Cold Call or Email?

When it comes to marketing we writers get a little antisocial. And who could blame us? Going to a conference and talking to others is one thing – that’s not a problem. But for some reason when we hear the term “cold call” we clam up and suddenly remember all the other things we have to do, right? 

Hey, I come from a sales background and I do the same thing, so don’t feel bad. There’s just something about picking up a phone and calling people to ask for work that seems desperate. Or maybe you just don’t want to bother them. This is a mindset that we writers need to get over. As easy as it can be to slip into the starving writer mindset and feel like we’re begging for work, we’re not. It’s just a simple question as to whether or not they need writing services. 

But email is certainly a viable means of reaching clients, as well. After all, business owners check their email every day, right? So you might be wondering why can’t I just email? Or should I do both? 

Below I’ve tried to break down the pros and cons of each marketing method. These are just my suggestions, but hopefully you find them beneficial. 

Cold Calling

Cold calling is simply the act of putting together some prospects (which you can find on Manta and other places), finding some way of organizing them – usually a spreadsheet – and then calling them to see if they have any current or ongoing need for a writer or content. 

The Good: There are many benefits to cold calling, especially when compared to emailing. When you cold call, assuming you know who to ask for – or the point of contact (POC) – and you can get past the receptionist or whoever answers the phone – or gatekeeper – you can find out quickly and easily the status of that person’s need for content marketing. In short, here are the pros:

  • It takes less time to call than it does to email, even though it might not seem like it up front. 
  • You can find out immediately (usually) whether or not your prospect is going to use your services. 
  • You appear professional and like a viable business.
  • You know your call has gone through and your message has been received (or that it hasn’t). 
  • You improve your cold calling and phone skills, which are key to almost every businessperson. 

The Scary: I’m going to call it the scary instead of the bad because there isn’t necessarily a bad side to cold calling, just things that make us run and hide. Like Insidious 2. The previews give you nightmares – and the mere thought of cold calling gives you panic-stricken fear. So here’s the scary side of cold calling. 

  • You have to actually speak to someone over the phone, which for some reason makes us run and hide. 
  • You run the risk of flubbing your speech up whereas the written word is flawless. 
  • You often have to negotiate through a gatekeeper or two in order to reach your intended call recipient. 
  • If you get a no, you hear it right away and sometimes people can be rude, and we all hate rejection. 
  • They could say yes. (And seriously what would you say then??)

I think the thing that scares us the most about cold calling is that we have to think on our feet. When people email us back we can think about it. If they want to talk about our services we can prepare a script. If they have questions about what we can offer them, we have time to compile a list. Cold calling is very “on the spot”. And also, we fear coming across as “salesy”. But let me tell you, sounding salesy only happens if you try to sound that way. 🙂 


We all know what emailing is. You go to Manta, you get a list of prospects, you open their profiles. Hopefully they have an email address. Once you find the email address you put them in a spreadsheet and then BCC everyone and send it off. 

The Good: In the eyes of many writers and small business owners, the good is not hard to find. However, I would argue that what we think is good about emailing is just convenient for us and less scary than cold calling. But, nonetheless, here are the good things about email:

  • You can do it whenever you want instead of during business hours when you think your prospect will be there. 
  • It’s rather non-confrontational so if they say no you’re not hurt. 
  • You don’t have to think on your feet. 
  • You can send a lot of emails out at once. 
  • You can think about your responses if you get a yes. 

The Unfortunate: There are many unfortunate sides to emailing. I found this out recently when I took two hours to compile a list of just 60 email addresses for a marketing campaign. So far I’ve sent out 160 emails and I’ve received 2 responses – a maybe and a not right now. While nice responses, that ratio is absolutely horrible. So here’s what I’ve learned about email. 

  • It takes more time than cold calling – I promise you. 
  • It’s harder to find a business’ email address than it is their phone number. 
  • In searching for businesses with email addresses you miss a lot of great prospects that only have a phone number listed. 
  • Much of the time, you don’t know if that email address goes directly to your prospect or not. 
  • You usually don’t know if that email ends up in a spam box. 
  • Most of the time people ignore or delete emails that look like marketing. 
  • The response time is usually very slow, if you get a response at all. 

The Consensus

For my money, it’s cold calling. My recent experience with email marketing, at least manual email marketing, has shown me that it really is, for all intents and purposes, a huge waste of time when compared to cold calling. Either way you have to spend time making a prospect list, sure, but your chances of being able to narrow down a yes or no answer is much increased by cold calling. 

Why are we so afraid to pick up the phone and ask a question? Aren’t we doing the same thing when we email? It’s easier to email in that it’s easier on us fear-wise, but it’s damaging to our business. There is a reason that sales organizations don’t sit around emailing all day. In fact, if you try to do that at a sales organization you probably won’t be employed for very long. 

I have a fear of cold calling just like anyone else, and I really can’t explain it. I’m a businessperson. I’m making a business call. I’m marketing my very valuable services to another business. They say yes or no or maybe later. *shrug* How hard is that? 

In reality, it’s not. At all. But we make it so. We flood our minds with “what if”s. What if they think I’m a horrible person for calling? What if I annoy them? What if I bother their day? What if they’re rude? What if they hang up on me? What if my call causes the zombie apocalypse. 

I mean really, come on. They aren’t going to think you’re a horrible person. Chances are they won’t even remember you called by the end of the day if they weren’t interested. Lots of people annoy them every day, so if they’re bothered by you that’s on them. If they’re rude, they’re going to be rude to anyone who calls, it’s not personal. And if they’re just plain mean you can hang up – nobody deserves to be spoken to like that. If they hang up on you, well then mark it as a no. (If you’re audacious you can call back and say “I’m so sorry it looks like we got disconnected”, but chances are if that’s you, this post doesn’t apply to you). 

We worry about ridiculous things when it comes to cold calling. Even I do. So I’ve made a commitment to myself. I’m not going to email anyone (as far as corporate marketing goes – queries I don’t have a choice) until I’ve called them and at least left a message. If I get a maybe, I’ll email them next week as a follow-up. 

In sales we used to have a rule that you should get 3 no answers before you gave up. Where I worked that meant 3 no’s before you get off the phone. I don’t agree with that. I think that’s obnoxious. And to be honest, that never got me anywhere. The sales I got were from being polite, knowing how to determine which “no”s were actual “never in your life”s and which were “no I’m busy” or “no, not right now”. 

Tentative “no” answers I always used to say can I send you an email with my information so you can look at it when you have some time? Usually they say yes and are appreciative that you respect their time. 

If you have qualms about it, I highly recommend Steve Schiffman’s book Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work) because it’s amazing. It helps you structure your cold calling and he gives you a great insight on the mindset you should have when it comes to cold calling. I love all of his books. The man literally built an enterprise on teaching people how to sell, and he still cold calls every day! 

For my money, when the person who is training Fortune 500 companies how to sell thinks cold calling is that important, it’s important. 

Emailing your current clients is helpful, but emailing to people that don’t know you – in my experience – is not beneficial or effective. 

Make a promise to yourself to call just 5 people a day. That’s it. 5 businesses a day in an industry or field in which you can write confidently. Eventually the fear will subside and it will become a habit. 

Hopefully this has helped out! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments. 

Until next time, have a wonderful day and happy writing!


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