Cold Calling: Seven Strategies to Take Away the Pain By Freya Shipley

“Cold calling? I’ll do anything but that.”

Writers are a relatively introverted bunch. To many of us, the idea of phoning a potential client to say, “Hire me!” is downright scary.

The thing is, cold calling is a powerful way for us to market our services. And it’s not as frightening as you may think. Here are seven techniques to help you pick up the phone and connect with the person who’s yearning for your call.

1. Have a script. Plan exactly what you’re going to say when they answer. Write it down and keep it in front of you. If you want, you can write up a whole flowchart: “If she says X, then I’ll say Y.” Peter Bowerman offers some excellent scripts (and a ton of valuable advice) in his book, The Well Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Writer in Six Months or Less.

2. Pretend to be someone else. Are you worried that the person on the other end will instantly divine all your insecurities and insufficiencies? (They won’t.) You may enjoy thinking up a new character for yourself. Someone confident and sought-after, who’s done this a million times. Act the part.

3. Rehearse. When you’re under pressure, does your voice sound breathy? Aggressive? Squeaky? Practice with a friend until you’ve got a phone voice that represents the real you. (Hint: don’t forget to breathe.)

4. Listen. Once you’re into the call, don’t panic and start talking over your potential employer. I like to sit with pen in hand so I can take notes on everything they say. It’s not that I can’t remember “Tuesday”, but note-taking forces me to listen and not blather.

If you can encourage your phone partner to talk, you’re halfway there. Instead of asking her for something (money, an introduction, a job…), frame the call as an opportunity for her to explain her own needs. In other words, don’t try to sell during that first conversation. Focus your efforts on listening, educating, and offering solutions. Your ultimate goal may be to make a sale, but remember: you get there by presenting yourself as a helpful, considerate expert: someone with whom your phone partner would want to forge a lasting professional relationship.

5. What’s your worst fear? Write it down and look at it. For example:

* “The person is going to think I’m pushy and they’ll get mad and tell me I shouldn’t be bothering them.” If the marketing director has any experience at all, she’ll know what copywriters are. She won’t be startled by your call. She certainly won’t be offended by a skilled professional offering to help solve her problems * “The person is going to laugh, because no one would ever take me seriously as a professional copywriter.” How likely is that, really? If for some bizarre reason your phone partner does get annoyed? Know that that’s not your problem. You just get yourself graciously off the phone, and cross that company off your list (for now.)

6. Find it funny. Can you see any humor in this process? From a cosmic perspective, is there anything absurd about the whole thing? Hang onto that.

7. Remember that, statistically, only a fraction of your calls will lead to jobs. That’s fine. In fact, it takes some of the pressure off. If you feel you’re not getting traction with the person at the other end of the line, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just remember that you’re now one call closer to the call–the one that nets you work.

Freya Shipley is a freelance SEO writer and editor. She offers nurturing support on a wide range of projects, from company websites to academic journal articles to fiction. Drop Freya an email today for a free consult: Check out her writing samples and more at