The following is a guest contribution from Paul Blumer.
Back when coronavirus meant nothing more than someone’s bad mistake at a frat party, I was suffering from pneumonia of the psyche.
My spirit was drowning in a job that no longer suited me, and I was putting in 10-hour shifts on my feet doing something I no longer loved.
Once upon a time, craft bartending saved me and reintroduced me to myself—but that was long ago, before I was 30.
I tried being a teacher, but got fired for having a beer at a restaurant on a half day for staff only.
(For real. At a burger joint. No students around.)
…But that’s a tale for a different day.
This is a story about how I became a freelance writer and signed two big retainer clients within my first month.
Bartending had become just a strenuous job—the passion was gone—and my new boss and I struggled to find chemistry.
Plus, I was approaching 33 and feeling the pull of my next life.
It was time to put up or shut up.
Freelance writing was going to be my ticket to autonomy.
Ever since finding my grandma’s old typewriter, I’ve been a writer. Everything else is always just a gig.
But novels don’t pay the bills, and I desperately needed to get away from bartending.
Freelance writing was my answer…but I had no idea what that meant. Not yet…
Late that summer, I took a sabbatical to visit Iceland with friends—and through a lysergic revelation while hiking in the highlands, I realized I had to quit my job or I’d never have enough motivation to switch gears on my life.
So I took the first steps on my journey into copywriting and brand narrative—and quit my job to light a fire under my own ass.
And a good thing I did…because just a few months later a pandemic swallowed up my old job anyway.
Freelance writing and cold emailing are the only reason I’m still working.
Why I almost quit the quest to start freelance writing—and what rescued me
Before resigning my bar manager position I spent hours reading about digital marketing and freelance writing—bidding on shitty projects at insulting rates…
(Not to name names, but let’s just say it starts with F and ends in -iverr.)
Was this the game? Despair filled my horizon.
I knew I was worth at least $0.25 per word…because I’ve freelanced for local rags enough to know better.
I have a master’s degree in writing, damnit!
At those chump rates, I’d be working 60 hours a week just to make ends meet.
…Nevermind any hopes of knee-tackling my student debt.
Plus I’d be spending more time bidding on projects than actually writing.
I almost quit and became a working stiff. I’ll never tell where.
What a fitting way to round 33… nailing myself to the cross of my bygone dreams.
But just in the nick of time, I stumbled upon a warren of personality-driven copywriting… centered around value-based business ownership… championing voice and storytelling and…
“Good god, they’re charging freelance writing clients WHAT!?”
I wanted that. I wanted that yesterday.
So I decided to take a free overview course about setting up shop, building my brand and SEO, client outreach and management – how to set up my freelance writing business.
Much of the writing stuff I learned, I already knew—what really caught my eye was the cold-emailing method. I wanted more.
Through that free course, I came across the Killer Cold Emailing program — and what it offered seemed too good to be true for the price.
But I tried it anyway and gobbled it up in a week.
My maddening realization about cold emailing as a freelance writer
I realized I’d been approaching everything wrong—not just the warm-emailing I’d begun with people I know who own businesses—but everything.
My whole life.
Pitching literary agents, applying for jobs, contacting editors about freelance articles…everything.
Laughing at myself—because the other option is crying over spilt milk—I set about cleaning up the mess.
I immediately recommended the Killer Cold Emailing program to several friends who often pitch projects, to family members who were dissatisfied with their role at work, and to anyone who dealt in ideas and business communication.
And I set to work applying what I’d learned and building my writing business, Quillpower.
Because of the process and cold emailing strategy I learned inside Killer Cold Emailing, I signed two dream clients within 4 weeks of cold emailing — each on a $500/month retainer!
Let’s cover exactly what I did to make $1,000 freelance writing, and I’ll share advice and tips for you along the way.
How I Made $1,000 Freelance Writing in Just 4 Weeks
1. Picked a niche.
I didn’t pick a specific niche at first.
…Sure enough, I wound up with a spread of prospective clients who were not worth my time.
Because of my lack of a niche marketing strategy, I had wasted hours cold emailing and creating proposals for the wrong people.
My business model was out of focus.
Problem was, I didn’t want to confine myself to one industry—part of why I write is to explore diverse perspectives and points of view.
I revisited the Killer Cold Emailing course to revise my strategy.
Now, I’m a customer’s journey copywriter focusing on funnel automations. That means I have my process and brand—but I can still pick my clients.
You’ll want to pick a clear freelance writing niche too if you’re looking to build a freelance writing income quickly.
2. Built a list of businesses I wanted to work with.
Working piecemeal is a time suck. I learned this the hard way.
So… what do I recommend you do instead?
Dedicate a few days to researching and building a long list of clients you want to pitch.
I’m talking 100 or more potential clients. Go wild.
This saves time later when it comes to batching personalized emails and offering custom-tailored value.
Quality cold-emailing takes time. But it works.
You’ll get better clients who will fill your calendar with exciting work. And…you’ll be paid what you’re worth.
3. Created a value-oriented freelance writer website.
When I started out, my website was a mess.
My pain points were good, and my promised solution was on point, but then, it degraded into incoherent babble about my life and why I write.
I hadn’t mentioned how I offer my target clients a better version of life—in the form of done-for-you copy.
So, I fixed this by splitting my freelance writer website into two service pages:
One for blog content and one for direct-response emailing, since the clients I write for need both in varying degrees.
That’s why I work on retainer—set monthly invoices for established monthly word counts.
Doing so gives me room to develop their customer’s journey including blogs, newsletters, website copy, and so forth.
4. Scheduled my waves of cold emailing—and planned long-term.
Set up a calendar so you know how long it will be between each step.
Stagger waves of cold emailing so you’re always working on the process—until your clientele is full up.
Meanwhile, rebuild your list so you’re ready to go again before you need more work.
Building too fast can be dangerous. Overbooking can easily lead to missed deadlines, sloppy work, angry clients…not to mention hours of work and no free time.
None of that’s for me.
I schedule my growth carefully.
5. Crafted my cold emailing templates in a Google Doc.
Copy/paste into your email and personalize accordingly.
Use elements like NAME and COMPANY to simplify the process. Plus, you can save time digging through your sent emails for good bits of copy you added on the fly.
It’ll happen a lot. Capture it. Be ready.
Analyze your results and adapt your cold emailing process accordingly. No cold emailing template is truly complete—that’s why it’s called a template.
If you’re offering custom-tailored freelance writing, you’ll be evolving as your clientele and experience grow.
6. Personalized each cold email BEFORE adding the prospect’s email address.
I can’t tell you how important this is.
For cold emailing and all important communications…leave the send box empty while you craft the email.
Double-check names, details, links, and offers.
Then add their email address just before you send it.
Professionalism demands no accidental sends.
7. Used the “Schedule send” feature.
This habit has saved me more than once from an embarrassing mis-name or incomplete pitch.
You can’t afford embarrassing, easily-avoided mistakes. Let the process do its work.
It’s also a good idea to set your email to allow Undo send for at least a few minutes.
Trust the process.
8. Followed up on my cold emails.
If you learn just one thing about cold emailing fro this blog post…
It should be that it’s all about the follow-up.
Even if you aren’t pursuing freelance copywriting as a career, learning how to pitch yourself is a crucial life skill for anyone. And following up is the key.
75% of my client calls came from my third or fourth follow-up.
That includes two dream clients I signed within 4 weeks of cold emailing—each on a $500/month retainer!
I never would have gotten there without the Killer Cold Emailing course.
At the end of the day, people are busy. Especially business owners…
Which is part of the value we copywriters provide. We rescue people from the time vortex of writing their own marketing copy.
Emails tend to get buried.
Following up resurrects the idea of upgrading their business by adding your excellent writing skills.
In Conclusion: You get out what you put in!
Marketing is a numbers game. And cold emailing is about marketing yourself to a specific person with problems you can solve.
What the Killer Cold Emailing course provides is a step-by-step method and schedule—letting you surrender yourself to the process.
Bypass the anxiety of reaching out to strangers and waiting for responses.
Stick to the script and it works like a charm.
Part of developing a business mindset is setting up processes to remove any guesswork.
Knowing when to hold and when to fold: persistence without overstaying your welcome.
The spreadsheet template inside the Killer Cold Emailing course is especially helpful for keeping track of your schedule.
Eventually, you’ll have enough experience and data to predict how many cold emails you need to send in order to schedule enough client calls to bring in a certain amount of work.
At that point, you’re running a business. With your writing as the product.
Now that I’ve shared my story, I’ll leave you with this bit of advice:
There’s never been a better time to start freelance writing.
Businesses are desperate for quality content and digital value. That’s what you provide.
Master cold emailing, and start rescuing clients from online obscurity.
Author Bio: Paul Blumer is a brand-narrative wizard empowering creative businesses through Quillpower and customer’s journey copywriting. His side gig is writing about cocktails in Richmond. See more on Medium @paul.blumer.