Cold emailing... it gets a terrible rep. In fact, I thought of it so badly for such a long time that it took me literally YEARS to even start writing them. I actually hate the term "cold email" because it has such a negative connotation. I prefer to think of it as "pitching yourself" but hey, Google algorithms and all that ;)
Why should you even want to cold email/pitch yourself to businesses?
Essentially, if you want to progress and get the work you dream of, you sort of have to put yourself in front of those people! It's very easy to assume in this social media age that the work is just going to always come to us. I did, for a very long time. You see influencers online receiving gifts, and paid jobs, and it seems like these all just fell into their laps. Sometimes they do, but the vast majority of the time, they took a lot of hard work.
So, rather than wait around at home, producing awesome content, or letting our skills go to waste while we wait for someone to email us asking to work with them... I suggest we take matters into our own hands!
I wrote my first "cold email" or "pitch email" about a year and a half ago. I really can't believe I didn't do it sooner. But there was a LOT of fear in the way. Fear of rejection. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of not being good enough. I had all these horrible ideas in my head that I'd get an email back from my dream client telling me that "You're not good enough to work with us."
But guess what? That never happened. In fact, the opposite happened!
Why I Finally Started Cold Emailing (And Why Should Should Too
I finally started to cold email by accident really. I had been tagging brands that I wanted to work with on Instagram for quite a while (and I still do this). That was how I first started to work with Joules. They spotted some of my work, and DM'd me to ask if we could collaborate on something for them. Of course, I said yes.
However, after that initial project was done, the line went quiet. I didn't hear from them for a little while, and I started to think my time working with them was over. Until around June last year when I had a project idea in mind, and I knew that it would suit Joules as a brand really well. I found my contacts email and in about 3 minutes, wrote her an email pitching my idea to her. She replied quickly, and positively, and before I knew it, they began approaching me for work.
By sending out that pitch email, I gained a new client... and some new found confidence!
FREE EMAIL COURSE // PITCHING As A Fashion Photographer
Sign up with your email address you’ll receive my free, 5 email course all about how to pitch yourself as a fashion photographer.
How To Actually Write A Cold Email / Pitch Email
So let's map out exactly what you need to do to successfully cold email a business you want to work with.
1. Know Who You Want To Work With
This is pretty obvious, but start by making a list of everyone you want to work with. I created an Excel spreadsheet where I inputted each brand. I actually have a few spread sheets now, split into different target markets (lifestyle brands, wedding brands, more corporate brands, etc). You can do exactly the same with yours. This spreadsheet will come in hand later on...!
2. Find The Email Addresses
Unless you're trying to target small business owners, it can be quite hard to source the exact email you need. Ideally, you want to email someone on the marketing team, or social media team (or whatever team is relevant to your business). However, most big businesses don't list anything other than their global contact email. So what do you do?
There are two options. First, find out who does their PR and contact them. This works well for bloggers and influencers... less for anyone else.
The second option (and the one I use) is to search for people on LinkedIn! It's not always perfect, and it can be a guessing game, but I literally find the company I want to work for on Linkedin, and see who works there. I'm almost always looking for someone in marketing or social media. Once I've got their name (and checked that they still work there), I jot their name down.
This is where I can get a bit tricky... people won't give out their work email addresses on LinkedIn. You need to get clever and figure it out. How I've done this in the past is head to the brands website (ie. Gap.co.uk) and looked at the end part of their email address. In this case it's @gap.co.uk. Then, it's a matter of trying the person you found's name in front of that email address!
Sometimes it's firstname.lastname@example.org. Sometimes it's email@example.com. There's no easy way around this... you just have to try different addresses, and see which one doesn't bounce back. This is what I've done many times, and I almost always - eventually - get through!
3. Tag Brands on Instagram
Now, this isn't direct cold email, but I felt it needed a mention in this post. I've had a lot of success in getting the attention of brands simply by tagging them in my posts! That might lead to them reaching out and wanting to share my image, or actually working on something with them. At the end of the day, you're getting their attention, and sometimes even a direct contact. That could lead to you being able to pitch to them in future!
4. Make Your Email Personal
Now, I think it's totally find to have a template that you use for each email you send out. However, I do think its super important that each email you send is personalised. Include the name of the person you're emailing, tell them why you love the brand, include a personal anecdote. If you simply share the same email over and over, it will seem generic and cold. Trust me (I get emails like this), people can smell a template from a mile away!
5. Offer Them Something
Put yourself in their shoes for a minute. If you received an email from someone asking you to "book them for this job" or "here's why I'd be great for this job" without them telling you how they could help you, you wouldn't be interested in booking. It's super important that within your pitch email, there is a focus on what you can do for them. Not what they can do for you. The email should be entirely about them, their business, and how you can serve them. It could be a free shoot to get the relationship started, it could be a free post on your Instagram grid, or perhaps a mention on Instagram stories. I've found in the past that by giving something away to start with, and asking for little, if nothing, in return, is the best way towards peaking their interest, and being able to show them what you can do. This is the technique that I have personally used in the past, and it has lead to these clients coming back and booking me in the future.
If free doesn't sit well with you, that's totally fine. Think of a few ways you could help them out, and add loads of value to what you offer.
6. Why are you a good fit for them?
Whilst you need to offer something to them, I think it's also super important to be clear about why you're a good fit. Share previous work you've done that is similar to their brand, show off your social media stats, or name previous clients. It can feel uncomfortable to big ourselves up, but you don't need to do a lot. Just a line or two about how you're a good fit for their brand is all you need!
7. Keep your email short
As an ex magazine editor who received hundreds of emails a day, I can tell you right now that people don't like getting long emails. They simply don't have time to read them! Keep your emails short and sweet. 2 or 3 short paragraphs is all you need. You can elaborate on any points after the potential client has replied to your pitch!
8. Direct Link to your work
Don't forget to share examples of your work to them! This is so easily missed out, but make sure that any links you include to your portfolio/blog/website are actually linked! As I said earlier, these people are busy and you want to make it as easy as possible for them to see your work.
9. Keep Track Of What You're Doing With A Spreadsheet
This has been the game changer for me when it comes to pitching. As I mentioned earlier, I created a spreadsheet where I include the names all of the brands I want to work with. On that spreadsheet I have 3 other columns:
1 is a "To Do" column where I jot down what I have to do. i.e. "Email Gap."
2. is a "Contact Info" column. Here I write down the names of the people I've found, and their job role. That way, I never forget or lose track of anyone.
3 is a "What's Been Done" column. I keep track of what I've done already i.e. "Emailed on 1st Jan 2018" or "Followed up on 5th Feb 2018."
Each time I do any pitching, I open my spreadsheet and keep track of every action I take. This stops me from sending two emails out to the same person, helps me keep track of when I sent my original pitch, and when I followed up.
10. Follow Up
Following up is totally ok to do, and in fact you should do it. People are busy, emails get read on iPhones and forgotten about. It's nothing personal. So sometimes if you don't hear back after your first email, it doesn't mean that they don't like what you do or want to work with you. I encourage you to follow up after about a week to a week and a half. Something along the lines of "Hello ____, I hope you're well. I'm just following up on the email I sent you last week regarding ____. Please see it attached below for your convenience." Short, sweet, to the point.
If you don't hear back for another week or two, it's probably a sign they're not interested. Don't take that to heart, as it's never personal when it comes to work like this. Simply focus on keeping going, jot down when you send that follow up email, and in a few months, try again!
11. Don't Give Up or Be Disheartened
It can be tough when you spend an afternoon emailing loads of people, only hear back from one or two, if any. But the reality is that you're not going to be for everyone. Some brands may love your work, but not need you right now (that's happened to me), others just won't think you're the right fit, or they already work with someone like you. But the thing is, you don't need them all to get back to you! You only need a few. If every business I emailed wanted my services, I'd have a problem - too many clients to manage!
So keep at it. If you don't hear back, try again. Don't give up on your dream.
There you have it! A guide on how to cold email/pitch yourself to brands and businesses. I really hope that this helps you, and gives you the confidence that you need to put yourself out there. It's honestly essential to all businesses, especially service based ones, so please give it a go! Start small, and build your way up. You'll be surprised by the results ;)
I'd love to hear any further questions you may have, or any thoughts on all of this. So please feel free to comment your questions in the box below!