How to Get Clients With Cold Emails


Guest Post by Chloe Brittain

As a new freelancer, maybe you have a valuable service offering, but you’re not sure how to get clients without spending hundreds of dollars a month on ads.

Enter cold pitching – the technique today’s digital freelancers use to keep their pipeline full without spending a dime on advertising.

Cold outreach appeals to new and experienced freelancers for a few reasons:

  • You can choose who you work with. Whether you want to build your portfolio in a certain niche or connect with influential startups and brands, cold emailing can help you achieve your goals.
  • You don’t have to work your way up. As long as you qualify prospects beforehand, you can charge professional rates right away.
  • It’s a repeatable process. You can send 10, 20, or more pitches every week while managing other aspects of your business.
  • It’s easy to get started. All you need is Internet access and an email address.

I’ve used cold emails to connect with some great freelance writing clients (and even the occasional VA client). In this post, I’ll cover the basics of this outbound marketing technique: how to find and qualify prospects, get anyone’s email address, and write effective pitches and follow-ups.

Where to find prospects

The first step in any cold email campaign is to create a list of prospects.

You might think: Why not just buy email addresses from a B2B lead database and save the time of collecting them manually?

You can try – but you might be disappointed with the results. The startup world is fast-paced, so leads from B2B databases tend to become outdated quickly.

There are lots of places where you can find B2B leads that are fresher and more interesting. Here are a few sources to kickstart your search:

  • LinkedIn
  • Company and startup databases like AngelList, Product Hunt, and Crunchbase
  • SaaS directories like G2 Crowd, Capterra, and GetApp
  • Niche directories (for example, search Google for “video production company directory”)

Qualifying your prospects

Once you have an initial list of prospects, the next step is to eliminate the ones that don’t have the budget to pay professional rates. This step is important – don’t skip it.

There are a few criteria you can use to qualify prospects:

  • Annual revenue. For best results, target companies that have an annual revenue of at least $10M – preferably higher. You can get (rough) estimates of a company’s revenue using a tool like Owler.
  • Employee count. Check LinkedIn to see how many employees work at the company. I prefer to pitch companies with at least 100-200 employees.
  • Other metrics. You can use resources like Crunchbase Rank, the Inc. 5000 list, etc., to get a sense of how influential a prospect is.

 How to find anyone’s email address

Once you have your revised prospect list, you need to find out exactly who you’re going to be pitching.

Unless as a last resort, don’t send your pitch through a company’s info@ email address or webform – this is a good way to get overlooked. Instead, identify the person who’s responsible for making decisions about the service you’re offering.

Figuring out who to contact can take some experimentation and will depend on the service you offer as well as the size of the company. If you’re pitching blogging services to large organizations, for example, you can contact the content manager or marketing manager. If you’re selling marketing services to small startups, you’ll often have better success emailing the CEO.

The best way to find out who’s who at a company is to look up the company page on LinkedIn, click on “See all employees,” and do a keyword search for the appropriate job title (e.g., “founder,” “content manager”).

There are lots of free tools to help you find prospects’ email addresses. My favorites are below:

  • If you’re pitching the CEO or another senior team member, there’s a good chance their email address is just a Google search away. You can also check the company’s About Us webpage, which often lists contact info of key team members.
  • io. Enter a company’s domain name, and this handy tool will return a list of email addresses that it’s found around the web. It also has a verification tool to help you avoid email bounces, which can hurt your deliverability.
  • FullContact Chrome extension for Gmail. This plugin displays the social profile info of a person when you type the correct email address into the “To:” field in Gmail. I use the plugin to experiment with common email permutations (e.g., until it identifies the correct email address.

Tips for writing your pitch

You don’t have to invest in a copywriting course to write an effective cold email. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind to increase your chance of getting a positive response:

  • Be concise. It’s an email, not a cover letter.
  • Avoid being too formal. Stilted, stuffy language like “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To whom it may concern” is unsuitable for a marketing email.
  • Make it about them, not you. Don’t use self-seeking language like “I want to join your team of content writers.” Instead, focus on how your service will benefit your prospect.
  • Personalize it. If you enjoy using their product or service, let them know (but be genuine).
  • Don’t be gimmicky. Your subject line should make it clear what you’re contacting them about. No clickbait.

The goal of a cold email is to start a discussion, so end it with a question or call to action – for example, “Is this something you could use right now?” Or, “If you’re up for it, let’s schedule a call to discuss some ideas. Can you suggest a couple of times that work for you?”

Following up

People are busy. Usually you won’t get a response from the first email you send. Or, you might get a “We’re interested, but we don’t have time for this right now. Check back in a few weeks.”

Either way, if you don’t follow up, you’re missing an opportunity.

I send two or three follow-ups (spaced a week or so apart) before assuming someone isn’t interested. Then I might wait a few months before trying again. I’ve heard of other freelancers following up every few days until they get a response.

When you follow up, don’t say anything that sounds accusatory, like “Didn’t you get my email?” or “I guess you were too busy to answer me last week” or “I’m assuming you’re not interested.”

Follow up in the same thread as the original email and keep it simple: “Hi Kim, I’m following up on my email from last Thursday. If you’d be interested in discussing this further, please let me know how you’d like to proceed. In the meantime, I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.”

Tips for improving email deliverability

A lot of email clients have hypersensitive spam filters. Follow these tips to increase the number of your pitches that get through:

  • Use or another email verification tool to check your prospect list for any undeliverable addresses.
  • Avoid using spam trigger words, exclamation points, attachments, images, and all-capital letters.
  • If your prospects are based in the U.S., follow CAN-SPAM rules for sending unsolicited B2B emails. If your prospects reside elsewhere, make sure you’re familiar with the anti-spam legislation for those regions.

Author bio: Chloe Brittain is the owner of Opal Transcription Services, a company providing VA and transcription services to academic, media, and corporate clients. Connect with Chloe on Twitter: @opaltranscripts.

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