The Difference Between Cold Emailing and Email Marketing (and How to Find Clients)

I’m in that quarterly phase of seeking out new freelance writing clients once more. For me, cold emailing and social media connections are the way to go. But, I’ve noticed in my conversations with other freelancers – usually newer ones – that there’s a confusion between cold emailing and email marketing.

I touched on this briefly in my latest book A Freelance Writer’s Guide to Marketing, but I want to expand on the thought here.

Now, before I go on, let me throw this out there: I know that cold emailing is technically a form of email marketing. However, that’s not the type of “email marketing” I’m discussing here.

When most people think about email marketing, they think about sending the same email to a whole bunch of people. This isn’t a great idea for many reasons. However, the main reason this idea stinks is that unless people have signed up for your email list, you’re breaking the law by mass emailing a sales pitch to multiple people.

Your newsletter – the one you build on your own ground using something like MailChimp or Constant Contact – that people have voluntarily signed up for is the only time you should ever be emailing the same thing to multiple people.

When you’re trying to gain clients, though, your marketing needs to be one-on-one through cold emailing.

You’re staring at me like I’m not making sense. Okay. Let’s break it down.

Email Marketing

We just discussed this above. Email marketing, as most people think of it, is sending the same “Hey, Client, this is what I do, want my services?” line to a ton of people that you threw on your mailing list without them knowing about it. It’s illegal, it’s spammy, and it’s just not effective. Don’t do it.

Cold Emailing

Cold emailing, on the other hand, is one-on-one, works wonders, and, if done correctly, can be very effective in gaining new clients. When you’re cold emailing, you’re identifying a prospect, creating an email just for them, and introducing yourself. That’s basically it. I have a template, of sorts, that I like to use for cold emailing.

Dear Prospect,

I came across your name/company/whatever (wherever you found them). Congratulations on/I was impressed by/ [Insert compliment or congratulatory statement on recent accomplishment here. It shows you do your homework and that this isn’t a form letter.]

While looking through your website, I noticed that [thing your services could improve on]. I’m not sure if you’re in the market for a freelance writer, but I thought I’d introduce myself nonetheless. [One sentence here about you, your expertise, and why you’re a good fit for this organization. Do NOT include your life story or how you were on the Newsletter team in high school. Nobody cares.]

If you’re interested in hearing more about what I do and what I can offer, I’d be happy to schedule a call or Skype chat at your earliest convenience.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.



And that does it. Literally, it’s that short. Hey, here’s where I found you, evidence I did some homework, noticed you haven’t updated your blog in six months, thought you might need a writer. You’re a finance company? I’m a finance writer. Let me know if I can help. Bam.

Nobody has the time to sit around and read your lengthy oratory on how you left the finance world behind to fill it with the content you know it truly needs. Just…stop.

It’s courteous, short, professional, and just personal enough to show them you really do know who they are, and you’re not sending this email to 50 companies.

What Makes a Good Prospect

When I look for clients, I tend to qualify them before I ever add them to my list. Qualifying a prospect is nothing new. It’s a sales strategy that’s been used forever and ever. All it really means is doing a little bit of homework to find out whether or not a prospect would make a good client.

You might think, “But, Courtney, isn’t anyone who might pay me a good prospect? Any company willing to hire me?”

Um. No.

Here’s what you need to look for in a prospect.

  • They Have Cash – They make enough money to pay you. Use Manta and find out how much they earn per year. Or…dig for that information in whatever legal way you know how. I like Manta. The point is, if they’re not making a million or more a year, they probably don’t have the budget to pay you what you need to make. Cue a particular Rhianna song. You know it.
  • They Publish – They use or need freelance writers. Basically, if all they have is a website with a few basic pages, they probably don’t understand how important content is, so not only are you going to have to convince them to hire you to write their content, but you’ll have to convince them that they need content in the first place. Unless you stand to make tons of money from this client, they’re probably more hassle than they’re worth. On the other hand, if they have a blog, pages of content, a library of information, a white paper, and they publish reports frequently, add ’em to the list.
  • They’re Behind on Blogging – First I tell you to find someone who publishes. Now I’m telling you to find someone who’s behind on publishing? Yes. It is much, much easier to sell your services to someone who has a blog but clearly hasn’t the time or the staff to keep it up than it is to sell your services to someone who doesn’t think they need a blog in the first place. But, if they’re behind, they probably need you, like, yesterday. So go for it.
  • They’re on Page 5 of Google Search – It doesn’t have to be page five, but five is a good marker. Why? If they’re ranking number one on Google, chances are they’ve got a solid content marketing campaign in place and already have a writer. They’re winning. If they’re on page, say, 20 or 100, they probably don’t have rankings as number one (or ten) on their priority list. That means they don’t understand what they need, so your services will mean probably nothing to them. But if they’re on pages three to twelve, somewhere in there, and they check out against the other bullets on this list, then they probably want to rank higher, but they just don’t know how.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of what makes a qualified prospect, but it’s enough to check off your list initially so you can help ensure you’re not wasting your time.

Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

Somehow, almost every freelancer I know started out with the idea that clients would contact you if they needed you. That somehow if you haven’t been sought out, you’re unwanted. That contacting prospective clients and selling your services is a bother to them.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Like, nothing.

Do you know how busy these marketing directors and CEOs are? They’re crazy busy. Even if they know how desperately they need content, a lot of them don’t know how to find freelancers. What’s more, most of them are tired of dealing with lackadaisical freelancers who don’t turn anything in on time and, when they do, deliver crappy material.

Sad, but true.

Enter you. The professional freelancer who has their…ehm…stuff together. You know how to be on time, you’re actively marketing your business, and what’s more, you just delivered a personalized, killer email of time-respecting length right to their inbox. Just what they needed. Why, you’re a freelancing angel. *cue the singing*

Alright, maybe not, but you will stand out by pitching to them if you do it the right way. They’re dying for freelancers. They need you!

Even if you’ve never been published in a magazine and you can’t point to some amazing blog you’ve written for, it doesn’t matter. If you’re professional, you have a website, and you prove to them that you can write, they’ll probably give you a shot. At that point, just prove your worth. It’s a surefire way to gain clients for life.

It all starts with an email, though. Make that first cold email count, and you can end up with a solid client.

Last Thought

Please don’t send out an email and then wait. You should be sending out multiple emails per day. Then pitching magazines. And then hitting up blogs. Market your tail off until you’re where you need to be. Cold emails are a great tool, but only if you use them to your advantage.

Do you have cold emailing success stories to share? Let us know in the comments.

Until next time, happy writing!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Matt says:

    You might be breaking the rules of your email provider, but there’s nothing illegal about mass emailing business to business. The same is true for telemarketing b2b.

    1. courtneyherz says:

      The FTC disagrees with you. If you’re sending mass email – particularly if it doesn’t have an address and doesn’t tell people how to opt out (which most people who just blast out emails don’t include), it actually is.

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