How to Master the Art of the Cold Pitch
The Secret to Landing Your First Great Freelancing Gig
In one of my recent Medium posts, How I Made Over $10,000 in My First Six Months as a Freelance Writer, I talked a little bit about the art of cold pitching. I received a response on that post from a reader asking me how I decided who to cold pitch to. After responding to this question, I figured it would be a good idea to offer a complete explanation of what cold pitching is, how to do it the right way, and what to look out for when cold pitching.
If you are an up and coming freelancer who has heard about cold pitching but don’t know where to get started, this is for you.
Cold pitching is an extremely effective method of securing new jobs as a freelancer, and, as one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, you must know how to master the art of the cold pitch. With that, let’s get started!
What is Cold Pitching?
So what’s this whole cold pitching thing about? Well, cold pitching is all about landing jobs. As wonderful as it is to be a freelancer, one of the most significant downsides is that we are never guaranteed a paycheck. We have to get out there and assert ourselves to win jobs. This can lead to a lot of stress and fear, especially when you’re just getting started.
As it turns out, being able to secure gigs is the number one biggest worry that freelancers have. According to the sixth annual Freelancing in America report, the struggle to find new work and maintain a steady income/savings is among the biggest challenges that freelancers face. Regardless, the freelancing field is growing with those who freelance full-time, rising from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent this year, according to the report.
With so many people gaining an increasing interest in freelancing as a means of full-time work, it is crucial that one of the best methods for acquiring new work, cold pitching, is understood.
Cold pitching, put, is the act of reaching out to potential clients directly and offering your services. Sounds easy enough, right? It can be- but only if you know how to do it the right way. Mastering the art of cold pitching is all about being able to represent yourself, communicate the value of your services, and win over a client. As it turns out, there’s a lot you need to know to get it right.
Not sure where to start? No problem! That’s what I’m here for. Let’s discuss five ways that you can successfully craft a cold pitch email that impresses, generates interest in your work, and lands you the first of many clients.
Step 1: Know Who You’re Pitching To
The question that I received from a fellow Medium member regarding cold pitching was about the right way to identify clients to cold pitch to. I thought this was a great question. So great, in fact, that this is where we’ll be starting in creating the perfect cold pitch.
The importance of knowing who you’re pitching to cannot be understated. After all, when it comes to cold pitching to potential freelance clients, research is as essential as the actual contents of your pitch. In identifying who to pitch to, there are two primary questions you should keep in mind:
- Where should you look for clients?
- Who should you contact?
Where to Look For Clients
Starting with the first question, you must develop a strategy for finding potential clients. This can vary from one freelancer to the next, depending on what kind of work you perform and where you are located. I tend to focus on local small businesses when cold pitching. As a freelance copywriter and blog manager, I find that I am the most successful in winning over clients in my area due to convenience, trust factor, and ease of conducting business.
If you are a freelance writer, start by reaching out to small businesses in your area. Take a look at their website, for starters. Do they have an established blog? If so, is it being updated with engaging content on a regular basis? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you have a way in.
Although it is a great place to start as a beginner, local businesses shouldn’t be your only focus when cold pitching. There are many online platforms that I have used to generate clients, as well. From freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to job board websites like Contena and ProBlogger, there are plenty of places to look for clients online.
While these types of websites are great for connecting you with clients, they are also a great place to start with cold pitching because these potential clients are already openly looking for people that do the kind of work that you do! That being said, you still need to work to earn their business.
Who Should You Contact?
If you are finding potential clients through means of a freelancing platform or job board site, figuring out who to contact with your cold pitch should be simple enough. If you are reaching out to local businesses in your area after looking at their websites, however, figuring out who to contact can get a bit more complicated.
More likely than not, the ideal client isn’t a person; it’s a company. Considering this fact, you may be quick to assume that the best way to reach the right person is to fill out a contact form on their business website and wait, right?
Merely filling out a contact form and waiting for a reply is an almost sure way to get completely ignored. This isn’t to say that that company wouldn’t be interested in your work, you’re just sending your email to the wrong place. More than likely, a contact form is sent to a customer service email address where it will be overlooked by emails from customers sending inquiries to that business. You have to stand out in that company’s inbox. But how?
You can significantly increase your chances of being noticed in the inbox by pitching to the most relevant person in the company. This might include a senior manager, department head, or hiring manager. Visiting a business website’s About Us page or Meet Our Team page is your best bet of identifying who is who, therefore, determining the best person to cold pitch to.
Step 2: Write an Email Subject Line That Sells
Your best method of standing out from the pack when cold pitching is to create an email subject line that demands interest. While many freelancers devote all of their energy to the actual contents of their cold pitch email, your email will never even be opened without a winning subject line.
Keep in mind that there is no one subject line to fit all situations. For this reason, I’d highly recommend getting creative. Stray away from just copy and pasting the same subject line each time you draft a cold pitch email. Put in the hard work instead! When I was starting, I took a look at HubSpot’s 39 Sales Email Subject Lines That Get Opened, Read, and Responded To for a bit of inspiration. I’d highly recommend it to start brainstorming.
Make a list of possible subject lines before choosing one that will win over your clients. There are a few things to keep in mind when crafting the perfect subject line, including:
- What is personal to this company?
- What does this company care about?
- What does this company need?
Some great examples would include something along the lines of “Ideas for [insert something that company cares about]” or “Help for [insert a goal of that company].” These are great ways to speak directly to that company’s interests and goals as well as providing proof that you’ve done your due research.
Step 3: Get Personal While Staying Professional
While I highly recommend the use of email templates when crafting your own cold pitches, it is crucial that you don’t fall into the comfort of copy and pasting and sending the same email to everyone. The contents of each cold pitch email must be personalized to each client. Yes, this is a lot of hard work, but it pays off when you win a client.
Address your client by name. Identify their specific needs as a company and offer a personalized solution. If you are a freelance writer, pinpoint particular areas of their website that you could stand to improve. If you are a freelance web designer, identify all of the areas of their website that could stand to be developed and how your services will address each of these problem areas. Your potential clients are likely business owners or executives. This means that they are very busy people themselves. Make reading your pitch and understanding what your services can do for them quick, easy, and easily comprehendible.
Step 4: Provide Social Proof
Put yourself in the shoes of your potential clients for a moment. When you receive an email from someone you don’t know, what do you do? You probably disregard it. Even if you do open it, do you read long enough to understand what they’re communicating to you? As a busy freelancer, you don’t have much time on your hands. Unless that person is able to provide you with social proof of their services or product, you probably click away quickly. This is what you want to avoid as a freelancer crafting a cold pitch email.
Your prospective client has no idea who you are, and you are emailing them out of the blue telling them that they need your services? Who are you to demand their attention and trust? Nobody, that is, without social proof of your work. You can establish social proof of your quality by sending them links to your past work, links to your freelancer website, relevant testimonials from past clients, and reviews you’ve received from freelancing platforms like Upwork or Fiverr. This generates proof that you know what you’re doing and opens the way for you to make a positive impression.
If you don’t have a freelancing website, by the way, you need one. If you need a little extra help creating your own freelancing website and don’t know where to start, check out my Freelance Writing Blog. There, you’ll find my recent post on How to Build a Freelance Writer Website That Attracts Jobs. It’s filled with useful information on creating your own website. With a website, you’ll look much more professional and will be winning clients in no time!
Step 5: Don’t Be Afraid to Follow Up
As a freelancer, persistence is everything. You may not get a reply your first, second, or even third time sending out a cold pitch email. While you don’t want to unnecessarily badger a potential client (a surefire way to turn them off), you shouldn’t be afraid to follow up.
Your first email may not have impressed the company or it may have been completely overlooked. If the latter is the case, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity by neglecting to follow up. As a best practice, I recommend waiting around a week before reaching out to follow up. If your second email goes with no reply, it’s time to move on to another client.
Get Out There and Cold Pitch!
Now that you know the five steps to create the perfect cold pitch, it’s time to get out there and land your first job. While it may seem scary and a little overwhelming at first, I can’t even explain how rewarding it feels when you land your first job via cold pitching.
There are clients out there who are looking for the type of services that you provide.
There are clients out there that would be happy to work with you.
It’s your job to find them and win them over.
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