I've written before of how some translators could improve their résumés when they contact translation companies searching for jobs.
It is also important, however, to write a good cover message: short, polite, and to the point. The cover message should entice the recipient to ask for more information or to read an attached résumé. It should not be a generic "Dear Sir or Madam".
The worst example I've received recently is this (reproduced here in its entirety):
Dear Madam, Sir,
Fnd attached the documents for me to apply as a freelance translator ENG to FR. If you need more infos, do not hesitate to contact me.
Never mind the "Fnd" and the "infos": the message does not mention any specialization, any reason why we should choose this particular translator (if we were looking for one), nor any reason for reading the various files attached. He even forgot to sign his message!
As translators we too often forget we are writers, and, as writers, we should craft our messages carefully, then edit them until they sound natural and look interesting (especially if they are sales messages). It takes time to write an e-mail so well that it looks as if it had been jotted down effortlessly.
Just to show that such messages can easily be improved, another one received today:
Dear Sir or Madam,
I am a full-time professional English <> Xxxxx freelance translator with over 15 years of experience in Financial, legal, technical, educational, and general subjects.
I am thorough, accurate and reliable, with good interpersonal, verbal and written communication skills. A perfectionist with great attention to detail, which makes me a very good proofreader/editor, I am committed to consistent quality and customer satisfaction.
Deadlines are always met. I am professional, flexible and easy to do business with.
I work with the following programs: Trados, SDLX, Wintrans, InDesign, Frame Maker, Illustrator,etc.
Please, see attached my CV for further information.
Look forward to hearing from you soon!
[Translator’s name, e-mail address and phone number]
Certainly not perfect - the message is addressed to “Sir or Madam”, the mention of “general subjects” is always superfluous, and there is a bit too much corporate-speak in “I am comitted to … customer satisfaction” – but this is much better than the first example.