As much as I love a good referral, it’s the outreach that has made the biggest difference in my business. You can define the type of client (and type of work) you want to do, and once you get into the habit, it’s not difficult or time-consuming to send notes.
Plus, outreach is the single best way to ramp up a fledgling business or grow an existing one. Having a simple script makes it a simple, repeatable process. That way, you can keep up with your marketing even during your busiest periods.
As freelancers, we have tremendous flexibility. And, if we keep marketing, we can build a stable business that supports our lives.
As my business grows, I’m pickier about the type of work I take on. I have limited time and energy and want to focus on the topics and type of work that most interests me.
The best way to have agency over your business and who you work with is to get out there and make connections with marketers at the types of companies you’re interested in.
That’s where outreach comes in.
So let’s get to it.
What Is Outreach?
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines outreach as “an effort to bring services or information to people where they live or spend time.”
That sounds good to me.
As a freelance writer, I have a running list of companies I’m interested in working with, though I don’t rely on them to know who I am and what I can do for them. I don’t even know if they use freelancers.
That means my approach to outreach is to make contact, introduce myself, and aim to start a conversation. Everyone doesn’t respond, but some do.
I use LinkedIn to find the directors of marketing or directors of content and connect with them. Some of them I also connect with on Twitter.
When I was ramping up my business a few years ago, I’d reach out to these people and ask if they use freelancers.
I used to agonize over my introduction, but after sending hundreds of notes and reading what’s working for other freelancers, I’ve developed a few scripts for myself that I’ll share with you.
Three Types of Outreach (and Sample Scripts)
1. Cold outreach
If you have no connection to the company, your goal is to make a brief connection, share your skills, and ask if they use freelancers. That’s it. If you don’t hear from them, follow up in two or three weeks, then another month or two from then. It is a long game, but it does work.
Here’s a sample script you can adapt.
Dear [Prospective Client Name],
Does your company work with freelance writers? I came across your organization recently [something relevant about your background and their work].
Based on my experience, I’m confident I can create content marketing deliverables to help you meet your KPI’s. You can see what some of my editors/clients have said about me here.
Thanks for your time! I’d love to talk with you if there’s an opportunity.
Jen Phillips April
[and put your full company signature, since this is cold]
You can see it’s short. It’s as relevant as I can make it if I’m reaching out to many people. It’s what boosted my stalled business a few years ago, and I have a couple of different versions geared towards different niches.
Now that I have a mostly full schedule, I tend to opt for what AWAI member, B2B writer, and freelance coach Ed Gandia calls warm outreach.
2. Warm outreach
Ed advocates making your outreach personal, relevant, and short. This results in reaching out to fewer people but (hopefully) more targeted prospective clients.
For example, you might reach out to the marketing director at a company you’ve followed for a while and say something specific about their content and what they’re doing.
Hi [Marketing Director Name],
Congratulations on your recent round of funding! You may be ramping up your content marketing as a result. I’ve been following for a few months and really enjoyed your post on [some piece of content that you read and can make an intelligent comment on].
I’m a freelance writer in the [industry] and work with [related client or two]. If you need another writer, I’ll be happy to send samples.
[since this is warm, you can just sign your first name, but may still want to put your company name or other contact details like your LinkedIn link]
If you combine this approach with genuine connection via social media, you can make it feel natural.
3. Virtual coffee/networking
I’ve found these “hello/how are you” meet and greets work best for other creatives. They’re usually more willing to take 20 or 30 minutes to make a connection via phone or video. At the beginning of last year, one such virtual coffee has turned into $3,700 worth of enjoyable work this year and an upcoming content strategy collaboration worth much more.
For me, these are strategic. I only have so many hours in my week and only invite people I already have a shared affinity with via social media. If we seem to have a lot of shared interests, then it can be worth it to send a quick note and ask if they want to connect for a call.
Hey [Creative Colleague Name],
Since we seem to share [interests], and we’re both in content marketing, I wondered if you might want to meet online for a virtual coffee. I’m a writer for the [industry]. With your [background], it looks like we may be able to refer one another at times. Plus, we both really like [comment on a shared interest].
What do you think?
If you weren’t sure what to say to a potential prospect, now you have a starting point. You can borrow these scripts and make them your own. If you make it a habit to reach out to potential clients regularly, you’ll soon find your schedule booked!
Do you have an outreach script of your own?