Freelancing 101: What you want potential clients to know right off the bat

“Editors are very busy.” This is what I always tell aspiring freelance content writers and journalists. Because it’s true and knowing this would help you create a solid communication strategy. There have been way too many potential deals and work relationships that fell through the cracks because editors and clients don’t get the necessary information immediately. That’s not what we want.

Regarding freelancing, it’s a balance of avoiding information overwhelm (or providing too many details early on) and ensuring your potential clients have all they need right off the bat. It’s a matter of knowing what you want potential clients to know.

Common reasons why a potential client is saying NO

But first, let’s do a quick rundown on the reasons why a potential client is saying NO to you. Because while it may feel personal, it’s not. There are many possible reasons why your pitch or cold email is rejected. Here are some of them:

  1. It’s not a good fit for now

Sometimes, a no simply means it’s not a good fit for now. Don’t take it the wrong way, and definitely don’t overthink it. If a potential client declines your cold pitch in as few words as, “no thanks,” it could mean that now is not a good time for it. Feel free to follow up in the next three months or so.

  1. They don’t have the budget

Some potential clients would express this immediately, and I for one really appreciate it. It’s so helpful to know why my cold email is being declined. Not all brands have huge budgets for content marketing. Some brands also don’t prioritize their blogs. If you’re not a writer, it could be that your department also doesn’t have a huge budget. Relax and move forward to your next target client.

  1. They don’t have all the information they need

This is the reason why we’re writing this article…Too often, a potential client declines a proposal because they’re busy and don’t have the time to entertain empty emails. By empty, I mean the kind of email that doesn’t give them the information they need. Maybe you’re a good writer or a social media manager, but if you don’t know how to write a solid cold email, you’d probably struggle to close deals.

What you want potential clients to know right off the bat

So, what do you want your potential clients to know right off the bat? What should you include in your pitch or cold email or project proposal? These five are always in my cold email and it works like a charm.

  1. The type of services you offer

Don’t just say “I’m a social media manager.” Be specific. What do you specialize in? Do you focus on Instagram only? Do you handle creating both the graphics and captions? Do you have a great track record when it comes to engagement? Make sure your potential clients know from that first email what they can expect from you.

  1. How you set your rates

I know… we’re all scared of sharing our numbers. But hey, if a potential client doesn’t have the budget and they know your rates immediately, that saves both of you the time and effort and emailing back and forth. In my case, I usually share rates immediately in the second email.

Also, don’t forget to mention your minimum contract. Most clients prefer to build long-term relationships with their freelancers so sharing this in the first few emails is super helpful.

  1. How your services can help this client’s audience

One thing I always tell my mentees is that at the end of the day, their proposals and cold emails should focus on the client’s audience. Mainly because the audience is the reason why the client is investing in content marketing in the first place. So in a few sentences, detail how your content writing or social media works or graphics skills can serve your client’s audience. As always, keep it short and succinct.

  1. Your non-negotiables

This is super important and is definitely one of the things you’d want your potential client to know right off the bat. If you have any non-negotiables like you don’t check or respond to emails from Fridays to Mondays, or you charge an additional fee when the pay is 3 days late, tell them. These things also usually go in my second email. And from experience, it’s helpful when you’re this transparent early on.

  1. Basic rundown of your past relevant experiences

Keyword is “basic.” It’s important your potential clients and target brands know what you’ve done in the past. I usually write these things in the first email. But one thing I want to note is the importance of keeping it short, clean, and relevant. Don’t share past experiences that have nothing to do with the current job or project you’re proposing. This is a cold email so you’re practically a stranger to them. After that first email, you’d want to be less of a stranger.

Cold emailing is only powerful if you write it well

Cold emailing is not for everybody. I know many freelancers who are not fans of it but are still quite successful. In my case, it’s the tool that worked best, and almost all my clients came from cold emailing.

However, it is only powerful if you write it well. That said, if you’re new to cold emailing and writing project proposals, it’s best to accept the fact that your first draft is a crappy one. Because it is. No first draft came out perfect. What will make a difference is your drive to grow. Keep tweaking and editing your cold email template. Keep learning from your own experiences and from others. Because your first few emails can make or break a deal you have on the table.


Does this mean cold emailing is the answer to becoming a successful freelancer? Or that it is the most effective tool to build a freelance business? Nope.

This simply means if you know how to write that email well, if you know how to follow up and what to write in the next email exchange, you increase the chances of sealing more deals. Because while editors and clients are busy, they’re still almost always open to freelancers.

Tammy Danan

Tammy Danan is a storyteller who reports on environmental and social issues. She also covers productivity, creative pursuits, and the future of work. Her words have appeared in VICE, Audubon.org, ZEKE Magazine, Shutterstock, Toggl, among others. You may find her on Instagram @SlowFreelancing.