How I Landed 2 Writing Clients and $1,000+ in Just 7 Emails

Marketing emails can get clients for freelance writersBy Jessica Leigh Brown

Have you ever needed to scare up a few new freelance writing clients? That was me in early January.

To spread the word, I decided to email all my past freelance writing clients, along with prospective clients I’d already connected with.

I’m relatively new to freelancing, so that meant sending a grand total of seven emails.

But those seven messages landed me two new clients and four article assignments — a total of $1,050 in freelance writing gigs — over the next month. I also got responses from a few more clients, saying they’ll probably have work for me later.

What to say

Did I make some kind of amazing sales pitch in these emails? No, I’m terrible at sales pitches.

In essence, all I said to each client was “Happy new year!” — and “Here’s my schedule for the next month or two. I have some availability between X and X, so if you need help with a project, let me know.”

That’s it — just touching base. So why did these messages meet with such success?

Make it personal

When I originally thought of sending emails to past and prospective clients, I posted a question in the Freelance Writer’s Den to see if anyone else had tried this method.

A few other writers had, and everyone urged me to go ahead — but to make each email personalized instead of mass-mailing my holiday greetings.

Writing personalized emails is always a better way to get gigs. Addressing a prospect by name shows that you’re willing to make an effort to write for their publication or business — and that you’re not just a spam-bot, sending out thousands upon thousands of identical emails.

In each of my touch-base emails, I reminded the prospect of the last time we’d talked. For example, “Last time we chatted, I’d expressed interest in writing for your publication, X.”

Making that link helps the communication feel like you’re picking up an old conversation, rather than starting cold.

Make it timely

The holidays are a great time to send your clients well-wishes — and update them on those gaps you want to fill in your work calendar. But you could send touch-base emails at any time of year.

The best time to send out touch-base emails is several weeks before you have a looming gap in your schedule. That way, clients have time to consult their own schedules, plan ahead, and — hopefully — give you assignments to help fill yours.

Make it short

Let’s face it: We’re writers. We like to play with words, and sometimes that means we’re long-winded.

While vivid descriptions and in-depth analyses might be needed in your writing projects (depending on the type of gigs you take), it’s better to avoid them in touch-base emails.

Instead, go for brevity and clarity. Just a few lines will do the job.

Here’s an example based on one of my New Year’s emails:

Subject: Happy new year, and January availability

Hi Once-or-Future-Client,

Just wanted to take a moment to wish you a happy new year! Hope 2014 is off to a great start for you and yours.

Last time we communicated, I’d expressed interest in writing for [Your Publication]. I’m arranging my freelance schedule for the next month or two, and wondered if you need help with any upcoming projects? I will be fully booked from X to X, but have some availability in [month].

Let me know. Thanks, and have a wonderful week!

Best,
Jessica Brown

Give it a try

My two new clients are a trade journal editor who’s given me article assignments for two magazines she edits, and a custom publisher that produces travel-related web content.

Not bad for a quick hit of painless marketing. If you’re running low on work, I challenge you to give touch-base emailing a try. It just might yield some lucrative new freelance writing gigs.

Jessica Leigh Brown is a freelance journalist who loves telling stories. Currently, she writes for trade journals, websites, magazines, and a business college’s alumni publication.

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27 comments on “How I Landed 2 Writing Clients and $1,000+ in Just 7 Emails
  1. Sherry says:

    Thanks for this wonderful little reminder, Jessica!

    It motivated me to work through a few of those received notes in my LinkedIn inbox with a little reminder for them what it is I can help them with.

    Fingers crossed for a few extra projects in the near future!
    Sherry recently posted…Mastering The Art of EditingMy Profile

  2. Julie says:

    This is an encouraging tip. I have done the same — maybe not landed over $1,000 doing this, but at least I know you’re right. Touching base really does work.

  3. Casey says:

    Go, Jessica! I love your short and sweet follow-up email. To the point and a nice reminder that they’ll want to get you before you’re fully booked.

  4. Megan says:

    This is great advice and has worked well for me in the past! Personally, I have more success when I keep my emails as friendly as possible. I think as freelancers, we tend to forget that our clients are just people who happen to need a job done. I’ve found more positive results when I send out emails with a tone that is more friendly than professional. People are more likely to give the first jobs to the individuals they have the best relationship with.

  5. Aahna says:

    Hey Jessica,

    Really amazing technique, I think you mixed both time limit and well wishing together to create the urgency for your client. If you can create any kind of urgency then you’re more likely to influence your target audience to take your mentioned step.

  6. I meant to do this at the start of the year and completely let it go. I think I may send out emails to celebrate my birthday next week. Thank you for the reminder!
    Williesha Morris recently posted…2 Ways Breakups Can Rock Your Business (For Good!)My Profile

  7. Emelia says:

    Hi Jessica, I’ve been trying this type of marketing since January. I didn’t get responses form the emails i sent; but, I truly believe in this strategy though it hasn’t worked for me yet. Your post encouraged me to keep on trying.

    Thanks.
    Emelia recently posted…Do You Know These 4 Things You Must Do Quickly After Attending a Free Webinar?My Profile

    • Jessica B. says:

      Thanks, Emelia! Yeah, so much about this approach has to do with getting that email in front of the editor at the moment when he/she needs a writer. Timing is everything, and it’s often impossible to tell when the right time is to catch an editor – so it really is a numbers game. Glad this encouraged you to keep at it!

  8. Mitch says:

    Hey Jessica,
    Congratulations on the new clients,
    i loved the feel of confidence (in your work) that you projected, and how you kept it short, professional and straight into the point.
    but i would say testing with only 7 emails is too low to rate the approach,
    but i hope you don’t mind, i’m gonna try sending your email , test it myself.
    i guess i would also go with a personal title,
    let them know this email was specifically sent to them, and i’m not just forwarding to a long list.
    Many thanks and Best wishes!
    Mitch recently posted…Loading – Adobe Edge Html5 Jquery CSS3 training courses in LebanonMy Profile

  9. Manisha says:

    Thank you for this wonderful advice! Will put it to use immediately 🙂
    Manisha recently posted…Friday Finds #2My Profile

  10. Great timing, Jessica. Yesterday I emailed a local museum about a behind the scenes piece after seeing a new exhibit coming together. Today I’m going in for pictures and interviews. It’s a work for free effort where I’ll pitch them for more work before I leave.

    Your method works better. Thanks.
    David Gillaspie recently posted…GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY: THE SOCHI OLYMPICSMy Profile

  11. You know what I love most about your emails Jessica? The fact that you say “I will be fully booked from X to X” not only reminds potential clients that everyone (including their competitors) is spending time and money on content but also that they are trusting you to produce their content for them.

    This is social proof on two levels and combine to create a very enticing email.

    Good stuff and I hope you continue to win clients this way.

    • Jessica B. says:

      Brian, I think you’re right – being able to say I’m fully booked for a certain period of time is helpful. Thanks to one big, recently-landed client for that advantage!

  12. Mai says:

    Thanks, Jessica! That’s also my practice every time I run low on work. More often than not, I get new assignments just by reminding them that hey, I’m here. I’m glad to know that this has not only worked for me but for other people as well. 🙂
    Mai recently posted…Weekday fun in Bulacan: Bahay ni Kuya Hotel and ResortMy Profile

    • Jessica B. says:

      Mai, glad it’s working for you, too! I think so much of it has to do with visibility. If we’re out of a busy editor’s sight, we’re out of their mind. If we can bring ourselves periodically back onto their radar, they’ll remember we’re here, and that we want to help. 🙂

  13. Great advice, Jessica. I, too, use periodic emails as a way to ‘tickle’ past clients and/or those who have indicated that ‘they’ll keep my information on file.’ I always personalize my emails, using the person’s first name and referencing a recent article in their publication. I routinely get responses thanking me for taking the time to read their publication, so I know it makes a difference. And as we both know, in many instances landing a new job is simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

    I love Terri’s idea of sending out cards for something other than the holidays (though I do personalized holiday cards to existing clients as well).

    Best of luck in your career!

    • Jessica B. says:

      Thanks, Lori! You’re quite right; so much has to do with being in the right place at the right time. If we can make those connections at the right moment – and get ourselves on an editor’s radar when they’re needing a writer – we’re in good shape.

      Connecting with an editor’s work – like referencing a recent publication – when writing these emails is an excellent idea. I usually do that in initial LOIs, but hadn’t thought of adding it in this situation. I’ll be filing that away for future use. 🙂

  14. Thanks for sharing this. I recently sent an email to a client that I hadn’t written for in a few months, and I wished I’d used your friendly, “I want to help you” tone. I appreciate the reminder.
    Bonnie Nicholls recently posted…Canyon Development Raises Hackles in South ParkMy Profile

    • Jessica B. says:

      Thanks, Bonnie! Yeah, I try to remind myself to use that “I want to help you” tone, rather than whatever I might be feeling (usually something more like, “Can I have some more work, please?” :)).

  15. Rohi Shetty says:

    Thanks, Jessica
    I’ll try this asap!
    Rohi Shetty recently posted…Simple Blueprint for Quick and Easy Publication of Your First EbookMy Profile

  16. Terri says:

    This is a great method, Jessica. I actually usually do something similar in the form sending greeting cards. In fact, Valentine’s Day is when I usually send cards to past clients to differentiate myself from the December/January card crew. It usually works out pretty well for me. However, with the constant price hikes in stamps, I’ve had to cut down on the amount of cards I send. I may have to use your email tactic to fill the gaps my traditional cards couldn’t.
    Terri recently posted…Why I Admire the Hustle of StrippersMy Profile

    • Jessica B. says:

      Terri, sending an actual card in the mail is an impressive, super-personalized touch! I hear you about the price of stamps, though. I love that email is free, and you can still make the message personal.

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