We all know that an ever growing number of people are taking up side hustles. The reasons why are a question for another day. What matters is that people who have previously only worked traditional jobs are now effectively running miniature businesses in their spare time.
Of course, running this one-man operation means taking on responsibilities that might have dedicated departments in a larger organisation. As such, the early days are a steep learning curve.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is finding customers or clients. In the early days, most side hustlers can get by on word of mouth or responding to open job offers. However, you’ll soon need to get a bit more proactive.
The majority of side hustles involve offering some kind of service, rather than making or selling a physical product. In most cases, that means looking for a relatively small number of high value clients, rather than the other way around.
To find this type of client, it’s hard to beat personalised cold emails.
Why Cold Emails?
The idea of reaching out to someone unsolicited fills many of us with anxiety and dread. Luckily, I have a very simple piece of advice for this. You just have to get over it. This might sound glib, but once you start seeing results, you’ll leave those trepidations behind.
Or maybe you think personalised emails are a little old fashioned. Why would I want to type out individual emails if I can reach thousands of potential leads in seconds with an automated blast? Two reasons spring to mind.
The first comes down to horses for courses. Bulk emails are more appropriate for selling products or certain types of services. But if you want to take on a small number of high value projects in your spare time, this is unlikely to yield results. If nothing else, your potential clients will spot a template a mile off.
The second is data privacy. If desperation kicks in, you might be tempted to buy an email list from some nefarious source. This used to be morally questionable, but not strictly illegal. In the GDPR age, with its regulations regarding consensual data usage, this path is not worth the risk.
Beside this, a properly personalised and thoughtful cold email costs nothing, and probably has the highest chance of converting of any outbound marketing technique.
Let’s take a more detailed look at how to do this.
Finding the One
Naturally, the first step is getting the right people in your sights. If you’re going to put the effort in to crafting a highly personalised initial email, you want to know that you’re targeting the right person.
In most cases, you’ll want to look close to home. At least for the early days. You might not have realised, but if you’ve been in the same locality for long enough, you should have plenty of insight into which local companies are in need of exactly your services.
If you do want to cast your net a little wider, you’ll have to be fairly cunning. One popular trick among freelance videographers and writers is to look companies who post serial content. This makes pitching ideas much easier, as you just have to come up with something which fits into the series, and you’ll already have a good idea of what they publish.
Of course, this only applies to certain types of side hustle, but the key point is to exercise a little bit of nous rather than going in blind and hoping for the best.
The Foot in the Door
Well, the proverbial foot anyway. Your next hurdle is getting your perfect target to actually open your email. Let’s talk subject lines. If you were automating your email outreach, you’d have the option to A/B test to ensure the optimal open rate.
With smaller batch emailing, this isn’t really an option. For one thing, the sample size is too small for an A/B test to be elucidating. Still, you can make use of some good practices. As a general rule, you’ll want to avoid anything which looks too salesy, as this is likely to be ignored.
Instead, cut straight to the chase. If you’re a web designer, something along the lines of ‘Some thoughts on your website’. Short and simple.
To subtly communicate the value you can bring to a potential client, a good strategy is to work in some figures. This is particularly easy for social media pros, but others can do it too. The obvious example would be ‘Instagram influencer with xxxxx followers’.
Finding the Right Words
The actual body of your email doesn’t need to be any more than about three short paragraphs. People are busy. Even the ones that aren’t busy think they are. So at the outset you’ll want to say exactly why you’re reaching out.
Important note, that means no deference. I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to think an email is a waste of my time if the sender says so themself in the first sentence.
Once you’ve established why you’re getting in touch, it’s time to start showing the value you can add. Giving the highlights from your brag book is one thing, but you should also try and demonstrate your skills.
Whatever service you offer, try and say a few words about their current situation and why you’re the right person to take it to the next level. This section should also include an indicative rate. No-one is going to respond if they suspect you’re out of their price range.
Finally, just like any other outbound marketing, you need a clear call to action. You should have a clear idea of what you want the next step to be, and try and nudge your prospect in that direction.
You don’t necessarily need any jedi mind-tricks or fancy embedded buttons. Simply provide them with some of your previous work to peruse and encourage them to get in touch to discuss some project specifics.
Now, I’d never claim this was a totally comprehensive guide. There guide across the internet which claim to offer a one size fits all guide to writing cold emails. We won’t dwell too much on those.
The trouble with these guides is that there is far too much variation in the nature of side hustles for these to offer much help. Especially given the importance of a distinctive personal touch for this type of email marketing.
What I’ve tried to do instead is provide you with a firm foundation. The potential for cold emails to kickstart your side hustle’s growth is immense. This article outlines some of the basics of how to succeed at this, while leaving plenty of scope for you to put your own stamp on it.