5 Reasons Why All Freelance Writers Should Learn To Write a Sales Letter

image of wsj sales letter

When was the last time you wrote something with the intent to specifically motivate your readers to take action?

Admit it or not, we’re all in the same game.

Whether you want someone to buy your product, join your email list, retweet or +1 your post, you’re doing one thing — leading your audience down a path at the end of which lies the action they’ll take.

You want them to do something.

In other words, you’re selling.

Unfortunately, many content creators don’t know the first thing about selling.

A few years ago, neither did I. Well, not online, anyway. Not until I developed one skill that changed everything.

I’d had plenty of experience selling at the flower shop I owned. But selling through the written word was an entirely new skill.

To learn this ancient skill, I turned to the experts — those who make millions every year because of their ability to write great sales letters.

Sales letters are roads paved with words which lead buyers to solutions, sellers to profit, and writers closer to their happily ever afters.

Yet, most freelance writers and professional bloggers never consider learning to write sales letters.

Writers often feel as though that particular skill is above their pay grade, while many bloggers prefer to hire a professional when it comes time to creating their sales copy.

That’s probably because neither these writers or bloggers have any idea how life-changing learning to write a sales letter can actually be.

Let’s take a look at five reasons you should learn to write a great sales letter …

1. Never create crap content again

Some clients want nothing more than keyword-stuffed filler content for their sites, and they’re willing to pay you very little for the privilege. They don’t want to hear anything about how Google’s Panda update has made this approach silly, they just want mountains of low-quality content, stat.

Writing crappy content in bulk sucks. Do it for too long, and you’ll wonder why you thought writing online was a good idea in the first place.

Worse than being paid by the pound is the feeling of indentured servitude that comes with being a breath or two beyond running in circles, but nowhere near where you need to be to break away.

Knowing how to write a sales letter elevates your skill set, meaning you can make more money for every word you write, virtually overnight, whether or not you’re a wordsmith for hire.

2. You’ll only need a few clients a month

Managing low-paying copy usually means juggling a long list of clients because you’re stitching one job into the next, quilting your ends until they hopefully meet.

With the much higher earning average of longer form sales copy, just one or two jobs per month can fund the rest of your writing business.

Every sales letter you write makes you a better writer than you were before.

Constantly write, continuously improve, and quickly build a long list of people willing to pay you top dollar for your time.

When you deliver a sales letter that converts, you’re never hired only once.

3. You can develop streams of passive income

Once you know how to write an effective sales letter, you can become your own best client.

Write an eBook, put together a training course, offer a special suite of services, then write a letter to sell it.

You’re doing it for others. Why not do it for yourself?

If you’re a writer, you have the unique ability to synthesize and simplify information.

It’s the next logical step to package what you know and put it online.

4. More time for what you truly want to do

You can always make more money, but you’ll never make another minute.

By being able to charge more money for the hours you work, you will have more time to write the things you love.

You didn’t become a writer to write crap content, or to get lost in the daily blizzard of disposable blog posts, did you?

Earning more per billable hour will give you the time required to build the bank of assets that will elevate your legacy, along with your bottom line.

5. You’ll be better a much better writer

Even if you only write one sales letter in your life, knowing how you did it will make you a better writer.

Sales letters are paint-by-number persuasion, connecting dots we all have in common. You can’t sell if you don’t understand your reader.

Yet, once you know how to slip inside their mind, you can channel their desire.

On a sales page, that means clicking the BUY button.

Offline, it can mean creating word-of-mouth about your latest book, inspiring the reader to tell friends, and maybe even review your product on Amazon.com.

Selling vs. selling out

When I first started online, I wanted nothing more than to write blogs posts and fiction.

Selling seemed like an anti-art, lacking in purity, or just plain “selling out.”

But when you think about what writing is — getting people to feel something, spreading ideas, or connecting with people across great divides — it’s not all that different from selling.

Whether you’re selling a product or selling yourself, learning how to write a good sales letter is one of the best investments you’ll ever make in your writing.

About the Author: Sean Platt is the author of Writing Online and How to Write a Sales Letter that Works (Without Wasting Your Time!). Get his free report, The 9 Mistakes Most Writers Make That Are Keeping Them Poor. Follow him on Twitter.

Want to learn how to write a sales letter?

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Comments

  1. Learning how to write effective sales copy, and incorporating that into selling the mess out of an e-book, is an AMAZING way to generate a passive income. Great article!

    • Yeah, it really is amazing. It’s not a windfall or anything, but I’m still making a little money each week from an eBook I wrote two and a half years ago. Same sales letter, though it’s been tweaked approximately 3,280 times since I first wrote it!

      • Constant tweaking is the only way to remain current. Sometimes I look over the copy I wrote 3 months ago and gag. But it’s by iterating and iterating conversions are bound to improve.

        A writer’s job is never done when it comes to our own work.

  2. let the sales letters become our passive salesman!

  3. Can’t tell you how much learning direct-response copywriting taught me not only how to write…but to live. All the lessons that you are talking about from the greats translate into life. You don’t just learn how to write persuasively. You learn how to think clearly. Speak compellingly. I’d go as far as to say that ALL writers [fiction, non-ficiont or advertising] should learn how to write with persuasion in mind.

    Great topic, Sean.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Good DR is helping me to become a GREAT fiction writer. I could always make things sound “pretty” but now I know ways to “make” the reader turn the page. Dream come true for a writer.

  4. “Never write crap content again.”

    Nicely done. Yes, there is nothing more soul carving than mediocrity.

    • Yup. Never, ever again. Deciding to make nothing instead of next to nothing so I could pause, reflect, then dig deep into learning an essential life skill was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Thanks Copyblogger.

      • Boy did that resonate! I did bulk article writing for a while, and it’s the writer’s version of hell. It seemed like easy money – I can easily write 500 words in about 15 minutes, but I felt ill from the quality of writing that I was forced to write. I had to push myself to do the work, which left me at the tail edge of a deadline, writing even more crappy content.

        I told myself never again – but then caved in for about a month, whereupon I made my husband promise me I would never agree to do that again.

        Today I got another request for more work – at 3 times the price – and was actually considering taking it, until I read this post…

        Mediocrity is just not worth it.

  5. Do you have a great sample you could point the readers to? I’m not sure about anyone else, but I typically learn by example and observation. It would be great to see a living, breathing embodiment (so to speak) of a great copywritten sales letter. We’d love to share it with our on-staff writers at the company I work for.

  6. Yup. Never, ever again. Deciding to make nothing instead of next to nothing so I could pause, reflect, then dig deep into learning an essential life skill was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Thanks Copyblogger.

  7. I learned how to write by learning copywriting. I used those skills to help my clients when I was a freelance web developer, and now I’m moving on from that to a freelance copywriting business. I have to agree that learning to write a sales letter can help take any business venture to a new level. Being able to persuade and get what you need can really help you reach your goals. Great tips!

  8. You have no idea how many freelance writers I’ve either turned down or fired quickly who didn’t understand how copywriting works. Seriously, it’s so important, that it’s not more common is really concerning.

    • I was guilty of thinking I new how to write. But if you can’t write copy you’re a cook who can’t make Mexican food.

  9. Marissa Bishop :

    Sean – great to see your post here on Copyblogger, I’m a big fan of Ghostwriter Dad. I think writing the sales letter is more of a learned skill–for example follow the rules of including USP, creating a picture & persuasion, etc.– than an art. When you combine that skill with the writer’s talent you hit the jackpot.

    • Hey, thanks for that Marissa! That’s nice to hear. And yeah, totally agree. Adding persuasion into storytelling and fiction is freaking Nirvana.

  10. Great post Sean. I can’t imagine what I’d be doing if I hadn’t developed this skill.

    We’re all selling, all the time… as you say. If we’re not, then that probably means one of two things:

    1. We’re not doing something we believe in enough to “sell it.”
    2. We are clueless.

    Luckily, both things are fixable :)

    • Yup, and a lot of us are both! And you’re right, it’s super easy to fix as long as you’re willing to invest the time.

  11. I’ll look into it because keyword stuffed “content” gets old.

  12. I TOTALLY agree! Of course, I write sales copy for a living, so I might be biased. But I also write books and scripts – and I’m convinced that my ability to tap into a reader’s emotions helps me write stronger pieces – no matter what they are. Great article!

  13. Just need to shout out an “Amen!” to this article. It is a lesson I learned the hard way. I spent too much time learning how to get traffic and not enough time learning how to write effective sales copy so that traffic converts. Recently I have become a student of sales copy and though I have a long way to go I know I am on a better path now.

    • Thanks Daryle. Much appreciated.

      Yes, if you’re learning copy now you’ll have a sharp tool you can use forever.

  14. Great post! I just bought “The Ultimate Sales Letter,” which was recommended on several sites – looking forward to reading it!

  15. Writing has always been like a second skin to me.I love writing but learning to write a sales letter is like an icing on the cake for me.I completely agree with Deanna.Great Article!

  16. Hey Sean

    Good post – totally agree – and I bought your book on Sales Letters on Kindle two days ago, and can attest that it’s worth way more than the 10 or so bucks it costs!

    I got a question for you – with Kindle did you ever think about using other varients of your name for different types of book. Eg you published the novel first as Sean Platt – did u think of publishing the non fiction stuff as say Sean M Platt (or whatever your middle initial is)? Just curious….

    Paul

    • Great question, Paul. And thanks for buying the book. I’m impressed. I don’t even think I’ve mentioned it on Twitter yet (my bad) and the byline above might be the first place it’s been, so you’re way ahead of the curve!

      I will definitely be using pen names, but no, I’m Sean Platt to the bone.

      In the old model, yes, I would’ve had to switch it up. Publishers are very particular about who publishes what. But that’s one of the things I love about being a self-publisher. I make the rules. I want to write fiction, children’s fiction, horror, non-fiction, comedy. Seriously, I want to write it all. And I’ll do it under my own name.

      The exception would be romance, which I think I’d write well and would kinda like to try, given I can speak to the market and it’s dinosaur sized (the big ones not the little ones). Certain genres would probably be the same.

      I want Amazon to do a lot of my marketing for me. That means not switching up names. If someone buys a book by “Sean Platt” then Amazon is going to recommend other books by “Sean Platt” to the buyer. I want those sales, and the readers and word of mouth that come with them. :)

      • Hey Sean

        Interesting answer. The only issue I have with doing what you’re doing – it’s something I plan on doing myself! – is that fans of Sean Platt the writer about internet writing (did I mention I bought Online Writing too???) might not care to read Sean Platt’s horror novel set in a dystopic version of New York 50 years in the future.

        The model for what I’m thinking is writer Iain Banks. He publishes two specific genres of fiction and uses either the name Iain Banks or Iain M Banks (he publishes Science Fiction and more contemporary stuff – can;t remember which way round the names go).

        That would be my concern.

        Though I guess it hasn’t hurt John Locke much with his Thriller vs Western stuff.

        Paul

        • Locke’s a great example.

          I think times are changing. And fast. Of course there won’t be crossover on everything, but I’m okay with that. If it were just a couple of genres, then I could see acquiescing to a pen name or two. But everything is SO varied. Over the next year I have children’s book with some cool, sophisticated rhyme schemed poetry, a YA series, a play, a screenplay, a few writing books, serialized .99 Kindle fiction, and the two sequels to our vampire novel.

          In other words, I’m a writer who writes it all. Part of my brand.

          I owe that to ghostwriting I guess, lol.

  17. Great tips Sean… This is not my strongest area and any tips I can get, I’m game.

    Thank you for sharing this with us and congratulations on this post. Really awesome job.

    Adrienne

  18. Georgina El Morshdy :

    Loved the convincing reasons for learning to write good sales letters. I agree that you improve each time you write something new, but you’ve also got to have that desire to work out how you can better each time. Thanks for the link to your sales letters Sean. They are mega persuasive.

  19. Inspiring post, Sean. Now you’ve got me all jazzed to learn more and do a better job with my copywriting. The truth is, by the time I write an ebook (the product), I’m tired of writing and excited to just get it out there.

    “But when you think about what writing is — getting people to feel something, spreading ideas, or connecting with people across great divides — it’s not all that different from selling.

    Whether you’re selling a product or selling yourself, learning how to write a good sales letter is one of the best investments you’ll ever make in your writing.”

    Ok, you’ve convinced me (good job of selling me on this, btw ;)
    I’ll be digging into your Sales Letters ebook.

    Thanks,
    Peggy

  20. Sean,

    Great post! Helpful ideas and easy-to-follow steps. This one is a saver!

    Thank you,

    Peter

  21. Often times my friends tell me that I am a very persuasive person. Have to admit that I thrive on it! As for putting this persuasion in written form, I definitely have much to learn.

    My husband is a web designer and has “hired” me to promote him online. Although excited and apprehensive at the same time, I have decided to take on this honorable task. Reading your article on Copyblogger has inspired me to dig deeper into this “art” of selling. I will try to read everything I can get my hands on to accomplish our goal of driving leads to his site and converting them into clients. Any other articles you think may be helpful for a newbie such as myself will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again!

  22. You’re very convincing. And that’s what frightens me.

  23. Nice article, Sean.

    Writing can have 2 purposes – to entertain, or to convince. I think lots of people get into writing for the first reason. But as you say, the second pays much better.

    So even if your goal is to be a fiction writer living on the beach in Thailand, you won’t get there unless you learn how to convince through words. And learn how to charge for that.

  24. HEy Sean,

    Since we had a chance to talk just the other day I got a first hand glimpse into some of your thoughts around this. While I’m not a freelance writer, as a blogger, this is an incredibly useful skill to have. Once you make this part of the way you write everything, you’ll never sit down and struggle with writing a sales page for a product you’re trying to sell. I have to admit that my first few stabs at a sales page were less than stellar. But with some help from friends and asking for feedback from lots of people I managed to tweak it. I think we don’t give enough attention to learning how to write a solid sales page and without even the most spectacular or products end up collecting dust.

  25. I have been intrigued by all the comments regarding publishing under different names and self-publishing. Thanks for your answers to readers’ questions. They’ve been very interesting and informative.

  26. Sean your writings had been always inspiring me in writing better and better sales copies nowadays. And this post of your is just amazing. Thumbs up for you buddy.

    Cheers

  27. All this sounds great. I’ve made a living as a copywriter for 20+ years — writing ads, brochures, television, video, internet, etc – first for agencies and then freelance — and my hourly rate doesn’t suck — but I’d love to get paid by the results I produce — How do you get clients for sales letters and how is what you are paid is determined (clicks, sales)? Is this part of the marketing course? thanks!

  28. Hi Sean,

    I hear you and yes this is something that I must admit to myself — that I have to learn not only to write but to “sell something” as well through writing. To be honest, I haven’t thought of this great idea as a writer. All along, I thought it was enough to learn to write quality content – right English grammar, substantial and relevant.

    Thank you Sean. :)

    Cheers,
    Floricel

    Is there a link for a blog post talking about how to write sales letter? Sorry, if there was , coz I just haven’t catch it.

  29. #3 –” You can develop streams of passive income”

    Hits home for me — I know I could make a good income writing for others, however, why should I do copy writing for others, when I can be writing for myself, selling what I desire to sell.

    Yet, it is a constant battle. Writing for others is a solid income and can almost be depended upon. Writing for yourself is a gamble many times, because you may sell the items or it can fall short and be a total miss.

    But, as you say, become a good enough copywriter and your “hits” will fully outweigh your misses.

  30. Writing, like any work, is self-expression.

    We make our soul sing when we write with might for the greater good.

    It’s how we make our soul sing.

    Our shining moments are when we help people “think”, “feel”, or “do”, and entertain them along the way. After all, it’s the destination … and, the journey.

  31. This is such a worthy read! I find that there are too many people who are now using writing as a way to earn money yet they don’t even know how to write properly. I think one way you can continue to evolve as a writer is to attend workshop and training seminars.

  32. Great post! I am going to use it as my business plan. Writing sales letters is something I have wanted to do, but never know where to start. This post has given me encouragement to get started.

  33. I’ve never written a sales letter before.

    Yet some of my upcoming project would benefit from this ability.
    I’ve definitely been convinced in buying products just because the sales letter was so good and convincing.

    The key to a sales letter for me, would fulfill following:
    - Being so general that it covers a wide range of information regarding the product
    - Answering the potential buyers pending questions
    - Showing social proof i.e. testimonials and proof of positive results.

    But then again, I’ve never written a sales letter in my life.

  34. Nice tips yeh
    Everyone wants sale throw articles, that is why every writer must read sales letters

    Thanks for sharing

  35. Wow. This was one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time! I’m a copywriter and I’ve learned some great lessons from the old school copywriters (Sugarman, Bly, Schwartz). Thank you for sharing this.