Conquering Cold Call Terror: Hints for Freelancers

Posted on: July 5th, 2010

Welcome to guest writer, Sara Thurston, who provides some helpful tips on how to successfully undertake that most dreaded of tasks: cold calling.

OK, so I’m staring at the phone, knowing that I just have to do it.

And I don’t want to. I really, really don’t.

I have to call a total stranger to ask if they have freelance copywriting work.

I know they’ll scream curses at me and hang up. They’ll tell me to leave them alone. They’ll send the police to arrest me. There will be a trial. I’ll be a pariah throughout the world, and I’ll never, ever get work again.

So, being the masochist that I am (I’m a freelancer, after all), I pick up the phone and call anyway. “Good morning,” I say, smiling,  “I’m Sara Thurston, and I wanted to introduce myself to you. I’m an award-winning freelance copywriter and I love the work your agency does. If you need freelance help, I hope you’ll call on me.”

Then I brace myself for the curses and police sirens.

“Sure!” says the creative director on the other end. “We’re always interested in good creative. Send us your resume and some samples, and check in with us now and then to see if we have anything. Thanks for calling – nice talking with you!”

OK, that one had to be a fluke. The next call is the one where they’ll scream curses at me and hang up on me….

Why is it so darn hard to make cold calls, anyway?

I’m not the only one who feels this way.  Chances are you do, too. Cold calls force us to go outside of our comfort zone, raising your anxiety. So we exaggerate the negative until we’re convinced we’ll never succeed. And then we don’t even try.

What can we do to make cold calls easier?

First, remember this: What’s really the worst that can happen?

“Thanks for your interest, but we don’t use freelancers.”

There – that isn’t so bad, is it? So let’s get started!

All you need is a plan

  1. Commit at least 30 minutes each day or week to new business calls. When I worked in-house, I was more available to callers on Tuesdays and Thursdays, usually late mornings and early afternoons.
  2. Make a list of agencies or companies you’d like to work for and the reasons for your interest. Is it their great creative? Are they hiring? (Offer to fill in until they find their full-time writer.) Do their clients match your own expertise?
  3. Send an introductory e-mail first. This lets the recipient know you’re available, but doesn’t put them on the spot. Follow up with a phone call a few days later. (If you don’t have the name or e-mail of the person you need to contact, you’re better off calling first.)
  4. Write down what you want to say. Then rehearse! Try your opening on friends, colleagues, and family members. Refine, revise, and practice some more. Use bullet points to keep you from sounding stilted while reminding you of what you need to say.
  5. Make your first call to the LEAST important prospect. This will help you refine your pitch before you try the companies that really matter to you.
  6. Landing an interview is scoring 100 points! If they don’t need immediate help, you may not get one. But you surely won’t if you don’t ask.
  7. Follow up by promptly sending a thank-you e-mail with any other information they’ve requested. If they weren’t interested, send a thank-you anyway, expressing the hope that, should things change, they may need you after all.
  8. Start the process over again the next day – or the next week, depending on how you’ve set up your schedule.

You have to do this. You really do.

So make your list, check it twice – and remember to put a smile in your voice!

Good luck!

About the author

Sara Thurston has been a freelance copywriter for many years, creating compelling ads, brochures, newsletters, and websites that talk directly to readers. The result? Marketing materials that delight, inform, and persuade. Her website is and she blogs at:

7 Responses to “Conquering Cold Call Terror: Hints for Freelancers”

  1. linda nelwin
    July 5th, 2010

    Hey Sarah, good points, I hate cold calling, I am better at networking face to face, but that can get expensive…hope to use some of your pointers this week…I’ll let you know how I made out.


  2. Carole
    July 5th, 2010

    I know someone who runs a telesales company and so he is very good at these kind of calls. However, when it comes to selling his own services by phone, he always hires someone else. That’s because he says it’s very hard to sell yourself. Interesting point.

    In fact, I remember being part of a mini exhibition of freelance stands a few years ago. Someone had brought her husband along and he did all the sales patter about her on her behalf.

  3. Matt
    July 5th, 2010

    One reason cold calling is feared so much (in my experience) is because people think if they get a negative response they have failed or are rubbish at it. Actually, cold calling is just the sifting and sorting of prospects. If you get a definite no then that’s fine – you’re bound to get some of those! You are just sorting through the list separating the no’s from the maybe’s and the yes’s!

    My approach is very similar to Sara’s
    I find that in each call it’s handy to try and get them to agree to something each time you telephone. For example, when you first call them you might just want them to agree to let you email them some details about yourself – then follow up a few days later (much like Sara suggests).

    During the follow up call you might want to try and get them to agree to a meeting for example, or if they have nothing for you currently, you might just want to get them to agree to you calling them again in a month or two – it’s important to stay in touch with these ones, you never know when things might change or when people may move on etc.

  4. Carole
    July 6th, 2010

    Hi Matt

    Getting them to agree to something and then following up with another call sounds like a good strategy.

  5. Jimmy
    July 10th, 2010

    You’re right on all points. I’ve been cold calling since 2007 (I work from home, Toronto, Canada), and although, initially I was terrified of calling a complete stranger, and a top executive (Canada and the US) at that, it hit me that “I’m here, you’re there, at least 100 kms away from me”, the pain of cold calling dissipated. Another useful tip: Say to yourself: s/he is just another human being. And, there’s all to it. Go to the next call.

    Nice article: engaging and truthful. Highly recommended!

  6. Sara Thurston
    July 12th, 2010

    I like Matt’s idea of getting them to agree to something — anything — each time you call. I’ll have to try that one!

  7. Mauricio
    February 11th, 2014

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