Recently, business consultant and freelancer Faith Skeen was researching CBD products and came across a brand that stood out—for all the wrong reasons. While the company was doing promising things in terms of product development, its marketing approach had obvious room for improvement.
“They had a great product, an excellent extraction method, third-party lab reports, and the crown jewel: [they use] a ‘clean’ soil that’s free of heavy metals and other contaminants,” she said. “The problem was that consumers wouldn’t know that information. I had to dig for it.” What’s more, Skeen noticed the company’s online materials included several glaring grammatical errors—an instant credibility-destroyer.
She spotted a chatbot in a corner of the website and reached out, offering to help the brand increase sales with a few quick changes to its home page. The same day, she received an email from the company asking for a project estimate. “They’re on my schedule now,” she said.
Cold pitching like this can be intimidating—but as Skeen’s experience proves, it can pay off. Below are a few tips for freelance writers on how to find work this way.
Get to know your prospective client
The first step involves a little research. It’s critical to look at a business’s website and marketing materials and familiarize yourself with their language, style, and voice. Every brand, editor, and publication is different. One uniform email will not work for every potential client.
“Learn to speak their language,” freelance writer Michael Allen said. “Talk to them in their voice… When they feel like your vibe is just like theirs, they’ll [be more likely to] respond.”
“When they feel like your vibe is just like theirs, they’ll [be more likely to] respond.”
In addition to tailoring your message to the brand’s tone, look for gaps in their content strategy that you might be able to fill. Position your services as a way to make the client’s job easier—after all, in a world of spam, it’s rare to get an email about something that can actually make your life better.
“Let them know what value they’ll get out of [your services],” Allen said. “Pitches that are likely to fail are centered on what they can do for you. When you focus your pitch on what you can do for them, you’re more likely to get their attention.”
Skeen echoed a similar sentiment. “Get to know their brand, personalize the message, and lead with the benefits they’ll experience,” she suggested.
Show proof of your experience
Don’t just tell your potential client how you can help them—show them, too. You can do this by providing examples of your experience.
For instance, when sending cold pitches, writer Alexandra Nima attaches different forms of proof, like her portfolio and previously published articles, to demonstrate her expertise. “Be specific,” she said. “Show them the benefits of what your placement will do for them. Attaching media stats won’t hurt.”
Amy Suto, a six-figure freelance writer and coach for other freelancers, said it succinctly: “A good cold pitch is customized, thoughtful, and quickly lays out your experience and how you can add value to a client and their business,” she said.
Along with including your portfolio and links to your work, you can also add quantitative information—like how many views a piece of content received or metrics related to engagement, such as number of shares on social media and/or comments.
Here’s what a sample pitch email might look like:
Hope you’re well this week. I’m an experienced science writer, and I’d love to create content for your company. Are you currently looking for contributions?
I’ve written for Daily Science News, Science Magazine, New Science Blog, and Scientists United, and have covered biology, earth science, medical science, and chemistry. I have a Masters in biology. Here are a couple of samples of my work:
-[link] (14,500 shares on Twitter)
-[link] (22,000 views on the website, quoted in The New York Times)
Thank you so much for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Find a direct connection
When John Latimer, head of content at CoachHub, was pitching himself to prospective clients, he had a lot of trouble at first. He couldn’t get in touch with companies he wanted to work with through traditional tactics and channels like website forms. So he decided to start cold pitching directly to the people in charge.
“I cold emailed the editor with my article idea and why I thought it would be a good fit for their site,” Latimer said. “They responded back to me and loved the idea, so we worked out a deal.”
“A good cold pitch is customized, thoughtful, and quickly lays out your experience.”
When it comes to reaching out, be prepared to do a little digging for contact information. Even if you find a contact form or a general “email@example.com” email on a website, you may not get a reply. Other avenues include using email finder services like RocketReach or GetEmail.io. These services can be pricey, though—RocketReach starts at $39/month and GetEmail.io at $49/month once you exceed the initial trial of ten free credits—so you’ll need to weigh whether the investment is worth it for the potential new work. You may also have success finding editors or contacts directly on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Instead of finding the hiring manager or a random company representative, do what Latimer did: Be bold and go for the head honcho. “In the end, it was a great success,” he said. “Not only did I get my article published on a site I respect, but I also gained a new client that I continue to work with today.”
Have persistence and confidence
When you’re cold pitching, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that certain people or sites are out of your reach. “Go in with the attitude that you’re worthy of their attention,” Latimer said.
If there’s a client you’d be thrilled to work for, keep pushing forward. People are busy, and your prospect might have simply not seen your message. You can gently remind them about your email after giving them seven days to respond—just to be safe.
“It can take a lot of work to get someone to respond,” Latimer said. “But if you keep at it and are persistent, eventually you will get results.” (That said, don’t pester an editor if you’re repeatedly hearing crickets. If you’ve followed up several times to no avail, it’s time to move on.)
Cold pitching is another tool you can use to drum up work and ensure a steady pipeline of incoming projects. As Allen noted, there’s no need to feel embarrassed about reaching out for work this way. “Businesses get cold pitches all the time—it’s a part of the business,” he said. “The answer to the questions you don’t ask is no. By simply asking the question, you’ve increased your chances by 50 percent.”