Last Updated on 3 months by Christopher Jan Benitez
Whether you’re a copywriter, a photographer, or something in between, there are countless reasons to conduct freelance networking.
Indeed, it could be argued that networking is the most critical part of a freelancer’s job. Until you’ve built a solid reputation, an authoritative website, and a strong network, outreach is how you acquire clients and projects – you don’t have an agency doing that heavy lifting for you.
While networking via email still works, the reality is that we’re seeing a massive uptick in the success of direct message outreach. According to LinkedIn, InMail senders are achieving a response rate 300% higher than emailers. It’s thus critical that freelancers learn effective direct messaging strategies to strengthen their networks and acquire clients.
Read on for a comprehensive look into how to write the perfect freelance outreach DM.
Social Media vs. Professional Networking Sites
The phrase “sliding into DMs” has been developed by social media users in reference to cold messaging someone for the first time, whether for romantic, amiable, or professional purposes. What’s the goal of this, you may ask? A reply communicating interest in continuing the conversation.
Sliding into DMs has become an art form, but exactly how it’s done varies from platform to platform. On social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, it’s common to start conversations with a more cheeky and casual tone. On LinkedIn and other professional networking sites, however, that first message requires more professionalism.
While freelancers may use either type of platform to the network depending on their field of interest, it’s important to recognize that every platform operates according to its own rules, and learning those rules ahead of time is essential before jumping into the deep end.
Preparing to Write Your DM
So you’ve found the ideal prospect and you’re about to reach out. Before you start writing your DM, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done some preparation. Review the tips below and make sure you’ve checked all the boxes before moving forward.
Know your purpose
If you don’t know exactly why you’re reaching out to this specific prospect, you probably shouldn’t reach out until you do. Are you trying to fundraise? Do you want to acquire new clients? Do you want this person to refer you to new clients? Does this person need a project done that you can do? Are you just trying to expand your network?
Defining your purpose ahead of time will help you narrow your focus as you decide how to phrase that first outreach message. Otherwise, your message will likely come across as too vague or generic and won’t evoke a response.
If you’re using a networking site, there’s a good chance your prospect has a profile – study it! You can glean some incredibly valuable information, such as their relevant experience, their commonalities with you, and even their interests and values.
While you don’t need to understand your prospect’s entire life story before reaching out, these details will come in handy as you start writing to capture their attention and interest.
Set a Goal
By the end of your outreach campaign, how many people would you like to have reached out to? What is your desired response rate? While it’s easy to say “100%” and call it a day, realistically, not everyone will reply to your message. Professionals are often busy and don’t spend much time, if any, browsing their messages on networking sites.
Setting a goal is important for knowing when it’s time to rest and give your prospects a chance to get back to you. If you send too many messages, you will likely lose track of who’s who and your process may become overly complicated.
Crafting an Effective Freelance Networking DM
Now that you have a plan, you can start writing. Remember, as you write you’ll want to conduct frequent gut checks, asking yourself if you would open the message you’re writing. Be hard on yourself – your recipient certainly will be – and make sure to correct any areas you feel even slightly unsure about.
While it’s not a bad idea to have a template on hand when sending several direct messages, it’s important to remember to personalize. Everyone loves to have their ego stroked a bit, so you’ll want to use this knowledge to your advantage. This is why we did our research before getting started.
Did you attend the same university as your recipient? Have you read something they wrote that you enjoyed? Bring these details up! This is a great way to capture your recipient’s attention and communicate that the message you’re sending is unique to them.
It’s a good rule of thumb to anticipate that your recipient receives several general messages per day – make yours the one that stands out above the rest.
Your recipients probably can’t count on their two hands the number of vague messages they’ve received in the past few months. What exactly do you want your prospect to do? What can you offer them? Remember to quantify wherever possible, and at minimum give them a clear next step so that they don’t have to do any guessing.
Keep Your Initial Message Brief
It can be tempting to write your recipient a thesis boasting your credentials and arguing why they should collaborate with you, but the hard truth is that nobody wants to read that. Your initial message should be no more than four to five sentences, each of which is entirely necessary to communicate your main point or build rapport. If your sentence doesn’t add much, remove it!
Don’t forget to do one final gut check to make sure the tone and flow of your message are appropriate. Check for spelling errors, any feelings of pushiness, or too casual of a tone if you’re using a professional networking platform.
If you’re looking for some additional guidance as you get started, here are a couple of templates that you can model your own on:
Ultimately, freelance networking can be challenging, and writing the perfect direct message will take some time to master.
What’s most important is that you learn from your mistakes and you aren’t afraid to ask for help when you need it.