The Lowdown to Writing a Cold Email
One of the biggest things I’ve learned through blogging and freelancing is how to cold email, which essentially just means reaching out to a brand or a company without any prior introduction or discussion. It is then your responsibility to make the introduction and to state your case for the email. A cold email, while it may seem intimidating, could just lead to a new client or your next job.
The main thing I always try to do when writing a cold email is to consider the email from the recipient’s perspective. More than likely the person you are reaching out to is busy, above all else, and does not have time to sift through the thousands of emails he or she receives each day, let alone to sift through a confusing email from someone they have never met. It is your responsibility to present everything in the most straightforward, professional, and succinct way possible.
Now that I’ve grown the blog to a point where I constantly receive these cold emails from brands, I know from a first hand perspective that I will often just delete or ignore an email if it isn’t well-written enough to merit my time. Don’t let your email get deleted or ignored…
The Recipe to Writing a Cold Email
Choose your subject wisely
Your first point of contact when writing a cold email is your subject line, the first thing they will see that may–or may not–catch their attention. It may seem arbitrary but it is a lot harder than you’d think to communicate the gist of your entire email in a quick three or four words. The subject should be short enough that it does not get cut off in the preview and descriptive enough that you know what to expect in the email. If you only have a few words to use, you’d better use them to your advantage.
I like to title my emails to brands “collaboration opportunity” or something along those lines because this establishes from the get-go that I am offering them an opportunity, not just pandering for free things. What subject line will appeal to the person you’re reaching out to?
Begin with a brief introduction
Explain a little bit about who you are and what you do. You want to give the reader a quick overview of the highlights that are relevant to this email exchange. My introduction as a blogger writing a cold email will mention my experiences doing that, versus my introduction as a photographer or a writer, which will contain information pertinent to those skills set. Tailor the introduction to the reason you’re writing.
Lead with what you can do for them and follow with what you would like from them
First and foremost you should explain to this person how it benefits them and their company to continue reading and consider working with you. This is what will pique their interest more than anything because you are offering them a benefit. Once you have convinced them to be interested, you can begin to mention what you might want in return. But keep in mind, most of those negotiations will be done further down the line and you don’t want to scare them off before you’ve even started. So in writing a cold email, always circle back to persuading the reader to respond as your foremost goal.
Avoid sounding spammy
I’m sure we all receive a frustrating amount of spam mail every single day. Programs have literally had to be invented to trap spam emails from coming through and still so many wind up in our inboxes rather than the junk folder where they belong. If you come across as solicitous, you could get flagged as spam or written off as such.
Add links and attachments where necessary
Maybe you are referencing an article you wrote or a video you made, maybe it’s a website you helped launch or a portfolio that you helped to organize–if it is something that may warrant a closer look, it warrants a link or attachment. The reader should not have to search for any of the information you are providing. Rather, you should hand it to him or her on a silver platter with a cherry on top.
In every email I write to a new brand, I include an attachment of my media kit (which includes pertinent statistics about my blog and social platforms as well as an overview of my services and past work), and often my resume to show the professional work I have done that bolsters my skills in my field. Links are a little more self explanatory and will come naturally as you write, but when adding an attachment, be sure that you explain what the attachments are at some point in your writing as well. For example I will end an email with “.
Use an email signature
Using an email signature is helpful to present all of your contact information and links in one helpful place at the end of each email. If you have a logo, even better. Even if you don’t have a website to link to, include a signature with your phone number, your title, and maybe link to your LinkedIn or Facebook.
The signature is a place for the reader to find the most relevant pieces of information about you. Friendly reminder–the signature is not a place to add quotes or cute little sayings and cartoons. I recently received an email from a marketing manager looking for me to work with her brand and her email signature included the tidbit “Easily Distracted By: Puppies & Memes” and a reference to the username “DilfsOfDisneyworld.” While the rest of her email was not stellar either, that definitely put it over the edge and I quickly declined.
Use proper grammar and formatting
I want to scream this one from a rooftop a thousand times over then get it plastered on billboards and flyers in every city across America. I cannot stress enough–in every single thing you write, but especially in a professional context–the importance of proper grammar. If you know that your grammar skills aren’t great then proofread like crazy and maybe ask a friend to do so as well. When in doubt, look it up. It takes a few seconds to check the rules for a properly placed semicolon or the spelling of the word “restaurant,” and it only takes another few seconds for the reader to stop taking you seriously after too many egregious grammatical mishaps. Don’t let that be the reason your hard work goes to waste.
The same goes for formatting. Writing a cold email is a bit like the stereotypical essay format many of us learned in middle school: I begin with a greeting, followed by my introduction, a few body paragraphs, a conclusion, a basic valediction (like All the Best or Sincerely), my full name, and my email signature.
I break up each section into small digestible paragraphs, no more than three or four sentences, with a space in between each. The easier it is to read, the more likely it is to be read.
Fortune is in the follow up
Didn’t receive a response? Don’t be entirely discouraged! Even if the person saw your email and loved it, they could have been in the middle of a million other things and it totally slipped their mind. Give it a few days, maybe even a week, then politely reach out again. Go back to your original email and hit reply so that effort you took writing a cold email will be included in the follow up. If they still don’t reply, depending on how badly you want to get in contact, a third follow up may be warranted. At that point, my attitude is always “what have I got to lose?” If you never hear back from them, that’s fine too.
It’s better to have tried and to have failed than to never have tried at all.