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How to find (and keep) clients as a freelance developer (Part 3)  –  Method #2: Cold Emailing

This is a 4 part series where I share my musings about how to find (and keep!) clients as a freelance developer. I’ll cover topics such as the main philosophy in finding the best clients for you, tested methods of finding clients on your own and some basic tips in client relationship management that have served me well over the years.

In case you haven’t read the other posts from the series…

So today we’re gonna talk about another method that has gotten me quite a few good clients. Cold emailing.

Now, I’m NOT talking about email spamming companies over and over again to ask for a job or offer your services. You need to be smart with this method, think outside the box and don’t do what everyone is doing.

Pick quality over quantity.

Now, on with the method!

1. Get a list of companies to contact

There are various ways to get a list of decent companies to contact. Here are some techniques I have used.

  • You could use business directories like Clutch or Yelp.
  • You could start googling “web design + [insert city here]” (here’s a list of US cities by population).
  • You could use Angelist and select by your chosen technology or market.

Now, all these methods require you to get the website from each listing, this can be a very time consuming task. I recommend outsourcing the task or use tools like Import.io (these guys rock for yelp and clutch) but if you don’t want to shell out the money for import.io then here are some alternatives (which I haven’t tried but hey, google is your friend).

If you go the outsourcing route then you can tell the contractor to get the website and a contact method (email is what I prefer).

If you go the scraping route then, once you have a list of websites you can use Email Grabber to scrape every email from them. Luckily it works for Mac too.

2. Vet each company website you get

This is what makes or breaks this method. I actually go to each and every website I get and see for myself what they do, what they offer, their team, their portfolio, etc, etc. If I don’t like how the website looks or see that they specialize in tech I don’t like or don’t have much experience in, then I DON’T contact them. Time is precious, don’t waste it.

3. Setup your sales funnel

Once you have a list of vetted companies then its time to start your email campaign. I personally recommend you use MixMax. MixMax is like Gmail on steroids. Back when I was looking for clients every day that’s what I used but I have also heard good things about Reply.io, its just more expensive.

So if you use MixMax you’ll want to get the “Small Business” plan since that’s the plan that offer sequences.

What’s a sequence? It’s an automated way to follow up on your leads.

Why you need it? Because the people you’ll be contacting are very busy people so a brief follow up will increase your chance of them seeing your email and replying.

So, you’ll create a sequence of emails. The first one should be your pitch, you should keep it brief and use the same info I recommend in the Reddit method, your timezone, available hours, technologies you’re experienced with, your portfolio, your hourly rate, etc.

Then the next emails will be follow ups. Keep them brief, here’s a quick example of one I use:

Hi,

Just a quick follow up on the message I sent earlier, would really appreciate to hear back from you.

See that? It’s short and to the point, keep your follow ups like that. I recommend no more than 4, you don’t want to appear annoying or desperate.

I usually sent 10 emails to 10 different companies every weekday and setup the sequence to send a follow up if I didn’t get a reply back in 3 business days.

So that’s pretty much it! If you find a way to optimize this method then feel free to share it in the comments and stay tuned for part 4!