Sending Outreach Emails to Land Your First Client? Check These 6 Points First

As a new freelancer, your ability to communicate effectively via email with people you don't yet know is really... your license to write your own PayPal paycheck. Sure, the first step is to develop the skill set for the particular services you're planning to support clients with, but once you know exactly what you have to offer, it's time to get really good at letting people know about it.

There are two key ways you can master outreach:

1. Start sending emails to potential clients on your target list, be self-aware in reviewing the responses (or lack thereof) and adjust your future approach accordingly.

2. Borrow the experience and insights of your fellow freelancers through their blogs, example email templates you can find online and informal (free) or structured (paid) mentorships.

Consider this post your jumping off point for strategy 2 above. I've brought together some of the very best advice I've found from successful freelancers who know how to craft an outreach email that gets a positive response.

So pull up a copy of the very last email you wrote to a potential client, or that draft you're still perfecting, and run it through this checklist of 6 crucial elements.

Then click through on each of the resources linked below to study the full version of the advice, in context.

I promise you, when you're done with all 7 posts (this oneplus the 6 linked below) you'll be in a position to dramatically reduce the unbillable time you need to spend securing your first few paying clients.

1. Have you personalized the subject line in some way?

Before you can get your potential client to consider what it is you have to offer, you first need to get them to actually open your email. Ruben at Bidsketch provides this example to clarify:

Bad subject lines:
“Freelance Web Developer” or “freelance design help”.

These subject lines could literally be from any freelancer in the world to any client in the world. On the other hand, a good subject line shows you’ve gotten personal with my wants and dreams.

Good subject line:
“Robert, I’d like to send you great freelance leads.”

If I received an email with the title above, I’m immediately going to open the email, because I know that this person knows who I am and what I do. He couldn’t send that subject line to the masses.

Read Ruben's full advice in context:

How to Write a Great Email to a Cold Lead

2. Does your email show that you've been paying attention to your potential client's goals?

It's a great start to be well aware of your potential client's overall business model and website, but can you take it one step further and find out what specific project or goal they're actually focusing on right now?

Devan Ciccarelli over at Nusii says:

"Become a Sherlock Holmes and look for details that you can use in your pitch instead of general tidbits of information."

Read Devan's full advice in context:

The Freelancer's Guide to Cold Email Outreach

sherlock-homesImage by Nusii

3. Have you included some point of connection with your potential client?

The detective work you did in the previous step can also carry over here and become your unique point of connection with the client.

Alternatively, what other relevant common ground can you find to make mention of in your outreach email to a new potential client? Here's some suggestions from Ryan Robinson on the Skillcrush blog:

"The less cold you can make your email, by showing you’ve done your homework on the recipient, the higher your chances of getting a response. Look for any mutual connections, shared interests, professional societies, or notable achievements that’ll give you the opportunity to mention something relevant to them. With my example email above, I mentioned a mutual love of animals in the subject line. In my research on the person I was reaching out to, I found that she loved sharing photos of her dogs on Twitter and Instagram—so much so that she regularly talked about dogs on her personal blog as well. I happen to love dogs, so this was a natural way to make an instant connection with her. With a little time, you can find something that’ll genuinely connect you with your recipient, too.”

Read Ryan's full advice in context:

6 Tips for Landing Your Dream Job with a Cold Email

Remember, making that point of connection with a potential client is even more powerful and relevant before you have a ton of experience under your belt. For more ideas to find that connection point, read this post.

4. Does your email have just ONE single goal?

When you're sending an email to a business owner to offer your services, remember, your one and only goal is to get an initial response. When you do, you can build on the relationship from there, but if you never receive that first response because your email is too long or multifaceted... well, it's going nowhere.

Gregory Ciotti, content marketer at Help Scout, describes it this way:

"Last but not least, remember: One email, one desired outcome. If you’re asking for 2+ things, you’re really asking for ZERO things, because no busy person is going to have time for that. One goal at a time."

Read Gregory's full advice in context:

How to Email Busy People <-- This is one sensational resource!

5. Does your email include a suggested next step?

If you've done a brilliant job checking off the points above, then be sure to bring it home with a solid finish to your email. Your goal here is to save your potential client time and brainpower as much as you possibly can. Basically, you want to start off the relationship with a 'teaser' of what it would be like when you're there making their life easier. Robert Williams from Let's Workshopshares this pro tip for email outreach:

"Just by suggesting a next step at the end of my email, I was able to double the amount of people who responded to me.This next step was different for every email, but it always followed the same 2-step structure. I would include:

1. My suggested next step.
2. What we could do in the event they don’t want to do that."

Read Robert's full advice in context:

The Right Way to End an Email to a Client

6. How fast and easy would it be for someone to respond to your email?

Ready for the final acid test? Here it is right here:

"The end of your email should be easy to reply to in seconds. You don't want to give a busy lead more work. If the lead can say "sounds good" you're probably on the right track."

This nugget of wisdom also comes from Robert over at Let's Workshop. Here's the post to study:

How to double your cold email response rate

Okay, so after reading through these 6 snippets, how are you feeling? Were you right on track with your email writing approach or can you see some room for tweaks?

In either case, just think of email outreach like a cool experiment in which you get to observe cause and effect in human interactions. There are more than enough business owners looking for someone like you to support them, so don't worry at all about making a wrong move. Just gradually improve with the goal to save yourself time and secure the clients that you really would enjoy working with.

And if you're providing ongoing support services like blog management or email marketing, then the good news is you won't need to be doing this forever. Get your schedule booked up, and then top up with referrals and hand-selected dream clients as you go.

If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend clicking through to all of the resource posts linked above and gleaning all you can from each one. Pure gold!