Like it or not, there’s both an art and science to learning how to write a cold email template that predictably converts new freelance clients.
Today, we’re talking about both. And we’re using my real cold email templates, case study examples and screenshots of the actual cold emails that generated $110,500+ for my own freelance side business last year. You can pick up all of my free cold email templates for freelancers right here.
However, as much as I’d like to tell you there’s an easy-to-follow, clear copy & paste formula for writing a cold email that lands you new business every single time, the reality just isn’t that simple. That being said, it is incredibly helpful if you’re starting with a cold email template and pitching process that’s been perfected over five years and through hundreds of freelance pitches in the real world.
Free Download: High-Converting Cold Email Templates for Freelancers
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products and services I’ve personally used and stand behind. When you use one of my affiliate links, the company compensates me, which helps me run this blog and keep all of my in-depth content free of charge for readers (like you).
In this post, I’m going to show you real cold emails that have led to life-changing deals for my freelance content marketing business (and helped me launch into freelancing full-time in 2016).
Perfecting my cold email outreach process has done a lot for my freelance business—which is primarily based around writing and promoting high quality blog content for my clients.
- One of the cold emails we’re examining converted into a $52,500 deal for 2 posts per month, that’s continued for ten months.
- Another has translated into a $17,500 contract for 7 blog posts so far.
- And the last one we’re diving into landed me a $10,000/mo retainer contract for 4 posts per month.
These cold email templates we’re looking at today have generated me a total of $110,500 in 2018 alone.
This process for writing cold emails has generated multiple six-figure freelance contracts and high-value gigs for me with companies like LinkedIn, Zendesk, Quickbooks, Adobe, Vistaprint, Close and more. Since then, I’ve joined Close as their Head of Content where we share high-impact cold email templates for sales teams too. We also built this awesome free AI-powered cold email generator tool to help you quickly write better cold emails.
Here’s the truth about freelancing though: Success is never guaranteed.
And you can’t compare where you are in your freelancing journey today with where others are right now. I’ll be the first to tell you it’s taken me plenty of time to get to where I am today. And trust me, I still get pitches rejected plenty.
There will be great times when you’re overflowing with work and turning away new clients right & left. Yet still, there will be other times when you’re tempted to take anything that comes your way—or you’re spending most of your days doing outreach to drum up new projects.
In my experience, it takes a lot of hard work and hustle to hit the six-figure mark as a freelancer. Especially if you’re risk averse like me—and want to get there before you quit your day job.
If you’re not careful, it’s easy to slip into a cycle of feast or famine. But having a high-converting cold email template and process for pitching new clients can help you stay busy—with the right kind of clients—year round.
As you do great work for your clients, start getting referrals and build a brand for yourself within your niche, you’ll be able to step further and further away from spending large blocks of time regularly cold emailing & pitching new clients.
Good clients and solid projects will begin coming to you.
For now, let’s talk about cold emailing and dig into the cold email templates I’ve battle-tested and tweaked for years. That’s why you’re here right?
5 Steps to Write Cold Email Templates That Convert
We’re going to cover both components of learning how to write a cold email that converts—the art and science.
First, the art.
The Art of Writing a Cold Email That Converts.
Not even the best cold email will get you a response if you’re pitching the wrong type of client or a point of contact who’s not empowered to take action on hiring you.
Context is everything when you’re pitching new freelance clients—especially with a cold email.
1. Identifying the Right Clients.
If the majority of your experience is in writing about finance or real estate, it doesn’t make much sense for you to pitch a company in the healthcare space on your freelance writing services.
Same thing goes for designers. If your style favors flat design, motivational quotes about hustling, and retro color schemes, you’re probably not going to enjoy working with stuffy, well-established brands that have no plans to move their branding into the 21st century.
Choose only to approach clients that you could picture yourself working with.
If you don’t resonate with their brand, style and tone, leave it be. You’ll be able to deliver better work elsewhere. And they’ll also benefit more from hiring someone else.
Just as important as picking the right client for you to pitch, is making sure that you’re also right for them.
Not enough freelancers think about this.
But even when you are considering it, that can still be pretty difficult to judge, right?
Answer these questions when considering a prospect to make sure this is the right client for you (and that you’ll be good for them):
- What makes you uniquely qualified to help this particular client?
- Have you done similar work in the past?
- Does the prospect of working with this client excite you, or it purely a financial decision?
For my freelance content marketing business, I very thoughtfully brand myself in a way that makes me appealing to a certain type of client.
I’m not a marketing consultant to just anyone that’ll hire me. I’ve leaned into my experience over the years, developed my own marketing tactics and have come up with a very specific set of clients I’m uniquely qualified to help—where my services get supercharged.
That’s meant branding myself specifically as a content marketing consultant, a small niche within the broader marketing world.
On top of that, I work only with business experts and growing startups where I’ll be able to write about topics related to business, freelancing, productivity and entrepreneurship (what I already do here and original motivation for starting a blog, and what I’ve done for years). It’s only recently that I’ve learned how to make money blogging through passive sources that don’t require as much freelance work.
I also clearly highlight clients I’ve worked with—to encourage more of the same to want to work with me: Tech startups in San Francisco.
For many reasons, picking a niche is one of the best decisions you can ever make as a freelancer.
Here’s the logic behind picking a niche.
Let’s say you own a coffee shop and you’re looking to hire someone to help you with a rebrand, coming up with new visuals, a fresh logo and marketing materials… and you’re choosing between 2 different options for freelancers who say they can help you.
Freelancer #1 is a generalist. She’s got a broad range of experience running marketing campaigns, knows how to use Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator, has made a few logos over the year and does the design work for her personal website—mostly for fun, but you like her style.
Freelancer #2 is a specialist (with a clear niche). He works for himself as a full-time graphic designer and has done branding work for several coffee shops over the years. You like his style just as much, and can tell that he’s got a lot of experience doing exactly the kind of work you need done too.
Which freelancer would you choose?
Every day of the week, I’d take freelancer #2. The specialist.
I’ll also pay them significantly more—because I know I’m tapping into expertise.
In your freelance business, you want to brand yourself as that expert with a niche. Make yourself the obvious choice. That’s step one for making sure your cold emails get answered.
Now, you’re ready to start searching for freelance clients.
Start with the people you know first.
As much as I love cold emails, warm introductions are significantly more effective, so begin there.
Look first to these groups of people within your network to determine if there are any freelance opportunities to work with those who already know your work ethic, are personally invested in their relationship with you and want to see you succeed:
- Friends (and their friends)
- Family (and their friends)
- Previous co-workers who now work elsewhere
- Classmates from school
Regardless of the exact role your connection has within the company they’re at, if that company could be a good fit for you to pitch on freelance work—that’s a great opportunity to chase down.
Pick up the phone to catch up, grab coffee and ask if they’d be willing to introduce you to the right person within their organization for chatting about helping out on a freelance basis.
At the very least, walk away from these conversations with the name for who you should be reaching out to—then you can work your cold email magic.
Once you’ve exhausted your network, check out these high quality freelance job sites.
Personally, I never advise freelancers to set up shop on the big sites like Upwork or Freelancer.
Sure, you can find success stories of freelancers who make six-figures on their platforms (usually promoted by those companies), but that’s the extreme exception. Compared to the number of freelancers you’ll be competing on price with, next to nobody is making a livable (in the U.S.) wage there.
The reality is that most people looking for freelance help on these sites are really shitty clients to work for.
It’s the fast track to being treated like a commodity.
You’re here because you want to land higher paying gigs—not $25 to come up with blog post ideas and write them… or $10 for new logo designs.
While I believe it’s generally ok to do inexpensive (or free) work in the very early days to build up some experience and a portfolio, you should start charging as quickly as possible. It also needs to be sustainable pricing from day one, then as you grow you can continue increasing your pricing.
You’re worth more than a $25 blog post or $10 logo design, and you should be charging for the value you deliver.
So, which websites are good for finding high quality freelance clients that’ll pay you what you deserve? Start with these options:
- These 78 Freelance Job Sites to Land High-Paying Gigs
- My picks for the 60 Best Websites to Find Remote Jobs This Year
- If you’re a writer, try these 36 Blogging Jobs Sites
- My list of 55 Work From Home Job Sites to browse this weekend
- Angel List
- Coroflot (designers)
- Authentic Jobs
- Hacker News
As you’re sifting through opportunities, I recommend creating a Google Spreadsheet to add & keep track of interesting postings. Continue updating the status of your blogger outreach efforts so you’re able to see how well your cold email outreach performs over time.
Important: Before applying to any of these opportunities directly through the job posting websites, PLEASE pause right here. If you click that apply button and upload your LinkedIn profile, you just become another drop in the bucket—that’s not how you get noticed.
Let’s talk about getting your cold email right in front of the decision-maker.
2. Finding Your Ideal Point of Contact.
When I’m trying to land a new freelance client, I don’t want to spend time convincing a gatekeeper on the company’s HR or recruiting team that I’d be the best for the job—I’m going straight to the person who’s going to be in control of the hiring decision.
Sure, the HR gatekeepers probably have criteria they know to look for, but that leaves too much up to chance.
I want to cold email pitch someone who speaks my language.
As a content marketer (or freelance writer), my ideal point of contact at a potential client company usually has one of these job titles:
- Director of Content Marketing
- Content Marketing Lead
- Senior Content Marketing Manager
- Director of Marketing
- Blog Manager/Editor
- VP of Content Marketing
You want to go for a manager-level point of contact. The type of person who will have a say in hiring contractors for your discipline.
If you’re a freelance designer, you’ll probably be looking to connect with a creative director. If you’re a freelance developer, your ideal point of contact will likely be a director of engineering.
Sometimes, if you can’t find a manager point of contact, making an initial (genuine) connection with someone who’s a staff writer—or designer, engineer—can lead to an introduction up the chain to their manager if you’re able to provide a significant amount of value in your cold email outreach.
What’s important is that you skip the application, and go for connecting directly with real people.
Using LinkedIn to find your ideal point of contact.
Open up a new tab and head over to LinkedIn.
In the main search bar, type in the title of the position you want to connect with—choose to display results for people with that job title or skill.
Then, you can filter those results by people only with that job or skill at the company you’re targeting, by typing in that company’s name within the current company field. Now, your results will be hyper-specific.
If I want to land Trello as a content marketing client, my search would look like this:
Naturally, this works best for companies within a certain size range.
If they’re on the smaller side, you might not immediately find a very clear point of contact. Same goes for enterprise-size companies that have dozens of potential points of contact.
Make your best guess and keep moving rather than getting hung up or spending more than 5 minutes at this stage.
3. Getting Their Email Address.
Now that you have the name of your ideal point of contact, let’s get their email address.
Start by signing up for a free Hunter account—which in my experience is the best (free) tool for quickly finding accurate email addresses today. You’ll get 50 free searches each month, which is more than enough if you’re sending carefully curated cold email pitches and maintaining a high close rate.
Once you type in the company website of the person you’re trying to send a cold email to, you’ll be presented with a list of everyone who’s email address is in the Hunter database at that company.
Filter the results by typing in the first and last name of your target prospect, and nine times out of ten, you’ll instantly get exactly who you’re looking for. Like so:
Even if your prospect isn’t 100% verified in the Hunter database, their tool will analyze the top email address formats in use at the company and give you a recommendation as to what the person’s email address most likely is—helping you move ahead with your cold email campaign.
In case Hunter doesn’t provide a clear result for you, these are the top five email address naming conventions most companies use today:
In almost all scenarios, you’ll get your prospect’s email address in less than a minute of searching on Hunter or testing these formats. If Hunter doesn’t turn up any results for your search, I highly recommend trying one of these other top tools:
If you’re still unable to verify their email address with these tools, find them on Twitter to see if they have contact information (or chase a link to their personal blog that might have their contact info).
As a fallback method I use when these tools don’t populate much info, I’ll hover my cursor over their email address and see if they’ve connected a Google Plus account to the address. If they do, it’ll look like this right here:
Once you have your target’s email address, you’re ready to move into writing your cold email and formulating a winning proposal for them.
Free Download: High-Converting Cold Email Templates for Freelancers
The Science of Writing a Cold Email TemplateThat Converts.
Are you still with me?
So now that we’re on the same page, here’s where you need to be before you even get started on writing the actual cold email:
✔︎ I’m confident the company I’m reaching out to could use my freelance services (and it looks like they may need them now).
✔︎ I’ve tracked down the person who looks to be the right point of contact, a decision-maker on hiring freelancers in my department.
✔︎ I have their email address.
But before you go out and start cold emailing, you need to set sales goals for what exactly you hope to achieve with your cold outreach. Will you stop once you’ve landed your first client? The second? Fifth? Tenth?
Know how much work you can take on before overloading yourself.
Then, we can talk about what goes into the perfect cold email for landing a freelance client, starting with an example.
4. Choosing Your Cold Email Template & Outreach Approach.
First things first: As a freelancer, you need to use the tools you’ve got—and not make excuses for why you can’t land a particular client. If you go above and beyond to wow a client you’ve really been wanting to work with, you can make it happen. It’s in your power.
For me, long before I ever became a contributor on sites like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Business Insider that have since helped me boost my visibility, I was using my blog as my most powerful asset for leveraging freelance gigs. I put my marketing skills to use in a way that I could showcase them as real portfolio examples across the Internet in the format of blog posts, online blogging courses, writing eBooks, publishing my own blogging books and otherwise.
Cold Email Template #1: “Your Feature on My Blog”.
This first cold email template—specifically crafted for business influencers and startup founders—is built around using my blog as a way to provide value before I ask for anything in return.
Here’s how the process works:
- Ask for a quote to include in an upcoming article they’d want to weigh in on.
- Publish my blog post with their quote (), promote it heavily and drive them traffic.
- Reach back out to update & thank them for contributing to the post.
- Highlight early success in that email (# social shares, traffic, any features on publications)
At this point, some will outright ask me if I can help them create content like this for their blogs—often because my blog headlines will resonate with their readers too. Others I’ll need to then pitch on my content marketing services (like putting together a content marketing strategy & executing on it) if they don’t bring it up themselves.
It’s not always a good fit for everyone I ask, but because I’ve already provided value AND essentially given them a real-time demo of what my service is through the post they’re included in, my conversion rate to paid client relationship with this method is extremely high.
This cold email template looks like this, with customizations made for each person I reach out to…
*Important* Don’t ever send straight up copy & pasted cold email templates to high-value potential clients. They know a cold email template when they see it (hint: I always do), and it’s worth your 3 minutes of research to make a more memorable impression.
And if you decide to use a tool that eventually automates & scales your cold email outreach, be sure to check out my personal favorites:
- lemlist: This cold emailing tool is unique in its ability to help you automate and personalize your emails at scale with their technology that allows you to insert & overlay custom screenshots, images or logos onto images within your emails—adding a much-needed personal touch without sacrificing the ability to send emails at scale.
- Woodpecker: This tool features a unique delivery process can help you send cold emails to an outreach list automatically, while appearing to arrive one at a time (as if you were sending them manually yourself).
Now, here’s my first cold email template:
Subject Line: Your feature on my blog
Body: Hey [First Name],
I’ve been a fan of what you’ve been doing with [Company Name] over the past couple of years.
I’m reaching out because I’m working on a new piece geared towards [topic of the blog post you’re writing] from those who’ve already been through this experience themselves and I’d love to hear your take on it. The post will be publishing to my blog [optional—that gets x # of readers] and I’d love to get a quick quote from you to include in the piece if you’re up for it.
If you’d be able to answer this question in a few sentences, that would be amazing:
[Relevant question/challenge that will give them an opportunity to showcase their expertise]? How do you advise people on overcoming that challenge?
No promotional links.
No service pitches.
No asking if they’re hiring.
You need to be patient at this stage. Your goal is to provide value and show your worth.
By doing that first, instead of just making promises of the value you could deliver in the future, you’re going to win their trust and catch their attention in a much different way than 99% of other freelancers cold emailing and pitching them to be hired.
Seems simple, but almost nobody has the patience to execute this kind of in-depth sales strategy. And because of that, so many freelancers waste a lot of time writing cold emails that get no response, largely because they’re being too shortsighted.
Sure it can take weeks to turn into a paid gig—and sometimes it never will—but the freelancers who take my course on learning how to pitch effectively, experience massively positive results from following this strategy.
Here’s a screenshot of this cold email tactic in action last year (name and details blurred for privacy).
This is the one that netted me a $50,000 deal:
After getting the quote from this startup founder and including him in my post, he was pumped about the thousands of shares the post had received in the first few weeks of going live (I spent $100 boosting the post on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Quuu Promote to get an initial share spike).
This founder wanted those kinds of results for his startup’s blog too.
He actually beat me to the pitch—and emailed asking if I’d be up for working with him:
After a quick chat on the phone laying out my workflow and getting clear on his goals, we locked in a strategy for publishing 2 posts each month—we’ve been working together since.
Cold Email Template #2: The “Referral” Warm Up.
What’s better than sending a cold email? Well… sending a warm one.
Compared to the first cold email template we talked about, this warm introduction strategy typically converts much quicker.
It’s straight to the point and doesn’t rely on needing to first get a quote, publish a blog post, or otherwise.
I use it when I’m approaching a company that’s a bit larger and doesn’t have a clear figurehead that’d be reasonable for me to be able to connect with individually by shooting her/him an email.
This cold email template goes to content marketing directors and managers—not founders.
But first, it requires making a connection to another freelancer, contractor or employee at the company—which is why this process is particularly great for freelance writers when the company clearly has many contributors that write for them on a contract-basis.
Here’s how the process works:
- Identify a current freelancer/contractor for the company & share a recent piece of their work.
- Email complementing their work & letting them know about the social share.
- Ask for the right person to reach out to about doing some work there, yourself.
ColdWarm email the decision-maker referencing your referral from the current freelancer.
Jump down to the next screenshot to follow this flow in-action.
After you’ve gotten your referral connection lined up, this cold email template (to the point of contact at your target company) goes like this…
Subject Line: Contributing to [Company Name] ([Connection] referral)
Body: Hey [First Name],
I’ve been loving the [relevant (true) complement based on the work in your discipline] coming out of the [Company Name] for the past few months, especially the recent [relevant post, design, rebrand, feature, update and a quick note showing you actually looked at it].
One of my acquaintances, [name of connection] is a contributor to the [Company Name] and she recommended I reach out to you to see if it’d be a good fit for me to contribute as well. Right now, I typically [one liner about the services you offer and niche that it’s in, showing your clearly a good potential hire for them].
[If possible, add an extra sentence highlighting relevant past work or offering up more industry credibility boosters.]
Let me know if this sounds interesting and I’d be happy to put together a few ideas on a [deliverable] we can test out!
Again, light on the self-promotion.
Just enough to instill confidence and show that you’re relevant.
The goal of this email is to get your decision-maker interested in working with you.
Here a screenshot of this cold email tactic in action (name and details blurred for privacy) starting with when I reached out to the fellow freelance writer to make a quick connection and get the right point of contact for pitching my services to.
This is the cold email series that’s converted into $17,500 in billings for 7 blog posts with this client so far this year:
First, the cold email to a fellow freelance writer for this company…
Less than an hour after sending that email to the freelance writer, I heard back!
We do spend most of the day sitting at computer…
Will it always be this easy? No way.
But because I went out of my way to (1) genuinely complement her work and (2) share it with my target audience on Twitter, she was willing to reciprocate that value by giving me the contact info for the decision-maker at the company.
Plus, getting her to my Twitter feed to check out her mention, gave her the opportunity to see some of my work and feel confident that I wouldn’t make her look bad—because I was indeed a good fit for working with this company.
I also made it a lot easier for her to say yes by not asking for a direct introduction (takes more time) and for just contact info.
Once I got the email address for the Director of Content Marketing at this company, here’s the cold email I sent:
After sending that cold email to the Director of Content Marketing, she got back to me the same day expressing interest and wanting to hear more—including specific pitch topics I had in mind.
I sent a couple topics over and explained my “hands-on” content promotion process, walking through everything I do to distribute my posts after they go live, which is where my real value is added.
A few days go by and she gets back to me with a thumbs up 👍
Here’s that email…
We spoke on the phone next week and locked in the game plan for kicking off my work.
So far this year, that’s turned into an average of one article per month at $2,500/post.
Cold Email Template #3: The Direct Approach.
The third (and final) cold email template we’re breaking down in this post (that has helped me land many work from home jobs as a freelancer) is much more direct than the previous two.
Because of it’s directness, it is in my experience a little more likely to get turned down or go unanswered if there’s not an immediate need (or interest) internally at the company.
However, this cold email still provides real upfront value (our recurring theme with effective cold emails for freelancers).
It still requires doing all of your homework to make sure you’re reaching out to the right company, identifying your decision-maker point of contact and tracking down their email address before you even get started on the actual cold email.
Here’s how the process works:
- Identify your target contact and get their email address.
- Find something relevant of theirs to share on social (bonus: also mention on your blog or Medium).
- Cold email referencing your share & mention.
- Include a soft pitch for your services and ask if they’re up for chatting more.
The next screenshot below has a breakdown of this strategy in-action.
The cold email template goes like this…
Subject Line: [Company Name] [Service] (and mention)
Body: Hey [First Name],
I wanted to reach out and give you a heads up that I’ve been loving the [your service medium] coming out of [Company Name] these past few months. I can appreciate great [your service medium] when I see it 🙂
Just shared your recent [post, project, design, rebranding work, app, etc] about [xyz] with my audience on Twitter and I also mentioned the platform as a great resource in one of my recent blog posts [link] and in my highly trafficked blogging courses.
The other reason I’m reaching out is because a large part of my business is working with brands like [reference any relevant past clients or even full-time gigs] and others to help scale [your core service offering].
Would you be up for chatting about [Company Name’s] [your core service offering] or connecting me with someone else on your team if that’d be a better fit?
P.S. Here’s where you can read more [link to portfolio page if possible] about my process and the clients I’ve worked with.
Of all the cold emails, this one is heaviest on self-promotion—in the context of building your authority with this potential client.
It also directly pitches them on working together in your first email.
Again, the goal is to get in front of the right decision-maker and get a phone call scheduled so that you can really pitch them on your services more effectively.
Here a screenshot of this cold email strategy in action (name and details blurred for privacy).
This is the cold email that landed me a $10,000/mo retainer contract for 4 blog posts per month:
I sent this email pretty early in the morning.
By the afternoon, I’d already heard back.
Here’s that email I got from the person I reached out to, with a colleague of his cc’d…
We set up a time to chat on the phone, learn more about their goals, walk through my process and the rest is history.
I’ll be the first to tell you though, this isn’t the typical response to a cold email pitch for freelance work.
And I definitely had no expectation that it’d be a $10,000/mo deal until after we had a discovery call and I was able to feel out their budget and pricing expectations. They mentioned that they’d tried working with marketing and PR agencies in the past, but didn’t see enough results—that (coupled with the size of the company) immediately told me they’re accustomed to paying premium retainers for contract help.
All in all, out of the ~100 of these types of cold emails I’ve sent, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 have materialized into deals within a month of initial contact. These cold emails require more hands-on follow up too.
But what’s really great about this approach, is that you’re now on their radar. Even if you don’t immediately land a gig, you have an opportunity to stay top of mind over time.
I always keep track of my freelance prospects that seem interested—but for one reason or another it just isn’t a good fit with timing right now—and I’ll keep promoting their content on my social feeds (for free), stay in touch and those often materialize into deals over the course of months, even years later.
If you want even more direction on how to nail your cold email templates, check out this free masterclass hosted by my friend Sujan Patel, who’s built multiple profitable SaaS businesses on the back of cold email outreach.
5. Following Up (Intelligently) on Your Cold Email.
Here’s another hard truth about freelancing: You have to fight to get noticed. And simply having the right email template isn’t enough to capture the attention of your prospects.
That’s because everyone you’re pitching is busy as hell.
If I never followed up on my cold emails (especially in the early days freelancing), I wouldn’t stay busy.
But there’s a fine line between being that annoying person who sends check-in emails every other day and allowing yourself to justify not following up simply because you haven’t heard back yet.
You have to strike a balance and provide value with your follow ups, don’t just ping your prospects with the same question every time you follow up.
Steli Efti, founder of Close (one of the best CRMs for small business owners) is a master at following up and knows the importance of never letting a lead slip away.
He shares, “I have a simple philosophy. I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response. I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one. If someone tells me they need another 14 days to get back to me, I will put that in my calendar and ping them again in 14 days.”
What about when you send your cold email and don’t hear back for a few days?
Here’s exactly what you should follow, based on what works well for me.
TL;DR Follow up with a varied approach every 3-4 business days.
These are business days we’re talking about in this schedule. I don’t recommend following up on weekends, as your email will usually just get buried in their inbox and that makes it less likely to grab their attention on a busy Monday morning.
*Important* Before following up on your cold emails, make sure you didn’t just misspell their email address, send your email to the wrong person, or to an account that isn’t active anymore. Verify that your target contact still works there.
Day 0: Cold email sent.
Day 1: No response.
Day 2: No response.
Day 3: First follow up. Go with a very brief email on your original thread (hitting reply) like this one below.
Hey [First Name],
I’ve been thinking more about [Company Name’s] [your medium] over the past couple of days and I’d still love to connect with you when you have a moment. Would you be available to chat for a few minutes this week about your [your service medium] efforts?
Day 4: No response.
Day 5: No response.
Day 6: No response.
Day 7: Second follow up. Keeping it brief again, this time asking if there’s a better point of contact for you to reach out to.
Hey [First Name],
I know you must be super busy, is there someone else on your team that might be a better fit for me to reach out to for chatting about [your service medium]?
Day 8: No response.
Day 9: No response.
Day 10: No response.
Day 11: Third follow up. This time, I’ll actually send my follow up email to another person who looks like they could be a potential decision-maker on this company’s marketing team. Here’s what that new email looks like:
Subject: Re: [Company Name’s] feature on my blog
Hey [First Name],
I reached out to [name of first person you cold emailed] last week to let her/him know that I [shared, featured, mentioned something relevant] on my blog and social channels. I never heard back and I’m assuming she’s/he’s just super busy right now.
Would you by chance know if there’s someone on your team that’d be a good fit for me to reach out to for some [your service medium] collaborations?
Day 12: No response.
Day 13: No response.
Day 14: No response.
Day 15: Fourth follow up. This email is in the same format as our second follow up email, this time directed to the new person you’re reaching out to.
At this point, you’ll have sent 3 emails to your initial point of contact and 2 to your secondary target.
Personally, I usually choose to slow things down drastically once it’s been more than 2 weeks of trying to make contact and not getting anywhere (which is very rare). 9 times out of 10, you’ll at least get a no by this point.
I’ll pause here and wait a full 2 weeks before following back up with both of the people I’ve reached out to again.
Keeping track of these emails in your inbox.
Aside from tracking the status of my prospects in a Google Spreadsheet, I also use Inbox by Gmail to snooze these sent cold emails (according to the schedule we outlined above) immediately after sending them in case I don’t hear back.
That way, they’ll be resurfaced to the top of my inbox after the set number of days I’ve triggered for it to pop back up in.
The snooze function looks like this right here:
Throughout all of these follow ups, I’m also moving on to other opportunities and getting business through other conversations & cold email pitches while this company goes onto the back burner.
If they’re a particularly appealing client prospect, I’ll continue featuring them in my content, sharing their work on my social channels and keep checking in every 2 weeks or so to see if I’ll catch them at the right time.
Each time I feature them in a blog post or share their content with my social audiences, that gives me another reason to reach back out and show the value I’m providing.
I never stop following up, but my intervals between each follow up starts to spread out over time.
Do you have an effective cold email template to share with us?
Comment below, pasting in your cold email template—and if you want feedback, just ask!
To pick up my cold email templates for freelancers, head over right here.
126 replies to “Freelancers: 5 Steps to Write a Cold Email That Converts New Clients (Free Cold Email Templates)”
Hi Ryan, This is a great article. You really break down how to construct a cold email and the right approach to getting results. Love it. I have heard about Lemlist from many of my friends earlier. Would definitely give it a try on your recommendation.
Thanks so much, Jackson! Looks like you guys are doing well in the cold email space yourself 😉
Thank you so much for sharing this priceless information!! I’m trying my hand at your templates now!
So glad to hear it, Vanessa! Happy cold emailing 🙂
Awesome article! I keep hearing that it is not a good idea to send cold emails from your main domain (because it might get your domain blacklisted and automatically redirect all your emails to spam) and that you should buy a second domain and send emails from that one.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you only send cold emails from your main domain?
I don’t believe domain reputation should ever be a concern with cold email campaigns for freelancers.
Here’s why… because I’m only ever sending a very low volume of cold emails (usually a few per day max, because they’re much higher quality/well-researched with a very curated pitch), I’m not concerned about having my domain flagged as spam as a result of this. Now, if you’re sending dozens or hundreds of emails per day to truly cold leads—I’d argue that you’re not taking a careful enough approach to your cold outreach in the first place.
And if that’s the path you’re going down, yes I’d be concerned with your emails being flagged as spam… but the solution (IMO) shouldn’t be figuring out how to send a ton of (maybe spammy?) cold emails every day… I believe the solution should be revising your approach to be much more carefully aimed at impressing your prospects from the moment they get your first email.
Thank you so much for your reply Ryan!
Therefore, quality over quantity…always!
A very interesting article. I’m going to give your templates a try.
Glad to hear that, Nick! Happy pitching 🙂
This looks amazing. Thanks for sharing but I was wondering what about people who just started off and don’t have names like LinkedIn, Forbes backing up their work? You got to start somewhere, right? So for millions like me who are just starting off. What should be our focus?
It would be a great help if you could provide with a tip here 🙂
Hey Aakash! I’ve written a lot about this actually, over in my guide to starting a freelance business right here: https://www.ryrob.com/why-freelance-while-working-full-time-and-how-to-do-it/
Now I am clear on this difficult topic. Thank you for sharing great free cold email templates too. Now it’s very easy for me to do my job.
Nice! That’s awesome to hear, I’m glad to help.
Hi Ryan, I hope you are doing well!
I had your website bookmarked in my browser and I just stumbled upon it a few moments ago and so I wanted to ask you: How do you believe cold emailing or other ways of reaching out to new clients should be handled during this pandemic?
Do you think it is appropriate to contact businesses and find clients or should we all just take a break? I am really curious to find out what you believe about this.
Thank you and please take care!
That’s a great question, Craig! First off, I do NOT think you should take a total break from all work yet (unless you need/truly want to) in these times. Life has to go on and so does business—in some form.
However, the biggest answer I keep coming back to is… approach everything right now with more sympathy, empathy and a considerate frame of reference. That likely means making tweaks to your standard email templates, follow up cadence/style and other aspects of how you’re trying to close any new deals right now. Think about how you can bring your own experience/skills to the table in new ways, too.
Everything & everyone are running a little bit slower than usual right now, but life has to move forward. I’d suggest giving people more time, more space and taking a very considerate approach to selling right now… but you’ll have to see how prospects respond and adjust as we keep pushing into uncharted territory.
I’m just starting out so don’t have a blog to speak of nor know many people in companies who I could use in the referrals strategy. In your third, most direct strategy, you suggest sharing on social, but that would be on my personal account- does that look unprofessional?
Basically, what I’m asking is have you got any advice on how to kick off the game when you are just starting out?
Hey Aisling, it’s totally fine to share other companies/people’s content on your own personal social channels—in fact that’s the best way to start building relationships with some of the people/brands you eventually want to connect with (in this way, they’ll more likely recognize/remember your name when it soon pops up in a cold email in their inbox).
OK, super, thanks!
Hey Ryan, great work you have here. Well, I am a game blogger and I was wondering where I can get high paying game clients.
Hey Clinton! Thanks for asking (and being so present here on my blog). I’d say it really depends on a lot of variables… because on the surface, I’m not sure what “high paying game clients” are. Does that mean you want to get paid as a game developer? Tester? Reviewer as an affiliate? Let me know more specifically what you’re hoping to pitch game clients on (and who those clients are too… the game makers, gaming retail stores, etc).
Wow, thanks for noticing me. Well I love your content very much.
What I mean by high paying clients is content writing for games.
I want to write content for game companies.
Nice! That’s a really interesting niche, which to be honest I don’t have any experience with. Would the content be considered material that makes its way into actual games… or are you thinking of writing content for the blogs of game companies (if they do much publishing like that)?
Well yes, I want to write content for the blogs of game companies. Or do u think it will be better to write for game publications.
Personally, I think you’d have more luck in pitching game-related publications! That’s just my hunch though. Can’t hurt to try reaching out to both and see how it goes.
Hey Ryan, great article 🙂
You pointed out that those making a living yearly on freelance websites like Upwork in the west are extremely rare cases.
I tend to agree with you although for those who are frugal, it is doable (that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea).
In fact, I experimented with Upwork and cold emails for five months each and I found that during that time I earned pretty much the same but with one underlying difference…
The quality of the clients I was able to get via cold email was terrific compared to the freelance websites.
There could be a number of reasons for that and I think the biggest one was that I could select exactly who I wanted to reach out to via email, whereas on Upwork it was limited to whatever projects were published each day.
Thanks, Chris! Good perspective, thanks for sharing. Love that you have direct experience in comparing the two… and I’d have to agree with you that in all my experiences, cold outreach nets you much better clients (because you’re actively choosing them yourself) rather than what you’ll find on the big marketplace job sites.
Thanks for providing so much great information. There is a ton of value to process here as with so many of your articles.
To be honest, though, I was frustrated with the templates themselves. I’m an introvert, both digitally and in reality. All three of the templates require skills and abilities that I lack.
I have very little in the way of marketing chops, so the first one goes right out. I really don’t know many people and am not so great at networking, making the second one a challenge. And I have very little interest in social media and no following. So there goes the third one.
I love the idea of providing value instead of just showing up with my hand out. But I just don’t have anything you’ve mentioned to offer. And I don’t know what else I could provide besides my dry wit and rugged good looks.
PS: Despite being an introvert, I am friendly, outgoing, and chatty. I’m good at selling myself. It’s just that I prefer quality over quantity in my relationships. So I know that I can get clients if I can find an approach that matches my style. I just wish I knew how.
You’re welcome, Lee! And I really appreciate the candid feedback, that’s how we can all stay more self-aware, right? 🙏
Since I’m not personally equipped to create a ton of variations of pitch email templates that work best for many different types of people, my advice would be to definitely take the elements of each that work for you—toss what doesn’t—and see what you can repackage into an email that feels more authentic to your interaction style, skills and interest.
You’re on the right track thinking about ways you can provide value up front… so let’s tease that out a bit. What do you offer for your clients as a service? Surely there are some ideas we can come up with that pull out small samples of your larger deliverables that may be able to offer a clear example of the value you can create. The general purpose of this is to give your clients a preview to get excited about—a slight edge over someone who’s only applied with an application or bland pitch. To be honest though, a touch of dry wit can go a long way toward standing out from the crowd.
Thanks so much for the feedback!
I’m kicking myself right now. I’ve already landed a gig for a pretty large publication and have been writing about productivity tools for the last couple of months.
It just hit me today that there are at least two companies I’ve written about and personally admire that have no blog or haven’t kept up on their blog. I’ve already supported their businesses and would love to support them further.
I definitely think using your pitches can help after all! Thanks!
Haha you’re very welcome, Lee! I’m telling you, it’s almost always a matter of expanding your scope of what’s possible given the work you’ve already done… and that’s a fantastic example of taking meaningful action. Good luck with your pitches! Would love to hear how they’re received—and know that these kinds of outreach efforts are often a numbers game to a degree.
For once in my life, the numbers have been in my favor.
Someone read an article I wrote from my current publisher and asked me if I could write one featuring his software.
I agreed and used some of your techniques to warm pitch him.
He was amenable, we had a face to face and I asked for a number that I thought was too much, but it was based on the calculator infographic you shared.
He said that was in line with what he was thinking and offered me more!
No upper or lower limit on the number of articles I can write either.
So, yeah! Nailed it!
Thanks for all the great advice in this blog! It’s been super helpful!
Wow, that’s so awesome to hear! Truly, thank you so much for reporting back with the details, I really appreciate hearing that. It’s one of my primary drivers with my blog here, so I’m honored to have played a (small) role in helping out! Don’t forget, you’re the one that put in the real work 💪
Aha! That is what I was looking for to grab clients for my agency, Ryan. I just loved the way you have explained everything.
Glad to hear it, Vansh! Good luck out there 🙂
Thanks for sharing this blog, this blog is more useful to me.
You’re welcome! 🙂
In short, I spent 15 mins on this blog post. It was mind-blowing. Thanks Ryan
I want to bookmark your site. You have amazingly remarkable posts. Thanks a bunch for sharing your blog.
Your site is very informative and fantastic information, it has helped me a lot. thank you!
You’re welcome, Maya 🙏