How to Write the Perfect Cold Email

When I first started my business over a year ago, I had no idea how to get clients. I had a business model that I thought would work based on my experience in the field, so I had a basic website made to give myself a bit of credibility, and ordered a box of business cards. But how would I get people to actually look at my website and hold one of my business cards?

Maybe surprisingly, my first thought was not to tap my network! I was still working a 9-5 and was terrified that my day job would somehow intersect with my business and I’d be “found out”. I wasn’t doing anything against the rules, but I was almost scared for people to find my business – was I actually good enough to be a CFO consultant? Talk about major imposter syndrome!

So I got to thinking about my ideal client and figured the best way to reach them was to write a cold email. And you know what? It worked! My email response rate was well over 50% and within three months I had landed not just one, but FOUR clients for ongoing work.

Cold emails work when done right.

Here’s proven formula for landing clients using cold emails:

1. Identify your target market. And I mean REALLY get specific. Here’s how I identified my ideal clients:


Nonprofits without a CFO.

Nonprofits with small to medium-sized budgets were the most likely to be without a CFO.

Nonprofits whose causes I am personally passionate about (Cincinnati-based, education, international development).

See how specific that is?

Once I narrowed my target client profile, I harnessed the power of the internet using Google and Guidestar (a nonprofit database) and put together a list.

2. Do your research. Instead of just dropping a line to the email, research the company, review their website, and figure out who the decision-maker is. Email that person directly.

3. Craft the perfect email. Here is the formula:

Address the person directly. Hi Sarah…

Tell them exactly why you’re interested in their company and working with them. The first sentence of my cold emails shares my genuine passion about their mission. Don’t fake it – you will sound sales-y and transparent!

Explain how you understand a problem they’re likely facing, then show them how you can help in one or two sentences.

Close with your website and ask for a brief chat. Would you be interested in a brief conversation? I’d love to chat about how we can work together at Company X!

So what do you think? This tried and true method works because it shows the client you’re approachable, concise, and genuine. You are someone they want to work with because you’re not sales-y.

I challenge you to give it a shot this week and let me know if you get a response! Want advice on a cold email draft? Send it my way and I’ll take a look, no strings attached!

Happy emailing!