’ll never forget the first time I saw my byline.

I had been working in sales at a publishing company in Washington, D.C. It was my first job out of college and I was eager to learn and grow (AKA make a ton of mistakes). One day after a rough cold call, I befriended a fellow employee in the shared company kitchen. After bonding over our love for the television series “Shameless,” she suggested I pitch her a story about the show. Moments later, I learned my new friend was The Atlantic’s entertainment editor.

I had never considered writing as a career or even a hobby, but I always knew I had a knack for it. Perhaps I overcompensated because of my first name, but my high school and college English classes were my favorite and where I earned my highest grades. At work, I wrote conversational, well-structured, and typo-free cold emails with ease.

Rather than creating prospect lists, I daydreamed about working for Anna Wintour or winning a Pulitzer for the rest of the day. Later that evening, I nervously contemplated whether or not to send the editor my ideas. Finally, I realized that if I was capable of cold emailing someone, there was no reason I couldn’t email a woman with a mutual interest. After all, I was used to rejection, whether it be an unanswered email or hang up. Nothing worse could happen.

After pressing “send,” she replied a few hours later with her thoughts, a two-week deadline, and advice on how to actually pitch an editor. But the day my article was due, I emailed her asking for another two weeks. (What was my 22-year-old self thinking?) Finally, after five rounds of revisions, my first article was published in February 2012.

Fast forward seven years later

I’m now a full-time freelance writer. Though I’m now better at managing deadlines, some things haven’t changed. As a small business owner, I spend a large amount of my time prospecting and selling clients. I firmly believe the two years I spent boldly drafting emails to individuals I had never met (but relentlessly Internet-stalked to procure their contact information) is now my edge as a freelance writer and entrepreneur. It’s allowed me to successfully grow my business and make a living doing what I love.

I spend at least two mornings per week prospecting and sending cold emails to publications in hopes of writing for them. During the week, I add names of brands I hear about or admire to a “Prospecting” Excel spreadsheet. On “Prospecting Mornings,” as I like to call them, I track down and add the name and contact information for the publication’s editor or content manager on LinkedIn. Alternatively, I’ll find a general information, careers, or pitches email address on the company’s website.

Try this template out for yourself

Once I have this necessary information, I plug it into the following cold email template:

Hi [ Editor Name or there ],

I hope this finds you well! My name is [ Name ] and I’m a freelance writer living in [ City ]. I’m a huge fan of the content on [ Publication Name ]. I especially enjoyed the recently published articles on [ Topic Name ] and [ Topic Name ].

I’ve been a contributor at [ Client Name ], [ Client Name ], [ Client Name ], and other publications for the past [ Length of Experience ]. I’d love to discuss writing opportunities at [ Publication Name ] with you. Below you’ll find a few published writing samples as well as a pitch for [ Publication Name ].

Published Work:

[ Hyperlinked Article Title ], [ Publication Name ]

[ Hyperlinked Article Title ], [ Publication Name ]

[ Hyperlinked Article Title ], [ Publication Name ]

Thank you for taking the time to read! I hope to hear from you soon and look forward to remaining a loyal reader of [ Publication Name ].

Warmly,

[ Name ]

Over the course of a morning, I send about 30 of these cold emails. I’ll often change the client names and links to my published work to showcase that I have experience within a certain industry or vertical, like health or nutrition. I reuse this template over and over again for every cold email, carefully making sure I remove and replace names and publications for accuracy. (Once I accidentally sent an email to a publication but pressed “send” before proofreading. I used another publication’s name in the email. Needless to say, I didn’t hear anything back.)

The best part? It actually works

The past two weeks, I’ve tracked my success with this template. I’ve sent out approximately 70 emails. I received a response from 21 and already have assignments from six. I also wouldn’t be surprised if I get responses and assignments from others over the course of the next week.

It’s funny when things in life come full circle. I couldn’t imagine still working in sales. In some ways, a career as a salesperson and writer are completely different. But after all, my 22-year-old self and 29-year-old self are also completely different. Despite this, I rely on many of the techniques I learned as a salesperson, like prospecting and cold emailing, to be a successful freelance writer.

Of course, a chance encounter and serendipitous shared love of “Shameless” helped a bit, too.