While all of our businesses and industries are different as freelance writers, email prospecting remains my greatest source of revenue. My highest-paying and most impressive clients have ALL come from email pitches or they were referrals from clients secured through those means.
With that said, here’s the system I’ve used for how to get freelance clients in less time with email prospecting. I hope you’ll try the parts that resonate with your business or feel inspired to fine-tune a prospecting strategy of your own.
Tip #1: Always be
closing compiling prospects
I used to spend chunks of time making lists of companies in my niche — retail, fashion and luxury companies and the businesses that sell to them (picture anything from wholesale SaaS to real estate and fintech). I haven’t had the need to do that for a while because I take notes all the time…and the lists just build up.
I read FT Weekend and come across a few companies from stories and ads and jot their names down. I do the same with other industry publications, email newsletters and social media sites (especially LinkedIn).
I recently started working from a local co-working space every now and then. It’s an amazing place with international locations with really great energy and a healthy balance of industries. We have a Slack channel for this Los Angeles location, so I thought it would make sense to start getting emails to pitch from there.
Since my prospect list is so long, I’ve only emailed one person from my co-working space. The contact, a marketing professional at a local agency, viewed my LinkedIn profile but didn’t respond. Then ten days or so later, she got in touch and connected me to her company’s content director. I spoke with her a week later and was onboarded for future projects the next day.
So because I don’t love the long research hours, I’ve been trying to find systems like these to keep the prospect flowing with very little effort.
Whenever I am ready to pitch, I just continue reaching out to people on my list. And that turns pitching into a much more nimble experience:
- Efficient research into the company and contact
- Personalizing the pitch
- Sending the email
- Repeating the process for another prospect
Tip #2: Prioritize your prospect list
The only companies I tend to pitch with urgency are relevant businesses from a weekly LinkedIn email digest that tells me how many searches I appeared in that week. Opt in if you don’t already receive these emails. Mine arrive on Sundays so I review them on Monday mornings. (Here’s more tips on using LinkedIn as a freelancer.)
They have a lot of information:
- Which companies discovered my profile via searches
- Company size
- The searchers’ roles at those companies
- The keywords used in their searches
Many of these leads make enough sense for me to pay close attention to my weekly digest. I weed out companies that aren’t a great fit due to company size, industry, values, or niche. Then I do some extra digging into the remaining businesses, find the proper contacts, and send my email pitches.
I also prioritize any company that has something exciting and relevant happening right now. For example, a years-long client was just acquired in a major deal. I was able to offer my services to their acquirer — and two other companies they also recently acquired. My longtime experience with my client made me a strong contender. I had proof of results, verified trust and credibility and glowing recommendations. That made these emails a lot more personalized, memorable and “warm” than most.
Tip #3: Make your emails hard to ignore (for the right reasons)
Of course it’s super important to get your subject line right. If you’re like me, or many of our colleagues, you get daily pitches from people who obviously haven’t done their research. They greet you with an awkward copy-paste LinkedIn headline or try to sell you manufacturing services for your copywriting business. True story. Or the email is set up to pretend it’s a reply to a thread when it’s the first time they’re reaching out to you, and sometimes each follow-up email for these inappropriate, ignored messages gets progressively aggressive. Time for “block sender.”
As writers, we know better. (Hopefully.) Remember that your subject line is your first impression. It’s better than real life in some ways because you can work on that subject line and hone it to perfection. There’s no need to push “send” until the time is right.
I’ve experimented with recommended tactics, personalized advice, and ideas of my own. In the end, this is what works best for me: I write what I do and name a few clients in my subject line. So my subject line is always “Freelance copywriter and strategist (a client that would be relevant to this company/contact, a client that would be relevant to this company/contact)”.
I think this strategy is a success because it immediately makes the recipient think about what I do (copywriting and strategy), so they consider whether they need help now or in the near future. Mentioning two relevant clients gives immediate social proof, moving me from random person to vetted professional trying to make a connection. The names of those companies also reflect my niche; my specialty expertise might help me secure more opportunities.
Tip #4: Be patient — it can take time to build momentum
If they’re interested in keeping in touch, they’ll usually respond accordingly. I’ve even had people ignore my emails for weeks, months, as long as a year, to finally get in touch and get a contract going. So remember that no response might mean they’ve quietly saved your details for later. Either way, don’t take it personally and don’t get discouraged. Also avoid putting too much pressure on securing any one client. Pitch and move on, pitch and move on. For those who don’t respond, I rarely follow up more than once.
I’ve learned a few lessons that make it easier to let go:
- Email marketing doesn’t have to intimidating (think: professionals contacting professionals)
- Low response rates aren’t indicative of failure (expect more unanswered messages than not)
- Responses like “maybe another time” and “I’ll put your info on file” are often sincere and can lead to future business
- The more efficient the email strategy, the higher the ROI (you don’t need to invest tons of time)
Tip #5: Get personal
I always intend to personalize the beginning of my emails (though it doesn’t always happen). Here’s what I do:
- I use Google News to find out if there’s anything new I can get excited about or if there’s some sort of accolade that would warrant a congratulatory message.
- If a prospect is connected to one of my clients, I mention that company in both the subject line and the first sentence.
- If there’s nothing I feel compelled to highlight, I usually just express enthusiasm about the possibility of working with their company.
- Be authentic. If you’re not, you won’t be effective. People can sense insincerity from miles away.
The rest of the email is my standard pitch, except for a line where I mention specific services. I look at the prospect’s website to single out a few content, advertising, or strategy services that hold specific significance to their company. I might mention case studies because I know they have some on their website, or I might mention white papers because I realize they could really use some based on their company type, niche, and offerings. I also name the resource in the way they do. For example, if their site reads “special reports” instead of “ebooks,” I write “special reports” for clear communication and to show I’ve done my homework.
Tip #6: Get a great CRM to make prospecting more desirable
I recently signed up for Salesforce for small businesses. Contacting and managing prospects is much easier now. It integrates with Google Calendar and Gmail (including G Suite accounts) so I save a lot of time and the process is seamless. Do some research to find the best customer relationship management (CRM) system for you.
No matter how you decide to approach prospecting, remember that while one writer does best with cold calling, another wins with email. Make a list of your best clients and note the source of your relationships. Then do some research to examine the quality of your results across different channels. Be patient. Invest enough time to figure out what works best for you and to realize what changes make the greatest impact on your results.
Chanoa Tarle is a Los Angeles-based freelance copywriter and strategist.