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So you want to get more clients.


You’ve got a number of options at your fingertips, including but not limited to:

  • PPC advertising.
  • Job boards (if you’re a smaller freelancer).
  • Networking events.
  • Email.
  • Cold calling (BARF).
  • Social media.
  • Standing at the side of the road with a “will write/design/file taxes/practice law for $$$” sign.

(OK, maybe that last one isn’t such a hot idea).

All of these options have their pros and cons. But for my money, the best for smaller businesses is cold email. There are 3 reasons for this:

  • It’s cheap. Sending an email doesn’t cost any money. There is the opportunity cost of spending time on it, but with a copy and paste message, that’s very minimal.
  • It’s easy. Cold email doesn’t require you spend hours setting up a landing page and Adwords campaign. Just collect some email addresses and click ‘send.’ Simple.
  • It’s effective. With the right message, cold emails can generate a 25% response rate or better.

So far so good. Cold emails are the cheapest, easiest and most ROI-positive way to build a service business.

Now you might be thinking, “but I’ve TRIED cold email before, and it doesn’t work for me!”

Almost every time I’ve extolled the virtues of cold email in public, I’ve had someone raise this point. They’ll cite objections like, “I don’t get any responses from cold email,” “my cold email leads never go anywhere,” or “I’m not a spammer, I can’t do that.”

And I get it. When I first started out with cold email, I didn’t get very far with it either. But after studying email marketing extensively and tweaking my approach, I got my  results to the point where I had a 25% response rate, and about a 5% emails-sent-to-contracts-started rate.

What I learned was that there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do cold email. This isn’t an area where a lot of different approaches can work; with cold email, there’s really basically one right approach, and a whole bunch of lame ones.

So what is that “right way,” and how does it work?

I Call It The “4 Step Cold Email Sales Process.”

I say “4 step” because it can be broken down into 4 components. I say “sales process,” because that’s what it is: a process you lead a person through to become a customer/client. The 4 Step Cold Email Sales Process has by far the best response rate, and best overall ROI, out of all the cold email methods I’ve tried–and I’ve tried a lot of them. It isn’t the fastest email method in the world–it involves a bit of nurturing and time on the phone with clients. But the results are well worth it in the end.

If you want to start generating new clients cheaper, easier and more consistently than ever before, the 4 Step Cold Email Sales Process can help you do that. So let’s jump into it at step #1: find potential clients.

Step #1: Find Targeted Clients.

You’re probably thinking “this is obvious,” but I’m talking targeting that goes beyond “tech startups need programmers, so I will reach out to tech companies.” I’m talking about laser-targeting businesses that you know have an URGENT need for what you have to offer. There are places online where you can find this.

One quick example: Crunchbase is a site that lists businesses that have just received venture funding. You can see exactly how much funding they got, and who gave it to them. Usually companies that have recently received venture funding have a desire to grow and expand. So companies on Crunchbase are very likely to want marketing-related services like copywriting, SEO, PCC management, branding, etc.

Step #2: Initial Email (Finding The Right Person).

Now that you have a list of potential clients, you want to email them. But hold your horses: don’t send a pitch just yet. Your first email is simply to find the right person to speak with at the company.

Remember, most companies have a secretary who screens all the emails initially. So what you should do is send a first email asking for contact info for the person who is responsible for hiring freelancers at this company. Here’s a simple template for this initial contact email:

Hi my name is ______,

I’m a _______, I do _______ and I’d like to get in touch with whoever is in charge with your company’s online marketing efforts.

I would be very grateful if you could provide me with a name and email address.

Thank you in advance,

– ______.

Step #3: Send An Initial Pitch To The Right Person

Now that you know WHO you need to email, you want to email them. The goal of this email should be to get the person on the phone; you shouldn’t directly try to sell them. What you want to do is simply schedule a call to share an idea you have that can help them.

Email copywriting is an art unto itself, and ‘how to write a good cold email’ is a topic that could fill a dozen books. But in general what you want to do is this:

  1. Write a compelling subject line that gets people to open. You can find a bunch of subject line templates here.
  2. Open with a question based around a benefit they almost certainly want. For example “do you want to 3x the lead generation rate at your company?”
  3. Follow the opening question with compelling proof that something can deliver that benefit for them. For example, “a recent study by Harvard Business School showed that A/B testing can 3x a business’ lead gen rate over the long run.”
  4. Continue by showing that YOU have used this approach successfully with your clients–ideally, clients who are similar to the one you are contacting. For example, “I have helped clients like Dropbox, GitHub and LinkedIn grow their revenue with A/B testing.”
  5. State that you have a tip you can share that will help them. For example, “I know 2 things you can do immediately to improve your lead gen rate.”
  6. Conclude by asking that they schedule a meeting. Ex: “What would be a good time to schedule a short call?”

Step #4 (though this is really like step 10 when you consider that step 3 had 6 steps): get them on the phone.

Remember, you concluded your email by asking them to speak on the phone with you. Once they’re on the phone, you need to sell them on the idea of working with you. Here, you must get creative. You’ve already promised to give them advice, so if you just say “hey John, I’m a web designer, do you happen to need a website?,” you’ll completely blow it. Instead what you need to do is share that ‘secret’ you alluded to in the email. Spend at least 15 minutes on this; build it up and make it look good. Once you have clear proof that they find this enticing, you need to show them that you can implement this “secret strategy” for them to get them the desired result. Then and only then do you actually ask them to spend money.

After trying dozens of cold email strategies in my career, this is the one I’ve found works the best. It’s low-key, it’s relatively easy, it’s non-pushy, and it works with clients who may not immediately know that they need your services.

Give it a try sometime. You might be surprised at how many new clients you get!

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