If I Had to Start Over as a Writer … Here’s What I Would Do

Man working at home on laptop

Lately, I’ve had the privilege of coaching a few writers on their projects.

And it got me thinking about my career trajectory.

You see, I started my career focusing on writing long-form sales letters. You know, those 8-24+ page “mini novellas” that persuade someone to take action.

I learned how to write persuasively and the structure of a sales letter through The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.

I spent countless hours writing out promos by hand.

I studied dozens of controls.

And I read all the classic copywriting books.

Doing those things served me well and helped me make a great living as a writer. And if your goal is to become a top direct-response copywriter, those are things that will definitely help get you there.

However, if I had to start over …

I’d do it differently.

Instead of focusing on long-form sales letters first, I’d spend my time getting as good as possible at writing emails.

Here are five good reasons why:

1. Email writing is a skill that can be learned quickly. It took me a good chunk of time to get to the point where I could write a decent sales letter, from start to finish. But an email is just a few hundred words. It doesn’t require weeks of research. No having to spend days mulling over possible Big Ideas or anything like that.

You just write an email as if you were making a recommendation to a friend to try a new restaurant or watch a movie that came out.

2. Email writing pays VERY well. In some ways, email writing pays just as well as writing sales letters. The main reason is that in the time it takes me to write an entire sales letter and get paid my fee, I can write 10-20 emails in half the time, and I’d get paid the same.

And the pay for a single email can be anywhere from $100-$350 … though there are writers who charge up to $1,000 for a single email.

Plus, because companies have a HUGE and ongoing need for emails, oftentimes they’ll just pay you a monthly retainer fee to write emails for them. These can be anywhere from $2,000 to around $5,000 (sometimes more if you’re very good).

Now, there is one benefit sales letters can offer that emails don’t. And that’s royalties. Getting any kind of royalty deal with emails is rare.

But it’s a small trade off, in exchange for getting work done faster, getting paid sooner, and making as much as you would writing a single sales letter.

3. Practically EVERY business in the world sends emails. This is another biggie. In the direct-response world, there are only so many large direct-response companies that hire writers to write long-form sales letters. And typically, the highest-paying clients are in only one of three markets — Health, Financial, or Business Opportunity (Biz Op).

What if you don’t want to write about any of those topics?

Email has you covered. Because with email, the world is your oyster. Every serious business in practically every niche imaginable is sending out emails to welcome new customers … launch new products or services … maintain a relationship … and more.

That means you can write about whatever your heart desires — whether it’s cats, music, gardening, golf, bowling, wrestling, chess, self-help, and more. Best of all, you can do it while still making a solid six-figure income.

4. Email writing makes you a better writer. After having written hundreds or probably even thousands of emails (I never kept track), I’ve found that the process of sitting down to write an effective email or email campaign has made me a better writer.

The main reason why is that email forces you to improve your thinking and be concise.

A subject line is only around 40-60 characters (basically half of a typical Twitter “tweet”).

The email body copy is normally 250-500 words.

So in that short space, you’ve got to:

> Get someone’s attention

> Get them interested in what you have to say

> Get them to click on a link in the email

It really forces you to eschew what doesn’t work and really streamlines your writing down to the critical “essentials” of persuasion.

This eventually transfers over into your other writing, whether it’s writing long-form sales letters, landing pages, ads, etc.

5. Email makes it easy to land clients. This is another big reason why I would focus on email writing first, if I had to start over.

With email, it’s far easier to get your foot in the door with a client. Main reason?

Email is a low-risk way for a company to “test” a writer out. It’s kind of like going on a coffee date before deciding to tie the knot.

Clients really don’t have much to lose to hire you to write a couple of emails for them. And if you do a good job, then that can quickly (and easily) lead to more work and bigger projects LIKE sales letters, landing pages, and more.

This is in stark contrast to an unproven writer trying to land a client to write a long-form sales letter. In that case, you better make darn sure your sales letter knocks it out of the park on the first try. If not, it’s not likely the client will want to make the investment a second time to see if you can do better.

Email is far more forgiving and gives you many more chances “at bat.”

That’s basically why I’d learn to write emails as fast as I could if I was starting over as a brand-new writer.

It would allow me to get “in” with a client quickly and get paid while I learned to write sales letters (which I still enjoy doing).

If you have any questions about writing emails, please let me know in the comments.

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: April 6, 2020

6 Responses to “If I Had to Start Over as a Writer... Here’s What I Would Do”

  1. Thank you for the heads up Guillermo; your approach is sound as a shortcut to a steady stream.
    georgefery dot com

    Guest (George Fery)April 6, 2020 at 10:13 am

  2. Thanks Guillermo, I would love to learn how to write a compelling email post

    Guest (Daniel)April 6, 2020 at 1:03 pm

  3. G- So I watched your webinar the other day and thought a lot about what you said and then I thought...hmmm...I'd love to take his email course, but I'm pinched as a COS member so...I thought again...this AWAI platform makes me think...a lot...hopefully you'll offer your email gig again. I soooo...see it's relevancy and I want to absorb all you offer, just can't swing the cost right now and am told not to head off into the direction of shiny objects...like what you're offering...I guess. It shines to me.
    Best to you with the class!!!
    Cynthia (Cindy) Brawley

    Cynthia Brawley April 10, 2020 at 12:58 am

  4. How do you start creating emails and to blast them for clients

    Guest (Regina Hammonds)July 27, 2020 at 9:07 am

  5. Hello, how do I get started writing e-mails. I believe that I can be very successful writing them once I practice doing them. I have years of Sales and Customer Service management experience and enjoy solving problems as an consultant or employee.

    James BurgessJuly 27, 2020 at 12:05 pm

  6. G, I keep hearing about choosing a writing niche. Even though I'm an animal lover, I have no experience in the pet industry. I'm a music lover but don't play an instrument. Wouldn't I need some sort of experience in that field to write emails. And the list goes on and on. Any thoughts? Thanking you in advance.

    Your Hero - Tom DeVoeJuly 27, 2020 at 2:04 pm


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