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Member guest blog: How freelancers get leads through non-icky cold emails

This week’s blog comes from Alice Cuninghame, a lead generation strategist and conversion copywriter.

You'll be walked through the cold email process she uses to find leads for her clients (and herself).

And you'll see why you should use it too – even if you hate cold email.

‘So how do you get work, Alice?’

This was the question I, as a freelance copywriter, dreaded being asked. Because the truth was ‘crossing my fingers and spending a lot of time panicking’.

And doing anything to avoid actually contacting the clients I wanted.

Things like scrolling job boards for badly-paid gigs. Or in-person networking events that made me want to hide in the toilet with a gin and tonic.

Can’t you just use social media to get leads? Does that work?

It does. When I do it consistently, I get 30-50% of my clients through LinkedIn posting.

It’s not always quick. But when someone you connected with 2 years ago pops up in your DMs to book a call – you realise that quick isn’t everything.

Buuut…social media can be hard work. Consistent posting usually gets results, but it takes up a ton of time. And the leads can drop away as fast as they arrived if you take a break.

And then there’s this not-so-little problem…

You don’t control LinkedIn. Or Facebook. Or Twitter.

Unless you happen to be Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or whoever the heck owns LinkedIn, of course.

And that’s an issue. Because whatever you build on social media can be whisked away quicker than you can say ‘algorithm update’.

Could you run ads to get around algorithm changes? Almost certainly. But you’re still at the mercy of the algorithm and what it does to your budget.

Once, spending £100 on a boosted Facebook post could get you a long way. Those days are long gone – but that’s not to say you shouldn’t use social media to get leads…

..just that you should have something else too. A lead gen method that you control.

Cold email lead gen is not for the desperate

‘But Alice, cold email is about as icky and desperate as it gets!’

Hear me out. Done well, cold email is not only non-icky. It’s the fastest, most reliable way to get clients through your door (and money in your bank).

Most cold emails aren’t fast, reliable or effective. Because they’re really, really bad.

Like this example:


Greetings to you!

If you are an SEO agency or a web design agency and looking to resell your projects, you can partner with us. We are offering a white label SEO reseller program for our partners. We have an experienced search engine optimization, Digital Marketing team that explores the real rank of the keyword."

I’m not an SEO or web design agency. And who knows what ‘the real rank of the keyword’ means.

I share this not to laugh at poor David – but to show you how easy it could be to do better than 99% of cold emailers.

How to write a cold email that works (and that you feel good about):

  1. Only pitch brands you really want to work with. It’s scarier to do, but your enthusiasm will shine through.

  2. Send them a genuine compliment. Personal to the person you’re pitching if possible, not the business. And not a generic ‘I liked your last blog post’.

  3. Show them how you’ll change their life. They don’t care about your experience or qualifications. They want to know how you’ll make their life better.

  4. Don’t make them work. People you’ve never met don’t want to read your PDF, browse your website, or click your scheduling link. The only thing you should ask them for is a reply.

  5. Start small. You’re probably not going to sell a £3000 package off the back of 1 email. Offer a 15 minute call, or a mini video audit, or a demo. Make it free, easy and fast.

  6. Follow up. And follow up again. People are busy. You could easily double your conversion rates with a few follow up emails.

  7. Experiment. If you send a bunch of emails and get nothing back – change something. Switch up your offer, your subject line, your opener….

What results can you expect from a cold email campaign?

One cold email campaign I worked on got a whopping 43% response rate, and a 33% lead rate (the average is somewhere around 1%. Or less).

It did so well because the offer was a no-brainer for the audience. (Another campaign we sent with a different offer didn’t do nearly as well.)

That was my best ever campaign – most of the time, you won’t get those results. But 10% response rates should always be achievable.

And that’s enough to keep your diary full. Using a method no-one can ever take from you.

Do you have a cold email template for freelancers?

Nope. Sorry. Most cold emails fail because they try to take shortcuts. Respect your prospects’ inboxes by sending them an email that you’ve thought about carefully.

Though you could do worse than check out the examples in this blog by cold email specialist Laura Lopuch. Much of what I know about cold email, I learned from her.

I’m still not sure about this cold email thing…

I don’t blame you. It can be stressful and hard. But when you keep going, it works.

What if you had a lead gen wingwoman to make it easier?

  1. Let’s connect on LinkedIn

  2. So you can check out my content, and if it resonates…

Ask me how a lead gen audit or cold email copy package could change your business

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