Get It Done Already! –
How to Write Your Very First Sales Letter

“Do or do not. There is no try.”
– Yoda, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

There are two major reasons you should write your very first sales letter as soon as possible:

  1. It serves as your first piece for your portfolio. Potential clients can then see how well you write and understand the concepts of persuasion.
  2. The moment you write that first letter, you become a copywriter. How else can you be a copywriter if you’re not writing copy? Once you’ve gone through the process of creating a sales letter for the first time, it becomes easier each time you do it.

Most aspiring copywriters procrastinate because they’re unsure of what to write their letter about.

But here’s the thing …

The goal of writing your first sales letter is not to make any sales. Instead, it’s to showcase your copywriting skills to potential clients and gain valuable experience writing copy (so you’ll already know what to do when you land your first assignment).

With that in mind, you can write your first sales letter about anything. It can be a real product for a client you’d love to work for … it can be a fake product you make up … it can even be a promo selling your house, car, dog, steak knives, or whatever.

Professional copywriter Penny Thomas was once among those who dreaded completing her very first letter. In her case, it was the male vitamin letter assignment in AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting. It seemed a daunting task.

But Penny found a way to do it, and it paid off. She put that sample letter in her portfolio and used it to land an assignment … which ended up beating the client’s control by 68%!

Now, whenever an AWAI member expresses concern about writing the male vitamin letter assignment, her response is, “Write the damn letter and use it as your first promo!”

Of course, writing your first letter can be scary. After all, you might be unsure as to how to go about it. So to help you out, here’s the process Penny used to finally write her very first sales letter:

  1. Do your research. For the male vitamin letter, Penny researched every single ingredient. What it does, what benefits it provides, and the deeper benefits it would provide her prospect. This was essential, as Penny didn’t know a single thing about male potency products or her target prospect. If you’re just starting out, do more research than you think is necessary. The more material you have, the easier it is to make something out of it (in this case, a persuasive sales letter).
  2. Turn your research into bullets. After doing her research, Penny turned every bit of information she thought was interesting into a bullet. Eventually she had page after page of bullets, expressing all the research she’d done in terms of benefits to the prospect. As you write your own bullets, make sure they are ultra-specific, useful, unique, and urgent (the “four U’s”).
  3. Use your swipe file. Creating from scratch is hard. That’s why you’re going to go to your swipe file and pull out three promotions in the same niche as the product you’re writing for. So if you’re writing about a financial newsletter, pick three other promos that sell some kind of financial service. If you don’t have a swipe file, check out Copywriting Genius: The Master Collection, which contains 64 blockbuster direct-response promotions that blew the doors off the existing controls.
  4. Study those promotions. Notice how they’re structured along with the word choices they’ve used. Also look for what benefits are emphasized and how the deeper benefits are handled. What objections do the promotions handle? What kind of proof do they offer? Take notes on all this, as it will serve as a loose template for your own letter.
  5. Write your headline and lead. Review your bullets and the notes you took when you studied your swipe file. Come up with your big idea, and then write your headline and lead. If by this point you can’t come up with a big idea, review all your notes and bullets. Then forget about the letter and go do something else. Anything. Maybe do some laundry, take a shower, or go for a walk. This will give your mind time to formulate the big idea for you, along with headline and lead ideas.
  6. Take it all the way to the close. Now it’s time to finish your letter. Use the structure of the three promos you studied as your guide. Remember to include promise of benefits, credibility, and track record, and to weave your big idea throughout (the “golden thread”).

For Penny, writing her first letter is what got her career off to a great start. And if you put in the time and effort, you’ll be on your way to a lucrative and rewarding career!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: December 8, 2008

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