Freelance Sales

A 6-Step Killer Cold Outreach Strategy for Freelancers

Post by
Jake from Betterlance
A 6-Step Killer Cold Outreach Strategy for Freelancers

When most people hear “cold outreach”, they shiver.

It’s a growth strategy that’s ruffled some feathers in the past, and has bad actors who send nothing but spam.

Despite that, email continues to deliver high return on investment (ROI). According to VentureBeat it even outperforms social, paid ads, and affiliate marketing.

So what makes the difference between producing ugly spam and successful cold outreach?

The key is establishing a good strategy. Plain and simple.

We’ll cover the following six points to help you craft a great cold outreach strategy:

  1. A goal: What are you trying to accomplish with this cold outreach?
  2. A target client: Who are the particular people you are reaching out to?
  3. A clear offering: What is the specific product or service you’re offering clients?
  4. A value focus: What can you give away before you ask for anything?
  5. A strong proof point: What can you show to prove your value?
  6. A direct action: How can they get started immediately?

Download the Cold Outreach Strategy Worksheet 

1: Set a Goal

Let’s work backwards and start with the end in mind.

Fast forward 3 months. What would a successful outcome for your cold outreach look like?

Do you have two new retainer clients? Did you land a specific type of project you’ve been shooting for? Has your network grown in a meaningful way?

It’s hard to know if something is working without first settling on what success means. Deciding on the goal ahead of time will keep you from hitting roadblocks later on.

Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Read more about SMART goals here.

Here are a few goal examples to consider:

  • Schedule 3 consultation calls within 60 days
  • Land 1 new project in the first 5 weeks
  • Get 10 replies that lead to email conversations with new potential clients over 3 months

2: Niche down your target client

Casting too wide of a net will lead to significant frustration, both for you and your target clients.

Most clients want to know that you can solve their particular problem. That you’ve had success before helping businesses like theirs. That you can repeat that success. It is actually a business risk for them to use someone that doesn’t have that experience. 

A big challenge to overcome in cold-outreach: too much distance between what you’re offering and what they actually need. A generic, one-size-fits-all approach probably won’t satisfy.

The more you can close that gap ahead of time the better.

In the following example, which target has a better chance of quickly finding the right fit?

  • I build websites for small businesses
  • I build websites for Michelin-star restaurants located in New York City

The first one has a potential pool of millions of clients.

The second has a potential pool of 75.

In the smaller targeted pool, it's much easier to:

• craft a single compelling outreach message / story

• get confirmation on whether your target is interested in your offering

• tweak and adjust to optimize for better results

• prove repeatable success with the same type of client

Let’s face it, if you try to boil the ocean you’re going to fail.

Instead, take a targeted approach and go after a much smaller and more specific pool of clients.

3: Clarify your offering

Can you describe your service or offering in one or two sentences?

People have so many distractions, and very limited attention spans. So you need to concisely describe what you are able to do, how you do it, and for what type of business/client. 

Most freelancers struggle with this. More often, they think they have a good answer, but they really don’t. 

This means anyone you reach out to is going to have serious questions about what it is you do and how you do it.

Don’t leave your leads with any questions. Period.

Think through your offering. What questions do you get asked often from new clients? How can you answer those questions up front? 

What variables often cause your clients tension? This might be timeline, cost, or deliverables. How can you cut those variables from the equation?

It’s important to think through what might prevent someone from becoming a client. You want to make it as clear and easy for someone to become a client as possible.

4: Give away something valuable

Most of the cold outreach you get feels like a sales pitch. The focus is on the seller and what they are offering.

One of the best ways for you to stand out and find success is to flip the script.

Instead of focusing on you and what you’re selling, focus on your client.

Think about the problems they face, the needs they have, and how you can help them.

Write them down.

Now, thinking about adding value: think through ways you can solve one or more of their problems NOW for FREE.

Yes, free. No, it’s not crazy. And it doesn’t have to be huge.

Can you share an interesting piece of content with them that they would find helpful? Can you give them a market or competitive insight? Is there a free tool or resource that you can give them to use?

The key is to provide value before asking for anything. This puts the spotlight on your client and not on you.

So, even in a small way, this client views you as a difference maker to their business, right from the beginning.

5: Show, don’t tell

Unless you’re a master with the pen (or keyboard), it’s easier to win someone over by showing instead of telling.

This proof can take many forms. A blurb, testimonial, case study, whitepaper, article, or portfolio piece.

You can often do it in a single phrase too. “I helped {company they know} increase leads by 25%” or “Here’s an example of an article I wrote for {prominent publication}”

Social proof can help pique a client’s interest and show the value you can generate for them, if they hire you.

Consider making it easy to learn more about you and your work by linking or attaching a portfolio or slide deck.

This allows someone interested in you to see examples of your work, read testimonials, and get questions answered quickly.

6: One action, get a reply

There are many potential actions we could direct our client to, but you should focus on only one. The reply. 

The most important thing is to start a conversation.

The easiest way to do that is for them to hit the reply button to the email you sent.

Sure, we could ask them to go to our website, fill out a form, schedule a meeting, or many other things. But in most cases those all create some extra work for your lead.

Any more work means adding friction and increasing the likelihood of losing the lead. They might lose interest while filling out your form, get distracted, or have questions pop up. We don’t want that to happen.

We want the shortest path possible for them to connect with us. 

No one likes spam. And no one wants to send spam.

Focusing on your strategy ensures you approach cold outreach with the right intentions. 

It puts your clients first, focuses on their needs, and positions you to add real value.

And that’s what every client wants.

Download the Cold Outreach Strategy Worksheet 

Ready to grow your freelance business?
Start for free today.

Get the ultimate sales tool for freelancers.