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Quick Lessons From an Experiment in Cold Pitching

cold pitching experiment - quick lessons

I sent this as an email to my newsletter a while back, and I’ve gotten several positive responses from people getting results by implementing my suggestions, so I’m publishing it here on the blog with minor edits.

I don’t hide the fact that I’m a huge advocate of having clients come to you; I favor this model because it was how I accidentally became a freelance writer; if clients are coming to me, why go after them?

It’s also puts me in control, since they are coming to me, and that’s a big deal over here at Writers in Charge!

However, in the process of promoting my Stop Pitching Clients program, I’ve gotten emails from readers asking a variation of this question:

Can I still get clients if I don’t want to start a blog?“.

To some, blogging is a lot of work; setting up a blog, writing your first few articles, and promoting your blog. It all takes time, and they’d rather not do it.

This is understandable.

Though the results you can get from blogging can be impressive (did I tell you I once got, and turned down, an offer from Coca Cola to be their music blogger in Nigeria? Screenshot below), but for some this is too much work.

Coca Cola Hire email

(The above is a screenshot of an email showing Coca Cola’s representative reaching out to hire me through my blog; I turned down the offer because I’m not into music, and their deadlines are too tight for me!)

I haven’t really had an answer, based on first-hand experience, to the emails from readers who want a solid way to get clients without starting a blog… until now.

Going into “Experiment Mode”

Recently, I made a decision to, at least for the next 1 – 2 years, switch myself into experiment mode; I’ll be experimenting with a host of different methods to get clients, and I’ll be documenting my results.

I’ll be trying at least half of the methods listed in my 41 ways to get clients article, eventually. For each method I try, I’ll be doing a full case study on the blog, sharing my results as well as tips and lessons I learned and, if there’s demand for it, I might create an ebook or course that teaches just that approach.

I started with cold pitching; I started around 3 weeks ago, worked for a few days – sending an average of 20 pitches a day – and I sent 104 pitches total in about 5 days (not consecutively).

I created an email template for myself, and I personalized it using details (such as company name and the name of my contact at the company I’m pitching), and it took a total of around 8 hours total to research the companies and send all the 104 emails.

So far, the results that I’ve achieved have been impressive for a beginner, although I’m learning quickly.

The open rate of my emails is around 65% (I track open rates of personal emails using Yesware), and the response rate is around 20% (20 people replied total).

I landed, and closed a deal with, a client within two hours of sending pitches on my second day (from my 12th email), who immediately commissioned a project of $625, and later another $2,000 worth of project spread over a little over a month.

So far, that’s the only client I’ve gotten from this experiment but the prospect is great; at least 5 more people have replied with the intention to hire me, although this hasn’t been finalized since replies are not as forthcoming as I expected, and a few more told me they don’t have a need now but an opportunity might arise in the future.

Is it Worth It?

For me, it is.

I typically charge clients $.20 per word for articles, but this time around I charged $.25 per word; since I’ll be sending pitches, dozens of which won’t even be replied to, I figured I should factor in the cost of that effort into how I charge my clients.

With $2,625 in commissioned projects so far, $625 of which I’ve completed and been paid, I’ll say it is worth it; I’ll possibly get 1 – 2 more clients from this first effort, and there’s something to be said about potential long term value of the clients I get.

As I keep experimenting, I’ll definitely learn more and continue to revise my approach.

That said, I’ll admit, cold pitching isn’t as bad as I have viewed it, especially if you’re after “quick results” commensurate with the effort you’re willing to put in immediately.

The purpose of this email is to share some quick lessons I’ve learned using this approach, and here they are below:

1. It Starts With the Title of Your Pitch

I’m a complete stranger to most of these people, and I’m certain that the majority of them can’t even pronounce my name. How do I  get them to pay attention? The answer lies in the title of my pitch.

This alone has been responsible for around 65% open rate to my cold emails; if you ask me, that’s very impressive!

The title I used is “Content at {Company Name}”.

(I’ll be experimenting with more titles as I continue my experiment)

Now, tell me, if someone sends an email with a similar title to you about your company, won’t you at least open the email?

2. Don’t Email the CEO

Out of all the emails I’ve sent, 104 emails total, only 3 Founders/CEOs replied; all the other CEOs and founders didn’t reply, and they constituted a majority of the people I pitched.

This makes sense though, considering that CEOs and founders are very busy people; most will open, but they’ll probably postpone replying until they forget to reply. As a CEO of my own businesses, I can relate to them!

That said, who is the best person to email? From my experience, remember this is still an experiment, the best person to email is the (Chief Marketing Officer) CMO; the single client I’ve gotten, who hired me and commissioned a $625 project within 2 hours of pitching him is the CMO of the company.

I’ve  noticed that CMOs are 2 – 4 times likely to reply to emails compared to every other person I’ve emailed; at just 104 pitches, it’s still a small sample but significant enough. It makes sense, though, considering the fact that they are in charge of marketing and getting results for the brands I’m pitching.

That said, in the absence of a CMO, I’ve also found people like Digital Strategy Officers, Online Marketing officers, Content Managers, etc. to reply. These people all do something related to “digital marketing/strategy” or “content” so it makes sense that they are more likely to reply.

3. Follow Up

Before doing this, I asked a few people who rely on cold pitching to get clients for advice; they all emphasized the importance of following up.

This is true to my experience. I’ve gotten around 2 times more replies to follow ups than to my original emails, and many people said they didn’t see my emails when I initially sent them, or they couldn’t get back due to being busy. They thanked me for following up.

In fact, those who replied to follow ups were more receptive, and more interested in my offer.

I sent follow ups a week after the original email.

4.Social Proof is Important

Now, I can’t overemphasize the importance of social proof, and I believe I have this in abundance.

I already run a popular blog, which is proof of my expertise when it comes to content marketing, and I’ve written for/been featured in some key publications. Everything adds up.

To some, this gives me a sort of unfair advantage. I agree, and my experiment won’t be complete until I also do this without using a kind of social proof that the average follower of my work can’t use; so, it’s still an experiment that is barely starting.

However, I can’t overemphasize the importance of social proof; thinking about it, this has helped me throughout my career. In the early days, it was mentioning that my guest posts have been published on key blogs in my industry; later, it was interviews. Later, it was features in national newspapers. Later, it was features in major publications (Forbes, Huffington Post, etc.)

No social proof is too small, though; being featured on an average blog in the niche of your potential client alone is an advantage, and the key isn’t how much social proof you have, it’s how you use it.

$625 in 2 Hours?

Now, I’m in no way an advocate of quick cash. In fact, I “don’t” believe in it… until now.

Within 2 hours of sending my pitch, I landed $625 worth of work, and I completed the work and was paid within a week; this, despite the fact that I have other responsibilities and work, and this is just a side experiment.

I don’t know about you, but where I’m from, $625, if used judiciously, will be more than sufficient for me for a whole month.

Since this is still an experiment, I’m careful about what I write until it is finalized, however, a few of my students and friends who are aware of this already are super excited, and can’t wait to read about it.

I also can’t wait to share, so I have created a case study sharing how I got $625 worth of writing project in just 2 hours, and you can get this by purchasing The Freelance Writer’s Success Starter Guide.

It includes the exact emails that got me the client, the type of work I’m doing for them, how I found the client, the breakdown of my pitch to them and what made it successful, and some nifty tools that make my pitching work more efficient.

The case study alone could return your investment on the guide hundred times over in no time!

Click here to get The Freelance Writer’s Success Starter Guide!


Best Regards,


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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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