Icon Key
Bookmark and Share


About Cover Letters

10 The Terrible Problem Letter

Print View |  Bookmark & Share  |  Comment |   |  Back to List |  << Previous Next >>

Here you introduce yourself as the solution to a difficult business challenge. It could be lack of personnel policies and procedures, or low employee morale. It can be anything. The important thing is that it's the kind of problem you love solving.

To write this letter, first decide what kind of problem(s) you want to solve. Then ask companies if they have that particular problem—and if they want it solved. (Some companies like their problems.)

Isn't that simple?

The formula for the letter looks like this:
  1. Do you have _________________ problem?
  2. If so, I might be able to help (I'm the solution).
  3. Here's why (list key accomplishments).
  4. Here's how you're going to benefit by having me around (go heavy on the benefits).
  5. Close the sale: After you have had time to review this material, I'll call you to get your reactions.

A real-world example

Nancy Thomas came to see me after graduating from law school. She had written to 250 Denver law firms, and had called the senior partners in all 250 firms. The net result of her effort was two courtesy interviews and no job offers.

Nancy was upset. She had tried everything. She had answered ads in legal journals and newspapers. She had done extensive networking and nothing was working. (Imagine having spent five years and $23,000 on an advanced degree, only to find no job waiting.)

We analyzed the situation. It wasn't that no attorneys needed help. They did. Show me a major law firm that isn't swamped. The real problem was the economy: We were in a recession, and lawyers were afraid to add new staff—and $20,000 to $30,000 in overhead—in uncertain times.

We pictured our ideal "problem situation" graphically, even humorously. This was the "perfect" work environment for Nancy to walk into. And here's what it looked like:
  • It's midnight.
  • An attorney sits at his desk, still working.
  • He's bleary-eyed.
  • He had a couple of drinks at dinner and has now consumed a pot of coffee.
  • He has a headache.
  • The office is a mess—he's disorganized.
  • His tie is loose, sleeves rolled up, shirt wrinkled.
  • The desk is stacked with papers.
  • His wife has called him three times for help with the kids.
  • Tomorrow he has the biggest court case of his life, and he's going up against F. Lee Bailey.

To this imaginary attorney, we sent the following letter:


Wouldn't it be fantastic to be able to hire a part-time lawyer when you need help in emergencies?

Nancy Thomas . . .
  • Was admitted to the Colorado Bar on October 17, 20—.
  • Has a commitment to law.
  • Deals well with clients.
  • Is eager to learn... likes to be "taught."
  • Turns out quality work, and
  • Is unhappy cutting corners.

She is heavily experienced in . . .

The field of Estates and Trusts; and is very interested in (1) Real Estate, (2) Natural Resources, and (3) Tax and Corporate matters.

  • Expert help without the cost of a full-time salary.
  • Flexibility in your scheduling.
  • Relief from pressures and deadlines.
  • A co-operative, interested colleague.


Call 303-555-1212 and ask for Nancy Thomas
388 South Monaco Parkway | Denver, Colorado 80219
H: 303-759-3743 | C: 720-690-8459 | nthomas@msn.com

The letter produced instant results. Apparently, we found the right appeal. Within a week, Nancy had two or three part-time legal jobs. She chose her own hours and decided which assignments she wanted to accept. She was her own boss. She became the first freelance attorney in the country, and she still continues as a freelancer today. Nancy has had opportunities to accept full-time assignments, but declined them. Freelancing was too much fun.

Nancy solved her problem—not by focusing on her own needs and frustrations, but by focusing on ways to help others. It was truly a win-win situation. And there's an answer like this to every career problem. The answer may not be obvious at first. It often takes several hours—sometimes weeks—of wrestling with the problem to see the solution. But it's there. And it can often be implemented with a well-planned letter.
Take action
Think about yourself for a moment. Do you want to solve accounting problems? If so, exactly what kind? Do you want to solve marketing problems? If so, where?

List some of the kinds of problems you'd like to solve, and be as specific and detailed as you possibly can.


Now, picture a company badly in need of your services. What does it look like inside? What's happening? Exaggerate the situation greatly so that everything seems larger than life. Write down the particulars.


Next draft your letter. You'll be on the way to some well-deserved interviews (where you'll often be the only candidate for the job).

Print View |  Bookmark & Share  |  Comment |   |  Back to List |  << Previous Next >>


Add a Comment
Your rating:
Your URL:
Your e-mail:
Enter security code:
 Security code
(please enter the
numbers on the image)

William S. Frank, M.A.,
25 Reasons I love consulting.
by William S. Frank
  1. Brand. You are your own brand, and you can define it any way you want. For many years, I provided outplacement to the ex-employees of Schlumberger, the world's largest oilfield service corporation. When departing employees left the company, they didn't request outplacement in their severance package. They said, "I want Bill Frank."
  2. Demand. The world will always be full of terrible problems that need solving.
  3. White Hat. I can be a helper and get paid for it.
  4. Pay. I can be paid to do things I'd gladly do for nothing.
  5. Variety. Every day is different.
  6. Happiness. At this stage of my career, I only work for people I respect and care about. If a client micromanages me or is otherwise no fun, I complete the assignment and replace them.
  7. Talent. I'm using 110% of my talents and stretching myself to the max.
  8. Change. I can change my focus any day I want. If you're a McDonald's franchisee, you don't say, "Hey, I've got this great idea for a meatball sandwich—let's try it out today." In consulting you can adjust your focus hour-by-hour, as long as your clients still understand and appreciate what you do.
  9. Income. No one else would pay me as much as I pay myself.
  10. FUN. I can't think of anything I'd rather be doing.
  11. Retirement. I can write and consult as long as I am physically and mentally capable. Peter Drucker worked into his 90s, and when asked which book was his best, he said: "My next one."
  12. Job Security. Although clients come and go, no one can come into my office and say, "Pack up your stuff . . . You don't work here anymore." In 29 years, I've only had one employer: ME.
  13. Travel. I don't have to travel unless I decide to. I travel if it's both FUN and profitable—or at least FUN.
  14. Commute. I live five minutes from my office, a corner office in an upscale six-story tower. In winter, I leave a heated garage at home and drive to an underground heated garage at work. There's seldom time to hear even one song on the radio.
  15. Vacation. Consulting is more fun than vacation (except on Wailea Beach in Maui).
  16. Friends. I have developed hundreds of close acquaintances and several lifetime friends.
  17. Time. I can work as much or as little as I like: four-hour days or 18-hour days. (Of course, my income will reflect that.)
  18. Employees. I can work with employees, subcontractors, partners, or alone—I've done it all.
  19. Passive Income. I've developed several products that provide "mailbox money." I earn while I'm sleeping.
  20. Ethics. I've never had to violate my values or personal code of ethics. I've never had to lie, purposely deceive or harm others, or promise things I can't deliver. I go to bed with a clear conscience. That doesn't mean there's never any conflict. But the conflict is conducted according to generally accepted business practices.
  21. Virtual. My career is fairly portable. With the Internet, e-mail, cell phone, and FedEx, I can work nationally, even internationally from my office—or anywhere in the world.
  22. Purpose. I make a difference in peoples' lives every day. I see it in their faces, hear it in their voices, and read it in their thank-yous.
  23. Experience. Every painful or joyful life experience makes me a better consultant. So does every person I meet or book I read. Grey hair can be good in consulting.
  24. Structure. I have to work very hard, and the clients expect superb results—but I get to structure my days, weeks, months, and years.
  25. Boss. Most of the time, I love my boss.
As I was posting these letters online, I realized I want to communicate my love for consulting. It's just a great business. The single letters, taken together, may create a picture of enjoyment, but in a burst of creativity I listed some of the reasons consulting is such a good fit for me—and perhaps for you, too. They are not prioritized; this is just how they came out.