December can be a tough time of year for freelance writers. With the business world winding down for the holiday season, it can be difficult to engage with prospects and find new freelance writing clients.
Of course, everyone’s experience will be different, and lots of factors come into play such as the niche you’re writing for, your level of persistence, and the prospecting methods you use.
But if you’re finding that December is a little slower than usual, I’ve got some good news for you …
The first quarter of the year is perhaps the best time of year for building your freelance writing business. That’s because lots of prospects have new budgets. And they’re ready to start making plans for the year’s content and marketing after returning from the holidays.
So, with that in mind, what can you do to make sure you get off to a flying start in the new year and position yourself to land new freelance writing clients and projects?
Take a Different Approach to December Prospecting Emails
If December tends to be a quiet month, is it even worth prospecting for freelance writing work? The answer to this question is a definite “yes”!
When you’re not yet fully booked, the best thing you can do is keep on prospecting until you are. If you take the entire month off from prospecting you’ll limit yourself – and potentially leave a lot of money on the table.
If you’re having difficulty engaging prospects at this time of year, a simple tweak in your prospecting technique could be all you need to start seeing results. I used this cold emailing technique myself at the end of 2016. It helped me land several profitable clients – some of whom I still work with today.
Here’s how it works …
This technique takes a proven cold email pitch template and tweaks it slightly to focus on setting up appointments for the new year. The template I use is very similar to the one Nick wrote about in his recent post, How to Craft the Perfect Cold Pitch (Lessons from My $10,400 Cold Email).
Here’s how I tweak it for my December prospecting emails:
The subject line
In the post I mentioned above, Nick does a great job of explaining his subject line …
“If you have a look at the headline I used – “Content at [insert company]” – you’ll see that it’s concise and evokes curiosity.
It’s also targeted at my target market. Most of the prospects I reach out to are content managers and content directors. So, when they read the email they will have a vague idea what it’s about, but be curious enough to open it.”
I’m in total agreement with Nick about the subject line “content at [insert company]”. It works, and it’s the subject line I use most often for my prospecting emails. In December I tweak it slightly to read, “[insert next year] content at [insert company]”. So, in December 2017 my subject line is “2018 content at [company name]”.
The next thing I do is edit the call-to-action at the end of the email. My normal call-to-action is “Could we schedule a brief phone call next week?”
In December, I change this to “Could we schedule a brief phone call in early January?”
All I’ve done with these two tweaks is changed the timeframe. But it makes a big difference to my success rate.
This approach helps me schedule calls in January for a couple of reasons: first, it makes me look professional because I’m looking ahead at how I can help prospects in the new year. Second, it puts the prospect at ease.
Most prospects don’t want to get into starting new projects at the end of the year – it’s just more work for them before the winter break. But lots of prospects are open to a call about content and marketing when it becomes a priority for them after the holidays.
Use this to your advantage and make your life easier by lining up some warm leads for the new year.
Schedule Prospecting Emails for January
Now that you have a good strategy for prospecting in December, the next thing to think about is when (and if) to stop pitching.
Prospecting takes time, and it’s important not to waste your efforts reaching out to prospects when they’re not receptive to your messages.
My personal opinion is that prospecting during the Christmas week is unlikely to be very effective. And you want some time off too, right?
In my experience, the first week of January is also not a great time for prospecting. People are returning to work and have a million and one things to catch up with!
My advice is to start a big marketing drive from the second week of January.
You can give yourself a helping hand using the wonders of modern technology – by scheduling emails to be sent during that period.
Instead of waiting until January to send prospecting emails, why not spend some of your downtime in December scheduling them to be sent out in the new year? That way, you should have a stream of potential new business just ready for you to tap into in early January.
Connect With Dormant and Existing Clients in December
So far in this post, I’ve talked about prospecting for new clients in December and into the new year. But December is also a great time of the year to connect with dormant and existing clients.
Existing clients are those you work with on a regular basis. Dormant clients are those you’ve worked with in the past, but haven’t connected with in some time.
Both of these groups share one thing in common: they’ve purchased your services before. Assuming they’re happy with the service you provided, it’s much easier to sell to these clients than it is to a new prospect.
In fact, according to Marketing Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing or dormant client is 60-70%. But the probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20%.
Use this knowledge to your advantage by reaching out to your existing and dormant clients in December. The trick here is to sow the seeds to upsell them in the new year.
So, what should you say when reaching out to existing and dormant clients in December?
I’d recommend saying that you enjoyed working with them during the year, mention specific projects you worked on, suggest a brief call in early January to discuss ways you can help them, and wish them a happy holidays. Here’s a template you can use:
A December Pitching Template for Dormant and Existing Clients
Hi <name> ,
I hope you’re well! It was great working with you on <project(s)> this year.
I’d love to connect after the holidays to discuss ways I can help with your content and marketing in the new year. I have a few ideas I think could really help you stand out in 2018.
Could we schedule a brief call in early January?
Try using this technique to set up some calls with dormant and existing clients in January, you may be surprised at how many people are willing to take a call with you. As I mentioned earlier, content and marketing often becomes a top priority for clients in the new year!
Take the time to analyse the websites and marketing materials of clients who agree to a phone call, and use your findings to make suggestions for ways you can help them during the year.
Is their blog inactive? Do they send an email newsletter to their list? Perhaps they could benefit from a case study on their home page? Look for opportunities you can pitch to them.
If you’re talking to an existing client, think of the possibilities for additional services you can offer them.
For example, if you are writing 2 blog posts for them each month why not offer the add-on service of a monthly newsletter? This is a great way to provide more value to clients and raise your income.
The December holiday season may be quieter than usual for most freelance writers, but it can be the perfect time to prepare for the busy start of the new year.
Remember, most freelance writers will slow right down in December. And you can use this to your advantage and race ahead of them in the new year by implementing some of the suggestions in this post.
One more thing – make sure you have plenty of time to relax and recharge over the holidays. You deserve it!
The steps I’ve outlined in this post don’t need to take up all your holiday time, but I think they’ll pay off big time in the new year if you commit to setting aside some time to get them done.
Have a very Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you in the new year!
Need to brush up on the basics of finding freelance writing clients? Go here to check out our previous posts on the topic.