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Earn Your First $1,000 as a Freelance Writer: How to Get High-Paying Clients by Cold Pitching

A lot of exciting things have happened since I announced the Earn Your First $1,000 as a Freelance Writer challenge.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • Thousands of people have expressed interest in the challenge and are following each and every update.
  • The Facebook group for the challenge currently has over 1,700 members.
  • Many members of the group have created their website and gotten feedback through the group.
  • At least five people have made it known that they got accepted to write for The Huffington Post as a result of the challenge.

Starting today, we will start prospecting for, and pitching, clients; if you’re not sure how to go about this, read my articles on the strategy for the earn your first $1,000 as a freelance writer challenge and how to prospect for clients. These two articles should put things in perspective for you.

That said, if you’re yet to create your writer website, it is important that you do now. Having a website will make it much easier for you to reach your goal of earning $1,000, so read this article to learn how to go about creating your website.

Once you’re set, it’s time to start pitching potential clients. Without further ado, here’s how I go about cold pitching clients. I’m assuming that you already have a list of clients to pitch. If not, go and read my article on how to prospect for clients:

Understand that This is a Number’s Game

Occasionally, people reach out to me with a comment like, “I’ve sent 20 cold pitches and I haven’t gotten a single client.” Wait, 20? Just 20? Then you’re doing it wrong; let’s talk again when you’ve sent 200!

Cold pitching is a number’s game; the people you are pitching are busy people, and they probably get contacted by dozens of people like you every week/month. They can’t hire everybody, and many won’t reply. That shouldn’t be an excuse to stop, however.

Personally, for this challenge, I’m not expecting a client from my cold pitches until I’ve sent at least 300 – 500 pitches; there will probably be a lot of responses, but very few will hire me. That’s the nature of cold pitching, and it’s why it’s called “cold pitching“; with some of the techniques in this article, and proper targeting to ensure we’re pitching the right people, however, we can boost our response rate.

That said, sending these pitches isn’t as difficult as it would seem; I usually work off a template and adjust it accordingly for each client. This saves me time, and if I wanted to send 30 – 50 cold pitches it shouldn’t take me more than three to four hours max (which is usually well worth it when I get a client!).

Decide on Who to Pitch at an Organization

Every organization has someone in charge of its various departments, and you’ll only get the best results if you pitch the right person. For example, pitching the accountant at a company you want to get hired in is recipe for failure; he/she will probably just ignore or delete your email. If you pitch someone in charge of content, however, you have a better chance of success.

Also, you can’t just send your cold pitch to a generic email address (such as “info@” or “support@”) or through a website contact form. If you’re about to do that, STOP. It is recipe for failure. Your cold pitch needs to be addressed to someone at the company you want to pitch, and that person needs to be able to make the decision to hire you, or he/she should be able to refer you to the one making the decisions.

I’ve found that it is usually best to reach out to someone in charge of content if a company has one; it could be the Chief Content Officer, Content Strategist or Chief Content Marketer. If an organization doesn’t have people who fill these roles, you can pitch to someone in charge of marketing; again, this could be the Chief Marketing Officer, Marketing Strategist or some other kind of marketing head. If there’s no clearly defined content/marketing leader but there are people in charge of “digital strategy,” it’s okay to pitch them too since there is a correlation between their role and what you do.

If you really can’t find the right person, pitch the CEO or Founder; I rarely recommend doing this but it’s a good last resort if all else fails.

How to find information about people working at a company: There are two ways I find key people at the organizations I want to pitch:

  • Visit the “team” page of the company website to see a list of their team members or staff; sometimes, this team page could be named “Team,” “Staff,” “Our People” or something similar, or it can simply be on their about page.
  • Since most companies do not have a page that lists their staff, you can visit the company page on LinkedIn. Simply search for the name of the company on LinkedIn and you will have a list of all their employees and their various roles.

How to Find Client Emails

Once you’ve decided on who to pitch, the next step is to find their email address. Now, this can be tricky. Here are my best techniques for finding client email addresses:

On their site: Sometimes, the best place to find the email address of potential clients is on the company website; a lot of companies list the email address of their employees on their website; this could be on the team page, on the contact page or in an individual employee’s bio on the site.

Using Google: Sometimes, finding the email address you want is as simple as using Google. Simply searching for “{contact name} email” will do the job. You can also get creative and try a variation of terms, but the Google search engine is much useful than we give it credit for.

Using LinkedIn + Lusha: The other day I was contacted by Dan Miller about a new innovative app called Lusha. It’s an app that lets you find the email address of almost any LinkedIn profile; you visit the LinkedIn profile of your choice, tell Lusha to find the email and voila… you have the email address you are looking for. It doesn’t work for all LinkedIn profiles, but it works for most.

This app is important because, at the end of the day, anybody worth cold pitching is on LinkedIn; if this can help you find 50 percent of potential client emails, it is worth it!

You can visit the Lusha website to learn more about how Lusha works.

It’s also worth clarifying that the free Lusha plan limits you to 10 emails per month, but that’s a good start.

Using Gmail + Rapportive: If you use Gmail, or Google Apps for email, there’s an app called “Rapportive” that helps you to verify email addresses. Just like Lusha, it uses the LinkedIn database to verify emails. Unlike Lusha, though, it is completely free for unlimited use.

There’s a catch, however: you have to manually suggest the email addresses that Rapportive will verify. You start by installing Rapportive as an app for Gmail, and you type email variations into Gmail’s “To” field (as if you want to send an actual email); Rapportive will then query the LinkedIn database to confirm whether the email is active or not.

Some popular email variations include Firstname.Lastname@website.com, FirstInitial.Lastname@website.com, FirstInitialLastname@website.com, Lastname@website.com, Firstname@website.com, etc.

Using Apps like VoilaNorbert and RocketReach: Perhaps the best of the bunch are apps like Voila Norbert and Rocket Reach. These apps are so simple to use that all you need to do is enter the name of the person you want to pitch and the domain name of the company the person works at and they will automatically find the email address for you.

Again, both apps have a limit for free users; Voila Norbert has a limit of 50 requests while Rocket Reach has a limit of 5 requests.

Email Hunter: This is perhaps the best and most generous app for finding people’s email addresses. You simply add a website and it searches for all the available email addresses on that domain name, you can then filter by the one you are interested in. Its free plan allows a generous 150 searches per month.

How to Write an Effective Cold Pitch

Once you’ve found the email address of the right person to pitch, it is time to send your pitch. I will include 2 example pitches and dissect them below:

Example 1:

Hi {contact name},

I’m reaching out to see if you need someone who can help with content at {company}.

I’m {Your Name}. I’ve been featured in {publication names}.

I’d like to know if you need a freelance writer who can help with your content needs.

I can help with writing blog posts, guest posts, resources, newsletters, developing content/blogging strategy, landing page content and any of your other content marketing needs.

I will be happy to discuss how I can be of help.

Best Regards,

{your name}

The above email works for so many reasons:

  • It addresses the person I’m contacting by name. It doesn’t say “Hey there,” or “Hi,” or “Heya,” or some other generic greeting that spammers can use to batch email a million people at the same time.
  • It starts by establishing my credibility in form of social proof I have; now you see why a core part of our strategy is to get published on authoritative blogs and publications.
  • It quickly expresses the purpose of my email; I want to know if they need freelance writers.
  • It talks about services I offer.
  • It is quick and to the point; no two-page emails, no ramblings about my personal life, etc. Quick and short pitches do the job better than long emails that are basically your life story; busy people do not have time to read such long emails, so they won’t reply. It’s a waste of their time and yours.

Example 2:

Hi {contact name},

I was recently reading your {publication article} article, “{article title},” and it was enlightening. {describe what you gained from the article}

I especially resonated with your article as I was doing research for an article on {a similar topic}

I thought I should reach out to find out if your agency is in need of a freelance writer at the moment; I’m a versatile freelance writer, mostly covering {your niche}, but I can work in any niche. I can do blog posts, ghostwriting, landing page copy, newsletters, ebooks, etc.

Please let me know if you’d like me to send my rates and/or samples of my work.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,
{your name}

As you can see, this particular pitch is more personalized than the first example; however, sending 5 – 10 of it daily will give you a much better chance of being hired than the first one above. You also need to modify it heavily to make it tailored to the person you are pitching.

That said, it is also important to ensure that your cold pitches use a catchy headline.

How to Effectively Follow Up: Use The 3 – 7 – 7 Formula

It is important to know that most of the people you pitch won’t reply to your email. There are many reasons why they won’t reply: they could be very busy, they may think they had replied, they may postpone replying you until they forget, or they may have no intention to reply.

Regardless of their reason, you should follow up if you don’t hear back after a while. You will get more replies to your follow ups than to your original pitches. The key to effective follow up is to use my “3-7-7 Formula”; this increases your chances of getting a reply while creating the least resistance with your prospect.

Here’s how it works:

  • 3: Research shows that 90 percent of people who do not reply to your email within 48 hours will never reply. That’s two days. After then it’s safe to follow up. So the first follow up is to be sent three days after sending your original pitch.
  • 7: If you follow up and do not hear back, wait seven days  before sending another follow up. The person could be going through personal issues, or they might just be very busy. Regardless, sending another email too soon will probably irritate them and might make them to blacklist you. Waiting for a week should be safe; that way, they still get reminded without feeling pressurized.
  • 7: If there’s no response to your follow up after the second followup, send a final follow up exactly seven days after your second follow up.

If after one pitch and three follow ups (that’s four emails!) a prospect still didn’t respond, there’s no point contacting them again. Stop emailing them altogether. Most of the people who will respond will respond when you apply the 3-7-7 formula.

The Best Time to Pitch Clients

Once you’re set, you should go ahead and start pitching right? Well, NO. It depends on when you’re reading this article. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t send pitches on weekends; Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays are no-nos. These people are probably signing off after a stressful week, and the last thing they want is oh yet another email. Postpone it to the next week. You can make an exceptions for Sundays, though, if you’re working with someone in Israel. The work day in Israel begins on Sunday.
  • Send pitches during work hours if possible; understand the time zone of your potential clients and pitch accordingly.

There You Have It

So there you have it. I just shared everything (I think!) I know about cold pitching; if you have any questions or concerns, join the Facebook group and ask over there.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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