Yes, your new clients are out there! And now that you’ve created your list of potential clients (see my post Who Are Your Potential Clients), you need to contact them. What’s your best approach?
1. Let’s say you’ve decided to forego the middle man – marketing agencies who already have the clients but will pay you less than if you get the contract yourself – and you’ve compiled your list of Fortune 500 companies that you’re interested in working with, for example. Set daily goals: three emails per day? Five? Don’t forget, you’ll need to do some research on these companies so writing these emails could take up most of your work morning. You don’t contact HR because they are in charge of “hiring” people and you don’t want to be hired because you’re a freelancer. So you need to contact the person responsible for writing or illustration/graphic design: Communications director, Marketing director, PR director, etc. How do you find their emails? You’ll need to either call the company directly and ask the receptionist for that person’s email address, which may or may not prove fruitful. You can certainly cold call your potential client, but that’s a whole other beast: see my post on Cold Calling. If reception won’t lend a hand, you can do some digging on the company website. If you search the press releases, you can usually find a name and email of the Communications director or advisor. You can always try to Google the person and see if his or her contact details come up. Or if you find the email of any employee then you know the format the company uses, e.g. SallySmith@XYZ.com and you can just plug in the name of your potential client and away you go! All that being said, you can always contact someone in a closely related department that could help you get in touch with the person you’re searching for.
2. Once you’ve got your email list compiled, what do you plan on writing? Firstly, use the contact’s name in the greeting to make it personal. Then, if you have a connection at that company already, use the referral right out of the gate, possibly even in the subject line of the email “RE: referred by Jane Doe”. You can then introduce yourself briefly “My name is Sally Smith and I’m an illustrator. I was referred to you by Jane Doe”. You can mention how you’re connected to Jane if it’s relevant: You did some work for her on XYZ campaign; you met at the conference in Toronto; she mentioned that your potential client might need your services, etc. A referral always looks good. If you don’t have one, then start out with your BRIEF (i.e. 2 lines max) intro of yourself and your services.
3. The next paragraph should be about the potential client – company XYZ – this will show that you did your homework, you’re interested in what they do, you know they won an award last year for this or that, you saw their impressive booth and demonstration at a trade show, etc. Say something that shows you know what they’ve achieved and that THAT is what drives you to want to work with them: they’re the best in their business and you only work with the best.
4. Now, get to the point: What are you offering them that they need? Not only your services that are at great rates, on time and reliable, but a very specific type of help that not many people can provide. Show a connection between your work and their needs: They’re a software company and you have over 10 years of experience writing about that specific software; They are making strides in their sustainable approaches and you have your degree in environmental studies and can help them write/manage their annual sustainable development report; They are an architecture firm and you have experience creating technical drawings… There are numerous ways to make a connection that will show that your services will provide value for them.
5. Include a link to your online portfolio. You need samples of work and they need to be easily accessible.
6. Conclude the letter by saying you’ll give them a call next week AND DO IT, or include your coordinates and the best time to reach you. Make the call to action as easy for them as possible.
Your email should be no longer than a few paragraphs in total. Edit, edit and edit until it’s shiny, professional, concise and enthusiastic. Then spell check it and read it again. It will be time-consuming because you need to tailor each email to each potential client, but the more tailored you write them, the better your chances at getting new clients. It’s a numbers game so make it work for you!