How I generated $12,030 with cold e-mailing

Everyone I know absolutely hates the idea of cold calling. 

The simple thought of calling up someone on the phone you don't know and trying to get a sale is ridiculous. 

But the truth is, people still cold call because it works.

Recently, I took a new approach to this age old sales tactics and had astonishing results.

Cold e-mailing 

Photo used under Creative Commons. Courtesy of Startup Photos

Photo used under Creative Commons. Courtesy of Startup Photos

While it is similar to cold calling, sending an e-mail is far less scary than calling someone on the phone.

My experience has also shown it to be far more effective.

In the first seven months of my freelance career, I managed to close $12,030 of business from a few batches of cold e-mails.

In my past creative ventures, I have landed deals with Fortune 500 clients that have stemmed from cold e-mails. 

My goal with this post is to share with you the methods and tactics behind how to actually land clients through cold e-mailing.


Step 1) Determine your approach

When you enter the world of cold e-mailing, there are two different mentalities to take.

  1. The Quantity Approach
  2. The Quality Approach

The Quantity Approach

For most new freelance creatives, this is the approach that is best suited to take. 

The quantity approach says that if you e-mail enough prospects, then you will land a sale.

It is purely a game of numbers. 

In this approach, you will expect to e-mail at least 100 prospects with the hopes of closing 1-2 medium sized sales.

This blog post is focused around teaching you the quantity approach.

The Quality Approach

The quality approach is another way to handle cold e-mailing and is better suited for more seasoned creative professionals and creative agencies with a large portfolio under their belt.

In this approach, you will focus intently on your 25 perfect clients.

These should be your absolute dream clients, people who you would give anything to work with.

Landing a deal with one or two of these clients would pay for your entire year. 

If you are interested in reading more about the Quality Approach, then read my guest post called How I used stalking to land Fortune 500 clients.


Step 2) The one item that you MUST have before cold e-mailing

Before you ever send out a single cold e-mail, it is essential that you have one item.

Without this item, all of the time energy and effort you put into your e-mails will go completely to waste.

This item is a case study. 

Previously, I wrote a detailed blog post on how to create a case study that converts prospects into paying customers. If you don't already have a case study, I would highly recommend reading.

Your case study must:

  • Show a portfolio piece that you can be decently proud of
  • Feature a raving client testimonial 
  • It should contain text outlining three things
    • The situation the client was in
    • The intervention or service your provided
    • The end result for the client

That is everything that should be included in your case study and it should only be a single page. Keep it short and simple.

You must have a case study before ever sending out a single cold e-mail or your time will be wasted.


Step 3) Choosing your target audience

The next most important element of a successful cold e-mail campaign is choosing your target market. 

While I would love to say you can target anyone you desire and enough e-mails will land you sales, that sadly isn't the case.

Instead, you must target potential prospects who are similar to the case study that you are sending out.

Relevance is absolutely essential to cold e-mailing.

  • If you are reaching out to trade associations, then you need a trade association case study.
  • If you are reaching out to chiropractors, then you need a chiropractor case study.
  • If you are reaching out to personal trainers, then you need a fitness case study.

Your portfolio piece and offer must have relevance or it will come off as salesy and non-genuine. 

When your case study shows a happy client who was once in a similar situation as your new prospect, then that helps them connect the dots and make the purchase.  

Do not underestimate this key element of relevance. I learned this mistake the hard way.

I once targeted a niche I had no previous portfolio pieces or experience in. After sending out 125 e-mails I never even heard one single response. 

Make sure your case study is relevant to the prospects you are e-mailing.


Step 4)  Finding a list of prospects

Photo used under Creative Commons. Courtesy of Startup Photos

Photo used under Creative Commons. Courtesy of Startup Photos

The next key element of a successful cold e-mailing campaign is to find a list of prospects. 

Chances are you aren't going to find an excel spreadsheet of potential clients with all of their information neatly listed and organized.

What you will find are trade organizations or sales directories for the industry that your clients are in.

Often these directories will contain at minimum a phone number and website for the client.

If the client has a website up, then dive in and look for the answer to these three important questions.

  1. Does this look like a potential prospect?
  2. Do they have e-mail addresses listed anywhere on their site
  3. Do they have the names of key purchasers listed anywhere on their site?

If the answer is yes to at least 1 & 2, then you should proceed with an e-mail. If the answer is yes to question 3, then you are in luck.

This is a step that you can also outsource to a Virtual Assistant and save yourself a lot of time.

Try hiring someone on oDesk or eLance and they can knock out a lot of this time intensive work for you.


Step 5) How to write an e-mail that people will actually read

Now comes the fun part, the part of actually writing and sending the e-mail. 

But before that I want to explain one important ground rule before we get started.

Never copy and paste a blanket statement in your e-mails 

Below I have given you a general outline of an e-mail that you can send to clients, but it is essential that you don't just copy and paste this e-mail.

In fact you can't because you will notice in the brackets are areas where you must fill in relevant information that is specific to the prospect and a review of their current situation.

Below is an example of a cold e-mail script that landed me a $4,250 client.

[Prospect names],
Recently I came across [Company name] in the [Directory where I found their information] and I wanted to reach out. My name is Jake Jorgovan and recently I finished up a website design project for [case study client] and wanted to reach out to similar companies.
When I came across the [Client's website], I noticed [review of 2-3 things that I found wrong with the clients website]. With the [case study client], we were able to build a professional site and get it up and running in under three weeks. Their site is mobile friendly and extremely easy for anyone at the company to update.
If you are interested in rebuilding your website, please let me know and we would be more than happy to help you out. Also, I have attached a case study for [Case study client] with a raving testimonial from the owner of the company.
Thank you [Prospect name] and I look forward to hearing from you.
Jake Jorgovan

The single most important part of this e-mail is in the second paragraph. The review of 2-3 things about the client is crucial.

As a web designer, this was easy because I could just review problems I noticed with their website.

For others such as copywriters, illustrators, or marketers, your reviews may take on a different form.

The single most important thing is to be able to demonstrate in that paragraph that you did you research and that this e-mail is tailored specifically to that client. 


Step 6) Following up

Generally I will send one follow up attempt 7-10 days after the initial e-mail with a short inquiry such as.

[Prospect name],
I wanted to send a quick follow up to see if you received my e-mail from last week in regards to your new website design. Please let me know if you are interested and I look forward to hearing from you.
Jake Jorgovan

I am consistently amazed at the return rates I get from this second round of e-mails.

While people will often ignore the first e-mail, a second e-mail goes a long way in letting the prospect know that you are real and you are interested in helping them. 

Generally, I have found that if the prospect doesn't respond after the second e-mail, then they simply aren't interested or they are not ready to buy.


Step 7) How many e-mails to send

I am going to be honest here, you can expect to send roughly 100 e-mails to close 1-2 jobs. 

If your offer is relevant and you have a case study with the required elements, then this will greatly increase your chances.

While this may seem like a lot of e-mails and a lot of work, if you break it up over time it isn't that bad. 

If you hire a virtual assistant to help out with the initial prospecting and research, that will save you a large amount of time.

Once the research is prepared, I have found that I can send out roughly 25 e-mails in 2-3 hours.

Generally I make a goal of sending 25 e-mails a week for about a month. Then I take a break or I find that I will burn out.  

While cold e-mailing can be effective, it can be draining as well. 


Step 8) How to keep cold e-mails organized

For sending out cold e-mails, I highly recommend utilizing Gmail because of the powerful plug-ins that are available to aid you in your e-mail campaign.

There are two plug-ins in particular that I could not live without.

Yesware - This is a low cost monthly plug-in that allows you to track if prospects are opening your e-mails, and then it will automatically remind you if the prospect does not return your e-mail within a set period of time. 

This tool is great for reminding yourself to follow up with prospects after the initial e-mail

Streak - This is a simple and free customer relationship plug-in that installs directly to Gmail. It is essentially an excel spreadsheet with some additional functionalities that allows you to easily track and organize your prospect information.

This is a great way to keep all of your cold e-mails in one place and to easily track who has responded, and who you need to follow up with.


What to expect with cold e-mailing

Long sales cycles

If you need cash tomorrow, then cold e-mailing isn't for you. Cold e-mailing is an investment and it can take a long time for a prospect to turn into a customer.

Once I had e-mailed a prospect twice with absolutely no response. Five months later I received an e-mail from the prospect saying that they loved my e-mail and needed help with a new website. 

Patience is key with cold e-mailing.

Sometimes the prospect may be a good fit, although it may not be the right time for them to buy. 

Generally, cold e-mail sales can take 2-4 months to go through. From my experience, buyers who bite on these kind of offers tend to be extremely busy or slow moving. 

Not reliable as your only source of income

Cold e-mailing has been a great way to generate a solid amount of revenue, but it is not the most stable source of income.

Generally cold e-mail sales can feel a bit like luck at times.

Don't count on cold e-mailing as your only source of clients. While it can be great additional revenue, it should act as a supplement to other more stable forms of income such as utilizing oDesk.

Burn out

Cold e-mailing is not the most fun thing to do. Chances are no one sits around and dreams about cold e-mailing all day.

If you focus on this technique for too long, it is easy to burn out and you will feel overwhelmed by the amount of e-mails and prospects that you need to keep up with.

I recommend trying 100 e-mails first and then taking a break for a month.

Cold e-mailing is great but you can quickly burn yourself out if you don't take breaks. 



Cold e-mailing is a decent investment in time, but the payoff potential is great. 

Not only do you have the potential of landing new clients with this method, you also have the potential to expand your network to a whole new group prospects.

Some of my cold e-mail prospects have referred me to other prospects after the job. This has lead to additional follow up sales beyond my initial cold e-mail client.

You never know where cold e-mailing will take you, but it has the ability to open up doors and help you land more clients.

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