If I Had to Start Over as a Writer … Here’s What I Would Do
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 Seven-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 $250-$350 … though there are writers who charge up to $2,000 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 $3,000 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.
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Were you surprised with the matching of companies that you ended up writing for or did it make sense?
Guest (home run) –
Great article! I'm always looking for incremental ways to change what I'm doing. This made a lot of sense to me to start with emails.
Guest (MarkFDS) –
Hello! This was excellent...but how do we find clients that need this type of writing? I have spent years trying to see where I could get clients!!
Guest (Esther) –
I agree. Emails have been a key part of my success financially. I've had at least one client on retainer for emails almost every month over the past 12 years.
I love that I can sit down on Monday and knock out emails for 3 different clients for the week and not have to think about that project for another week.
Sales letters are ALWAYS on your mind for weeks on end.
Sean McCool –