As you have probably noticed from my strategy for the Earn Your First $1,000 as a Freelance Writer challenge, a core part of the process involves cold pitching; in fact, I have to send 30 – 50 cold pitches every day. That’s a lot of cold pitches, and it will only be effective if I send my cold pitches to the right people.
The real question, however, is, “How do I find the right potential clients to send cold pitches to?”
In this article, I will be sharing my process for prospecting for clients. I will be sharing the criteria I use to find clients as well as the tools and techniques I use when prospecting for clients.
My criteria for finding clients
Research shows that there are currently over 1 billion websites in the world today. That’s a lot of websites, and a significant portion of these websites obviously can’t afford a writer. Simply pitching your services to any website you can find will ensure that you find yourself where you begin at the end of the day: with no clients.
That said, the very first step I take when trying to prospect for clients is to develop a criteria for the kind of businesses I will pitch.
Usually, I start by creating a client profile based on the following criteria:
Ideal clients: Since I’m positioning myself as a tech writer, I naturally want to pitch tech startups, antivirus companies, online security, web hosting companies, internet service providers, email service providers, tech agencies etc. This will differ for you, depending on your niche, but you want to go for businesses that have a viable business model and as a result can afford your services.
Industry: Naturally, I will mainly be targeting clients in the tech industry. I can also target clients in the business industry. You don’t have to bother about this if you have a niche, since you mainly want to target clients in your niche. However, if you are a freelance writer specializing by service, you might decide to target clients in more than one niche.
Location: In order to save time, I always try to filter my prospects by location; it will be easier to get someone from the U.S. to pay my rates than someone from, say, Nigeria. In this case, I will be focusing on clients based in the following countries: The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Israel. I chose these locations because I feel that these clients will find it very easy to afford my rates.
Key point of contact: Once I decide that I want to pitch a particular business, the next step is to ensure that I’m pitching the right person. To ensure a high success rate, I will try to pitch someone that is a position to decide if I am needed and that can also make the decision to hire me. Usually, I pitch the Content Marketing Officer, Marketing Manager, Digital Strategist or CEO/Co-founder. Usually, I try to avoid pitching the CEO/Co-founder as they are usually very busy, but I pitch them nonetheless if I can’t find a relevant target.
Tools and techniques for finding potential clients
Once I’ve decided on my criteria for finding prospective clients, the next step is to actually find them. For this, I use the following tools:
Google Search: Perhaps my favorite tool for finding potential clients is the Google search engine. Pretty much every company worth pitching is indexed somewhere in Google, and I just have to find them.
To find prospective companies to pitch in Google, I simply search for companies using the terms I used to describe my ideal company. For example, I can search for “antivirus software” or “email service provider” and then compile a list of as many companies as I can. Once I have this list, I will then go ahead and pitch the companies my services.
When using Google search, I pay attention to companies that are doing well (ranked near the top) and companies that are not; the companies that are doing well are probably doing something right, so they can have me key into their strategy. I can get the ones that are not doing well to pay attention by letting them know what role my content will play in helping them do well.
More importantly, I also pay attention to companies that are spending money on Google Ads; these companies obviously have money that they can spend, so it is just a matter of convincing them.
LinkedIn Company Search: LinkedIn is a goldmine of client opportunities, and their company database contains millions of companies.
What makes LinkedIn even more useful for me is their filtering options; with LinkedIn, I can easily filter companies based on category, based on the number of employees and based on location. This kind of data is hard to find elsewhere.
With LinkedIn, I generally try to filter by companies that have around 0 – 50 employees; the extremely big companies are probably too big to pay attention to me, or they have an over-complicated process. The smaller ones, however, are more growth-oriented and easy to reach.
CrunchBase: CrunchBase is a directory of startups, and I find it especially useful for prospecting because:
- It provides easy facts on the background and history of companies.
- It showcases information on funding raised by companies; you know, it lets you know the companies that have money!
- It makes it easy to filter companies by location, category, funding or even acquisition.
- I’ve noticed a higher quality of companies listed in CrunchBase’s database compared to other sources.
- It usually lists information about key team members at a company, making it easy to know who to contact.
Top Business Lists: Inc 5000, Fortune 1000, and other lists of this nature often feature companies that are doing well. These companies are usually doing well financially, and they are often very growth-oriented. I try to find potential clients from these lists as well.
I also make some other judgments when deciding on businesses I want to pitch. This is often based on gut, but it is mostly influenced by the following factors:
- Business model: If a business has nothing to sell or no realistic business model, then most likely they can’t afford me. I will exclude them from my list.
- Number of employees: Sometimes, businesses that have no employee besides the founder might be struggling with money, so I often exclude them.
- Web design: In this age, if a business does not have a good and appealing web design, most likely they don’t (and won’t) realize the importance of content for their site, so I exclude them.
- Media coverage: Businesses that have been covered a lot in the media are often doing a lot of things right, and they have the money, so I add them to my list.
The above is basically my process for finding prospective clients. Once I find these prospective clients, it’s time to start pitching. I’ll be publishing an article on how I go about pitching prospective clients next (by next week Monday). In the meantime, do the following to ensure you’re set when the article article goes live:
1. Compile a list of hundreds of companies that you will pitch (at least 100 – 200 companies — the more the merrier. You will need a lot more, but that should make sure you are up to a good start.).
2. Add these companies to your “CLIENT OUTREACH” spreadsheet in preparation for the actual pitching. If you don’t have the spreadsheet, you can download it here.