How to win the design client when responding to online job postings

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Recently, JasonG asked the following question:

Another problem I have along similar lines is the proper way to respond to ads from people looking for a web/graphic designer, i.e. Craigslist. I never know how much info to include in that initial email. Should I include my history, design process, typical time frame, ect. Or just keep it short, “Hi, I’m Jason, here’s my website, let me know if I can help.”????

Note: I’m assuming the ad doesn’t specify how to respond. You should always, ALWAYS, follow any instructions given in the ad.

How many times have you wondered the same thing? I’ve been there. By sticking to one simple principle, I’ve improved my response rate and won more clients than I ever have before.

Mirror the ad.

It really is that simple! Mirror the ad in your response. How? Keep reading…

In Length

If the ad is 3 sentences, send a brief message – this is a great place to use your 15-second pitch!

This client didn’t take the time to post a full ad (really, 3 sentences is hardly enough to explain one’s needs), so they probably don’t have time to read a lengthy response.

Good morning, I’m a local freelance graphic/web designer interested in hearing more about your project. I specialize in making your data come to life. Please take a look at my portfolio – – and contact me to discuss. I look forward to hearing from you! -April Greer, Greer Genius”

If the ad is longer, send a more detailed message.

I’d use a cover letter-style response for this ad.

Paragraph one includes an intro about how you’re a great fit for their needs – repeat terms they use in their ad.

You mention needing an organized designer with experience in the real estate market. In the following paragraph, I highlight why I’m such a great fit.”

Paragraph two details why you’re such a great fit.

I’m a freelance graphic designer with 4 years of experience working with realtors in promoting their homes…”

Paragraph three concludes that you’re excited to work with them and hope to hear from them soon.

Thank you for your consideration – I think this is an excellent opportunity for both of us. Please view my portfolio and contact me…”

In Tone

If the ad includes a lot of words like “rock star,” “design guru,” and “awesome,” feel free to be more informal.

Hey, It says you’re looking for a rock-star designer. Shoot me an email and let’s chat!”

If the ad sounds very straight-laced, keep it professional.

Mr. Jenkins: Your need for a web developer sounds like an excellent match for my skills…”

Tips to Remember

  • Always include at least one specific detail about why they should hire you. It can be your 15-second pitch or a one-sentence grabber that will make them give your portfolio a look.
  • Repeat the same words they use in their ad.
  • Some projects won’t be a good fit for you, and that’s okay. Don’t respond just because it’s there.
  • Express interest in hearing more about the project before you blindly jump to accept, especially if details are lacking. This gives you an opportunity to feel out the client and the project, and an easy out if you get bad vibes.
  • Don’t forget to include your contact information!

What have I forgotten?

How do you respond to ads for design work? Leave a comment on this post and let us know what you think!

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About April Greer

April is a go-to freelance designer with a rare combination of creative expertise and technical savvy. She is available for subcontracting and speaking engagements – visit Greer Genius for more information.


  1. Great post, April! I really like that you include written examples for different scenarios – it can be very useful for someone needing a place to start when responding to job posts.

    Here are some tips to keep in-mind that I give to anyone responding to a job post:
    – Show that you know what you’re talking about
    – Prove that you’ve actually read the job description
    – Obviously – share links to your work

    Keep in-mind what NOT to do:
    – Send the same response to every job post. Let the client know you’re interested in their job.
    – Beg for the job… It comes off desperate and unprofessional

    I hope my added tips can be of some use to others!
    Thanks again for the useful post, April! : )

  2. I think it’s also useful to follow up with an email a week later if you don’t hear from them. It only takes a moment and can be useful in bringing yourself to their attention again.

  3. Huh, funny I’d never thought to mirror the LENGTH of my response, although I’ve been mirroring language for some time now. Thanks for the post!

  4. I cannot stress how important it is to read EVERY word in the add. I got a job one time because I was the only responder to put the words Mickey Mouse in the subject line. That was a requirement in the request that everyone else failed to either read or take seriously.

    • I agree 100% – I know several companies that weed out candidates by requiring them to follow specific instructions. Always, always follow all of the instructions, regardless if they seem serious or not.

      Thanks for your input, Mike!

  5. Ton Lopes says:

    Man…(or should i say,girls,rsrsrs)that is very usefull!A lot of the job chances that i´ve got in the web via mail,and was hoping to receive some tips and hints about how to attend one of those!thanks a lot

  6. These tips were so helpful thanks! I’m going to try them out, I’ll let you know how I go with them :)

  7. thanks for the tips, i am planning to have a freelance online. this will be a useful tips to promote myself online.

  8. That’s a great tip. Unfortunately, Craig’s List isn’t the best place to find good clients. Here in San Diego, anyway, they tend to be the bottom of the barrel. If you don’t mind being cheap labor, then yeah it’s fine. And maybe while you’re building your portfolio. But you’ll want to eventually stop using Craig’s List for any serious design work. Underpaying clients tend to be bad clients.


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