Suppose you have a project in mind for a (potential) client but no current contract with them. Short of waiting for them to contact you, what can you do?
Write a query. A query is a question. Based on this, a query letter is a business letter asking someone to let you work for them.
You can use the SLAP method of four steps to writing a query:
1. Summarize your project. What are you proposing to your client? How long will it take you to complete it? This paragraph should be no longer than three to five sentences. If it takes you longer than that, you need to tighten it.
2. List relevant credentials. Don’t try to put your entire CV in this paragraph. If your client wants more information on your background, they will request a resume or CV. Unless you’re proposing designing a playroom for children, there’s no need to say how many kids you have of your own. Membership in professional organizations counts as a credential.
3. Ask for the job/assignment. Not all queries result in getting the job, but one thing is for certain: You won’t get it if you don’t ask for it. In a query, “I look forward to hearing from you” or offering to give a follow-up call are forms of asking for the job/assignment. However, if you are a writer, do not give a follow-up call unless you have already established a working relationship with the person you are sending the query to.
4. Provide a portfolio of clips/photos as samples of your previous work. You’ve told how you would approach the assignment. You’ve listed your credentials to show how/why you’re the best person for it. How can the client see your previous work to know if you’re really a good fit for them or not? Provide a portfolio of previous work. This can include copies of articles, photographs, artwork, etc. Have a print portfolio and a virtual one where you can give clients a link to view your portfolio online. In the paragraph where you ask for the job/assignment, let them know you have attached clips (the three most recent or relevant) or you have a portfolio available and give them the address for it.
A couple final words about queries: Send out more than one. The more you send out, the more likely your chances are of landing an assignment. Pay attention, though, and be sure you don’t spread yourself too thin. Also, since a query is a business letter, it should not run past one page. If it does, take another look at it and pare it down.