Cold pitching 101 for freelance writers

What’s the top question freelancers ask all the time?

“How do I get more clients?”

Usually there are a few answers:

Let’s dive deeper into these pesky cold pitches, shall we?

When do you cold pitch?

There are two approaches you could take here:

  1. First, you may want to build some kind of rapport with your prospect before engaging with them in a private DM or email. Comment on their social media posts, respond to them if they comment on yours, and engage with their content as much as you can so you get to know each other. That way, when you pop in their DMs or email them, you’re not just a random person messaging them and they’ll be likely to return your message and continue the conversation. 
  2. You could send a prospect a cold message, whether that’s a DM on social media or via email. With the right strategy here, you can still be effective, it just takes a little extra effort to prove that you’re trustworthy. We’ll get more into this.

Cold pitching guidelines

There are some rules I like to follow when it comes to cold pitching:

  1. Don’t give out your rates in your first message. This comes off as too salesy and desperate. They don’t know you, so why would they consider hiring you right now? You’ll get into your rates later if they’re really interested.
  2. Don’t do any selling with the first outreach. When you focus on trying to make a sale in the first interaction, you will likely not get a response. People don’t like to be sold to, and they definitely don’t like to be sold to by a person they don’t know for a service they may not think they need. 
  3. Always offer some kind of free value. Instead of going for a hard sell, offer them some value that they can appreciate. For example, you may comment on how you love the tone of their homepage, but if they structured it a different way and reworded some copy differently, they may better encourage site visitors to stay on the website longer. Provide some examples of how you might rephrase some of their copy and tell them to use that if they’d like. 
  4. Don’t use the copy and paste method. We’ve all received a pitch at some point that feels like it could have been for anyone, and what do we do? Ignore. Delete. Block. People can tell when you use a generic message very easily and it makes them feel like you didn’t put time into getting to know them first. So why should they care what you have to say? Let’s talk more about this.

Personalize, personalize, personalize

If you can replace your prospect’s name with someone else’s name, your message is not personalized enough. Really dig around in their website and social media accounts and make it obvious that you researched what they’re about. This little effort goes a long way.

When you’re browsing what they have online, choose one or two small writing tasks you could provide for them. I’ve actually created a writing sample for a prospect based on that and attached it to my email. And even if they never respond, I just made an extra sample for my portfolio. Win!

Speaking of portfolios…if you need help building or boosting yours, check out my free guide on what samples you can create to really “wow” your prospects!

A peek into my inbox

I don’t know about you, but I receive cold emails and DMs alllllll the time. I’m sure you do, too. Step into my inbox and I’ll explain why some cold messages I’ve received recently don’t work.

So for this one:

  • They don’t address me by my name, which is very easy to find.
  • They say “thrown at them” as if they’re talking about other people and not me.
  • They say I have a real estate business…I don’t.
  • They can clearly send this message to anyone (in the real estate industry).
  • I don’t hire writers.
  • There are a lot of typos, bad grammar, etc.

For this one:

  • They say that I have an organization, but if you took a few minutes to research my business, I am not organization status (but maybe some day).
  • They are a little pushy about setting up a free demo since I didn’t respond to their last message…kind of a turnoff.
  • They immediately ask for contact information, but I have yet to respond, show interest, or even know them, so why would I provide that to them?

For this one:

  • My company doesn’t hire freelance developers.
  • They apologize for “being off the mark”. Don’t apologize in your messages and if you feel like you’re off the mark, you probably are and shouldn’t send the message in the first place.
  • They could send this message to literally anyone.

For this one:

  • They could send this message to anyone in marketing.
  • They say “in your industry” but don’t actually say what my industry is (because they didn’t research me).
  • I don’t have a podcast (awkward).

^This is how I felt when I received each one.

But do you see the pattern? It’s glaringly obvious that these people didn’t take the time to research me or what I do to tailor their message to me. They could send their message to virtually anyone. They assumed things about my business that don’t make sense or are obviously false.

Did I respond to any of these? Nope.

Just like cover letters and resumes in the corporate world, people like to know that you created your message just for them. People can sniff out when you copy and paste very easily, and that will turn them off right away. We don’t want that.

Think about if you were to receive your own pitch. Does it seem sincere? Does it seem like you took the time to learn about the brand? Does it sound like someone who’s pleasant to work with?

My recent experience

I recently received a positive response back from a client and this is essentially what I did:

  • Addressed him by his first name
  • Explained how we may know each other (in this case, it was LinkedIn and we had interacted a couple times)
  • Congratulated him on a recent business achievement
  • Stated that I saw he was hiring
  • Did a quick intro about me and how my background is relevant to his business
  • Gave a brief suggestion on what I could do to improve his business’ online presence
  • Invited him to visit my portfolio

I tried to be simple, brief, show that I know the business, and demonstrated how I could offer value.

The prospect responded and we went back and forth a couple times to gather more information and I feel pretty good about “planting the seed”, if you will. This could be you!

What’s your experience been like with cold pitches? Share your questions, successes, or struggles below! I’ll continue to share what I learn about cold pitching along the way as well.

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