The following writer's cover letter is based on a working sample- i.e. this is a version of the actual letter that a working writer uses in drumming up new clients. This cover letter is most often submitted via email, directly within the body of the mail, and is generally in response to blind jobs such as those often found in freelance writing job lists.
Of course, as with the writer's resume, each cover letter should be personalized and should focus on the specific job. Mentioning the qualities, experiences and characteristics that were requested in the job ad, and describing your specific match to those needs, is one way to do this.
The sample below is interspersed with tips and how-tos. Look for the italics for more information and specific hints.
Dearest Sandra Columbia, (always use the proper name of the person in charge of hiring, if possible)
(Notice the first word of this sentence. It is NOT the word "I" or the phrase "I am" or "I have." The focus here is not on you. It is on the needs of the person hiring the writer.) You need a reporter and correspondent with their finger on the pulse of politics in Minnesota. You need a writer who is accustomed to working virtually on short-term, targeted reporting projects. You also need a contractor who is adept at social media and community management.(All these were taken from the job listing, although not verbatim. They are my spin on the needs listed in the ads.)
I currently write for the Big Name Network (always lead with your current client or experience that most matches their needs, or with your most-recognizable "big name" client.). My site at www.hyperlink.com (always make it easy for them to find you)nets approximately 500K hits per month. Managing this site includes providing blog copy, newsletters and articles. The Big Name Network hires for this site in one-year contracts; my contract has been renewed 5 times. They provide their writers with exceptional training in journalistic integrity, SEO and social media.(Again, all these points should be taken from the ad and massaged according to your interpretation and how the needs match to your skills.)
(The next paragraphs are going to include secondary clients and experiences. Only include those that are necessary to meet requirements from the ad- everyone's busy, so keep it short.) I also write for three national-level trade publications and two regional glossies. My editors are quite pleased with my work, and have provided me with references and recommendations both on my own site and on LinkedIn (of course, the LinkedIn reference is linked to your profile).
As far as politics reporting, I work for two Minnesota-based organizations. Organization One is a communications firm, and my contract is funded by a Big Name Charity grant.
I am also a managing editor for Important Political Magazine, a publication focused on social justice and education in Minnesota. I assign and edit political pieces, and do some clean-up reporting myself. (Notice the direct mention of specific duties. You know where those duties came from, right? The original job ad!)
These two clients have set me up with many connections that I can put to work for you, immediately connecting me with the constituency you are trying to reach and producing the content you that best targets them here in Minnesota.(End with a positive, forward-looking action item.
I would like to schedule a moment to talk to you about specific ideas I have for your Example Section, which I was perusing on your website (of course, this says, "I was researching you, I understand your needs, and I am ready to produce.") I'd welcome a call or an email from you to do so soon. Thank you kindly for your consideration.
This letter may be a tad longish in the fast and furious freelance writing job world, but it does cover many of the major points that you'll need to hit to compete in that world.
In addition to the advice above, be sure to include the pieces and documents asked for in the ad (your first shot at following directions). This often includes samples, salary requirements, and/or references. Some ads may specifically ask for a the writer to forego a cover, and supply a short paragraph, instead. The concept here is the same: focus on the employer's needs, and how your past experiences match those needs.
Best of luck to you! Now, go write!