You've decided to pursue freelance writing, congrats!
Freelancing is such a great way to make money, whether as a side hustle or a full-time gig. If you've made it this far, you've likely already set up your freelance writer website and online portfolio. (If not, check out this guide.)
So, what comes next? Finding freelance writing gigs, of course! Specifically, pitching potential clients for work.
As a new freelancer, you might be wondering how to get clients and actually make money writing. Heck, you may even be an experienced freelancer looking for some pointers. Either way, this article is for you.
There are plenty of ways to find freelance clients, but the most common is through pitching. For freelance writers, that often includes pitching in response to a job posting/call for writers or cold emailing prospects.
In this article, we're going to focus on cold emailing. That said, these tips will also help you craft a pitch in response to a listed job or call for submissions.
Before we get into it, let's talk a little about what cold emailing is.
What is Cold Emailing?
Cold email is exactly how it sounds. You're emailing a prospect you've had no previous contact with. In contrast, you may send a warm email to someone you met at a networking event or that you share a mutual friend with.
When you cold email for a writing gig, that prospect isn't necessarily looking for writing services. The goal is to convince them to hire you, or at the very least, make a connection for a future partnership.
Is Cold Emailing an Effective Way to Find Freelance Jobs?
The short answer is yes. The longer, more complex answer is also yes, but you only if you keep at it.
Those who have found success at cold emailing know that it's a numbers game. Basically, you have to be willing to send large quantities of cold emails to yield results.
Only a fraction of cold emails convert to new clients and you'll get a lot of “no thank you” emails in response. This can make cold emailing pretty intimidating for new writers. Taking on the task of cold emailing requires growing a thick skin and learning to get over the fear of rejection.
Related: 6 Positive Ways to Deal With Rejection as a Freelance Writer
Does getting a “no” response sting? Absolutely! But the fact remains that cold emailing is one of the most effective ways to find clients.
If you think you can make cold emailing work for you, keep reading to learn how to send a cold email to a prospect.
How to Write Cold Emails That Get Responses
It's important to note that writing a client-winning cold email takes more than drafting and sending a pitch. There's work to be done before you can write your email and after you've sent your pitch.
Think of it kind of like a sandwich. The work you do before and after is the bread and your actual pitch is the meat. While the pitch itself is arguably the most important aspect, what you do before and after plays a role in the success of your cold email pitch.
Still with me?
Okay, sandwich metaphors aside…
Sending a cold email pitch doesn't have to be complicated.
The steps below will walk you through the process from start to finish.
How to Prepare to Send a Cold Email
After you've chosen your niche and created excellent writing samples, it's time to get to know the companies and brands within your niche.
As you're exploring, start jotting down the ones that you'd like to work with. It's also helpful to get to know more about their business and possible content or copywriting needs.
Knowing a little about their company and what they do will help your pitch. It shows you're genuinely interested and not just sending a generic cold email pitch to every business in their industry.
01. Visit Their Website
Visit their website and see what their business is all about. Do they have any blog posts on their site? What's the vibe of their web copy? Is it fun and personable, or uber professional? By looking at the content they already have, you can tailor your pitch to fit their business.
02. Find Them on Social Media
Next, check out their social media accounts. It can be beneficial to see what's going on in the day-to-day activities of their business. It can also give you insight into crafting the tone of your pitch.
03. Pitch a Specific Person
Address the person you're pitching by name in your email if you can.
Browse the “about us” or “meet the team” pages of their website to find the name and email address of the person in charge of marketing. If they don't list team members on their site, try searching the company on LinkedIn and clicking on the “people” tab.
You probably won't find the email address you need on LinkedIn, but there are a couple of tricks you can try. I highly suggest installing the Hunter.IO extension for Chrome. With it, you can gather verified email addresses from a website.
Even if it doesn't produce the email address of the person you're looking for, it can give you an indication of what their email might be. You just have to look at the formatting of the emails it pulls.
If Hunter.IO is showing email addresses as email@example.com, it's safe to assume you can plug in the first and last name of the person you want to email. Then you can use the email verifier to see if it's a legitimate email.
What if you can't find the name or email address of a specific person?
You can use the company's generic contact email such as firstname.lastname@example.org. In that case, say something like “Hello, XYZ team” to give it a personalized touch.
How to Write a Cold Email Pitch
Writing a cold email that gets a response requires just the right balance of key information. A good cold email has five parts, which I've outlined below.
01. Make a Personal Connection
Addressing the person you're pitching by name is a great way to make a personal connection, but it's not the only way.
Some people dive right into their pitch, but I like using my opening sentences to make a personal connection and say why I'm popping into their inbox.
Finding a way to personalize your cold email doesn't have to be overly complicated. Browse their website to see if they've won any recent awards or made a big announcement. You can even compliment an article they wrote or refer to a case study they published on their site.
Here's a snipped from a cold email I've sent:
In this pitch, I mentioned that I found their company during the Spring Parade of Homes. This gives them an indication that I'm familiar with their company and the homes they build. It also shows that I did my homework about their company, which is how I found the news about their recent award.
Creating a personal connection or referencing something relevant to the company shows that you've taken the time to get to know them. In other words, they know your pitch isn't just another mass email. Since it's actually tailored to them, it makes them a little more invested in your email.
02. Build Credibility
Next up is the credibility builder. In the example above, my reason for emailing was to make an introduction. So, the next logical step is to introduce myself and my qualifications.
When stating your qualifications, make sure they're relevant to the company you're pitching. The above example shows my qualifications related to the housing industry.
In this pitch, I included details about:
- My education (but, remember, a degree or formal education isn't required to start freelance writing)
- How long I've been freelance writing
- What I specialize in + clients in the housing industry that I've worked with
- How I've helped clients achieve results
- Publications I've been featured in
03. State Your Pitch
Next, tell the prospect why you're cold-emailing them and how you can help their company. In other words, tell the prospect how can you achieve results for their business. This may be your chance to offer a solution to a problem they may not even know they have.
Businesses don't want to guess how you can help them. You have to tell them what kind of results you can achieve and why they should work with you specifically.
In the example above, I explain that I noticed the blogs for each division of the company have been untouched for a while. Then, I stated how I can help I can help them develop consistent blog content.
At this point, you want to make sure you're including links to your portfolio and writing samples related to their industry. I made sure to direct the prospect to my portfolio and linked three blog posts showcasing my work below that.
It's important to include samples that are relevant to the company you're pitching. If you're pitching a company in the tech industry, it doesn't make sense to send a previous article about the best brand of cat food.
If you don't have relevant samples, make some. LinkedIn is a great place to publish your own articles, or you can check out sites like Medium.
Related: How to Create Freelance Writing Samples That Stand Out
An exception to this would be if your writing samples relate to another field, but you have experience in the industry you're sending the pitch for.
For example, let's say your previous writing has been for the health and wellness field, but you want to apply for a writing gig in the tech industry. Having work experience in that sphere will work in your favor.
Just say something like:
“At this time, I don't have any writing samples related to the tech industry. However, before starting my career as a freelance writer, I worked as a Mobile Developer for three years at XYZ Company.”
You can still attach writing samples of your best work but you'll have an edge because you worked within the industry.
However, if you have the time, I recommend creating a writing sample or two. Having a sample will really solidify you as an expert!
04. Include a Call to Action
Last, but not least, include a call to action (CTA) at the end of your pitch. It's super important here to be direct in what you want the prospect to do next.
Don't say: “Let me know if you're interested.”
Do say: “I'd be happy to chat about this in more detail if you're interested. Is there a time this week that works best to set up a quick call?”
For the sake of transparency, here's how I ended my cold email pitch to this prospect:
05. Add a Professional Email Signature
When closing your cold email, you should also include a professional email signature. You can see mine in the screenshot above.
Here is some information freelancers commonly include:
- Your full name
- Your title
- A link to your website and portfolio
- Links to your social media and LinkedIn page
I also include a link to schedule a call via Acuity Scheduling. I find having it in my email signature is useful for both current and potential clients because they can easily see my availability and schedule a call when it's convenient for them.
Don't Forget to Proofread Your Cold Email Pitch!
Once you've drafted your cold email pitch, it's time to proofread. I can't stress the importance of proofreading your pitch enough, especially if you're pitching multiple companies at once.
As a freelancer pitching writing services, the cold email you send to a prospect NEEDS to be error free and grammatically correct.
There is nothing more embarrassing for a writer than making spelling and grammar errors when pitching. I highly, HIGHLY recommend using Grammarly or some other writing tool to proof your pitch.
Go over it with a fine-tooth comb. In addition to spelling and grammar, check:
- The spelling of the company or prospect name
- For any extra or missing words
- Links to make sure they open to the correct pages
Once you're sure your cold email pitch is error-free, send that baby off!
What To Do After Sending a Cold Email
Not everyone does this, but tracking your cold email pitches is important. Keeping track of where you're at in the pitch process keeps you organized and you can use the info to fine-tune your cold email pitches going forward.
A spreadsheet is an incredibly helpful way to track cold email pitches. That's what I did when I started, but now I track the various steps of my pitch process with Trello.
You may have to test a few methods before finding what works for you, and that's okay. Just do your best to stay on top of your pitches.
Using an email tracking tool like Streak is also an effective way to manage your cold email campaigns. It's totally free to use and you can track where a prospect is at in the process, as well as get notified when your cold email is read — all good things to know!
Related: 9 Best Writing Tools for New Freelance Writers
Always Follow Up
One of the most important parts of cold emailing is mastering the art of the follow up.
It takes an average of five emails to close a sale, yet 70% of freelance writers don't do it. Crazy, right? If you want to be a successful freelance writer, you need to stand out from the majority by following up.
How often you follow up will come down to personal preference, but I typically send three follow-up emails after my initial pitch.
- Quick follow up and a brief summary of my pitch
- Follow up asking them to forward my email to the person in charge of content marketing (if I couldn't find that person in my research of the company) or a decision-maker
- Follow up/breakup email restating the “why” of my initial pitch and to let me know if they are interested in my services in the future.
Keep Pitching and Testing New Copy
Writing successful cold email pitches may take some trial and error. That's why it's so important to send regular cold emails and test out different copy. That way you can see what prospects respond to and replicate the cold emails that win clients in your niche.
To help you prepare and keep track of your pitches, I created an awesome checklist + pitch tracking template. Click here to snag your free copy.
I hope you found this article helpful! You may also want to check out these guides on how to price your freelance services and important freelance writing milestones for new writers to achieve.
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Ryan Biddulph says
Super tips Katie! Showing off your work does wonders. I also found that building friendships with fellow bloggers through blog commenting helped me land more clients sans pitching. My friends and their readers hired me because they bought into my content….and they approached me, versus me approaching them. Rocking post!
Katie @ The Quiet Type says
Thank you! You’re totally right. Engaging with other bloggers is a great way to connect with other bloggers and get yourself noticed. It’s something I am trying to do more often, too!
Sara | mshealthesteem says
This advice is amazing and so helpful! I couldn’t agree more – you definitely need to do your research and really know your potential client and their needs so you can blow them away. And including a name is golden 🙌.
Thank you for sharing your advice and experiences with us ♡
Katie @ The Quiet Type says
Hi Sara! I’m glad you found it helpful! 🙂