Cold Emails

by Rob Williams | Last Updated: August 10, 2018

Knowing how to write cold emails for jobs or contracts you want is one of the most important life skills there is. If you can do it effectively, suddenly, you control your own destiny. A few years ago, I learned this skill. I cold emailed jobs on Folyo and won over $30,000 in just a few months.

I learned how to cold email for jobs I wanted despite:

  1. Using an ultra simple email template (which I’ve shared below).
  2. Being a total newb web designer (less than 3 years of experience).

In other words: if I did it, anyone can. So in this post I’m going to share everything: the cold email template I used, plus the exact strategy and why it was so effective. Let’s go.

Getting the Right Structure for Cold Emailing About a Job

Let’s get one thing straight:

Even a great template will only get you so far.

It’s far more important to know how a great cold email is structured.

At the end of the day, anyone can send a template, but understanding what makes it great will serve you 10 fold in the future.

The structure of a great cold email for job or contract

Like a great movie, each section serves a purpose and builds on the last.

There is no room for fluff. Each section is focused on accomplishing one specific goal.

Why? Hiring managers are busy people and you want to eliminate all the work from their plate that you can.

One way to do this is by being a ruthless editor.

Make your email take away work for your potential client or boss.

A Quick Warning About Most Email Templates You’ll Find Online

They are trash.

You know what I’m talking about. Those “can I pick your brain for 10 minutes” emails that everyone sends.

Yeah, someone online told them it would be a good idea.

It’s not.

They don’t work.

No one likes getting those emails.

9 times out of 10 they end with you being ignored.

And the 10th time you will be politely denied.

The reason these emails don’t work is that you haven’t established a connection with the people you are requesting something of.

And that is the key.

A connection!

(For more on how to build this connection, I wrote an entire guide on it called Emails That Win You Clients.)

The Best Cold Email Template for Applying to Jobs and Contracts I’ve Ever Used

Let’s get to it.

I used this exact template to make a ton of money.

It works because it totally different than what most people send.

First I’ll show the template in it’s entirely, then I’ll go through each section individually.

Here it is the cold email I used when applying for jobs:

Subject Line: Helping you get major benefit

Hi Bob,

Your blog, article, job post, social profile is amazing. One of my favorite things about it is something you actually love about the company or client.

In fact, your brand, website, app, or other design project reminds me of a past client, impressive past client, that needed something similar and tells me you probably want amazing benefit client received received from the project as well.

Can I send you some ideas for how we can work on this?

(The red placeholders indicate sections of the email that you should customize for each email you send.)

That’s where the real magic happens so next let’s dive into exactly how to do that.

I was applying to freelance contract web design jobs when I used this template but if you’re looking for different work tweak it to fit your needs.

The Best Subject Line for a Cold Email About a Job or Contract

Subject Line: Helping you get major benefit

Here’s the truth: the first thing someone thinks when they get your email is: “who the heck is this spammer?”

Therefore the goal of your subject line isn’t to sell, persuade, or even entice the recipient. Not even a little.

The subject line is about the person you’re emailing.

You want them to open the email.

So simply tell them why they should care.

Ideally, you want to get so specific this subject line could only be sent to the person you’re emailing.

This will indicate that your email isn’t spam and that you have something worth reading inside.

If someone were to send me this email here’s an example of a subject line they could write (that I’d love to receive):

Subject: Helping you find more remote design jobs for your customers

Why?

That makes me way more likely to open this email.

And one undeniable trait successful cold emails share is: they get opened.

When you’re a busy hiring manager or business owner, reading a subject line like this is catnip.

If it’s truly something they desire and will benefit their business or work in a major way, they’ll open the email 10 times out of 10.

From there, it’s up to the rest of the email to actually make them believe you can deliver on the promise.

When the email gets opened the subject line’s job is done and the opening line is now in the spot light.

The Best Cold Email Opening Line for Applying to a Job

Hi Bob,

Your blog, article, job post, social profile is amazing. One of my favorite things about it is something you actually love about the company or client.

Okay, shits about to get real.

Most freelancers and job applicants send the exact same email template… which is some variation on the following:

“Hi, I’m a freelancer. How can I help?”

It’s okay.

I know you’ve probably sent this email out too.

But I’ve found that when you send an email like this you’re telling a client you can’t be bothered to figure out how you’re valuable. That tells them you can’t solve the problems they’d be paying you to solve.

You’re asking hiring managers to figure it out for you.

This. Never. Happens.

Your once hopeful cold email seeps to the bottom of their inbox. It turns cold, dusty, and gray. Weeks or months pass until one day they shrug and click delete.

This email is repelling clients and jobs away.

Your old cold emails to jobs was bitch-slapping the shit out of you!
So snap out of it

How do you fix this email?

The best way is to not send it.

Make sure that whoever gets your email KNOWS it was written just for them by a real person.

Make an authentication connection as quickly as possible.

That’s what you’re doing in this email opener.

Remember, to be effective it has to be authentic. Think about what you actually like about this company for a couple minutes.

If you can’t do that, then maybe you shouldn’t be applying in the first place.

But don’t worry, people with businesses are interesting.

Have they written a book or blog post you can read? If so, buy it and/or read it. Learn their name. Learn what they’re all about.

Once you find that out, decide if there’s something about their business that you love.

Then lead with that!

Sincerely discovering what YOU think is great about them will not only feel good it will result in 10× the results.

Here’s how this looks in action.

Hi Rob

I came across your amazing article on writing emails where you say to lead with something interesting, and… boom.

I’m joking a bit, but the point still stands. If I got this email I would know the person writing to me read this page. That’s enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt keep reading.

It sounds easy, but this usually takes the most time to get right.

Yeah it might take a few extra minutes.

But each job/client is worth (potentially) hundreds of thousands of dollars. You only need one to work out to make a lot of money.

So it’s OK to spend some time on it if you’re approaching someone you know you can help.

The Best Cold Email Value Proposition for Applying to a Job or Contract

In fact, your brand, website, app, or other design project reminds me of a past client, impressive past client, that needed something similar and tells me you probably want amazing benefit client received received from the project as well.

Now we’re getting to the meat of this email template.

It’s time to point out that we’re purposely doing something that runs counter to almost every email you send.

We’re not using the word “I.”

Why? Because no one wants to read a 10-page proposal email about you and your awesome websites. People don’t want websites. They don’t want logos and they don’t want code. They don’t even want to hire someone.

What they want is for something to happen.

A result.

It’s crucial that you figure out what they want. And I mean what they really want.

That result is what your value proposition is all about.

A good exercise is to take what you would normally say and remove the words “I,” “me,” or “my” and replace them with “you,” (meaning the client).

So something like this:

I’ve helped hundreds of businesses in your position. I helped X-company to accomplish Y-benefit.

Would become something like this:

Your website reminds me of past client: X-company, which probably means you want Y-benefit they received from the project as well.

This is way more effective because you’re making the client the star of your email and IDK about but I like being the start of an email.

Here’s another example what someone could send me:

Folyo reminds me of some work I did for WeWorkRemotely, I helped them find over 20 Remote Graphic Design Projects each month to send to their customers which helped them grow to over $20,000 in MRR. I assume that might be something you’re interested in too.

Quick side note: You may have noticed I’m not including links to any social media, portfolio, or blog. That’s no mistake. It’s very much on purpose because a prospective client doesn’t care about your work yet. Heck, you don’t even want them to do anything but reply yet. Remember that!

Making them click on your website, LinkedIn profile, or portfolio page, no matter how awesome they are, makes them replying less likely to happen.

You’re essentially giving them a reason to disqualify you by sending links to things. So don’t!

If a client wants to look at your portfolio, they can ask to see it.

How? Oh by replying.

So leave out anything that doesn’t help you get them to reply.

The Best Cold Email Job Call to Action

Can I send you some ideas for how we can work on this?

Again you want to make it easy.

Compare this line to the way more common way of ending an email:

Let me know what you think.

I used to spew this phrase out constantly.

It seemed like a professional way to end an email. I thought I was giving clients exactly what they wanted. In reality, I was dumping my work on to them, and saying “here, YOU deal with it.”

It reeked of incompetence and undermined my business. After all, these were problems I was asking to be paid to solve.

So I tested the complete opposite for a few weeks.

Instead of open-ended emails, I prescribed a solution.

At first, this felt wrong. I felt like I was barking orders and bossing clients around. It was scary. But I slowly noticed a change.

Clients were responding to my emails. Even prospects were chirping back. My response rate improved just by suggesting a next step.

If someone wanted a meeting, I’d suggest a time. If I was presenting an idea I would also suggest how to implement it quickly.

This set the tone that my time was valuable.

It proved I was a professional capable of making the right decisions. It showed my hands wouldn’t have to be held throughout a project.

I was taking work away from my clients.

If you don’t apply anything else from this article, just take away this: end your email with a suggested next step.

You’ll know you’re on the right track if a client can reply with a quick “sounds good” to any email you send.

The exact phrasing of this entire email template can and should vary. Don’t feel like you have to stick to any part of it word-for-word. In fact, it’s probably more effective if you put things into your own words.

However, it does have to be so mind-numbingly easy to reply to that even the busiest client can do it.

Do that and your emails will win you more clients in less time.


This email template will get you a great response rate for a first email, but nothing you write in a first email will be able to improve your response rate like doing one thing: following up.

Additional Resources

When humans open an email there’s only one question we ask ourselves.


If you’re sending an email you can get around this mindless human flaw by greeting them in their native tongue … preferably using their first name. This is a dog-whistle that tells people you’re a fellow human.

Test your brain, see if you can spot the human:

This will only get their guard down for a moment.


Alone, a human-like greeting isn’t enough. We must now appeal to their other defects. Such as, being selfish and fickle.


Giving them a reason to care about your email works because it appeals to their interests. It’s best to get specific though because a greeting that works for one human won’t work for another.


To find the right words to use, listen to how they describe their problems and aspirations. Look for specific terms they use. Then simply repeat this back to them.


The closer you get to the words they use, the better your chances of connecting. Mentioning hyper-relevant project outcomes in your first sentence tells the human that you are writing this message just for them.


Anything else you say will now be framed by their desires. This will make your email feel more intimate and appeal to what THEY want. This allows you to insert yourself into the conversation more receptively.


However, skipping this crucial step and immediately talking about yourself instead will have the opposite effect.


100% of your email should be about the recipient. Even the parts where you talk about you should really be about them.


Enjoy this short guide? Awesome! I actually wrote a whole book on sending emails to clients (published independently).

 

 

By sheer circumstance, I’ve been in the unusual position of seeing thousands of cold emails sent by freelancers looking for work in the last 3 years.

Because of this unique situation, I thought I’d share a pattern I’ve noticed. It’s actually more than a pattern, it’s a full-blown template.

Freelancers everywhere are sending an extremely ineffective email to clients hoping to find work. It’s not working. They’re not hearing back.

The email looks something like this:

SUBJECT: I’m a freelancer interested in your project.

Hello, 
I’m Robert Williams, a freelance developer. I’m based in Temecula California and I want to work with you.

Let’s stop here for a second. Do you feel the screen sucking the energy out of your eyeballs? That’s boredom.

This email is showing you a complete lack of thought.

Instead of considering your problems, this email is yapping about itself.

Who cares about what some rando on the internet (who’s probably a bot) wants? I care about myself, as do all email readers.

Yet they persist:

I’ve been developing award-winning WordPress sites since 2004. I’ve had many clients around the world and have created a wide variety of sites. My development skill set includes: wordpress, html5, css3, responsive design, php, jquery, and mysql.

Did you even finish reading that? Or did you see a list of skills and immediately skip it?

Brains tend to do that when they’re spoken to like robots.

But this isn’t written by a robot. Again, person after person continues to write this email.

Why? Because they want to feel big and on top. Thats why you list out your skills. Thats why you refer to your “great” clients and experience.

What you have to realize though is clients don’t care about PHP. Listing that skill doesn’t help the person reading your email.

The person reading only cares about themselves. The more you talk about yourself the more you make the reader feel unimportant.

To get to know me and my work better, I would encourage you to check out my website, as well as my LinkedIn profile:

http://mywebsite.com

http://linkedin.com/rob

Is anyone else as done as I am with clicking on some dumbass Linkedin profile? It’s just so much easier to delete the email and move on.

Also, here are three recent sites that I developed in WordPress: http://siteone.com http://sitetwo.com http://sitethree.com

If you’re looking to hire a WordPress developer there’s a pretty good chance you don’t know shit about WordPress. So, how will looking at some “recent” sites help you?

You’re probably not trained in design, development or anything else related to websites, but suddenly you’re supposed to be able to analyze a professional’s work?

It doesn’t really make sense.

Let me know if you think we might be a good fit. I look forward to hearing from you and learning how we can best work together.

I’m available to jump on a call sometime this week.

– Robert

And there you have it. Combine these together and you get the email that I think is at least partially responsible for your dry spell.

It always ends the same, with the freelancer asking the client to take the next step without really pointing out what that is.

What’s the point of a call?

Have you proven you can help me?

What does “sometime this week” mean?

What does being a “good fit” mean?

By not explicitly answering these questions you’re leaving the client (or anyone else you’re emailing) to fill this in themselves.

It really hurts your chances of hearing back.

If you’re not hearing back on the emails you’re sending, it isn’t because you’re a bad person or a lousy freelancer; it’s because of what you’re saying.

Let’s change that.

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