If you’ve dabbled in freelance writing — or freelance anything — you’ve seen post after post touting the power of cold pitching. It’s reportedly the best way to find high-quality clients and grow your business to new heights.
Unfortunately, a lot of the content out there is super promotional. And much of it involves successful bloggers selling their expertise to those with less experience or savvy in the space.
So what’s the story with cold pitching? The concept is as straightforward as it sounds — you’re reaching out to strangers to sell a service.
The thing we found more challenging was the research process. Where are people finding these lists of prospects, in the first place?
Here, we’ll look at some tips for compiling a list of your own prospects.
How to find new work opportunities
What is cold pitching?
Cold pitching is the process of reaching out to a targeted list of strangers to convince them to give your company a shot. In most cases, you’ll do this via email — though you could try using the good old-fashioned phone.
Basically, you’re sending a company/person a personalized email after doing some research on your own. This means you’re qualifying leads on your own.
Pitches should be as concise as possible. Nobody likes to field a cold email, after all.
Why you should cold pitch
For one, being a freelancer means that you generally don’t have the luxury of taking home a reliable, bi-weekly paycheck. Your earnings depend on how much you work and how much clients are willing to pay for your service.
Among the biggest challenges for independent workers is locking down a steady stream of paying gigs that provide a predictable income.
So there’s this constant need to be prospecting, even when you’ve got enough on your plate. You can apply for jobs through job boards, go to networking events, or ask existing clients for referrals.
Cold pitching, however, offers some distinct benefits over the usual channels, and here’s why:
When you’re emailing cold leads, it’s easy to see which pitches get results. You have a record of sent messages that you can review to see how many conversions you’re getting compared to what was sent.
Well, sort of. Cold pitching requires that you write customized, well-researched emails to strangers, so it’s not this mindless effort. But, once you’ve got your list of leads, you’ll have a quick way to reach out to prospective clients — even just a few each day.
Freelancers can get busy, but keeping up the business development part of their job means they’ll be less likely to experience work droughts down the line.
Contracts are on your terms
Because you’re sending the email, you’re in the position of power.
While you are at the mercy of collecting enough yeses to pay your rent, those who sign on are agreeing to the terms you put out there.
One of the key reasons that freelancers tend to like this method is, it’s an effective alternative job board.
There’s nothing wrong with job boards, per se. But, the process of applying for multiple jobs and hoping the rates work out to more than $0.0008 per word can leave you feeling like your fate is in someone else’s hands.
How to identify the right clients
First of all, you should only approach clients that you can imagine yourself working with.
If you’re a writer with experience in writing about technology, your ideal clients might be software companies, cybersecurity firms, or web apps. You won’t want to approach roofing companies or fashion brands, otherwise, it looks like you’re sending mass emails with little thought as to where they land.
Niche matters, too. Stay in your lane. A generalist might have the right skill set, but they risk falling into the “jack-of-all-trades” category. Instead, you narrow your area of expertise.
As you start hunting for leads, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions as you comb through each lead:
- What can you offer this client?
- Why will you be a good fit?
- Does the subject matter interest you?
Where does one find these companies in the first place?
Okay, there are a few different ways you can start conducting your research. We’ll start with platforms. While the sites we’ve listed here are job boards, they’re actually a great place to conduct research.
Now, we’re not suggesting that you apply for the jobs. Rather, you can head over to a site like AngelList or LinkedIn and filter by company type. AngelList also allows you to email people directly through the platform, bypassing the actual job application part.
Alternatively, you might want to Google startups within your niche. Startups need help getting the word out about their brand and may not have the budget for a full-time writer.
Tread carefully, though. Sometimes, it’s hard to work with new companies as their status changes from one day to the next.
- Quora — Create an account that highlights your business. When someone posts a question you can help with, you can swoop in to help.
- Social media — Twitter and Facebook both have decent search functions. Look for trending topics within your niche and reach out to companies that might be a fit.
- Groups — LinkedIn and Facebook groups are another good resource for collecting leads. Facebook’s platform has a group for anything — local business owners to industry-specific offerings like digital marketing or tech startups. Joining groups means you’ll be able to make new connections and identify companies to reach out to outside of the platform.
Make a spreadsheet of the companies you find during your research. Create tabs for email addresses, status, notes, and anything else that might inform your messaging.
Find the decision maker
Going in cold usually means you’ll be reaching out to a company, not an individual. Chances are, the director of marketing won’t post their business email on the company website, but doing some research before sending an email to “Dear First Name” is a good idea.
Do some research on the company page and social media accounts to see if you can identify who is in charge of marketing, social media, or whatever your area of specialty is.
Be sure to address this person by name in the email — even if it’s just going to “firstname.lastname@example.org.”
How to get people to read your message
- Make it personal — skip the template; cold pitching is already, well, cold. Instead, make it obvious that you’ve done some research. And skip the spammy salutations. No one reads an email addressed to “Sir/Madam.”
- Create a great subject line — Spend some time coming up with creative subject lines. A good subject line makes the suggestion that there’s something worthwhile in the email. A bad one means you’ll get marked as spam. Check out Hubspot’s tips for some inspiration.
- Include social proof, if possible — share links to your best work, endorsements, awards, or positive reviews from happy clients.
Don’t forget the follow-up
People often forget to respond to emails, especially when they’re not urgent. In general, you want to give prospects about a full week to respond.
Send a short, low-pressure reminder after the seven day (ish) mark. The second email should basically say, “I sent you an email and wanted to follow up to see if you’ve had time to consider the offer.”
Make sure you attach the previous email so they can easily access the information you sent the first time around. And if you don’t get a response, move on. There’s no use in trying to pressure someone into becoming a client.