3 Battle-Tested Strategies for Cold Emailing a Potential Client

Are you a consultant or freelancer looking to expand your business and land new, high-paying clients?

If so, then cold emailing might be one of the most powerful tools at your disposal, that will help you achieve your business goals.

I know, cold emailing can be awkward – even scary – if you’re doing it for the first time. It feels almost like walking up to a stranger on the street and trying to sell them something, doesn’t it?

It feels scammy.

And sure, some cold emails can definitely be that way. We’ve all received a few of those emails, that read almost like a desperate classified ad.

The emails that go on and on about the sender’s amazing skills and experience, with vague claims about how they will help you achieve all your dreams and goals, if you’d just buy their package or course for $X.

If you’re lucky, they might even ‘personalize’ the email by inserting your name (and perhaps job title) at the top.

Well, that’s a surefire way to be ignored by your prospects, and perhaps even blacklisted as a spammer.

Personalization goes well beyond inserting a name and designation in the appropriate spots. But we’ll go deeper into that, further down the article.

As a rule of thumb, just remember that if you can swap out one prospect’s name for another’s, and the email still makes sense, then you’re doing it wrong.

After all, you cannot really add value to someone’s business unless you understand what specific challenges they face, and how you are specifically equipped to help them overcome those challenges.

Specificity is the secret sauce that can help you close high-value clients with your cold email campaign.

By being specific about the problems that plague your prospect, and the solutions that you can offer to those specific issues, you demonstrate that you truly understand their business, its major pain points, as well as their short- and long-term goals.

Naturally, this would inspire confidence in the recipients of your cold email, making them respond to your CTA. Surely, someone who understands their issues so deeply would be able to help resolve them.

That’s how you want to introduce yourself to high-level perspective clients who’ve never heard of you before.

Not as a generic freelancer or job-seeker, but as an expert in a specific field, who can provide a relevant and effective solution to a specific problem they’re having with their business.

Still not sure if cold emailing is the right strategy to grow your consulting or freelancing business?

Well, here are some stats and figures to help you learn a bit more about this client-acquisition method, and how it can work for you and your specific business model.

Cold Emailing – Some Facts and Figures

  • Cold emailing open rates can range from 15 percent to 29 percent, depending on your industry and niche.
  • In general, anything over 25 percent is considered a great open rate in a cold outreach campaign.
  • In 2019, the average open rate for cold emails – for all industries across the globe – was 22.15%.
  • On average, most cold email campaigns generate click-to-open rates of about 6 percent to 17 percent.
  • Click-to-open rate simply calculates how many of the people who opened your email also clicked on the link/s in your CTA.
  • A click-to-open rate over 10 percent is generally considered a sign of a very successful cold outreach campaign, in most industries. If the click-through rate is high, it shows that your recipients are really reading your emails, and are interested in what you have to say.
  • The email automation platform Woodpecker reported that even minimal personalization can increase the open and reply rates in your cold email campaign.
  • Woodpecker found that personalized emails could increase the reply rate from 7 percent to 17 percent (an incredible 10 percent hike).
  • A small custom snippet like {{first_name}}, at the beginning of your cold email, can help you make your prospect feel seen. This can help build a sense of intimacy and belonging. So, imagine what you can achieve if you actually take the time to research their business, needs, goals, and pain points!
  • Effective and timely follow-up emails should be a major part of your cold emailing strategy. Cold email campaigns with 4-7 emails per sequence usually had a response rate 3 times higher than the campaigns that did not involve any follow-up emails (or only a single follow-up).
  • In 2020, targeted cold emails had conversion rates of slightly over 15 percent. The conversion rate is simply a measure of what percentage of the cold email recipients actually purchased the product or service being marketed.
  • By contrast, social media marketing typically has a conversion rate of between 2 and 5 percent. The average conversion rate for Google Ads – across industries – is a little under 3.5 percent.
  • As you can see, cold emailing has a higher conversion rate than almost all other common forms of marketing. And for a consultant or freelancer, it is also one of the more affordable marketing options.
  • In 2021, cold email campaigns (on average) generated returns of about $38, for every $1 invested in the campaign. In other words, cold email had an incredible return on investment (ROI) of 3,800 percent.
  • For the best results, you should keep a close eye on the bounce rates of your cold email campaign. A bounce rate of more than 3 percent could negatively affect your sender reputation, resulting in your emails being flagged as spam by the webmail provider.

Three Best Strategies for Cold Emailing Success

Now that you’ve seen just how effective cold emailing can be for client acquisition, you need to think about the best way to launch (and operate) your cold outreach campaign.

To help you get started, outlined below are three of the most popular cold emailing strategies that have generated incredible results for freelancers, consultants, and small agencies across the globe.

You can modify these strategies to suit the particular needs of your business, as well as the habits and preferences of your prospective clients.

1. First Liner Method

We spoke briefly about the importance of personalization, earlier in this article. However, writing a fully personalized cold email can be quite time-consuming. In fact, it might take you the whole day to write just a handful of such emails.

If you are planning a mass outreach campaign – or managing your cold emailing campaign alongside the other aspects of your freelance/consulting business – then you may not be able to devote that much time to crafting each email.

The first liner method is a popular cold email strategy precisely because it allows you to reap many of the benefits of proper personalization, with relatively little effort.

In this technique, you personalize just the first line of each cold email that you send out, instead of the entire email.

Writing a customized first line for each prospect may not be easy, but it is extremely effective, and requires less time and effort than full personalization.

So, you might be wondering, why is the first liner method so effective? Well, here’s why!

  • Before you open an email you’ve received, you can see its subject line – and a snippet of the first line – in your inbox. If the first line is highly personalized and relevant to you, that will naturally pique your curiosity and encourage you to open the email.
  • A personalized first line makes the email look like it was sent by a real person wanting to start a conversation with you, rather than by an automation tool or bot. Thus, it can help increase the open rate of your cold emails.
  • Your cold email recipients don’t know who you are – which is why it’s known as cold outreach. Hence, they have no reason to care about anything you say, unless it brings some kind of benefit to them. And the first line of your email is your chance to demonstrate that not only have you researched them and their work, but you understand their pain points and can offer effective solutions to their issues.
  • This increases the likelihood that your prospects will finish reading your email, instead of marking it as spam. Once the first line has shown them that you understand their specific problems and can offer a solution, they will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt and read the rest of your message, if only to find out what is in it for them.
  • A personalized first line will help make the recipient feel like the rest of the email was also written specifically for them, addressing their needs. This would make them more open to whatever service you are promoting through your cold email, making them feel that it is a solution specifically designed to meet their needs.

You can further increase the efficiency of the first liner method by researching all your prospects in bulk, then creating a spreadsheet with the first and last name of each prospect, their social media URLs, and the personalized first line for their email. (Click here to learn more about how to scrape email addresses from the internet to create a high-quality, verified email list.)

The best web scraping tools will provide you with some of the information needed to personalize your emails, such as your prospect’s name, current organization, job title, and social media URLs. You can use this information as a starting point in your research.

For instance, you can check their social media profiles (e.g., LinkedIn and Facebook) to learn a little bit about their interests, latest activities, and other such information.

If they have recently published an article on LinkedIn, you can use that to open your email with a personalized compliment. Mention a point from the article that you found especially interesting, and proceed from there.

Similarly, if your prospect is the member of a Facebook group that is somehow related to your business or service, you can mention that group in your opening line, as a way to demonstrate that you are aware of their specific interests and priorities.

If your prospect recently won an award, earned a certification, attended an interesting event, or if they went to the same university as you – you will be able to easily find these pieces of information from their social media profiles, and can use them to craft the hyper-personalized first line of your cold email.

2. Loom Video Method

This cold email strategy allows for hyper-personalization, through the integration of video into your cold email template.

When you’re trying to create a cold email campaign, there is always an ongoing battle between automation and personalization. Which parts of the campaign you should automate, and how much personalization is essential – these questions need to be answered before you can start sending out the cold emails to your potential clients.

This dilemma is only natural, because both automation and personalization have their own benefits.

  • Greater automation makes the cold emailing process faster and more efficient. This means that you can send out more cold emails at a time, and therefore land more clients, even with a relatively low conversion rate.
  • The more personalized your cold emails are, on the other hand, the higher will be your open and reply rates. More personalization usually leads to higher conversion rates. This means that, with sufficient personalization, you will be able to land many clients even if you have a relatively small prospect list.
  • In short, greater automation allows you to target a wider audience base with your cold email campaign, while greater personalization makes it easier to build deep relationships with a smaller audience.

The Loom video method is all about creating hyper-personalized videos for each and every prospect on your email list. You can then integrate these videos into your cold emails, to instantly get (and hold) the attention of the recipient.

Most people would be at least a little intrigued to receive an email with an embedded video, where the presenter is talking directly to them – discussing their business and its major pain points – with their LinkedIn profile (or their company’s website) as the video background.

This technique can help skyrocket your conversion rates, almost overnight. The drawback, of course, is that creating a personalized Loom video for every single prospect would require a huge amount of time and effort.

There is, in fact, a simple way to determine whether or not this technique would be worthwhile for your freelance or consulting business.

You simply have to figure out how big your serviceable addressable market (SAM) really is. This is, essentially, the market opportunity that exists for your business, based on your core competencies and business model.

For instance, if you are a freelance graphic designer who specializes in designing menus and packaging materials for restaurants and cafés, then your serviceable addressable market is in the tens of thousands.

You can design menus and packaging materials for restaurants that operate in your own city, as well as in cities and countries in other parts of the world.

Therefore, you can afford to send out automated cold emails to hundreds of potential clients every day. While the lack of personalization might lead to a low conversion rate, your SAM is big enough that you’d be able to keep the lights on, even if a very small percentage of your cold email recipients turned into paying clients.

On the other hand, if you are a freelance executive coach who works exclusively with Fortune 500 clients, then your SAM would naturally be much smaller. You would also be making a lot more money from each client that you successfully land.

In that case, hyper-personalization and account-based marketing would be the need of the hour. You would need to tailor each cold email to suit the specific needs and attributes of the prospect you are addressing, so taking the time to make a personalized Loom video would be well worth the effort.

The good thing about this technique is that it gives you a lot of opportunity to practice your pitch. The first video you shoot may not be the best, but by the twentieth video, you will learn exactly how to grab your prospect’s attention and pitch your services in a way that maximizes the odds of conversion.

You will then be able to create higher quality videos in less time, which will allow you to ramp up the number of cold emails you send each day.

Loom also allows you to track the number of people who have viewed your videos or visited your page. You can use this feature to measure the level of engagement your cold emails are generating – i.e., how many emails did you send out, and what percentage of the recipients visited your Loom page to see the embedded video?

3. Direct Method

This cold emailing strategy sacrifices some of the personalization, for greater scalability. In other words, the direct method allows you to send out hundreds of emails quickly and easily.

You simply need to write the email copy once – after which you can keep sending it out to all your prospects, as you acquire their email addresses.

The email copy is typically direct and to the point (which gives this cold emailing strategy its name), laying out your offer in a few sentences.

The downside is that this method allows for very little personalization. So, if you are planning to use it, be sure that you have built up a large email list of potential clients.

This is because the conversion rate for this method is typically lower than the other two, so a large list will ensure that you can get some clients through your cold outreach campaign, even with a (relatively) low engagement and conversion rate.

Here are the steps you will need to take, in order to launch a cold email campaign using the direct method:

  • Sign in to the cold email automation tool of your choice, such as Woodpecker, SalesHandy, Lemlist, or Mailshake. There are many options available in the market, although Woodpecker is perhaps the most reliable, as well as the simplest to use.
  • Copy and paste your email content into the automation platform or website. Keep the message direct and to the point, and provide links to any videos, articles, or landing pages that you want your prospects to check out. But be careful not to confuse them with too many links and CTAs. Focus on one or two of the most important ones.
  • The major advantage of this method is that once you’ve written the email copy, you can scale it as much as you want. As long as you keep adding to the pipeline of prospects, you can send out as many emails as you want. Simply keep the campaign running in the background, and you’d have pitched your services to hundreds of prospects by the end of the day.
  • Craft a subject line that is accurate yet attention-grabbing. You have to maintain a careful balance in order to find a subject line that is striking and memorable, but not misleading in any way.
  • A very clickbait-y subject line can be a turnoff for some prospects. And you risk being flagged as a spammer if the email content doesn’t match your subject line.
  • Make sure you include a call-to-action (CTA) in your email copy. Ideally, the CTA should be a question – e.g., ‘Do you have time for a 15-minute call this week?’


  • You can also split test two or three different versions of the same email (with different subject lines, CTAs, etc.) to see which one gets the most opens and click-throughs.
  • Since these emails are short, to-the-point, scalable, and rather easy to craft, creating a few different versions for split testing isn’t difficult. Such testing will allow you to fine-tune your cold emailing technique over time, and get better results with each new batch that you send out.
  • If you don’t get a reply on the first email, be sure to send follow-up emails in order to encourage a response. When setting up the cold outreach campaign, you should try and create a sequence of about three or four emails, which will increase your chances of getting noticed by the prospect.
  • In your third or fourth email, you can add a link to a calendaring system like Calendly, to help them book a call with you, if they are so inclined.

Overall, this cold emailing method might be perfect for you if you have a serviceable addressable market that is huge. You can use it to reach out and pitch your services to an endless number of prospects. This will allow you to quickly grow your business, even if only a small minority of the recipients respond to the email.

Using an Ideal Client Profile to Personalize Your Cold Emails

Throughout this article, we have spoken extensively about personalization – about its importance in a cold email campaign, and about how different cold emailing strategies make use of it, to varying extents.

Underneath all the strategies and tactics, however, lies the simple fact that we, as humans, like feeling seen and heard. Even when we know that we are being approached by a business for marketing or promotion, we still want to be seen (and spoken to) as unique individuals, rather than as data points on some remote spreadsheet.

That’s why 73 percent of consumers say they prefer doing business with brands that put in the effort to personalize their promotional offers to the customer, to increase the relevancy and convenience of each transaction.

Various studies have shown that personalized emails drive conversion six times as often as generic, non-personalized ones. Furthermore, emails with personalized subject lines are opened 26 percent more frequently than the ones with generic subject lines.

In short, a personalized cold email will almost always give you better conversion rates than one that has not been properly personalized. To grab the attention of your prospect – and hold it while you make your pitch – you need to identify exactly who you’re emailing, and do some research about them. Only then can you tailor the conversation to suit their interests and priorities, which will make them pay attention to what you have to say.

And this process can be made easier by creating an ideal client profile or ICP.

An ICP is a fictional persona created for marketing purposes, but in order to be effective, it must be grounded in reality. It should tell you exactly what kind of person you need to target through your cold emailing campaign, which industries they work in and what roles they play within their organization.

For instance, if you are a freelance executive coach, then your ideal client would be the executive-level managers (and startup founders) working in your city or region.

Knowing this information will help you craft emails that specifically appeal to the type of person who fits your ICP. The first couple of sentences in your email should tell the recipient you know who they are, what priorities they have, and where they are coming from.

This type of personalization (made easier with the ICP) will help you convince your prospects that your services are a perfect fit for them, and the best solution to their pain points.

And that’s the most important step, in the process of designing an effective cold email campaign with a high conversion rate.

Philip Ilic

Philip Ilic

B2B Growth Specialist

Phil helps B2B SaaS companies with growth marketing and is a deep specialist in Linkedin advertising and paid social more generally (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). He runs a paid social agency called Superlumen.co and is the founder of B2Bhero.co.



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