In the grand scheme of things, querying is pretty much the same thing as cold-calling, albeit over email or by letter. You’re contacting a potential client — in this case, an editor — and explaining how you can help them in their business. If you prefer to write for magazines and other publications, querying is a key method of getting in contact with the individuals who have the power to hire you.
If your freelance writing business focuses less on articles and more on other project, cold-calling and its online equivalents remain important. Unfortunately, many freelancers — myself included — are reluctant to contact potential clients out of the blue. But cold-calling, just like querying, is a very useful tactic. If you can put yourself in position for a warm call (a contact that your prospective client is expecting), you can use the technique even more effectively.
Take aim on good targets
Picking a website owner or editor and sending off an email at random isn’t the most effective way to collect new clients. Instead, it’s important to focus on finding places where your writing will not only fit in but actually help. If you write web copy, you want to contact prospective clients who you can show a potential for increased sales right off the bat. If you write for magazines, you want to be able to pitch an editor an article relevant to the publication but bringing a new idea to the attention of its readers.
Your first step should be identifying the clients you want to work with, followed immediately by checking their existing written material to make sure that you can discuss why your work will help them. The more information you have and the better connections you can make, the more likely that you’ll be able to get that cold-call target interested in your writing abilities.
Whenever I’m planning to send out some emails to individuals I would like to work with, I put together a list of between three and five. Much more than that and I start feeling a little overwhelmed, but working on only one at a time doesn’t get you too far when you think about the odds that someone will respond to a cold call. One in ten tries can be fairly good results, although that number varies significantly, depending on how you go about the process.
Getting in touch
There are thousands of resources on writing query letters correctly, but there are far fewer resources when it comes to other types of freelance writing. I almost always stick to email, rather than the phone when it comes to cold calls. I can put together emails far more quickly than I can hold a telephone conversation and — honestly — I don’t like talking on the phone very much. An email just makes it easier on me. Don’t let my opinions affect your choices, though: if you do better on the phone than via email, go for it.
Make a point to avoid negative remarks about a company’s existing written materials — you never know who in the company wrote it or how proud they might be of it. If you can, it’s even good to compliment those materials: it gives your contact a personal touch and gives you an opening to ask your target what their company plans for the next version of their written materials. You can create your own opportunities through a careful discussion of an existing blog or brochure.