Design Domination Podcast Episode #84: Stop Spamming and Seeing What Sticks

If you send messages to prospects that are all about you and your services, you’re turning them off. Stop spamming prospects and seeing what sticks. Learn how to reach out to prospects and how to send cold emails that will help you get noticed.

The Wrong Way to Reach Out to Prospects

I had to cover this topic, especially because Facebook has apparently become the new place for people to spam you and try to find work. Or maybe I’ve just been lucky up until recently.

Soliciting work from prospects

Maybe you’ve experienced this too. People send you a friend request after friending some of your friends. You might notice that you have a bunch of friends in common, so by the time they send you a friend request, you accept it. Then they send you a Facebook message and ask you if you have any work for them.

They’ve done no research whatsoever about what you do before pitching themselves. The best ones are the ones who offer you a service you already provide or who ask you what you do.

Here are some examples of messages I’ve gotten.

“I am a web designer, and I provide the following services:

  • website design,
  • web development,
  • PHP and
  • app development.

Are you interested in any of these services?”

Hey, and sometimes the list of services includes every possible service imaginable. If someone is looking for a jack-of-all-trades, it might be a good match.

Or how about:

“I’m a web designer looking for new clients. I am interested in redesigning your website or making some upgrades. I’d love to talk to you.”

Um, no, who said I was looking for a redesign? But thanks for suggesting I might need one. Taking the risk of potentially insulting clients isn’t a good approach.

How about this message after connecting with someone on LinkedIn?

“I’m a developer looking for work. Do you have any?”

And this Facebook message after they connected with several of my friends:

“I’m a web developer. Can we collaborate?”

Hmmm… Maybe, maybe not. I don’t even know you. I don’t know what you do. So why would I trust you with my next project?

Not personalizing your message to prospects

Another Facebook message:

“Hello, sir. We do PDF accessibility work with our team. If you have a project you can give us, we can give you best service and cheap rates.”

Um, no. First off, I am not a sir. If you had looked at my name or profile pic, you would have noticed that. How long does that take to do?

Second, you can’t be bothered with using my name in your copy-paste message?

Third, if you had bothered to look at my profile and website, you’d see I already do that type of work. Why are you trying to sell me a service I already provide?

How much attention would you be paying to a project? And who said I was looking for cheap?

Unrealistic expectations with prospecting

These are the most annoying messages. They are also ineffective.

Enough already! Who thinks this actually works?

Listen. This is the wrong way to reach out to prospects! This turns people off.

If you are sending these types of messages, I have to ask: what outcome do you expect from sending these messages?

Do you think someone is going to say, “Oh, OK. Just what I needed. Let’s jump on a call.”

No. Why would they? You have shown absolutely no interest in them.

You did no research. Not only do you not have that person’s attention, now they don’t trust you.

Your message didn’t come across as genuine. It sounded like you copied and pasted it and blasted out to a gazillion people to see what sticks—because you did!

Stop spamming prospects and seeing what sticks! The only thing that is going to stick is the bad impression you’ve just left.

Your message will go straight to the junk folder and they will probably block you on social media too.

You might as well have just proposed marriage to someone whose name you don’t even know or haven’t even had a date! The people on 90-Day Fiancé might have a better connection or more in common before they meet.

E-mails like this come across as needy and spammy. No one likes that approach, because it’s one-sided. It’s all about you, not them.

You didn’t bother to spend any time learning about the prospect or their business.

You didn’t take a few seconds to check out their profile.

Why would they spend time not only reading your email but contacting you?

People know when they’re being sold to and will immediately put up their defenses.

Put yourself in their position.

The Right Way/How to Reach Out to Prospects

So what is the right way to reach out to prospects?

Be realistic when contacting prospective clients.

First off, you need to be realistic.

The goal of sending an email to someone you don’t know—also called a “cold email”—isn’t even about getting them to hire you. It’s about getting them to read the message and to start a dialog, start a relationship.

To expect more than that is just not realistic.

Get a prospect’s attention.

You have to get someone’s attention because not everyone who gets your message is going to open it.

People are busy. There are distractions everywhere—in their daily life, on social media and elsewhere.

You need to start with a compelling subject line—and it should not be about you or your services!

If they open the email, they need to immediately see what’s in it for them—why they should even read your email.

Mention a connection.

Do you have a connection in common? If so, mention it.

Wouldn’t you be more likely to read a message from someone who is a friend of a friend or a referral from someone than from a complete stranger?

Demonstrate interest.

You want to show that you’re genuinely interested in them and their business.

What are they doing that you connect with?

For instance, if I see that a prospect is involved with animal rescue, I am going to mention that. I do a lot with that. But it also shows I am paying attention.

Maybe you have quite a few years of experience in their industry. That could be a connection.

Demonstrate expertise.

You also want to show that you’re an expert. You don’t need to talk about yourself or brag in order to do that. Experts don’t come across as needy or spammy.

You can send them a link to an article you wrote that you think might be helpful to them and explain why.

If you have a free guide that would be helpful to them, send them the link to it—not the link to the form for it but the link to download it with no strings attached.

Just be genuinely nice and helpful. Don’t try to sell them on anything.

In other words, lead with value. They’ll see you as being helpful.

Don’t nag.

Don’t nag! An annoying behavior I see all the time—and not just from designers or developers looking for work but also people looking to be on the podcast—is nagging:

  • “Did you get my email?”
  • “I just wanted to follow up to my previous email.”
  • “Have you had a chance to look at my email yet? I know you’re probably busy. But I’d love to know your thoughts when you have a few minutes.”

The “but” in that one tells me they don’t give a crap. “I know you’re busy but…”

It sounds like, “But I’m so important and deserve your time and I’m going to nag you until you give it to me.”

That irritates me just thinking about it!

People have more important things going on to deal with every day than reading your email.

Experts don’t nag or chase.

If you want to know if someone got your email and read it, sign up for a free Who Read Me account. Then all you do is add “” to the end of their e-mail address. It will track the email.

Follow up with prospects.

Some people may not have seen your initial email, so it’s OK to follow up.

You can do a cool follow-up in a few days or a week or so. But don’t repeat what you’ve already said, and don’t keep sending a nag email.

You could include your original message and then add a new one that includes something they might be interested in.

For instance, maybe there’s a new WordPress plugin that would be relevant to what they’re doing. If you do that type of work, make sure their site is in WordPress first.

You could also share a link to a helpful article from you or someone else, or some recent work or results you helped a client with.

Change it up but keep it all about them.

If they don’t respond now, it doesn’t mean they won’t. It could just mean they didn’t see your email or they have other things going on. That happens.

I’ve heard from people lots of times who have kept some of the emails I’ve sent to email groups until they’ve had a need. Then they reach out to me.

Just the other day, this happened to a friend of mine. I had recommended his business on an email list, and they didn’t get around to contacting him for a year.


I hope you can see there is a huge difference between prospecting and spamming. It pretty much comes down to this:

Approach prospecting like you would dating. I did an entire episode on this. In case you missed it, check out episode 21: Client Relationships Are Like Dating. I’ve got lots of other relevant tips in there.

You want to come across as the helpful and confident expert, not a spammy, needy designer looking to just take someone’s money. That’s an impression you want to stick.

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