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What is a Letter of Introduction in Freelance Writing? Here’s Why it Matters

by Liz Froment | Last Updated: October 24, 2019

You probably know about sending out cold pitch emails.

We’ve written a lot about how most people suck at sending out cold emails — especially pitches.

If you don’t want to be one of those people, then you need to read this right now.

But there’s actually another way to approach cold emailing that might be a better option for some of you. And that’s sending out letters of introduction, or LOIs for short.

These are a bit more of a gentle way to get in an inbox but still make a good impression.

Sound good?

Cool, check out this video, and then keep reading, because we’re going to answer your questions about letters of introduction.

What is a Freelance Writing Letter of Introduction?

Back in the olden days, when you actually mailed stuff to people to say hello you should hire me, letters of introduction were pretty popular. They sort of formed what would be considered cover letters if you were sending out a resume.

Today, we don’t need to get too formal on that fancy resume paper and can look at LOIs as a quick note or email that introduces yourself and gives an overview of your freelance writing skills.

That’s it, pretty simple.

Letters of introduction are a great way to say “hello, here I am” in a non-salesy or spammy way. And that’s good because inboxes like mine are filled every day with dozens of spammy emails demanding something from me.

Don’t do that.

Beyond email, LOIs are also really useful on a site like LinkedIn. (More on setting up your LinkedIn profile here).

When you want to connect with someone LinkedIn allows you to send a small note. This is where you can introduce yourself, highlight your niche, and send a link to your portfolio (in about 300 characters).

Here’s an example in action:

letter of introduction linkedin

And 23 characters to spare, booyah!

How is an LOI Different from a Pitch?

Sometimes, people use these terms interchangeably, but they are actually different.

With a pitch, you’re typically asking for a job or an assignment. You’ll send pitches to a magazine you want to write an article for or a site to write a guest post.

With an LOI you’re using your note or email to get yourself on the radar of the person you’re emailing. It could be a potential client or an agency or even an editor. It’s not going in right away for the kill, it’s more leaving the ball in their court, so to speak.

A good, and yes cheesy, way to think of the differences is like dating.

An LOI is saying, “Hey, I’m around for coffee sometime. If you’d like to go, let me know.” Whereas a pitch is more likely to say, “Hey, I’d like to get into a relationship with you, what do you think?”

See the difference?

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Pitch vs LOI: When to Send

So there are certain basic situations where you might be better off sending a pitch versus a letter of introduction.

For example:

Those are two simple examples. But if you basically keep it in the mindset that if you’re asking for a job now you send a pitch and if you’re asking for them to think about you some point down the road, you send an LOI.

Crafting Your LOI

So let’s imagine you are going for that second scenario. You want to get in touch with some local agencies and let them know you’re here looking for work and might be a good fit.

Here’s an easy sample LOI that’s about as basic as it gets:

Hi,
I recently moved to Portland and wanted to connect with some local agencies. [Start with something personalized] I’ve written for brands primarily in the finance and insurance industries including Brand A, Brand B, and Brand C. [Highlight your niche]

I saw on your site that you do work with freelancers, so here I am! I’m happy to work on a per-project basis, if you think I’d be a good fit for some of your clients, I’d love to chat. [Easy breezy, not salesy]

You can find my portfolio here. [link to your samples]

Take care,
– You

That’s it.

This email is only 5 sentences, and honestly, that’s all you need.

Tips for Writing Your LOIs

A lot of beginners end up going off the rails when it comes time to send out an email. They include way too much information or make it look like a cut and paste job or talk about themselves forever.

Each of those is a very easy way to end up in the trash.

So, here’s what you should do instead.

Keep it short and sweet

The above example is about 5-6 sentences, and starting out that’s all you need. So many people send these really long emails and unfortunately, more often than not, they send up in the trash because people just don’t have time to read 300 words about why they should hire you.

Remember, make it very easy for them to say yes.

Make it relevant to your target audience

That can mean appealing to a local area (with the example) or specifically targeting a niche.

If you are writing in the finance niche, for example, then you want to highlight your clients if you have them. If you don’t have clients yet, it’s ok to tout a bit of your experience in that niche in a sentence or two.

A lot of people have more than one niche that sort of overlap. If that’s you, it’s fine to come up with a few different templates. Save them in a doc so they’ll be easy to access when you need them.

Personalize where you can

It’s fine to have a basic template for your LOI at the ready. But you don’t want it to be just copy and paste, people can figure that out.

Take that first sentence and use it to hook your reader by appealing to something personal (location, something you saw on their site or social media), and go from there.

Showcase your samples

At the end of the day, an LOI is just about getting your foot in the door to a potential client down the line. So you want to include at least a few relevant samples.

If you don’t have a ton of samples, write more of them. The great thing about being a freelance writer is you can create more content for any niche you want to target. Just make sure the samples you send make it easy for the person you’re contacting to see how you could be a good fit for them.

Be yourself

So many LOIs are just cookie-cutter using the same bland language “I will write original high-quality posts.”

Blah, what does that even mean?

Forget that and try to keep it business casual. It’s great to add in some humor or something unique about you that will help you stand out and make that crucial connection.

Try to get some engagement

If you aren’t sure if the person/company you’re sending your LOI to works with freelancers, just ask. You can say right in your LOI, do you work with freelancers?

You can also try phases to get some sort of response like would you like to get on a call to chat?

And you can even get very specific about your offer too, ask if they need help with their email marketing campaigns or ebooks, anything that’s your specialty, it might trigger interest.

Pick a good subject line

Don’t make it easy for your email to get lost in a sea of spam.

Try out a few different versions and see what gets results. But something like “Do you work with freelance content writers?” could work as well as “Your Name – Freelance Insurance Content Writer Introduction.”

It’s slightly different, but these blog post headlines can give you some ideas for making your subject lines more clickable.

Track and send follow-ups

This isn’t a writing tip per se, but it’s a really good idea to get a big spreadsheet going where you track all of your LOIs.

It helps you with two things:

  1. Checking your success rate
  2. Having an easy list when it comes time to follow up

Once you’ve sent out a big batch of LOIs, maybe that’s a month down the road, go back and start sending follow-ups. Nothing long or crazy, a great technique is to add in a new portfolio piece or say you have free time in your schedule if they’d like to connect.

Remember, keep it simple!

Ready to Send Out Your LOIs?

That’s all there is to it. Now, you should have a pretty good idea about what a letter of introduction is, how to write one, and when to send them.

The rest is up to you.

It’s time to get typing!

Want to snag our Freelance Writing Starter Guide for FREE? Awesome, you can pick it up right here.

Liz Froment is a full-time freelance writer and the one who keeps Location Rebel running like a well-oiled machine. If she's not writing something informative or witty for her clients, she can most likely be found reading a good book.
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