Someone has responded to your cold pitch, and instead of a “Sorry, I’m not currently looking to hire anyone for those services,” you got something more like, “Thanks for reaching out. I’m interested in hiring an [editor, ghostwriter]. Could you tell me a little bit more about what you offer and your prices?” Hurray! But now what?
Once again, when scrolling through freelancer Facebook groups last week, I saw multiple questions about the “What’s next?” part of cold pitching. I promise you, it’s not as scary as it seems, but I think a lot of people get nervous because all those guides on cold pitching never tell you what to do if someone actually responds. Instead of feeling that much-earned elation that you’ve got a bite, questions start smacking against the side of your skull, “Is there a formula for it, like there is for cold pitching? How do I make an impression? What if they want something I’ve never done before?”
Tell your brain to shut up and then take a deep breath. First, let yourself be happy. Your cold pitch worked! After you’ve done an embarrassing little jig, sit back down at your computer. It’s time to reel this client all the way in. You can do it! Why? One, you’re awesome. Two, I’m going to put your questions to bed.
Do I Need a Template?
No templates! Templates are super nice for cold pitching because you’re doing the exact same thing (reaching out to garner the client’s interest) and addressing the exact same pain points every time (you should have a template for every pain point you address). However, once you get a response, you’re interacting more closely. That client addressed you with a certain tone of voice with their own set of questions. You want your response to be 100% personable and personalized. No templates!
Is There a Formula?
Well … sort of, but it needs to remain flexible for each client’s needs, which is why I advise against shoving the general “formula” into a template. Here’s the way I like to do it:
First, I always thank the person for getting back to me and reiterate that I’d love to help them with ______.
Second, I carefully read the email and address all of the client’s questions. This is the most important step not only because it shows you’re attentive and eager to help, but also because it’s the perfect place to flaunt your expertise. When answering client questions, keep your tone professional and helpful, like a quality customer service rep. Display your knowledge of your field in layman’s terms if your client is a first-timer/an individual who doesn’t work in the publishing industry, and in industry terms if you’re dealing with a business like a packager or publisher.
Third, ask the client some questions of your own. You’ll find that a good number of clients don’t really know what they want or what to ask. Why? Well, you reached out to them out of the blue, remember? They may never have considered your type of services until opening your email. Thus, they may not have done this before. They sometimes don’t give you enough information for an accurate quote right away. For instance, editing clients often don’t know what type of editing they need, and ghostwriting clients often need to be prompted about their target audience, how much of the work they’ll be doing themselves, whether you need to conduct research, etc. That’s a-okay. It lets you flaunt your expertise. Let them know you need a bit more information to give them the fairest quote, and then write out questions in an easy-to-read bullet-point list.
Lastly, end with a call to action. I like to keep this part (along with the intro) personable and enthusiastic. My call to action usually directs them to my website once again to read testimonials and look over my portfolio, and ends by admonishing them to let me know how they would like to proceed and ask any further questions. I always reiterate that I’d love to be of service, too.
What If I’m a Total Beginner/Don’t Have the Right Credentials?
You’ll often get asked for a resume in that response email, and this is often what throws beginners into a panic and makes them reach out on Facebook groups. If you don’t have a resume written up, make one. Now. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be meaty. My resume is only one page. If clients want to read about individual projects I’ve worked on, I direct them to my online portfolio. Here’s a screenshot of my resume:
You’ll see I keep my work experience general, talking about the skills I use in each position listed rather than individual jobs. Adopt this strategy if you have no past paid experience. Highlight your skills and what you do as a freelancer (even if you’ve only written up mock samples). Your skills list is the most important part as a newbie. Then, direct the client to your website, where you’ve got a nice homepage hook and have written out exactly how you can help your clients.
Don’t sweat the resume too much. Just make sure you have something. Floundering and responding that you’re a beginner so you don’t have any relevant paid experience is going to make you come across as unsure. Sending over a resume with no apologies makes you look like a pro. That second listing on my resume (for 47 Journals) was unpaid, but no one has to know that. If you have past work experience that isn’t writing focused, that’s fine, too. List that past job but highlight the skills that carry over, like organization, attention to detail, computer skills, etc.
What If They Ask For Something I’ve Never Done Before?
When I first started pitching packagers, I got my first response pretty quickly. The contact told me he was interested in my self-help ghostwriting work and asked me if I had any experience writing proposals. For a moment, I panicked. I’d been at this for over a year and had a sizeable portfolio, but I felt like a total noob again. My past clients had all self-published, so no proposal was necessary. I had zero experience … but then I realized that though I’d never needed to write one, I knew exactly what proposals were, and I was confident I could write one. When it came time to address that question in my email, I used terminology that clearly showed I knew what a proposal was and what it entailed. I explained why I had never written one professionally before, but assured him my knowledge of the publishing world and my experience with writing the books themselves would allow me to make the transition to proposal writing without hassle.
If you pitch a company rather than an individual, it’s likely they’re going to test how much value they can get out of you. You pitched them for one specific service, but they might ask if you can also provide this additional service. Being willing to do so sets you apart and makes you more valuable. They don’t have to hire two different people; they can just come to you. Even if you have no past experience with that second service, educate yourself on it (if you don’t already know) just enough to be able to show that you know what it entails and how it relates to your main service. The point is to be confident. If you don’t display any doubt that you can do the job, the client isn’t as likely to doubt you, either.
Where’s my proof? That packager put me on his list of ghostwriters without any further questions.
Some additional tips for responding to a cold pitch bite are, respond promptly (within 24 hours), don’t write a book, and always try to add a personal touch (aka, find some common ground with the client, ask them about their vision for their project, make a joke, etc.).
Keep calm, stay confident, and remember that you’re the pro in this scenario. You’re the one being sought after now. You’re the one who wrote that killer pitch that got a client interested. Now be yourself, show ‘em what you’re workin’ with, and land that client.