You may start your freelancing business with a group of solid gigs, but at some point you’ll have to market yourself and seek new business. Reaching out to a new client with a cold email or pitch can be intimidating, but it’s also a great way to make new connections that often lead to work either immediately or down the line. Here’s how to get started:
Come up with an ideal client list.
The first step to finding new work is knowing what kind of work you want to be doing! Define your services, make sure you know your hourly rate, then come up with a list of 10 to 15 ideal clients for your business. This might mean large companies, startups, magazines, individuals, and beyond.
It can help to pick companies that are similar to your current favorite clients. You might also post on your social networks about looking for new clients — see who people suggest, and add those folks to your list. And you may find opportunities on Facebook groups and in email newsletters dedicated to listing gigs in your area of expertise.
Find the email address for someone at that company.
Once you’ve put together an ideal client list, do some research to find the person you’d like to reach out to. If you’ve been referred through a connection, this process is much easier! If not, look for someone on the HR team, or a person who manages contractors. (Use LinkedIn to look at the “people” listed as working for that company, and read their job descriptions.)
Many companies have set templates for their emails, like firstname.lastname@, or firstinitial.lastname@. Even if you can’t find the exact email address for the person you’d like to reach out to, try using one of those templates. You may also find good contacts at the bottom of a brand’s press releases. If all else fails, email the company’s general marketing or info line! It’s better than nothing, and sometimes bottles at sea do find a shore.
Send a cold email stating your interest in working together
Once you have contact info for a human being at your ideal client company, construct an email about why you’re interested in working with them, and what your qualifications are. Keep it short and to the point. Something like this:
Email title: Interested contractor/ freelancer: Your name
Hi [contact first name],
My name is X and I’m writing because I saw your post on X a while back about needing freelance assistance. Are you still looking for help?
[Or: I’m a big fan of your brand/company and would love to talk about ways that I can collaborate with your team.]
[Or: I was speaking with X mutual contact and they mentioned that you might need some help from a contractor; I’d love to learn more.]
A bit about me: [include your bio, your most recognizable past clients, and key services here]
You can learn more about working with me at [insert portfolio website or LinkedIn profile here]
Please let me know if you’re interested in working together– I’d love to learn about what you need, and discuss how we might collaborate.
All the best,
This template will work for reaching out to all kinds of clients; the key elements are telling the client why you want to work with them (be authentic!) and defining your specific skills. How can you help them, and why you are the right person to do it? If you’re reaching out to a corporate client, emphasize your ability to work in their workflow, on a team.
Follow up at the one week and one-month mark
Circle back with the client at the one-week mark, and then again at the one-month mark, to see if they have any interest in setting up a phone call. These follow-ups should be quick, light, and direct: “I’m following up to see if you have any interest in working together. If so, let me know!”
Stay in touch!
Many times, cold outreach will result in a phone call, but actual work opportunities won’t materialize for another 6 months to a year. That’s normal! Keep the conversation going by checking in on occasion; even if the opportunity isn’t a fit right now, you might find that it’s a match a year or two down the line.
Jenni Gritters is a freelance writer and editor based in Seattle. She’s written for the New York Times, the Guardian, Outside magazine, and many other places, and co-hosts the freelance business podcast, The Writers’ Co-op. Read more about her work: http://jennigritters.com/