How to write a cold email

Jan 19, 2023 8:01 PM

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[a repost of my tweet storm here, pardon the awkward grammar]

I’m a big believer in cold emails. They’ve personally opened many doors for me and I believe they’re a great way to meet fun, interesting people.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about powerful/wealthy/interesting people. This is almost universally true.

  • They read their own email.
  • Moreover, they’re good at responding to email.
  • They’re very, very curious people.
  • They have very little time. Anything with friction gets sorted into a “later” bucket.

Which means a cold email, well crafted, is a great way to get attention. The magic is in writing it in a way (and having the body of work to back it up) that grabs attention.

The perfect cold email is

  1. Short and grabs attention.

    Self-explanatory. Anything over a couple of paras and it gets sorted into the “later” bucket. The receiver isn’t rude, they just don’t have time for it when checking their email on the way to work. And “later” may never happen.

  2. Super clear on who you are.

    Why are you worth paying attention to? There are two approaches to this. You could either emonstrate credibility through your past institutions/roles. If someone gets a cold email from an exec at a large company, they’ll immediately pay attention.

    Or, you could show off a body of work. Link to your Twitter/a paper you wrote/a Github repo/your blog which is interesting and shows why you’re worth paying attention to.

    I used to do the latter for years until I could start doing the former.

  3. Value prop for the receiver.

    What’s in it for them? Everyone wants to help with general advice but it’s hard to respond to everyone. Easy ways: ideas for their companies or a thoughtful response to something they wrote or said.

  4. Has a specific ask.

    What should the receiver do? A generic “help me with advice” is really hard unless you really stand out with #2. The same goes for “Would love your thoughts on my post/startup”. It gets filed into a “todo” bucket as most folks want to send a thoughtful reply…but then never get to it.

    My suggestion is to have have a specific ask which is low friction. Examples - “follow me on Twitter” - “here’s a live demo account you can click into to see what I’ve built” - “a PDF of screenshots”.

    The key is - it’s low work and can be done in seconds.

That’s it! Have fun with cold emails and always feel free to send me one at!