Most freelancers will, at some point, have to write a pitch email to a prospective client.
Sometimes, it’s an acquaintance – someone you’ve met at a networking event.
Sometimes, it’s the dreaded modern equivalent of the cold-call, in which you are reaching out to a total stranger.
There are plenty of guides out there on how to write a great pitch email, but what should you NOT do?
What gets a perfectly good pitch ignored – or pulled right into spam?
Pitch emails should be sharp, short, and to-the-point.
Most people scroll through hundreds of emails a day; they’re rarely willing to read multi-paragraph screeds from strangers or business associates.
Start strong, and finish succinctly. If they want more information, they can always respond.
Are you confessing your long-hidden, undying love to the email recipient?
If so, feel free to ramble on poetically – everybody likes to read about how fabulous and adorable they are. If not, keep it simple.
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Be too generic OR business-speaky
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Why are you writing to this person? Can you specify why you’re interested in working with them, in particular? Can you cite one of their accomplishments that has specifically impressed you?
Don’t just skim the surface – nothing is more embarrassing than saying how much you loooovvvved their article about the health benefits of seafood, only to find out it was an impassioned rant against the fishing industry.
Invest a little time in your contact; it can really pay off.
Business-speak is another common sin found in pitch emails. Avoid overly-fancy terms; they look suspiciously like spam.
Again, keep it simple: if you can’t easily explain what “enhancing cross-media marketing to optimize stakeholder fulfillment” means to a bright ten year-old, don’t use it in an initial pitch email.
Indulge in rampant copy-and-pasting
Listen, I’m not going to tell you to write every individual pitch email from scratch – that’d be great, but if you’re targeting many potential clients at once, it may not be feasible.
You may indeed recycle most of the main body of an email – but unless you’re sending out a newsletter or a generic update to your mailing list, EVERY individual email should be repurposed to target the specific person.
That means using the correct names and titles, adapting tone, and sprinkling in relevant details.
Don’t just copy and paste an entire email. People can smell that generic, robotic tone a mile away – and they’re disinclined to read it.
Send without closely proofreading
EVERYBODY makes silly little grammatical and spelling errors. That being said, almost everybody is ALSO a terrible hypocrite about it.
What a world, eh? It is really easy to discount an email just because the poor sender has praised “you’re business.”
After drafting your email, double-check it. Triple-check it. Send it to a friend, or walk away for a few minutes and read it after taking a little coffee break.
Make sure to check not only for grammatical and spelling hiccups, but also for formatting bugs – again, it’s a good idea to send a test draft to yourself first.
Once you’ve sent your simple, clear, engaging, fully-proofed pitch email… take a deep breath. Relax.
Don’t forget to follow up (make a note in your calendar), but otherwise let it slip from your mind, and don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back soon… or indeed, at all.
Many pitches disappear into the ether, regardless of how well they’re crafted. Do your best, and then move on to the next!
You never know when you’ll get a response.
Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.