Like it or not, there’s both an art and science to writing cold emails that convert into new clients for your freelance business.
You want to land a high-value client.
Sure, having the right email templates and knowing who your target decision-maker is, are both a must. But beyond just the basics, there are a few counter-intuitive tactics and value-driven outreach strategies I’ve used to repeatedly land high-value clients for my freelance business over the years.
Related: Who is the Real Decision-Maker?
A truly effective cold outreach campaign takes some upfront work, but pays dividends in return.
Here are my five essential components of writing cold emails that generate new business, time and time again.
1. Identify the right clients.
If the majority of your freelance experience is in doing work for a particular industry, choose to approach only clients that’ll identify with your niche expertise—which will help you brand yourself as an expert in the long run.
Just as important as picking the right client, is making sure you’re also a fit for them. Ask yourself these questions to determine if your prospect is the right client for your business:
• Why are you the best freelancer to help this particular client?
• Have you ever taken on similar projects? If so, how did they turn out?
• Are you considering this prospect solely for the money, or because they actually excite you?
For my freelance content marketing business, I brand myself so that I’m attractive only to a certain type of client.
I’m not a general marketing consultant to just anyone that’ll hire me. I’ve leaned into my experience, developed my own tactics and showcase a very specific set of clients I want to work ith more, a niche where my expertise gets supercharged. Picking a niche is the best decision you can possibly make as a freelancer.
2. Find your decision-maker.
When researching a new prospect, you can’t afford to spend time jumping through hoops trying to land a contract. You need to go straight to the decision-maker who’s empowered to make the call on hiring freelancers with your skill set.
You’ll want to target people who are at manager and director-level positions. The type of person who will have a say in hiring contractors for your discipline. If you’re a designer, that means creative directors. If you’re a writer, look for a director of content marketing. If you’re a developer, your decision-maker is likely a director of engineering. Regardless, what’s important is that you connect directly with the right person.
Use LinkedIn to search for the job title you think your decision-maker will have. Then, filter the results by company—typing in the name of your prospect company and selecting it from the drop down menu. That’ll give you a clear, sorted list of the most relevant people you should reach out to at this target company.
3. Get their email address.
Once you have the name of your decision-maker from your LinkedIn search, it’s time to get their email address—and reach them where they spend much of their day, in their inbox.
Pick up the free Chrome extension for Gmail, Rapportive. This free tool from LinkedIn, populates information about the person behind any email address you enter into a new draft email, helping you guess an email address and verify whether or not it’s correct.
Here are the most popular email naming conventions that the majority of companies use:
Once you have your decision-maker’s email address, it’s time to formulate your outreach strategy and write your cold email.
4. Formulate your outreach strategy & send your email.
With every cold email I send to a prospective freelance client, I invest a little time to deliver value first, before asking for anything in return. Typically, that’s in the form of a brief feature and mention within a post on my personal blog that gets around 200,000 monthly readers.
Here’s the exact cold email template I use during this outreach process:
Subject Line: Your feature on my blog
Body: Hey [First Name],
I’ve been a huge fan of what you’re doing with [Company Name] over the past couple of years.
I wanted to give you a heads up that I featured you in this recent post on my blog [Link].
Would you mind proofing it real quick and making sure I got the right link & details for you?
That’s it. Very simple and without any promotional links, a pitch to hire me, or anything else that distracts from the fact that I’m giving them free value at this stage. My goal is to show my worth, and get them to my blog where they’ll be able to see the quality of my work.
It seems simple, but hardly anybody has the patience to execute on this strategy that isn’t centered around making a quick buck.
5. Follow-up without being annoying.
As a freelancer, it’s a reality that you’ll need to fight to get noticed, because everyone you’re pitching your services to is busy.
That being said, there’s a fine line between being a nuisance with your follow ups and being just brief enough (while providing more value) to grab their attention amongst the sea of emails in their inbox.
If you don’t hear back after a few days from when you sent your cold email, check back in with a brief one-liner asking if it makes sense to have a quick chat about collaborating together. Offer up a specific day you can be flexible enough to make yourself available at their convenience.
How often should I follow-up?
From there, I recommend following up every 3-4 business days with a varied approach that includes new updates on content of theirs that I’ve shared with my audience, asking if someone else might be a better point of contact within their company and checking in to see how I can better provide value to them.
At the end of the day, no cold outreach campaign is going to be perfect. You’ll have to grow, adapt and respond to each unique situation.
However, the more you can learn to provide meaningful upfront value to your prospects, the more attractive you’ll be as a freelancer.