How to Get Steady, High-Paying Clients with Direct Email

Steady, high-paying clients make it easy for you to make more money with less work. And direct email helps you attract steady, high-paying clients so you can grow your freelance business.

Direct email frees you from low-paying, high-competition freelance jobs sites and content mills. Instead of taking whatever work comes along—usually for low-paying clients who don’t treat you right—direct email helps you make yourself irresistible to steady, high-paying clients. It’s one of 10 steps to freelance success.

Stand Out from Other Freelancers with Direct Email

Most freelancers don’t use direct email. They don’t know about it or think it’s email marketing. It’s not.

Email marketing—what annoys most of us—makes the same offer to thousands of people.

The email may use your name, but it’s not customized to your needs. Often, email marketing isn’t even relevant.

Instead, each direct email is carefully customized to the client and focused on what you can do for that client. If you use direct email—and do it right—you’ll stand out. And you’ll make yourself irresistible to steady, high-paying clients.

Find out what happened when 4 freelancers used direct email.
Why You Need to Use Direct Email: What 4 Freelancers Say

Choose Your Clients

Before writing direct emails, you need to develop a list of the clients you want to work with. I tell you how to do this, including how to find the best clients and clients most likely to hire you based on your background, experience, and skills, in another post on prospect lists and in this video.

When you develop your prospect list, you’ll learn more about your ideal clients. And this will help you become the expert that clients are looking for when they hire a freelancer.

Attract Clients by Focusing on Their Needs

Make yourself irresistible to steady, high-paying clients by focusing on their needs and how you meet those needs. Do this in your direct email and in all marketing, especially your LinkedIn profile and website. Clients have four types of needs:

  1. General
  2. Freelancer-specific
  3. Target-market or industry
  4. Company-specific.

General Client Needs

Here are some common general client needs:

  • Get more business or make more money (usually by selling more products or services)
  • Help their clients get more business
  • Be seen as a thought leader
  • Educate and inform people
  • Stay on budget and on deadline.

Freelancer-Specific Client Needs

Freelancer-specific needs start with working with freelancers who are excellent at what they do (writing, editing, etc.). Clients also need:

  • Experience in the type of work they’re looking for help with (usually)
  • Ability to meet deadlines
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Flexibility, accessibility, and responsiveness
  • Ability to take ownership of the project.

Target-Market Needs and Industry-Specific Needs

It takes more time to learn about target-market needs and industry-specific needs. Professional associations are an easy way to do this. Also, follow industry news.

Sometimes you can use the same target market need in all direct emails to a type of client, with a little customization to the specific client. For example, all hospitals need to get more business (patients) but face intense competition from other hospitals. I use this basic need in all of my direct emails to hospitals, and customize the language I use for each hospital based on its website.

Company Needs

Learn about the needs of each company by spending a few minutes on the prospect’s website. The Home and About pages usually have all of the information you need.

Attract Clients with Compelling Direct Email Copy

Write a short, targeted direct email to each prospect that combines your knowledge of the target market (group of clients within an industry) or the industry with some of the language or concepts used on the prospect’s website.

The first direct email for each target market does take time. But this will be your template for other clients in that target market. Then you can modify the template for each client in a few minutes.

Include the Key Content

Compelling direct email copy:

  • Has a client-focused subject line
  • Focuses on a key client need and how you meet that need
  • Includes brief, relevant experience/background
  • Includes a call to action
  • Includes your contact information.


How to Write Direct Email

Write the subject line, the most important part of the email, last. Include the organization’s name. Focus on client needs and how you meet their needs.

After greeting the contact by name, show that you understand the company’s needs. Then write one or two sentences about how your most relevant experience enables you to meet the client’s needs. Include a link to your client-focused website (or your LinkedIn profile if you don’t have a website yet) so that the client can easily learn more about you.

Clearly say what will happen next in your call to action (e.g., “Should we schedule a call next week to discuss this?”). Make it easy for the client to contact you by including an email signature with your phone number and email address.

If you have a logo and tagline, including this in your email signature will help you stand out from other freelancers. Also include your website or LinkedIn profile URL again too.

 Be Compelling

Compelling direct email copy is short, easy to read, personal, and relevant. Write no more than six sentences. Make the sentences, and paragraphs, short and easy-to-read. Use a subhead for a key client-focused message.

Make each direct email personal by using the contact’s name and the company’s name. Include the company’s name in the subject line and again in the email. Greet the person by name.

Use some of the company’s language and/or values in your email. Focus on what the client wants to know about you.

New Freelancers

If you’re a new freelancer, focus on whatever relevant experience you have and your abilities. For example, if you’re a doctor transitioning into medical writing, highlight the deep knowledge of medicine your clinical experience gives you. If you’re a recent college graduate, highlight relevant classes.

Get direct email templates, examples, and tips

Direct Email Swipe File

Other Email Templates

There are other types of emails you can try too. hunter offers free cold email templates for prospecting and follow up.

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How to Increase Responses to Your Direct Emails

Most of your responses won’t come from your original email. Instead, they’ll come from your follow-up emails. That’s because clients are really busy. They may miss your email or mean to respond to it but don’t get to it.

If you don’t hear back from a prospect in about a week, follow up. It’s super easy to write a follow-up email. You just forward your original email with a short, polite message like:

“Hi Jane. I thought I’d follow up about my April 21st email (forwarded below) to see if we should connect.

I’d love to learn more about ABC Hospital’s freelance needs and the ways in which I can help you meet those needs.”

Responses from Interested Clients

Usually, the response is that the client says they’ll keep you in mind for future freelance work or put you in their freelance database.

That’s because up to 90% of the time, clients don’t need a freelancer when you first contact them. Also, it takes time for many clients to decide to hire you.

Once in a while, you might get lucky and reach a client who needs freelance help right away.

Get More Clients with Continuous Follow-Up

I call clients who’ve responded positively to your direct email but haven’t hired you yet interested clients.

And interested clients are very likely to hire you within the next 12 months or so—if you make sure they think of you first when they need freelance help. You do this by following up with them regularly.

Many freelancers miss out in getting steady, high-paying clients because they never or rarely follow up.

How Many Direct Emails Should You Send?

You can’t just send out a handful of direct emails and expect to be swamped with freelance work from new clients. If you do direct email right, you can expect a response rate of 2%-5%—in normal times. Here’s the math if you develop a list of about 200-400 prospects:

  • 200 direct emails = 4-10 interested clients
  • 400 direct emails = 8-20 interested clients.

Marketing in Bad Times

But these aren’t normal times. In bad times like an uncertain economy or a recession, clients still need freelancers. But many clients cut back on or stop doing marketing projects they normally assign to freelancers.

You can still get steady, high-paying clients during a recession. But you’ll need to do more direct emails because your response rate will be lower.

Build Your Freelance Business by Doing the Work Now

Like developing your prospect list, direct email is a lot of work.

But here’s the thing. You only need a few steady, high-paying clients to make more money and begin to build a stable, successful freelance business.

Also, think about the value of each new client over the next 1, 2, 5, or 10 years. The amount of money you’ll make in, say, two years from a new client is well worth the time you spend on direct email.

And once you start getting steady, high-paying clients and doing great work for them, it’s likely that they’ll refer you to other steady, high-paying clients.

Learn More
How to Choose Your Clients Instead of Taking Whatever Work Comes Along 
How to be First in Line for Freelance Work  
Direct Email Swipe File with templates, examples, and tips

Convince Clients to Hire You

When a client gets your direct email and is thinking about contacting you, he/she will want to check you out on LinkedIn and/or your website first.

That’s why your LinkedIn profile must have a compelling, client-focused headline and About section, and use the keywords that matter to clients.

Your website must also be compelling and client-focused, with an awesome Home page that clearly describes what you do and who you do it for.  Compelling web content is conversational, concise, and scannable. Key marketing messages focus on client needs.


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