I know it sounds torturous, but I’m telling you from experience: it works. Why? Hmm, probably because so few people do it these days. Everyone is sending emails now, and we all know what happens to random, unsolicited emails, right? Delete. Spam. Junk folder. We get rid of them as quickly as possible to keep that inbox clean.
A phone call, on the other hand, is becoming an increasingly rare method of communication. I can’t tell you how many people responded to my cold calls with, “Wow. I didn’t think people did this kind of thing anymore. Cool!”
Don’t be daunted by this task! Truly. This is how I found my first clients, and I still work with some of them today.
If you’ve created an Ideal Client Profile, you already know who your ideal clients are. Here’s what you do next:
- Grab a Copy of the Yellow Pages
- Call Your Ideal Clients
- Set a Realistic Per Day Cold-Calling Goal
- Organize Your Gathered Information
- Research Prospects Before Calling
- Prepare Your Cold-Call Scripts in Advance
Yes, it still exists.
Find the category of your first ideal client in the Yellow Pages and call every one of them. Do you want to write for climbing gyms? Engineering firms? Non-profits? Call them all.
If you’re interested in more literary writing, your search will take you online, to your bookshelf, or into bookstores. You’ll need to learn what publications are out there, which ones are publishing work similar to yours, or how you need to re-craft your work for publication. The Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market is a great place to start.
Try setting your goal at 25 calls per day, or 50, whatever is realistic for you. If you’re naturally good on the phone, you may get the hang of this pretty quickly and without much difficulty. If not, practice, practice, practice. After a day or two of this, you’ll get more comfortable. I promise.
Keep track of dates, times, company names, whom you talk to, what materials you send them (résumé, samples, references), phone numbers, email addresses, and anything of note. I keep track of all this information in an Excel spreadsheet.
Do some research before making your calls. It takes a little longer, but it pays to know a little about the company/publication you’re calling. And, if it’s listed on their website, you should absolutely know the name of the best person to talk to: Marketing Director, Principal, Creative Director, some decision-maker who has the power to hire you.
Have your phone scripts written out so you can read from them until you feel comfortable free-styling it. I had a script for interested owners, uninterested owners, interested secretaries, uninterested secretaries, voicemail, and a general greeting. I wrote them on notecards and had them at the ready.
It took a few days before I felt comfortable enough to set the scripts aside and just talk to whomever answered the phone. Totally terrifying and rewarding at the same time.
Until you’re ready to do cold-calling, sending emails and attending networking events would probably be your best bet for contacting businesses/organizations you’d like to work with. While I’m not a fan of prospecting via email, Ed Gandia has been quite successful with “warn email prospecting.” Check out his method.
Amber knows her stuff; this is all valuable info for new freelancers and experienced ones, too.
I also found this article years ago, and thought it was helpful, too: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/05/cold-calling-basics.html
Thanks for this very helpful piece, Amber! I never thought of using a spreadsheet to keep track of all the vital info: what a great idea. Here’s an article I wrote on cold calling some time back (when I was planning on a career writing for article mills — ha!)
Glad it was helpful, Freya. And thanks for sharing your article! The more information we can share the better.