Discover 6 different pitch approaches with these cold email templates for freelancers. Learn how to send cold emails to land new clients.

Cold emails are one of the best ways to get leads as a freelancer in 2024. But in order to get people to open your pitches in their inbox, you need the right cold emailing formula. In this article we look at the winning strategies, supercharging your lead generation!

The 6 key elements to a winning cold email

All successful freelance cold emails share the same elements.

Think of these as building blocks that you can shuffle around, based on your email marketing goal.

  • Intro: clearly communicating who you are, mentioning something that you have in common, or just complimenting them on a recent business success.
  • Pain point: triggering a pain point is important, it shows that you understand the client's perspective, and that commonality is a great way to start forming a connection.
  • Offer: this is where you pitch what you can do, how you can solve that pain point, and why you are the right person for that job.
  • Value: the best way to make business owners to want to work with you is to give, give, give. We call this providing value. Start solving their pain point. Give a free peak into how you work. Give something small, immediately useful,
  • Case Study: it is proof of your previous successes. This can a portfolio link, a YouTube video, or an article hosted on Medium. Basically examples of your work. The point to is to SHOW that you deliver what you claim to do.
  • CTA, or Call to Action: this is where you ask the person to take an actionable next step. Book a call, sign up, reply to the email, and so on.

As you can see the key to a winning cold email as a freelancer is to almost always include certain elements

Cold Email Structure, What Should every cold email have?

    These elements are:

    • Clearly communicate what value you provide (offer, pain points and solutions)
    • Offer proof that you can deliver on your claim (case studies)
    • Provide value by already starting to solve their problem (value)
    • Get them to engage with you (call to action)

    What differs is HOW you shuffle around these building blocks.

    Let's take a look at a number of different ways you can do this!

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    6 cold email templates for freelancers

    Formula 1—Intro, Offer, Case Study and CTA

    This template puts great emphasis on being direct.

    After the intro we get straight to the offer part, meaning that we do not waste the time of our

    Here's an example.

    Cold email strategy, "the direct"

    Formula 2—Intro, Case Study, Value CTA

    The best cold emails provide proof.

    This template gives additional emphasis to that by putting the case study first.

    These type of emails work really well when you have tangible results to showcase. This means real numbers, like "We recently raised MRR for a company by 62% by using the..."

    Cold email strategy, "the proof"

    Formula 3—Intro, Pain Point, Case Study, Value CTA

    This one is about finding common ground.

    If you can get the pain point right, people will FEEL that you understand them. And potential clients will love you for that.

    Hitting client pain pints are one the best copywriting tricks to build trust fast with new clients.

    Cold email strategy, "the pain"

    Formula 4—Question, Case Study, Intro, Value CTA

    This is a provocative template.

    It can come off quite sales-y if you start with a question. But if done right, it can cut across a lot of red tape.

    For example, a freelance writer could start the email with "Have you noticed that your competition is driving leads via a great blog?"

    Questions work, because they get straights to the point and places those little nagging hooks in our mind, wanting us to find out what happens.

    Cold email strategy, "to the point"

    Formula 5—Intro, Question, Value CTA

    All cold email that converts has this one thing in common: they talk about value.

    This approach tries to bring this value proposition to the forefront, by including as little elements as possible. Short, straight to the point.

    Cold email strategy, "the value"

    Formula 6—Intro, Value CTA, PS Case study

    Pitching new clients is a tough job. You only have a couple of lines to retain attention, build trust, and get them to actually ACT on the call to action.

    Effective cold emails have this one thing going for them: they are human.

    Us humans are social creatures, we like to form connections with other human beings. This formula does that job well by implementing a PS section. This makes your email a little bit more approachable, little bit more human, adding a humanizing, "oh I forgot to mention" touch.

    Cold email strategy, "the human"
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    Creating the perfect email subject line

    So far we have been talking about the winning formula when it comes to doing cold email pitches.

    But one key element of cold email campaigns is the subject line.

    In fact, getting the subject line right (and thus, your open rates right) can easily 2x your success rate with cold emails.

    A good email subject line is short, feels personal, and gets the client's mind going.

    Here are three examples of a high performing subject lines:

    • "John X Peter"—first name of your lead, first name of you
    • "Hi John"—the first name of your lead, this is personal, straight to the point, friendly. It encourages the lead to open this email.
    • "Thoughts John?"—another great one, irritating that curiosity itch, do try it!
    • "quick question"—this is an oldie but goldie. It gets overused tho, so I hardly go with this nowadays

    I recommend that you experiment with these, and see what gets you the best open rates.

    Peter's take—how I got my big break with cold pitching

    When I started my freelance business I only had limited funds. And thus, limited time.

    Basically I had a 1 month's worth of money on my bank account. I was not smart, to be honest.

    The decision to start cold emailing basically saved my ass.

    I sent out about 500 emails in the then emerging escape room niche, offering my SEO services, and it worked! I got about 15 calls out of that initial run, and landed a staggering 10-ish clients.

    So here's my take: Cold email can be one the cheapest & fastest ways to get freelance work.
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    Build credibility with a professional email signature

    When business owners working with or hiring a freelancer—or even engage with one in the first place—trust plays a huge role in what they decide about your initial outreach.

    We already talked about how case studies help with trust building.

    But your email signature also plays a huge role in this.

    A good email signature will portray you in the best possible light, helping you win new business. It is essentially your wingman.

    What makes an email signature work for you is:

    • Have a photo: smiling, warm, human and approachable photo goes a long way when it comes to establishing that you are a great gal/guy
    • Link to a website: link to your professional website and portfolio, if you have one, if not, no worries, you can use your social media.
    • Social media: always create a free LinkedIn profile, and set it up to a 100% competition. Add friends, past colleagues, showcase that you are a real person that can be trusted.
    • Phone number, address: these are up to your personal preferences, but I would add a phone number 10 out of 10 times. It's a great way to show that you take your business seriously!

    You can easily create a free signature with tools like Hubspot's email signature generator. Here's an example of a killer freelance signature.

    The cold emailing mindset for freelancers

    Finally, let's talk about mindset.

    Because this is one of the biggest mistake that I see new freelance entrepreneurs make. They do not approach cold emailing in the right state of mind.

    So let's get things clear:

    You are not here to ask for a freelance job. You are here to help.

    I see sooo many freelancers placing themselves below the client, basically begging to be noticed. This puts you at an immediate disadvantage: you communicate that you are not an equal, and that you need charity work. Meaning: you are not an expert.

    What you need to adopt is called the consultative selling.

    It's basically a fancy term saying that you should ask questions. Because as a freelancer, as a consultant, you are here to HELP the client.

    So whatever cold emailing writing you are doing, remember this. You are on equal foot with the business owner.

    You are a team, ready to tackle a problem. Their problem, and that has value.

    Common questions about cold emailing

    Q: What is a good open rate?

    A good open rate for cold emails typically falls between 30-50%, though this can vary depending on industry and audience. But certain subject lines can get this to above 80% (however, if you are just about to send your first cold email ever, don't set this as a target. 40% is already great.)

    Q: What is a good reply rate?

    A good reply rate is generally considered to be around 10-15%. And yes, we include stuff like "not interested" in the reply rate, not just the positive replies.

    Q: How personalized should my emails be?

    Personalized cold email increases the chance of a response. This could include using the recipient's name, referencing relevant information about them or their company, and tailoring the content to their specific needs or interests.

    Q: How long should my emails be?

    The length of emails should be concise and to the point, generally ranging from 50-125 words in a cold email. Each sentence should be its own line. And be brutal about weeding out filler phrases, words. Every word should have a purpose.

    Q: Should I verify email addresses before sending them?

    Yes! Always do this with potential leads! Verifying their email addresses is a must have in order to avoid hard bounces, and to preserve the integrity of your email account. We don't want Google or any provider to ban your business domain. There are services that can help with this. Here's a free option to do this, but what I really like is Debounce.

    Q: What is an acceptable bounce rate for my cold emails?

    Bounce is tough. If you send emails to non-existent email addresses, your emails will "bounce". This is bad, because your email provider will flag your email account as spam. Make sure that your bounce rate is below 3%.

    Q: Should I use emojis, images, or memes in my cold emails?

    Up to you really. A truly cold email is like meeting somebody on a blind date. It's all about first impressions and authenticity. So, I encourage you to be "you", meaning if you feel that memes are on-brand for you, go for it! But if you feel that using memes or emojis are forced, than it's probably not for you, and that's OK!

    Q: How many emails should I send?

    Cold email outreach performs well in big quantities and over time. I would suggest to try at least 300 emails in your initial test run, and with such a quantity, you can run a simple, one-variable A/B test as well.

    Q: Should I do follow up emails?

    Yes! Send your first email following up your initial outreach after 2-3 days. You can a second round as well, a couple of days later.

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