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How to Write a Cold Email That Will Actually Get a Response

Oct 1, 2020
(updated: Feb 14, 2023)
Lesson duration: 5 min

Cold emailing usually fails. It’s a difficult form of communication because you have no relationship with the receiver yet. And the fact that the average worker receives 121 emails a day isn’t playing to your advantage. 

But a good cold email can work. And does work. Big businesses and partnerships have been built from sending one effective cold email. A well-thought-out emailing strategy is the difference between garnering your next client or another message moved to the trash bin.

Sending a cold email that actually works comes down to just five key components:

1. Finding the right client to send a cold email to

You want to narrow your potential audience to the niches in which you fit best. If you’ve previously seen success writing blog posts related to the automotive industry, a smart move would be to continue writing blog posts related to the automotive industry.

A generalist writer will have a variety of topics to write about, but potential (high-paying) clients are typically seeking experts. If you’ve developed expertise in a particular field, leverage that past success to open more doors in the same area. Once you’ve identified a market that you’ve already brought value to, cold emailing potential clients in the same market will be a little warmer.  

2. Personalize your cold emails

People can spot a generic email from a mile away, so if the only thing you’re changing is the name that comes after “Dear”, you’ve got some work to do. This starts with research.

Let’s say you want to guest post on this person’s blog. Or you have an idea for a recurring partnership. Begin the conversation by complimenting a prior piece of their content, or expressing how much you’ve enjoyed reading their blog because of your interest in [insert corresponding topic here]. A hint of flattery (but not over-the-top) can go a long way.

From here, you can transition into the idea you have as a writer. The ice is broken, you’ve related to the prospective client on a personal level, and you’re ready to demonstrate what you can bring to their table. 

3. Making your value proposition clear

Now you’re at the table and it’s time to validate why. You’re still a stranger, and even though you’ve done your research, the reader likely knows nothing about you.

Before you send a cold email, ensure that your value proposition is crystal clear. The person on the receiving end will likely look at it as just another message in an overflowing virtual mailbox. If they don’t recognize your value, you can expect not to receive a message back.

Highlight a previous writing accomplishment. Have you written a blog post that increased traffic to a previous client’s website? Or got a substantial amount of comments and shares? Keep the message succinct, but don’t be afraid to highlight tangible, numbers-based merit. If you can solve a pain-point, even better.

4. Include a call-to-action (CTA) in your cold email

The recipient understands what you offer and sees potential. Now what?

How to write a cold email 101: Include a CTA, but keep it simple. You want to avoid sounding salesy. Ask to schedule a phone call, a Zoom meeting, or some feedback on the idea. You’re simply looking for an open door to further the conversation.

5. Gratitude and a strong signature  

Always end the cold email with a thank you and expressing your gratitude. Remember, they don’t know you, and asking for an opportunity is asking for a favor. Coming across as friendly, kind, and personable when cold emailing for networking will make people want to help. 

Additionally, polish your signature. A simple, sleek signature that includes your name, job title and/or services, and a phone number will make you look more professional and trustworthy. 

The truth about how to write a cold email 

There is no magic formula or template that guarantees a response. But catering to the client and sounding more human will likely do much better than the impersonal, generic emails that many freelancers tend to send.

Final tip: Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. People like talking to people, not robots.

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