Cold emailing 101

Aug 20, 2020

Cold client outreach has been the bane of every freelancer's existence for as long as freelancers and clients have roamed the earth. And now, thanks to the COVID-19 economy (read: sluggish and uncertain), your ability to successfully reach out is more important than ever.

Look in your spam folder and you'll see that poorly written cold emails make up a large portion of its contents. Emails that begin with Dear sir and/or madam. Emails that are barely coherent. Emails that are pushy or even insulting to the recipient. Emails that focus on just one thing: the sender.

The reason you get so many of these horrible cold emails is because cold email works if it's done right. According to VentureBeat, email still provides the highest ROI for marketers — and it isn't even close.

However, if you want to make sure your cold email outreach is effective, you must first master the four pillars of cold-email writing.

The 4 Pillars of Cold Email Writing

You're going to need to know a few things before constructing a cold email with catnip-like power and control.


What words and phrases do they use? What are their pain points? What specifically are they looking for in a freelancer or the benefits you provide? LinkedIn is a great tool for audience research. Find your audience by title (small business owner, CEO, VP of marketing, etc.) and read through a couple dozen individual profiles. The words a lawyer will use will be much different than those a small business owner uses. Speak to them through your cold email outreach in the way they speak and your chances of success will skyrocket.


Benefits sell, period. If your cold email is focused on features or yourself, your prospects won't care, and your email will fail. For example: If you're a copywriter reaching out to a small business owner, focus on things like building an audience, engagement, and conversion. Even the most successful business is looking to improve upon what may already be working.

Client Pain Points

What problems might the client be having that your services can solve? Generally, pain points are the inverse of benefits, and you won't find these on your prospect’s website. You have to think about it at a macro level: What are the problems this particular group of prospects has in common? Using our example from above, every small business owner wants to find more potential customers they can turn into loyal customers. Their pain points would be difficulty finding and engaging with their target audience, not being able to build an email list of qualified potential customers, and an inability to nurture and convert those they do attract and engage with.


You have to add a touch of personalization to your cold email, even if that simply means addressing your message to the right person. Company websites usually have team information, and Rocket Reach and LinkedIn are good options for finding names and titles.

Finally, show that you respect your prospect's time and keep your cold email brief. You don't have to tell your prospect you hope they're doing well or whatever small talk you have planned. Just get in and get out. If you can keep it under 100 words, that's ideal.

A Plug-and-Play Example

The following cold email is one I've been using for a couple of years with great success. The prime recipients have been SEO agencies, website development companies, and marketing agencies.

Typical replies I get from this email are: "Great email but we don't use freelance copywriters," "Thanks for reaching out; we'll keep you in our database," or "Good timing; I have a project I need help with now."

When emailing prospects, one thing to keep in mind is the quality of your subject line. Good subject lines entice readers to open, while bad subject lines inspire a quick trip to the trash file. While a person could write an entire book on subject lines alone, try keeping them short, benefit-centric, and intriguing — and there's nothing wrong with being clear.

Subject: Freelance copywriter with grit seeking

The recipient knows why I'm reaching out. If he or she has a need, my message will probably get opened. If the recipient doesn't have a current need, the inclusion of the phrase "with grit seeking" may create enough intrigue to warrant an open regardless.

Hi (name),

My name’s Nick, and I’m a freelance copywriter. I’m reaching out to see if you have any copy or content needs I can help you with.

Introduce yourself and tell the recipient exactly who you are and what you do. Don’t make it salesy, and word it in a way that makes it seem like you’re reaching out to help them.

I realize there can be a bit of unprofessionalism in this industry. And that some people calling themselves copywriters can’t tell the difference between a landing page and a blog article.

What does unprofessionalism look like in your industry? What are some ways that you can differentiate yourself from inexperienced or unqualified freelancers? What is a common complaint from clients in your industry?

If you're tired of mediocre copy and content by undependable copywriters, shoot me a reply.

Pain points: freelancers who are unprofessional, undependable, and turn in mediocre work – all common complaints – combined with a call to action.

If you don’t have that problem, that’s great news. (Not for me, obviously.)

Leave on a high note and make the reader smile. We all want to work with people that we like, so don't discount the effects of likability. To this point, the email has been all about them and I've used some variation of the word “you” four times.



P.S. While my website is niched for health and wellness, I have plenty of "unhealthy" copy and content experience as well.

The P.S. is read more often than the body, so make it count if you use it. You can use it for more personalization and connecting with the prospect. Or you can use it for more clarity, as I have, with the added benefit of getting one last smile out of the reader.

Above all else, make sure your cold email sounds like it came from a human. Make it conversational and personable. And finally, put yourself in your prospect's shoes and make sure it's speaking to them and not about you.

Hitting Send: Should you reach out via email or a contact form?

I prefer to contact prospects using a web form on their contact page as long as the business is on the smaller side, so my message won't get lost in the ether. I've also been told by several clients that contacting them this way feels less spammy. However, for larger businesses, always get an email address for the person you should be contacting.

If you can learn to master cold email outreach, the strength of the economy won't matter nearly as much, and you'll spend much more time earning instead of looking to earn. And isn't that the whole point?

Nick Mistretta

Nick Mistretta is a health and wellness copywriter and content writer. He writes for healthcare professionals who put their names to his words, plus natural products and food companies, and more.