How to Cold Email for Job (Email Template That Actually Works)

By Rob Williams

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?

  • Whoever sends me this email knows who I am and what I do.
  • They couldn’t send this email to just anyone, therefore I immediately know it isn’t spam.
  • It’s going to help me with something I care about deeply.

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

About Rob Williams...

I run Folyo which helps freelance designers find the work they were meant to do. I also host Freelance a podcast about how to be more effective at independent work featuring remote companies like Disney, Basecamp, YNAB, ConvertKit and more.