Many freelancers don't have the advantage of meeting with the client in person. They may be approaching an ad agency hundreds of miles away, hoping to get work.
You have several options to get started:
1. Create an information packet that details your previous work, your freelance rates, your writing samples and policies. Mailing this will cost more than a first class stamp so only mail your information packet to serious prospects.
You can determine who a serious prospect is by sending out a small card asking if they would like to receive your information packet. If they do, they just check a little box and return the card in the mail to you.
2. If your own advertising budget can handle it, you could send your information packet through first class mail. You would include everything - along with a cover letter addressed to the Creative Director by name.
3. You could just send a cover letter through the mail introducing yourself and then telling the Creative Director they can request your complete information packet either by calling or Emailing you. Or you could include a small response card like in option number one.
This is just a simple card they fill out with their name and address and drop in the mail. You get the card back (or a phone call/Email) and then you send them your complete information packet.
Since your costs associated with your information packet include the paper, the ink, the time you put into it and the postage, you may want to hold your information packet until someone requests it. This can keep your startup costs down significantly.
One more thing to consider is to do like agencies and marketing firms do. Try testing your materials.
Let's say you have 50 agencies you're interested in contacting. Take 10 and send them your entire information packet. Take another 10 and send them a cover letter only with info on how they can request your packet. Take another 10 and simply send them a small card through the mail that briefly introduces yourself and tells them how they can request your packet.
Out of those 30 agencies, you want to write down what you sent to which agency. If you get hits off of the cover letter you sent but didn't get any hits off of the other two methods, then send your cover letter to the remaining agencies on your list.
What you're doing is simply testing your own materials to see who's responding off of which ones. This is what the big dogs do in the industry for their national clients. Whatever works, go with it.
Just look to make sure the agencies don't handle something that's way off your scope. For instance, an agency that only handles aeronautical clients will probably have some high tech writers to write the copy. If you have no experience in that area, you may want to hold off on sending them your materials. If that agency handles a wide variety of clients, though, that's great.
You want to approach the agencies that interest you the most as opposed to sending out your materials to a broad audience. You can always make two lists, one of the agencies you would love to write for and a secondary list of agencies you'll contact if your first choices don't respond. This gives you some flexibility with your own advertising budget too so you're not tapped as you begin.
Don't be afraid to look for smaller agencies in your vicinity as well. Smaller agencies generally don't have copywriters on staff so you can be an easy way for them to have a regular copywriter on hand without having to make you a full-time employee with all of the benefits they would have to pay you otherwise.
Be sure you're checking the current edition. Your local library should have a copy in the reference section. Unfortunately, this book costs more than $1,000 so buying a copy for yourself is probably out of the question.
If your library doesn't have a copy of this guide, you can always call the agency and ask who their Creative Director is. If you want to make sure the name you have on your list is still the Creative Director, just ask if he/she is still the Creative Director.
Thank the person that answers the phone and end the call. You don't want to be transferred to the Creative Director - they are very busy people and won't appreciate the cold call.
Interrupting a CD in the middle of a major ad campaign isn't a good way to make a first impression. Sending your materials and letting CDs read them on their own terms is a much better way to introduce yourself.