The purpose of this article is to announce the end of the 2-month cold pitching challenge and discuss my observations on the state of things as well as my plan going forward.
I’ll try to be as brief as possible in this article. Not only because I do not need a long epistle to get my points across, but because I gave a lot of details in my last update and I won’t be repeating those details in this update.
A Challenge in the Midst of a Global Pandemic
Those who followed the challenge from the beginning knew that I had a goal of hitting five figures during the challenge.
I will be sharing how I fared in a moment, including the exact number of cold pitches I sent and the results I got.
Now, I’ve been running these challenges for almost a decade now (since 2012) but this particular challenge is unlike any other I’ve done in the past:
- In 2012, I ran a challenge in which I set up a blog, using a pseudonym, with the goal of getting clients to reach out directly to me through the blog. The goal was to get to four figures in monthly income by writing for these clients. I earned a total of $10,025 in the six month period the challenge lasted for. That’s an average of $1,670 in monthly income.
- In 2016, I did another challenge in which I set a goal of using a pseudonym in an entirely different niche to get to four figures within two months. I achieved this goal in exactly 37 days.
The challenge this time around was different because it was done right in the midst of a global pandemic.
I had a very simple goal: to send as many cold pitches as possible and see how it turns out. I gave myself a target of 1,500 cold pitches during a 30-day period (and the challenge would later be extended to 60 days based on overwhelming demand for an extension in the Writers in Charge Facebook group). The goal was to hit five figures in freelance income from the challenge.
Before telling you how I fare, I’d like to make it clear that, although things were much slower this time around (due to COVID-19 and the challenge taking place at a time when, as I’d later find out, a lot of people were on vacation), there were a lot of great successes that came out from the challenge that gives me great joy.
These successes include the ones below (and MANY more!):
(Please note that you have to be a member of the Writers in Charge Facebook group to see the following posts)
Gary Harvey got a paying client who has accepted his proposed topics and prices which will result in $1,350+ in freelance writing income once his articles are all written and posted online.
Read Gary’s post for yourself here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersincharge/permalink/3223409527774682/
Bamidele Ojo got a client and earning $704 from a single article (he’s since earned more from the same client)
You can read Bamidele Ojo’s post for yourself here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersincharge/permalink/3106494549466181/
Joseph closed $8,000 in writing gigs from one client
Joseph chose to be anonymous, but you can read about his success here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersincharge/permalink/3259151690867132/
Richard Rhys Rowlands got two clients (the first is a guaranteed $550 monthly gig and the other could be much bigger)
You can read Richard’s post here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersincharge/permalink/3268434796605488/
Of course, there are other successes, and I pinned the successes that I’m aware of to the post announcing the challenge in the Writers in Charge Facebook group.
That said, here’s what pretty much everybody who did the challenge realized and agreed about:
- Prospects are a lot more distracted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and you often have to send several follow ups to get a response. In the past, it was a lot easier to get clients just from the first cold pitch; the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have changed that, for now. So not getting a response from your cold pitch does not mean it did not work. It simply means you should follow up.
- Prospects are A LOT more price sensitive due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A lot of people had to be flexible with their rates to make some headway.
- It’s taking a lot more time to close deals with prospects than before. In the past, it’s very common to close deals in days or within a week. Now, it’s taking months and at least a month in a lot of cases.
That said, how did I fare?
In my last update I had mentioned that I had gotten two clients and earned a total of $1,050 so far from the cold pitching challenge.
I’m afraid to report that not much has changed since for a couple of reasons I’ll be outlining in a moment — mostly because I haven’t done much else since that last update. An increase in demand for my services from existing clients (as we get closer to the holiday season) has limited my ability to put in much effort into cold pitching; my views about cold pitching, at least during this pandemic, has also changed slightly.
The second client who commissioned a trial article for $150 would only start using my services in the new year, while the first client is yet to finish publishing the first set of 10 articles they ordered.
That said, I did not hit my goal of five figures for the following key reasons:
- I uncompromisingly insisted on my rates of around $.30 – $.50+ per word for the entirety of this cold pitching challenge, and a lot of prospects are price sensitive and unwilling to pay these high rates.
- I did not send as many cold pitches as I had hoped to send during the challenge; I sent a total of 724 cold pitches (with an average response rate hovering around 9 percent) opposed to my target of 1,500 cold pitches for a one month period. That’s about 50 more cold pitches from when I published the last update.
Here are the key stats:
- Total number of cold pitches I sent: 790
- Total number of cold pitches that bounced: 66
- Total number of valid cold pitches sent (when bounces haves been removed): 724
- Total number of responses I got: 63
- Response rate to my cold pitches (approximate): 8.7 percent
A key question many would have would be, “Why send just 724 pitches as opposed to the initially-planned 1,500 cold pitches?”
The following reasons are why:
- Getting ill for a 2-week period during the first month of the challenge brought about a setback in my ability to hit my targets.
- There has been high demand for my services by existing clients (the holidays are coming and marketing efforts are being ramped up), leaving me little time to focus on the challenge. I had anticipated more results with less effort, and falling sick affected both the challenge and work with existing clients; I had to choose between new ones and satisfying the ones I had now, and I made my choice.
Now this is perhaps the most important, and I want you to pay close attention:
I had spent way more effort than the results I had gotten could justify, and after interacting with over 60 prospects who responded to my cold pitches, and seeing a pattern of price sensitivity, I came to the following realization: I have to send significantly more cold pitches or lower my rates to achieve the target. I’m unwilling to do either.
Based on this, I believe that, for as long as this pandemic lasts, while cold pitching might be a very effective way for beginners (people charging ideally $50 – $150 per article) to get clients, it will be a very difficult way for advanced writers willing to command $.30 cents per word or more.
Of course, there are other ways to get these high paying clients that do not involve cold pitching — but that is outside the scope of this challenge, and I’ll be going through some of them in the near future.
What are the next steps?
Basically, here is what I plan to do next:
- Go back into the lab to improve on my cold pitching methodology to make it even more effective for times like this. Two aspects that will make much of a difference are: laser-targeted prospecting and significantly improved personalization. I have enough commitments that will prevent me from doing that right now, hence my decision not to extend the challenge any further (as a few people have requested), but I will certainly be reporting on how this goes when I get to it in the near future.
- Focus on other ways to get clients. Cold pitching no doubt works, but those looking for high paying opportunities might need to focus on a combination of inbound methods and “warm methods” until the worst of the pandemic is gone and people are less sensitive about their budgets. I’ll be discussing more about this in the near future.
Cold pitching certainly still does work, as evidenced by the many successes from the group I had shared earlier, but the effort required and the price sensitivity would make me categorize it as a method that works best for beginners, not advanced freelance writers, during this pandemic.
UPDATE: I was reminded that I had promised to reveal the niches my clients are in at the end of the challenge. So, here goes:
Niche 1: Telecommunications (VoIP/PBX in particular) — client is 3CX.
Niche 2: AI (Waste Management) — client is Greyparrot.
I had initially focused on the telecommunications and health niche, but I had to pivot from the health niche after hundreds of cold pitches when I came to the realization that, while there were a lot of opportunities in this niche, the majority are only willing to pay me considerably lower than I currently charge.