Chances are, there’s going to be a time when you need to track down new clients – and although gig sites can provide some rich pickings, it’s always good to diversify. As a creative freelancer, this ‘sales’ part of the job is the bit that most people like the least – as such, it’s worth getting good at it – since the better you are, the less time you’ll need to spend doing it!
Here, we’ll explore how you can put together an email approach that will stand out from the crowd – including:
- What kind of homework you should do before you start writing
- What kind of subject line will increase your open rates
- How to communicate with people who get a lot of sales pitch emails
There’s no magic pill when it comes to finding new clients – but with the right attitude to email, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration…
Don’t send mass emails!
It can be seriously tempting to write one good email, then copy, paste, and send it hundreds of times. I’m sure there are times when people hit lucky with this approach – but, generally speaking, it won’t work. A mass email stands out as being impersonal – and 99.99% of the time, it won’t even be read. Don’t waste your time.
Do some research on the right people
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If you work with agencies and companies, you’re going to come across a lot of firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com type email addresses when you’re trying to get in touch with new clients. Where possible, avoid sending your email pitch to this type of address – and definitely avoid contact forms – as you simply do not know who’s going to receive your message.
Instead, do a bit of research. Use LinkedIn to look at the company – then view the people who work for that company. You might be able to find a name of a relevant owner or manager who you can target specifically.
What you do will dictate who you need to get in touch with – but if it’s a smaller company or agency, you might want to go for the founder, owner or CEO.
Understand what the company’s doing
You wouldn’t turn up to an interview without doing some homework on the company – so don’t expect to impress a potential client without understand who they are, what their business does, and how they’re interacting with their clients.
The best way to do this is to sign up to their email lists, follow them on social media, watch their video content – and so on.
By doing this, you get a solid feel for what your potential client is all about.
Make yourself known
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As well as absorbing this potential client’s email and social media output, it’s a really good idea to engage with it too. Comment on their posts, reply to their emails, share their content, comment on their blog.
You’ll probably want to avoid pitching you work this way, the purpose of this engagement isn’t to sell your business directly; it’s to make your name recognizable, so, when you do pop up in their inbox, your cold email is actually slightly warm…
Create a compelling and relevant subject line
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Now you’ve done some background work, you’re going to be in a much stronger position when it comes to creating an actual email pitch.
Start with your subject line – make it short, simple, and easily understood. It’s tempting to try to be really smart with a subject – but in a world of spam, people are often very cautious of wasting their time. You could do a lot worse than simply saying:
A great freelancer you might be interested in
I’d love to work for you!
Then again, if you’ve been engaging with their content and you’ve found something that stands out, you might want to craft your subject line around that:
I enjoyed reading your blog post on (subject)
A quick question about your Instagram content
Clearly, you’ll need to adjust a specific subject line like this to suit what you’ve actually been viewing and engaging with – but if you can refer to something that’s specific to them or their brand, you’re likely to get your email opened at least!
Write a short and direct email
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When it comes to reading any kind of text from a screen, people tend to skim read – and this is especially true when they’re faced with a huge block of text. Ideally, you want the recipient of this email to read everything you write – so, you’re going to want to be concise – and write it in a way that’s easily digested.
Start your email with a personal greeting. A simple ‘Hi’ says you don’t know who’s going to be reading it – whereas ‘Hi Lucy’ makes it clear that you know who you’re talking to. This might seem insignificant – but these tiny factors add up.
If you’ve referenced something specific in your subject line, you’ll want to talk about that too, for instance:
I’ve just finished reading your blog post on managing your time as a freelancer and wanted to get in touch, because I think you might be interested in what I could offer!
Next, introduce yourself in a polite, conversational kind of way. This is a good time to throw in couple of points that make your service stand out too:
My name’s Stephen Kelly (you might recognise my name from your Facebook page – you’ve replied to a couple of my questions on there!) I’m a full-time, professional freelance writer from the UK and I’ve got 10+ years of experience creating engaging blog content for a huge range of clients.
Asking for the business
Next, you’ll need a proposition. Again, this needs to be clear and to the point:
I’d love to be part of your writing team. Do you have the capacity for another writer?
The thing is, you’re emailing someone in business. They know you’re getting in touch to market your own service – so don’t be afraid to ask – they’ll appreciate a clear approach, rather than you dancing around the subject like so many people do!
Giving a reason for continued contact
Next, you’ll want some kind of call to action that you can refer back to if you need to follow up:
I wonder if I could send you some examples of my work to see if you think I’d be a good fit?
Wrapping things up without expectation
Finally, a sign-off:
I appreciate you’re busy – so no sweat if I don’t hear from you!
Tim Ferriss is a big fan of the ‘no pressure to reply’ kind of sign-off, as he points out in his best-selling 4-Hour Work Week book, it (paradoxically) very often increases the chance that you’ll get a reply.
Is that it?
Is it really that simple? Well, yeah – it actually is.
The thing is, when left to market their services by ourselves, freelancers have a tendency to over-complicate things – but that’s because we also have a tendency to take shortcuts.
While I am picking fault, I do include myself in this category. I’ve taken shortcuts when I’ve marketed my services – but, the more of the good stuff you chop out of the equation, the less likely you are to get a response – so why take the risk?
The truth is, we take these shortcuts because we’re either desperate or we’re being a bit lazy. If you need some income to pay your bills next month – then sending 100 quick emails might seem like it makes more sense than sending 5 good ones. In actual fact, it’s the conversion rate you should be more interested in – because this is a sales funnel; the effort at the top is only worth it if some of it turns into paid work. 5 good emails based on this formula will yield far more than 100 cut-and-paste mails that end up deleted immediately.
So, the key points you should focus on are:
- Do your homework on the company and the company decision-makers
- Engage with the people/brand on the platforms they use
- Try to get a direct email address for the person you want to talk to
- Create an effective and direct subject line
- Create a concise and well-constructed email with a clear proposition
Although you’ll definitely get noticed if you put together a solid email pitch – there’s no accounting for the fact that some people will simply be too busy to immediately reply. As such, you can probably expect a few interested potential clients to completely forget all together – after all, life is busy.
A good way of giving people a gentle reminder that you sent them an email is to follow up with some examples of your work:
Hi again Lucy!
When I emailed a couple of weeks ago, I said I’d send over some examples of my freelance writing work – so I’ve attached a couple of pieces that I think you might be interested in!
I suspect you’re very busy – but if you do want to get in touch, feel free to reply or give me a call on…
A follow up email like this is something of a face-saver for the potential client. They might have fully intended to get in touch – but perhaps forgot, lost your email, etc.
You won’t win every client – but by simply following a few email marketing basics, you’ll stand out against hundreds of other freelancers in your field – simply through good manners, a little research, and some clear communication; factors that are much rarer than you think…