leader/expert in your niche, you being a non-native English writer won’t matter even the slightest bit.
5.) Offer a free article if you see that landing them as a client is worth the effort.
I rarely do this. In fact I haven’t really done this in quite awhile. I guess that’s because nowadays, the clients are the ones reaching out to me.
But when I started freelance writing and my profile as a writer isn’t as established, I’ve been using this strategy and I feel that this is responsible for getting me almost half of my client base at one point.
What I do is I checkout the client’s profile first. I do this by (1) Using Linkedin.com (2) Looking at their website (if any) (3) Checking out the reviews/feedback that’s given to them by previous freelancers and lastly (4) I search for them at Google using advanced search queries.
After doing the tips that I mentioned above, I should have a pretty good idea of whether or not the client has a potential of giving me several future orders. The important thing here is the longevity of your relationship with each client.
If you’ll get 3 – 5 recurring and high paying clients, chances are good that you’ll have your hands full (let alone your pockets).
6.) Create your own blog.
Pay very close attention.
I’m not about to give you the same reasons that others keep on repeating about why you need to have a blog (like building your personal brand, or having your own identity) – you already know about that. What I’ll share with you is quite different, VERY ACTIONABLE, and will help you get a lot of replies on your job application.
As you may already know, its ideal to share some sample articles when sending your application letter. What you need to do though is look for an article in your blog that has a lot of social shares AND comments. Look for 3 or 4 blog posts and add all of them on your cover letter.
Now here’s the important part – It’s CRITICAL that you emphasize in your cover letter how your articles are liked and shared by many. This draws your client’s attention (subconsciously) to the importance of social sharing even if they weren’t thinking about it in the first place.
Once their mind is set on how important social shares are, and they see how your sample articles have tons of social shares and comments, it’s going to strike a chord within them making your cover letter stick and worth getting back to.
For this to actually work. You need to make sure that you have blogs posts that have a good number of social shares. If you don’t have one, then you need to take the time to market your blog to land those social shares.
Another thing is that you need to make sure that the number of social shares on your blog is HUGELY visible when the clients are viewing your article. Using the Flare social sharing plugin is a good tool for that.
Here’s my challenge to you. – Create your own blog.
If you already have one but your posts don’t have as much social shares (or perhaps it doesn’t have any), then DON’T BE LAZY – take the time to proactively market your posts. You can do this via the social media. Ask your friends or your family. You don’t need to reach a hundred shares, having 10 or more is already quite a good number.
7.) Read constantly
A lot of non-native English writers struggle with having a writer’s block. This isn’t a surprise though. Considering how a non-native English writer is surrounded by people who’s using their own dialect, their immersion in the English language is WAY LESSER than those of a native English writer. Because they don’t live and breathe the English language, their intake of ideas (in English) becomes very limited.
The solution? Read!
I’m a firm believer that if your input of ideas (when you read/learn) out number your output (when you’re writing), you’ll never have a problem with running out of ideas. On the flip side of the coin – if you rarely read or take in new ideas, but keep on writing, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll run out of ideas.
8.) Use a white-sounding pen name.
Seems like a full proof shortcut right? Sadly, it isn’t.
The thing with using a white-sounding pen name is that your employer might feel misled. Picture this… What if you’re the person going through the list of applicants? Just like your regular day plays out, you’ll skim through the entire list and would have selected one writer out of a hundred mainly because you like his cover letter (at first glance), AND you’re looking for a native English writer.
Only to find out during the interview that the writer you shortlisted isn’t really really a native English speaker but is just using a white-sounding pen name. It can be quite a bummer. It’s in situations like these where it’s pretty hard to win back the interviewer into hiring you for the project.
When using pen names, I tend to do it when sending guest posts. The main difference is that in this method of acquiring clients, the MOST compelling reason for your prospect clients to contact you is the quality of your work.
The idea is, they would’ve read your post in the site that you guest posted in. And since they thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, they’ll take the time to check your author profile so they can contact you and send you a writing offer.
In this case, even if you tell them your real name and that you’re a non-native English writer, they’ll almost always not care since they’ve already decided within themselves that you’re worthy for the project because of the quality of the guest post that you’ve written which they thoroughly enjoyed.
Case and point – avoid using pen names when trying to apply for a job or winning over a job post. But using a pen name when simply expanding your authorship through methods like guest posting should be OK.
9.) Say no to naysayers
Be careful. A negative mindset is very contagious. If you spend too much time with people who keeps saying no, you can’t do it, or you’ll never succeed – chances are their negativity will subconsciously sneak its way into you. The next thing you’ll notice is – you’re one of them!
Persistence and determination is ESPECIALLY as important to non-native English writers because you’ll have to deal with Homophily. If you don’t have the persistence and determination to pursue your career, you would’ve lost before your battle even started.
10.) Ask for referrals from you existing clients.
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. However, I strongly suggest that you first establish your value to your client before asking for one.
If you’ve only written 1 article for your client and they aren’t quite convinced of how you perform, I daresay that asking for a referral might turn them off. It’s like picking a mango fruit when it’s still green.
Once you’ve written a couple of articles for them and it’s pretty obvious that they are happy with what they’ve been getting from you, you can fire away. Chances are, they’ll give you a resounding SURE! or maybe even refer you to their friends even without you asking.
This tip is very important since this is all about getting more mileage out of a single client. Instead of having to apply to gazillions of new clients, you can let your existing ones (or previous ones) get you new clients instead.
Now imagine how it would look like if you have 5 very satisfied clients? Let’s say each of these 5 will get you 1 client each? Or to be more conservative, let’s say only 2 of them actually got you new clients – can you imagine how much you would’ve gained by having those 2 clients?
Remember that you didn’t have to write a cover letter or look for several job posts to acquire them. You just messaged you existing clients just like you usually do (probably in less than a minute or two) and you’ve suddenly acquired 2 new clients!
11.) Be the first to apply
I cannot stress to you just how important this tip is.
Regardless of how you look at it, the difference between being within the first three to apply for a job post versus you being the 50th (don’t be surprised with 50, other job posts have 200 + applicants) is quite dramatic.
You REALLY should avoid the latter as much as you can if you want to up your chances of being hired for the project. You’ll rarely be considered if you’re the 10th applicant or so.
That said, regardless of which platform/job board you’re using to look for writing projects, you need to be constantly checking that site just so you can be one of the very first applicants to send their cover letter.
12.) Craft a stunning and tailor fitted cover letter. You SERIOUSLY have to do this!
In most cases, your cover letter is the determining factor on whether or not you’ll be considered for the job post.
I say this because depending on how you craft your cover letter, your prospect clients will have a good idea of the quality of your writing skills, your level of professionalism, how dedicated and committed your are (among many others).
If they get swept of their feet reading your cover letter, nothing’s going to stop them from clicking the “hire” button.
Sadly… A LOT of writers do not give as much importance to their cover letter. I say this because as someone who’s also posted a job offer on freelancing sites, I found that majority of the cover letters that I receive is VERY poorly crafted.
Here’s how others would craft their cover letter:
– “Hire me”
– “I like your job”
– “Is this a long term job”
Those are not the introduction of their cover letters – That’s ALL OF IT! Can you imagine sending your prospective employers a one liner cover letter? If you can’t, then good for you because apparently, a lot of people can and are actually doing it. This gives you an overwhelming advantage over them.
All of the tips that I shared above has done me wonders. If you’re a non-native English writer and are also struggling with taking your writing career to the next level, then I urge you to apply the tips that I mentioned above. Though there is no one-size-fits-all solution in advancing your writing career, the tips above (which I personally used myself) will surely point you to the right direction.
Don’t worry, I won’t keep you hanging.
While you can share anything that you like in the comments section, I urge you to focus on sharing some actionable tips (based on your experience) on how to land more clients.
Putting yourself in the shoes of a non-native English writer (if you aren’t one) is ideal but not necessary. The more you share, the more we all learn on how to grow our career as a writer – so be very generous in sharing.