Cold pitching. Any savvy freelancer knows you gotta do it.
Unlike bidding sites like Upwork and job boards like ProBlogger, when you make a cold pitch to a prospective client, you don’t have any competition. When you’re one in a pool of one, your odds of building new client relationships goes way up.
But let’s get real: Cold pitching is the worst. No one likes to do cold pitches. No one.
What not to do
When I first started freelancing, I was extremely eager to get clients and
I started reaching out to all the biz’ in my local area, and just figured I’d refine my approach as I went, working from trial and error. I created a big list of various marketing-related businesses and cold emailed them.
In retrospect, I wasn’t nearly focused enough in the types of businesses I was looking for, and I wasted a lot of time targeting businesses that probably don’t have the budget for outside content services in the first place. Worse, my content was salesy, and probably got deleted without being opened at least 90% of the time.
Needless to say, I didn’t get a single response. Then I read The Well-Fed Writer, and it changed everything.
Picking up the phone
The Well-Fed Writer gave me a game-changing epiphany: phone calls! Picking up the phone to introduce myself to new businesses had literally not once occurred to me (I know, my Millienial is showing.)
My library’s copy of Well-Fed Writer was fairly old, so I wanted to make sure cold calls didn’t go out with fax machines before I started doing it. But after some Googling around to see what other reputable sources had to say, it appears this is still something freelancers do with real success.
Thanks to Well-Fed Writer and other great freelance resources like Make a Living Writing, I’d also gotten smarter about my targeting. This time, I focused on established marketing agencies in the closest major city.
I make calls in 20-company spurts on a weekly basis. This let me balance these efforts with other outreach and client work, while still making steady progress.
I got conversations and email attention from these with some fair consistency—at least one or two bites per 20-company batch. But then the bites never went any further.
For something that’s a real time investment (20 calls took about an hour, and then followup emails took almost another hour, plus the research to find the companies in the first place) it just wasn’t getting a return.
And besides, cold calling is just really not fun—for the caller or the recipient. I was even asked once if I was a “real person,” because companies receive so many automated sales calls. ::facepalm::
So I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, but I wasn’t giving up yet. Cold pitching can be a valuable and important way to round out your client acquisition. And other freelancers use it successfully, so surely I could too.
I was closing in on 100 cold calls with nothing but vague expressions of interest that don’t respond to followup to show for it. Then I came across an article bout an approach a freelancer had used to find new clients that she discovered on Make a Living Writing.
I recommend reading the full article, but here’s the gist:
Pick a niche that is appropriate for your experience, and research companies that work in it—looking specifically for companies that have a blog on their website with outdated content.
Then, you email the company leadership with a genuine, kind email that says something nice and also offers support to kick the company blog back into gear for them.
Aha! The trick here is, these companies already understand the value of a blog—that’s why they have one. But they’ve also found it challenging to manage the upkeep on their own.
I’ve been trying this for just a little bit, but so far the results are promising, and I have a few relationships in the works.
The research up front is a little more time-consuming, but it saves me so much more time that I was wasting reaching out to businesses who had no interest in a freelancer.
I’ll probably keep tweaking it as I go, but this is the method I’m sticking with going forward.
Cold pitching can be a great way to gain new clients away from the competitive environment of bidding sites and job boards … or it can be a real time suck. I’d recommend trying a few methods for yourself before settling into one to stick with—it’s the only way to discover what works for you.