Articles - 18th February 2021

The Truth About Freelance Job Ads

Words by Thomas Johnson
Illustration by James Merritt

Whether you’re looking for a one-off gig or a part-time role, applying for jobs and bidding for contracts isn’t easy. What is easy is trawling through various job boards and spending hours daydreaming of all those ‘perfect’ jobs, only to decide that you’re not qualified for any of them.

But that’s where you’re wrong.

With the world being what it is, the job market may feel competitive and it’s easy to assume that there are hundreds of people, more qualified than you, applying for the same gig – so is there any point in even trying? Well, yes. Yes, there is.

You’ve already started a business selling your skills, knowledge and expertise, so you’re already more qualified than you may think. What’s more—and here’s the really good news—the freelance market is growing.

It’s true. Anna Codrea-Rado, editor-in-chief and founder of LANCE—a newsletter dedicated to supporting the freelancer community—recently highlighted survey data from PeoplePerHour that found 60% of business owners plan on using more freelancers in 2021. Why? Well, 67% said they want to introduce skills that the business doesn’t have in-house whilst 42% said they want to speed up projects by taking advantage of flexible talent.

Does this mean that people will change the way they write job ads? Probably not. Businesses looking for new talent will always strive to find the best people for the role. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be you.

Many people think of job hunting as a numbers game, and whilst that is true to some extent, you’re better off sending a killer application to ten jobs you’re suited for, than an average application to twenty jobs you’re not.

Hiring managers get swamped with applications all the time, so by making such lofty demands on a job ad, employers cut out the chancers and time wasters. The easier a job looks, the more people it’s likely to attract – even if they’re completely unqualified. A better way of looking at intimidating ads is to think about how many other people will be put off applying and how this can tip the odds in your favour. Remember, regardless of how intimidating a job ad might be, someone needs to be hired at the end of the day.

Let’s take a look at an example from Indeed:

Freelance Editor with Psychology Degree

Key roles and responsibilities:

  • Write bite-sized content, following our proven methodology and brand guidelines
  • Helping to develop the content guidelines
  • Presenting ideas for how best to write and present the content
  • Read, synthesise and distil key content
  • Peer review, edit and proofread your colleagues’ writing

Key skills, experience and attributes:

  • Degree-level education or equivalent life experience, ideally in a Psychology-related field.
  • Minimum 3 years’ experience working as a content writer, copywriter or other creative writing role in a business environment
  • Excellent copywriting and editing skills with a plain English approach
  • Able to produce engaging and credible copy and an understanding of how to adapt for different audiences and purposes
  • Confidence and experience with communication to stakeholders
  • You excel in a high-growth environment, working at startup pace, embracing change and adjusting course as required
  • Experience managing lots of tasks at once, able to prioritise your workload accordingly and work to a deadline
  • You’re an infinite learner — you enjoy researching even totally unfamiliar topics and are interested in reading and learning
  • You’re resilient and proactive and thrive in an autonomous (but supportive) environment
  • You get pleasure from doing a phenomenal job and going the extra mile

 

Reading this, the most stand-out item was that this employer is looking for a copywriter with a psychology degree. To me, that already sounds like a tall order. Whilst I’m sure such people do exist, every copywriter I know studied subjects such as English or journalism at university. I even asked my psychology-grad friend if she knew anyone that went on to be a copywriter – she said no.

However, if you read it closely you will notice how, despite the title requesting someone with a psychology degree,  the very first bullet point under requirements says “or equivalent life experience,” and goes on to say “ideally in a Psychology-related field”.

Now, I’m willing to bet that this company would be just as happy to hire an English grad with demonstrable knowledge or interest in psychology – especially if that person is an “infinite learner” who enjoys “researching even totally unfamiliar topics and are interested in reading and learning” – because if that’s the case why does it matter what you studied at uni?

The point is, this list of ‘requirements’ is really more of a wish list. Would the company hire a person who can tick off every item on this list? Perhaps. However, if you can tick just a few of those boxes and demonstrate your passion for the project, there’s a good chance you’ll get an interview.

Ultimately, if a job feels right for you, then you should apply. However, if you’re really unsure about whether you’re right for a particular role then reach out to the hiring manager with your portfolio and ask them a few questions. This will help you in more ways than one, let me list them:

1. It’s easy to romanticise a job you don’t have, calling the hiring manager will help you figure out if you actually want it.

2. You’ll be able to introduce yourself and talk a little about your background. You could even point out any concerns you have about your own experience and ask if they think it’s worth applying.

3. A call will demonstrate your confidence, eagerness and interest in the role and the business. This will help you stand out massively against the competition.

4. It’s quicker to call someone and show your interest than it is to send a half-cocked application. As it can be daunting the first time, write a few questions out before picking up the phone. If you’re really nervous, try to focus on breathing normally – this will help regulate your speech so you talk with a natural air of confidence.

 

When it comes to applying for a job that you’re not sure you’re cut out for, it’s even more important to make sure your pitch is as good as it can be so let your passion for the project and/or brand shine through in your application. If I were on the lookout for new staff, I’d much rather hire someone who’s enthusiastic and willing to learn than someone who already ticks all the boxes but looks bored to death.

The worst that can happen is that you don’t get the job, but that doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time. At the very least you would have expanded your network and the next time that company or person needs someone with your skills, they may well give you a call.

We champion the freelancers and every entrepreneur who took a leap of faith with their idea.

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