There’s one question I get asked by newbie freelancers (and veterans if we’re being honest) more than any other.
That question is…
“How do you consistently land high-paying clients?”.
Here’s the thing.
I’ve been freelancing for around a decade, 7 years full-time.
So for me, landing clients is pretty easy cause I’ve got…
- A network to leverage for referrals
- Samples I can point to on some of my niche’s biggest publications
- A (small but useful) reputation that helps me passively attract leads
With that kind of background it’s easy for me to land clients, right?
And I’ve no idea any more what it’s like to be a newbie in this biz who has to grow their biz from making $0 to getting their first $1000 payment.
But, I’d argue that the fundamentals of business that helped me grow my business several times still apply.
And I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.
In fact, I already have.
For a long time I’ve wanted to break into the direct response world of copywriting.
So I set myself a challenge to break into a new niche where I have…
- Zero contacts and a non-existing network
- No experience besides writing a few things for myself
- Not a single portfolio entry that would be a relevant sample
For the world of direct response, I am a newbie.
Here’s the thing though. I applied the same basic business principles I always use and set to work over a few weeks.
Within 3 weeks I’d landed enough clients to get me to a 6-figure level income of $8,333 / month.
Here’s a breakdown of how I managed to land 3 clients paying me 4-figure / month agreements with 3 weeks…
… all by sending 102 super simple emails.
What’s this basic business principle you’re talking about Pete?
Let’s first get this basic element out of the way.
This is the approach I’ve used to grow my freelance copywriting business to the 6-figure level twice (had to do it again after nearly losing an eye) and am using again to grow a 6-figure info product business.
In short, the basic outline of the approach is…
- Settle on a target market
- Identify the biggest pain point they face
- Devise a solution to that pain point
- Market your solution to decision-makers within your target market
Super simple, right?
You see, as a freelancer or consultant you’re not a writer, designer, copywriter, social media assistant or whatever.
You are, at your core, a problem solver.
The best clients don’t pay for words on a page or colours on a design.
The best clients pay for at least one of the below things (often a combination of them though)…
- A good ROI – make them more money than they are paying you
- Less stress – remove the thing that’s been keeping them awake at night, helping them feel more confident they’re on the right path
- More time – give them more time to focus on the growth of their business by
- A shortcut – come in with a solution that helps them get to their destination in a much shorter time
If you can position your solution as gaining them one of the above, you’re pretty much set.
This also enables you to charge based on value rather than the deliverable. Which means more $$$ for you.
Remember, you are not simply a producer of content, designs, or basic advice.
You are a problem solver.
Great clients pay top dollar for solutions that make them more money.
Position yourself as such to generate more happiness and wealth for yourself.
Now, let’s get onto the next question I know you’ve got.
Why send 102 cold email pitches?
There are a few elements to this answer, so I’m gonna address the Qs you’ve likely got in order.
Cause I was shooting for 100 but ended up with 2 extras. And who doesn’t love an extra?
But more seriously, 100 is my own internal number to see if something is working.
If something needs to be achieved or tested, I run the action 100 times.
After 100 attempts I can say with some certainty whether it’s working or whether I need to improve things.
It’s not a perfect number, but it’s the perfect balance for manual actions between statistically significant and manageable.
And it lends itself perfectly to cold email pitching.
I also have an easy to calculate percentage (3 successes out of 100 is obviously a 3% conversion rate)
Repeating an action 100 times also allows me to quickly find the kinks in the process that need to be ironed out (so I can easily outsource it) or figure out if there are useless actions within the process that need to be cut.
But why focus on cold email outreach instead of something like SEO, content marketing, paid ads, cold calling etc?
In short, I have a great cold email process that allows me to send these without too much hassle.
Unlike content marketing, emailing my new offer directly to people allows me to quickly validate the offer.
I find out in days (not months) if this is something people would pay for. Which means I can then make a more valid judgement call on where to put time into producing content or money into ads to further promote it.
On the topic of using ads, I don’t use them at the start as direct outreach takes only time.
Sop to summarise why I sent 102 direct cold email outreaches it’s because it’s…
- Free (taking only my time)
- Allows me to validate the idea quickly before investing lots of time and/or money
- Easily implemented
- The 100 approach helps me understand what about the process I need to improve before outsourcing
- The 100 approach helps me get accurate initial feedback
Let’s take a look at the actual approach I used.
The overall approach to landing freelance or consulting clients (or breaking into a new niche)
OK, so this is the exact process I used with a few screenshots for you to check out and understand.
Also, if you want a video explanation of how to set this up and access to the exact email templates I used, simply hit the button below.
You can get access to everything I used for this on a pay-what-you-want basis with a minimum purchase fee of $10.
The first thing was to…
Step 1 – Identify my target clients
So I knew that I wanted to get some traditional direct response copywriting clients.
The question is, who are they and where do they hang out?
To figure this out I had a short think about what kind of businesses would rely on direct response copywriting and came up with a few short qualifiers.
- Would likely be selling info products
- Probably in the health, wealth, and relationships niches
- Would already have established email lists they’d primarily be doing their sales through
- Would be running ads to the kind of landing pages I wanted to try
That third point is important as it helped me find them.
I started Googling around for searches related to the kind of products these brands would be selling.
So for the wealth sector that might be “stock trading tips”.
As I’m in the UK I did this through a VPN (I use Nord VPN and it is glorious!) to show me US results and in an incognito window so my prior search history wouldn’t affect the search results.
The results look like the below.
I’d click through to each of the results to see if this was the type of thing I wanted to get involved in.
The one highlighted above led to the below page which is the exact kind of thing I’m looking for from The Motley Fool.
Anything that fit the bill was added to a spreadsheet for me to pursue later.
I did the same with the health and relationship type searches. In addition I also headed to ClickBank to see what products were doing well there.
I’d search for the most popular entries and, if they fit the bill of a good client, added them to the list.
The final step I took was to go through my email inbox and look at the emails I received. If people were selling programs, coaching, or courses I’d add them to the list.
A few things to note here.
- I only researched brands who were actively making good sales (through ClickBank’s popularity search) or those actively spending on driving traffic. Targeting brands without a budget or who aren’t yet making money drives down the fees you can charge.
- I was only interested in companies already running the kind of copy I was to offer. It’s really hard to persuade a brand to start a new marketing activity, but it’s easy to persuade them you can improve what they’re already investing in.
Step 2 – Create relevant samples
I don’t have any samples that would fit with the hard sales direct response approach these brands rely on.
So I created my own.
I first analysed the approach these brands took with their marketing. Making note of things like…
- The format of their best sales pages (the ones they’re paying to drive traffic to)
- The tone of voice they use
- The overall customer journey
- Any extra interesting elements
Then I just had t create something that fit into their style.
I’m fortunate in that I have a number of products I’ve created and am actively selling.
All I had to do was create a sales page or two in the style these brands need, then add them to my freelance portfolio.
However, I went one step further and also put one of my own products on ClickBank. I created a page and some promo material so I could better understand how ClickBank vendors have to run things.
I created one or two relevant samples and featured them in my portfolio.
At the same time I was doing this, I was building out my email list of the prospects I found in step 1.
Step 3 – Email list building
So at this point I’ve got a list of businesses who invest in this type of copywriting and their primary URLs.
My job now is to achieve one of two things.
- Find the most relevant decision maker in the company.
- Identify their direct email address
You want to only reach out to decision makers because you want to shorten the chain between you and the person who makes the decision to pay you.
By reaching out directly to these people you can get a much faster result and idea of what’s working or what isn’t.
I’d use LinkedIn Sales Navigator to find the name of the person who was one of the below;
- VP Marketing
- Director of Marketing
- Copy chief
- Direct response manager/director etc
I’d then click through the the relevant person’s page and use Snov.io.
If you don’t know about Snov.io, I’m about to blow your mind.It is, without doubt, the best email prospecting tool on the market.
I use the Chrome extension which, when on a person’s LinkedIn page, allows me to click a button to find their email.
Upon clicking, it’ll add that person’s name to a list in Snov.io’s dashboard.
I then can simple export all the names with their correct email addresses to a simple Google Sheet for me to clean up and assign extra information I might need.
Thanks to Snov.io, this process is a lot faster and has fewer errors than the tools I used to use.
When I’ve exported everything to Google Sheets, I’ll have something that looks like the below (I’ve blurred my potential client’s details for their safety).
Step 4 – Start sending cold email pitches
I uploaded the list to my CRM and started cold pitching these leads.
I’ve got a great system for cold email pitches that works better than pretty much any other approach I’ve ever tried.
I’ve got a full course on it here, through which you can get access to all of the templates and processes I use in cold email outreach, but I’ll offer a quick overview for you below.
Also, I use HubSpot’s Free CRM for this. Here’s the process.
- Upload my list
- Add people to a “deal flow” so I can accurately track things and move prospects forward appropriately
- Send the initial email
- Wait 3 business days to send the initial follow up to those who don’t respond
- Wait another 3 business days to send the final follow up to those who still haven’t responded
- If a prospect still hasn’t responded, I count them as a lost lead. I could keep chasing, but then I’m just spamming.
That is the basic flow of it all.
By using HubSpot I can create templates that allow me to send emails with just a few clicks.
Those templates are also easily editable so I can add or subtract things that might not be relevant to the prospect.
Generally speaking I operate on an 80% templated approach for cold pitching.
The greeting and name is templated to pull in the client’s first name.
Then there’s a customised, unique ice breaker and, if relevant, value builder.
After that, I have a templated section explaining who I am and why I might be worth listening to.
Basically, all I have to do is offer a little something in the ice-breaker section to make it feel unique and personalised.
If you want access to the templates and a video walkthrough of my process, you can buy them on a pay what you want basis (minimum fee of $10) through the button below.
Which brings me to the most important part of any cold outreach campaign.
Your goal is not to sell directly from the first cold email.
Hitting someone up out of the blue with a “hire me” pitch ain’t gonna work.
The goal is to open a dialogue through which you can later segue into a sales convo. And the best way to do that is to ask a specific question and provide a specific answer.
Let’s take a look at that in action.
A quick look at the cold email templates
Below I’ve just given a basic overview of the template I use for the initial email outreach.
As mentioned, this is a template. Not a copy and paste kind of deal. You’ve gotta inject your own voice into these things.
Also, I tend to run a lot of experiments on these kind of things. Each set of 100 usually has a new approach to see if it gets better or worse results than the prior one.
So this isn’t a “this is the only way to do this”, but rather a “this is a potential way of sending these emails that’s worked for me”.
But this is the overall flow of the template I used to see this success.
Question you want the answer to.
Qualifying details about you.
If I was to write one of these out now, it might look something like this.
Wondered if [BUSINESS] is in need of new copywriting talent?
You can find my portfolio in my sig, but the short version is…
– I’ve been freelance copywriting for ~10 years for clients in all sorts of niches.
– Some great wins through emails and sales page copy.
– Looking into doing more DR work after spending time as head of content/chief
I know this is a risk for you, so here’s a little freebie for you to try as a test. [DETAILS ON A SIMPLE IMPROVEMENT I NOTICE ON THEIR PAGE].
You can either bin that if you think it’s crap, or run it for free to see how much of a lift it creates.
Looking forward to hearing back from you!
Generally speaking the first cold email should be short and should focus on value and opening a convo.
However, I actually get the majority of my responses from my first follow up email.
So never forget to send that second and third email. If you’re not, you’re missing out on easy wins.
Again, I have a tonne of templates I’ve used for everything from LinkedIn to email available for you in the cold outreach email pack here.
Once you’ve opened that convo and segued into a sales call, the last step is…
Step 5 – Negotiate over the phone
It’s hard to close high-ticket deals through email alone.
I always try to get the potential client on the phone because I can both get a better understanding of if and how I can help, but I also close more deals this way.
What you want to do is use a combo of Zoom and Calendly to book these things.
Seriously, having a simple clickable link with your availability that then automatically creates a Zoom meeting will save you a tonne of time and increase your chances of landing the client.
When they agree to a phone call you send them the link, then it’s just a case of turning up to the phone call with your sales script in hand (again, something that’s available in the cold email outreach template pack).
Once that’s all done, you simply rinse and repeat as often as you’re able.
The results of 102 cold email pitches
OK, so here’s a full break down of the results and time frames of everything included in this campaign.
What I want you to focus on is the high number of negative responses.
Not that people were calling me a dick for emalining them, but rather how many people refused to work with me.
I had to deal with A LOT of rejection here, but the 3 successes are what make those a non-issue.
Here’s the full break down.
|Week #||Intended goal||Actions taken||Hours needed|
|1||Build the email list||Identify ideal prospects and pain pointBuild list of 100 peopleFind their email addresses||15 – 20|
|2||Begin cold email outreach||Build out templates to sendUse HubSpot’s CRM to send all 102 with customised templates||5-10|
|3||Continue with follow ups and negotiations||Follow up with non repliersOffer relevant responses to those who have respondedOpen negotiations with those who are interested||5-10|
|4||Continue negotiations and close deals||Finalise details with interested partiesFollow up with interested parties who aren’t yet committed to secure the dealGet contracts signed||5-10|
I actually closed the first client in week 3.
Client 2 was in week 4 (this week) and I’m just nearing the end of the negotiation and finalising terms with client #3 this week as well.
Now let’s look at the actual results from emails.
|Development||Effect||Total potential leads left|
|Total emails sent||102|
|Email bounces (incorrect address)||-17||85|
|“No thanks” responses||-9||76|
|No response at all||-63||13|
|Total leads left||13|
Ok, so out of 100 people, 13 turned into people who were interested in hearing more and potentially hiring me.
This is how those leads broke down.
|Development||Effect||Total potential leads left|
|Passed on to relevant decision maker (with no further response)||-5||8|
|My fees too high||-3||5|
|Didn’t enter final negotiations||-1||4|
So, out of 102 email sends only 4 were…
- Interested enough and in need right now
- Willing and able to pay my fees
- Had something specific I could help with
And out of those 4, 3 of them are all but confirmed for the below fees.
- Client 1 – £500 / day ($641 USD) consulting agreement. Starting at 1 day/week as a 1 month trial. Total = £2000 / month (~$2587 USD).
- Client 2 – A $5000 consulting project where I’ll be working on a single sales page and a follow-up email.
- Client 3 – A $3000 / month copywriting agreement for a handful of emails.
So, in total that’s;
- Monthly recurring income of $5587 in USD.
- Month 1 also has an extra $5000 project which, if I show up and do the work to a high standard, is probably going to become a monthly consulting gig.
So, in short, after 102 email sends I’ve guaranteed myself an income of $10,587. And knowing that most of my retainer clients stay with me for an average of 18 months, that’s a potential minimum lifetime value of $100,566.
If I can turn that final $5000 client into even a $2000 / month retainer, I’ll have achieved a 6-figure freelance income from these 102 cold emails alone.
Not a bad outcome for what amounted to less than a single week’s work of client sourcing and outreach.
Now, if you want help to achieve the same in your business, here’s what you’ve got to do.
Follow the steps in this article.
It’s as simple as that.
I can’t promise you’ll make the same amount of money, but I can promise you’ll see some form of progression with your business.
And if you want the unfair advantage of getting the exact templates I used to secure these deals, check out this “pay what you want” pack of email templates (minimum order of $10).