I’m going to build a writing business from scratch.
And I’m going to do it by cold outreach.
Why Cold Outreach?
Over the course of my academic career, I read countless books and scoured thousands of blog posts for the best way to grow a business. I’ve completed hundreds of online courses on a plethora of subjects — from business writing to PR and marketing.
The conclusion I’ve drawn from all this preparation is this: Nobody cares about your business until you have traction. That is, no one’s gonna buy your products or services unless others buy.
But how does one generate traction in the first place?
This leads us to the age-old dilemma in business development: Without clients, there’s no way to get good at your craft. But without being good at your craft, you can’t get clients.
I could use my existing network to see if someone MAY be interested in my writing. I could also write on my blog and distribute ad nauseam in the hopes of driving traffic and MAYBE getting some paid work.
But I’m not going to do any of that. I’m going to email companies in my field of expertise directly. I’ll be offering my services with the expectation of gaining an initial batch of clients from which my writing business can thrive.
What’s more, I’m going to publish the data I gather from this journey.
- I’ll tell you how many emails I sent in a week, along with how many were opened and how many replies I got.
- If a headline or message body achieved high success, I’ll share it.
- If a headline or message body tanked, I’ll share it too.
This is as much journey in business development as it is an experiment. I seek to prove, or disprove, the validity of cold outreach as a business-building strategy.
Here we go.
Assessing the pros and cons
The idea of cold outreach is enough to ruffle a few feathers. It’s certainly ruffled mine, that’s for sure. I’ve given the whole idea plenty of thought.
But I grew tired of thinking — and decided to start doing.
Here are the negatives I see:
- It takes time. This is the obvious one. Compiling a list of prospects, performing individual research on each company, and then crafting a personal message is cumbersome and exhausting.
- Emotionally overwhelming. Even if you do dedicate the time to craft a personal, well-researched message, the recipient will probably not respond. Some sources I’ve read state that cold outreach has a 1 – 10% response rate.
- Your brand can die before it even is born. Sending out too many emails could trigger spam alerts and other sorts of nasty blockers. Your business email could get pegged as untrustworthy, which impacts how many people actually receive your emails. Once in the spam gutter, It’s difficult claw out.
- It’s an outbound marketing strategy, by its nature not as effective as inbound marketing.
And the positive:
- You build your own real estate. Email lists are gold. Finding work through sites like Upwork or Peopleperhour is a valid strategy, but the clients are not your own. Having your own list of contacts means you always have a source from which to find work.
- You build relationships. Even if the person you’re reaching out to isn’t interested in your services, it’s a chance to build a relationship. From personal experience, knowing people from all walks of life makes life easier and richer. And who knows? Maybe there’s work to be had in the future.
- You become a better communicator. Cold outreach is the art of writing in a way that grabs attention and brings immediate value. You begin thinking like a client, and eventually figure out what they truly need. In short — you stop wasting people’s time.
- Exponential Gains. The more successful replies, the more amount of work you get. With more work comes a better network and a better portfolio. And with a better network and portfolio? Less need for cold outreach.
Yes, it takes time. Yes, there’s the risk of emotional decay in the face of constant rejection. And yes, I’ll probably trigger more than one spam filter. But the prospect of building my portfolio, getting more clients, and getting better at my craft keeps me going.
What advantages or resources do I start with? Here’s a breakdown:
- Academic accomplishments in my field. Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Computer Science and Business Administration.
- Limited portfolio, but portfolio nonetheless. I’ve had the occasional writing job, but nothing solid.
- A limited network of professionals — spread across the US, Canada and Europe — that I could reasonably reach out to.
And as for resources?
I have already compiled the list of 5,295 prospects based on countries and language groups I want to target:
And I can use hunter.io to obtain contact information if it can be found anywhere on the internet.
This one’s pretty simple:
- For every row in my prospect spreadsheet, obtain contact information for decision makers such as marketing directors or COOs. Heck, even CEOs!
- Craft a headline that’s no longer than 40 words.
- keep my message to less than 10 sentences.
So there you have it. This is the start of a journey to demonstrate how cold outreach can grow a business from scratch. I’ll be publishing my data weekly, so keep an eye out!
How do you think this is going to go? Any suggestions for how to approach this? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch directly at email@example.com