How to Write a Great Sales Page

How to Write a Great Sales Page

How do I write a sales page that doesn’t feel icky?

This question, or a variation of it, pops up all the time in Facebook groups and forums where online business owners hang out — and that’s hardly surprising.

It’s easy to think that selling has to be smarmy, icky, sleazy, and just plain yuck. It’s easy to think that — but also wrong.

It’s absolutely possible to write a sales page that doesn’t feel salesy — and that doesn’t sound like a million other sales pages on the Internet. You don’t have to follow a formula that sounds, well, formulaic. You don’t have to channel old infomercials or sell your soul.

You can write a great sales page, feel awesome about your offer, and make the sales you want, all without selling your soul.

In this post, you’ll learn what your sales page absolutely needs to include, plus what you definitely don’t want to do.

Don’t Write Your Sales Page… Yet

Before we get to the how-to part, here are two REALLY important things you need to know before you ever start to write your sales page.

  1. You cannot write a sales page, or even sell anything, until you know EXACTLY what you are selling, and EXACTLY who you’re selling it to.

Super obvious, right? And yet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a sales page with a headline like, “Live the life of your dreams.” Or “Maximize your potential and achieve your goals.”

Dude. I have no idea what that means.

What the heck are you selling, and who is it for?

“Live the life of your dreams” could be an ebook about losing weight, a course on study habits for college students, or a coaching program for couples. I just don’t know — which means that even if I’m the very person you want to sell to, I’ll never know it.

We’ll go into more detail on this in the how-to section. For now, the second really important thing you need to know before you write your sales page is this:

  1. Your motivation should always be that you want to help your ideal client.

If your motivation for selling whatever you're selling is repaying your student loan debt, or buying a fancy new car, or whatever you want money for, your sales page will be smarmy, icky, salesy, and sleazy.

When you started your business, there was something — beyond making money — that prompted you to do this thing. You saw a need, you saw a pain point, and you wanted to help someone, or some group, do something.

(If that’s not the case, then you can click away now, because this post won’t help you.)

Get back to your WHY. Think about why you started your business and reconnect with that before you try to sell anything.

Sales should never be about taking money from people. It should always be about providing massive value.

Your Sales Page Headline

The headline for your sales page needs to be amazing — and it has to include the benefit that people get from your product or service.

Remember, you need to know what you’re selling and who it’s for, and now you have to add in the benefit that your person gets from whatever you’re selling.

In plain English, you’re NOT selling an amazing course. You’re NOT selling awesome coaching services, or a workbook, or templates, or anything like that.

What you’re selling is the RESULT. What a person GETS.

For example, let’s say you’re a designer, and you have a package where you offer 5 custom-designed Pinterest pins and 5 templates that bloggers can customize as needed — all for an affordable price.

Here are a couple of TERRIBLE headlines you could use:

Improve Your Branding

Supercharge your pins!

The Blogger’s Bundle: Unique Designs for Your Brand

Customizable Templates for Pinterest

Nope, nope, nope. None of those will do the job.

Here’s the awesome headline my friend Cecille is using on her sales page for this offer.

 

Hey! Now we’re talking! You know right away whether this offer is for you. If I want lovely, professional pins to help me get more traffic, I’ll keep reading.

The amazing Courtney Johnston has a fabulous headline on the sales page for her signature course, Yay for Clients.

Right away, you know if this is for you — or not.

Your headline should be specific and clear. Save the cute and catchy phrases for something else.

Choose the Right Image for Your Sales Page

When you choose an image for your sales page, go with one that works together with your headline to show people the “after.” What will life be like after they buy your product or service? That’s what you want to show.

For example, my signature course is called Writing for Money. I work with moms at home with kids who want to break into freelance writing. So the image I use is a mom working on a laptop with her baby right next to her.

How to make money from writing.

Here's another example, this one from Amy Eaton at AmyTakesPictures.com.

Check out the headline:

Snap, Sell, Succeed.

The first and last course you'll ever need to create stunning product photos like a pro.

The image? That cool camera, snapping product photos.

Awesomesauce.

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

What to Write on Your Sales Page

Once you have a great headline and an image, you’re ready to actually sit down and write your copy, and this is where people tend to screw up.

Here are the three biggest mistakes people make — and what you need to do instead.

Mistake #1: Your sales page is all about you.

If you take nothing else away from this post, take this: Do NOT use the word “I” on your sales page. Use the word “you” instead, and make your sales page all about your people.

Who is your favorite person in the world? I’m guessing it’s YOU, not me. So if you came to a page that was all about me and my awesomeness, you would probably be a little bored.

Your people feel the same way. As amazing as you are, they don’t want to read about you. They want to read about THEMSELVES.

Your sales page should never say things like, “I'm going to execute at a high level consistently for you.” I don’t even know what that means, but I don’t like it.

Your sales page should not have headings like, Who am I? Some of my accomplishments, A bit more about me, and The reason I'm here. Just no.

NOTHING on your sales page should be about you. EVERYTHING should be about your people.

Mistake #2: Your sales page is full of features.

Your sales page should be about your people, and specifically about the BENEFITS your people will get.

You wouldn’t want to say, for example, “I made these awesome worksheets!”

Remember you don’t want to use the word “I.”

But you also don’t want to say, “You get these awesome worksheets!”

Because, who the flip cares about worksheets? How many worksheets are on your computer right now?

Talk about results. How do these worksheets help your people? What results will they get from the worksheets? In other words, what’s the benefit?

Worksheets don’t excite anyone. On the other hand, if you say something like,

Use the Grab and Go Formula worksheet to figure out which meals will give you the most flavor and nutrition — and help you lose weight — in just 20 minutes a week!

Well, now people are excited.

Worksheets and coaching calls and modules and private Facebook groups are FEATURES. Talk about the benefits and focus on what people get.

Mistake #3: Your sales page doesn’t speak to your audience.

You know your topic really, really well. My friend Rachel is a fabulous interior decorator, and she was talking to me once about how people have a lot of trouble choosing the right sheen.

“The right WHAT?” I asked her.

“The right sheen,” she repeated.

“Um.” I said. “I don’t know what a sheen is.”

Rachel explained that sheen refers to how shiny the paint is. This is something she knows, because this is her field. But if Rachel wrote a sales page,I’d advise her not to talk about sheen, but rather to use a phrase like how shiny the paint is because that’s how non-decorator people talk.

You have to use the language your people actually use, and not the language you are used to using.

Your audience doesn’t know as much as you do, and it’s really important to remember that. It’s not about talking down to people, it’s about starting where they are.

Storytelling on Your Sales Page

When you write your sales page, you need to share stories — the right way.

A lot of people do this thing where they say: Five months ago, I was just like you! And then, I did this AMAZING thing, and NOW, my life is AWESOME.

This feels icky — or at the very least, like you’re following someone else’s script.

Blech.

My friend Qazi at CleverProgrammer.com has a course on creating apps from scratch when you’ve never written a line of code before.

He tells a great story about how, when he was learning to code, he literally didn’t have anything to show for it but lines of code, and no one wants to look at lines of code.

His course has you creating apps from day one, even if you don’t have a background in coding, so the story is, “You can show people these cool apps!”

He talks about how it feels to sit in a classroom or stare at a screen full of code, and how it’s boring and not engaging. Compare that with sitting down and building a working app in an hour, something you can show people — that’s exciting!

The stories on your sales page should always keep the focus on your person — the obstacles in the way, the problem that’s keeping her from getting what she wants. Make your stories about how your person feels.

How to Answer Objections On Your Sales Page

If you’ve spent time listening to your people the way you should, you’ll have a clear sense of their potential objections to buying what you’re selling. You’ll know their hesitations and obstacles, and you’ll be able to address those topics in your copy.

For example, the first time I ran Writing for Money, I talked about how comprehensive the course is, and how much information it covers.

I discovered, however, that my people — busy moms with young children — were more concerned that they wouldn’t have the time to do the work. So, when I rewrote the sales page for the second launch of the course, I made sure to explain that the work would only take about an hour a day — and that I’d show students how to find that time.

You won’t be able to address the things that are keeping people from buying if you don’t know what those obstacles and hesitations are. That’s why you need to listen carefully to your people and ask them the right, relevant questions.

The Most Important Part of Your Sales Page

Without question, the most important part of your sales page is the call to action. This is where you ask people to actually buy what you’re selling.

You definitely don’t want to go through the process of writing that whole sales page and then not bother to give people an easy way to buy, right?

Your call to action should remind your people of the benefits they get and the pain and inconvenience of not buying. Then ask them explicitly to buy.

Yep, you must flat out ASK THEM TO BUY, even if it’s hard or it makes you feel weird. You MUST be specific. You can have a button that says “Sign Me Up!” or “Give Me Access” or “Let’s Do This!” or whatever works with your brand, but there must be an explicit invitation to BUY.

And that button should be the ONLY clickable item on your page.

You want people to have one choice: Buy this thing, or close the page.

So your sales page doesn’t have a sign-up box for your newsletter or a link to your blog or anything else. There’s no regular navigation bar, and nowhere else to go.

Buy this thing, or close the page — those are your only choices.

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Why Can’t I Find Clients?

Why Can’t I Find Clients?

How to find clients.

You don't need a degree.

You don't need professional experience.

And you don't need to use social media.

 

So… how do I find clients?

Where should I go to look for clients?

My biggest challenge is finding clients.

At the moment, questions and comments like this are, like, 87% of my inbox. The other 13% is the stuff I email myself so that I won’t forget about it. And then I hear that I have new email, and I go to check… and find the email I sent myself.

#sosmart

Anyway, I get it. You want to be a freelance writer, and to make money, you need clients.

So, there’s actually a secret website, and it’s called The Clients are Here.

KIDDING!

I couldn’t resist, because I think a lot of people really believe that there IS a site where all the clients are hanging out. That there’s a magic place where I go to find work, and if I would only be kind enough to TELL YOU where that place is, then YOU could ALSO get work.

THERE IS NO MAGIC PLACE.

There is no great secret that you don’t know, no password-protected website that holds the key to nirvana.

What to Do if You Want to Find Clients

Finding clients comes down to some fairly unsexy stuff:

  1. Think about some people you would like to write for.
  2. Build relationships with those people.
  3. Pitch them.

You can buy ALL THE COURSES on the internet, but if you skip these basic steps, you will STILL not have any clients.

I have so many students who don’t believe this until we get on a coaching call. They spend MONTHS spinning their wheels. They tell me they’re going to get started really soon — they just need to figure out the niche piece, and it’s taking a while.

It doesn’t have to take a while.

It comes down to the thing that pops into your head when I say, “What do you want to write?”

And right now, you’re thinking, But Abbi, I can’t make money from the thing I want to write about.

And here’s what I have to say to you:

(And actually, I am an expert.)

Here’s a typical coaching call conversation:

Abbi: So, what do you want to write about?

Student: Well, I want to make money.

Abbi: Right, I get that, but WHAT do you want to write about? Like, if I said, OK, great, do you want to write about ICOs and Bitcoin, would that excite you?

Student: Um… I don’t know? I don’t really know what that is.

Abbi: Right. So, what DO you want to write about?

After another few rounds of this, we eventually get to something like this:

Student: I mean, well, I struggled with infertility for 6 years, but I don’t think I can really make any money from that.

Abbi: Here are 16 ways you can make money by writing about infertility.

Student: [HEAD EXPLODES.]

I Want to Find Clients, But…

Here are a few of the many (MANY) questions I get when I tell students they need to choose a niche.

I don't know anyone who I could pitch.

Sorry, but I don't believe you. You definitely know at least one person on this planet who either has a business or has a job. Start there. It's DEFINITELY easier to work the connections you know than the ones you don't.

Could you just tell me what I can write to make the most money? That's what I want to do.

Nope. Doesn't work that way. You can make a LOT of money writing about toilet paper, and you can go broke looking for the elusive “most profitable” thing. FOCUS ON PEOPLE.

I talked to all the people I know, and none of them are interested in paying me to write.

I don't really believe that you talked to everyone you know, but let's pretend you did. Can you identify 5 humans on earth who you could potentially reach out to, even if they are NOT people you already know? Pitch them.

Do you think I should reach out to X, even though I really want to reach out to Y?

Listen. I'm a writer. I NEVER solve for X or Y, and I don't honestly care WHAT values you substitute for either one in this equation.  You need to talk to people. It's easier to talk to people you know. 

I don't want to have to go out and find clients. I just want people to to give me stuff to write.

Cool. That's called a job. ✌🏻

Okay, but this is really hard! I don't have any experience!

Hi. When I started out, I didn’t have any experience, and I had never, ever pitched my services to a company as a freelance writer.

I had just had my first baby, and I was pregnant with my second, so pregnancy and parenting were my primary interests. My main motivation for freelancing was an overwhelming desire to be at home with my baby — and an equally overwhelming desire to only wear sweatpants.

I was interested in technology, although I certainly had no formal background or training in anything tech-related.

I read a book — one book — about working for businesses as a freelance writer.

I had never heard of “choosing a niche” — so I didn’t bother to pick one.

I wrote press releases about semiconductors, articles about breastfeeding, and courses about the laws concerning insider trading.

Doing all of those different things meant that I was constantly learning new things. I was always a beginner.

It took me years to realize that by always having a learning curve, I was significantly limiting my income. When I started turning down work that didn’t interest me, I took a big step in the right direction, but it was a long time before I finally wised up and niched down.

By turning down the work that didn’t interest me, I opened up time in my schedule — and my life — to find the work that I did like. The work that made me feel excited. The work that earned me real money.

Back in 1873 when I was getting started (it may not actually have been in 1873, it all blurs together after a while), there were no blogs on the Interwebs. Heck, there was no WiFi. We had to use our Internet while tethered to the wall, like animals.

I Can't Find Clients Until…

On a daily basis, people send me emails like this one:

I want to find clients. So I’m going to build my website and create 946 samples on all the things I know how to write about. Do you think that’s a good plan?

Nope. No, I don’t. Here’s why. It’s a really bad idea to start spending money on a website when you don’t actually have income.

Freelance writing is about EARNING money, right? If you spend a couple hundred bucks to build a website, HOW exactly will that help you MAKE money?

Here is a better plan.

  1. Go to LinkedIn and fill out your profile.
  2. Connect with people who need help with writing the thing you want to write about.
  3. Pitch those people.

But you said I don't have to use social media!

Correct. You don't have to post ANYTHING if you don't want to. You can spend your time reading OTHER people's content and COMMENTING. And none of this, “Wow, great post!” nonsense. 

You want to take the time to ACTUALLY read the person's post and make a REAL comment about something that speaks to you — OR something you disagree with. You will start to build relationships in the comments, and then you can PITCH PEOPLE.

The reason you don’t like this plan is because it, like all the other plans that end in you making money, requires you to actually go out and pitch people for work.

Do you know who makes money in freelance writing? People who go out and pitch for work.

The people who spend all their time building websites — and, yes, buying courses — and never go out and pitch… do NOT make money.

If you want to find clients, you have to figure out what you want to write, determine who needs that writing, and go ask that person for writing work.

I Can't Find Clients Who Will Pay Well

If you can't find clients who will pay you want you want to earn, you need to consider several things.

1. Is your ask reasonable?

If you want to write essays about your personal parenting experience for mom blogs and other online sites, you can expect to earn $25 – $250 for your work. So if you're hoping to get $800, no, your ask is not reasonable, and you will continually be disappointed.

You can write about parenting, and even use your personal parenting experience, but if you think carefully about WHO you want to write it for, you can find the higher-paying options. For example, you can pitch a parenting essay to a print magazine that pays $400-$1000 for such work. Or you can target pediatric practices or diaper or formula manufacturers who need that kind of content and have actual budgets to pay for it.

You can take your passion for writing about parenting and pitch articles on specific topics to magazines. Heck, you could go to major companies and ask them if they’re interested in providing practical advice to the parents who work for them.

And yes, that's really a thing.

2. Are you pitching people with a clear offer?

Yep, we're back to that again. If your version of looking for clients amounts to waiting for someone to offer you a high-paying writing job, have a nice time.

You MUST put in the time to figure out what you want to write and who you want to write it for so that you can then TARGET that person and GET SOME WORK.

3. Are you consistent in your efforts?

The only way to have consistent work is to make a consistent effort to GET that work. When you have solid business habits in place, you start each day by looking for work. This lets you build a consistent flow of clients who will pay you what you are worth, and allow you to turn down work that does not meet your standards.

If you wait until you don't have work to start looking for clients, you will find yourself saying yes to things you don't want to do, projects that don't pay well, clients that don't respect you, because you will need them more than they need you. If you put in the time DAILY to look for work, you'll be able to choose the projects you want, the clients you want, and the PRICES you want.

 

Wish it were easier to find clients?

I created a brand-new, never-been-seen-before workshop and packed in literally everything I know about finding clients.

And right now, you can get it for 50% off. 

How to Write an Email Sequence and Sell More Stuff

How to Write an Email Sequence and Sell More Stuff

The most important thing you can do to start earning good money as a freelance writer is to choose your niche — to figure out what you write and who you write it for.

My niche is writing email sequences and sales pages for smart women entrepreneurs. By the way, a lovely side effect of this niche is meeting a lot of awesome women.

Anyway, let’s take a closer look at what an email sequence is, and how you can write an awesome one — and sell more of your stuff.

What Is an Email Sequence?

An email sequence is a series of email messages that you send subscribers to your email list, via an automated system such as ConvertKit (that’s an affiliate link, which means that if you click it and sign up, I might earn a commission at no cost to you).

In other words, you sit down ONCE to write these emails, and you load them into your email service provider, and you set things up so that when subscribers perform certain actions, specific emails get sent to them.

If you’re running an online business and you’re not using email sequences, you’re probably not going to be in business for long.

And that’s true even if you offer a service rather than a product.

Wait, WHAT?

Yep. Automated email sequences are an important tool for ALL online businesses. Let’s say that you’re a freelance writer and you write web sites for lawn care service providers.

When visitors come to your website, they can enter their email address and get a 2-page guide to using keywords effectively to boost their site rankings.

How to connect with clients and get work.

So you got them to sign up for your email list. Now what?

 

You could then:

  1. Never send them anything else.
  2. Send them your monthly newsletter filled with exciting developments in the lawn care web site world.
  3. Send them a series of emails over the next few days to help them gather some of the information they need to create a web site, teach them about the importance of content marketing, show them how to brainstorm blog post ideas, and then let them schedule a consult with you and make a one-time offer for site development at a slight discount.

Which option do you think helps you to create a steady stream of potential clients getting educated while getting to know, like, and trust you as an expert?

YES! It's option 3, the EMAIL SEQUENCE.

Here’s what it comes down to: if you created an online business to make money, then at some point you’re going to have to sell something. And no, it doesn’t need to feel icky or sleazy — as long as you offer a genuinely awesome product or service and you truly want to help your people.

In this post, I’ll share my process for writing a Welcome Sequence — a series of emails you send new subscribers to your list.

Who Is Your Email Sequence For?

The first question you need to consider is who this sequence is for: who is the ideal client, and what do you know about that person? (Yes, we never stop working on our niche. IT NEVER ENDS.)

The way you talk to auto-shop mechanics is going to be pretty different from the way you talk to homeschooling moms, for example, so you need to know who the audience for the sequence is, in as much detail as possible.

What’s the Purpose of the Email Sequence?

You absolutely need to know the end point of the sequence before you write a single word. Are you ultimately driving readers to purchase a product or service? What is it? What’s the price point? What does that include? Is it time sensitive?

Remember our lawn care service provider? Imagine that he hired you to write a welcome email sequence for his website. His clients are homeowners in his local area, so you need to know the language they use, the concerns they have, and so on. And the ultimate goal of the sequence is to get these homeowners to sign up for a monthly contract at $45/month.

You don’t want to write a sequence about flower arranging and then suddenly on the last day hit up the reader with your offer for lawn care services.

Instead, you need to create a sequence that will naturally flow to that final offer. So you might talk about homeowner’s association requirements in different neighborhoods, spotlight some yards the company has designed and maintained and how that boosts home values, discuss caring for your lawn in different seasons, and so on.

In addition, throughout the sequence, you should refer to the offer — it shouldn’t be a surprise on the last day.

How Much Information Should You Include in your Email Sequence?

A major struggle for a lot of online business owners is the free-versus-paid content dilemma. There are two main approaches:

  1. If I give away too much, no one will buy from me, so I will only give away tiny little pieces and charge for the rest.
  2. The more I give away, the more value I give people, and the more they will trust me and ultimately buy from me.

When I write email sequences — for myself and for clients — I follow the second approach. Give amazing value. Create an amazing user experience. Yes, some people will come for the free stuff and leave. Give those people your free content with love and an open heart. Plenty of others will come back for your paid offers.

It’s hard to give away too much information. Really. Let’s look at the lawn care example again. No matter how much information you give clients, the chances that they are then going to actually DO the lawn care work themselves? Pretty slim.

But what if your product or service is information or knowledge? Like, what if you’re teaching people how to write an awesome email sequence and you also write awesome email sequences for money?

Well, writing an awesome email sequence takes time and skill. Most online business owners have a LOT of work to do. Some people will read this post, download the guide that goes with it, use the information in the email sequence that follows, and write a killer sequence.

That is AWESOME, and that is the GOAL of this post: to provide value.

 

Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Can We Get to the How Do I Write an Email Sequence Part?

Yes. Once you know WHO the sequence is for and WHAT the purpose is, it’s time to map out the sequence.

how to map an email sequence

Write your subject lines for each email and 2-3 sentences describing what you’ll cover in the content, and note how you will ask readers to engage.

Take a look at this draft sequence map for TeamSamFitness.

Sign up email Subject: You are IN Get Fitter Faster!

  • What we’ll cover over the next 5 days
  • Engagement: hit reply and tell me

Day 1 Email Subject: Why You MUST Eat MORE if You Really Want to Lose Weight!

  • Tear down the myth that starving yourself will help you lose weight
  • Case Study: Jessica
  • Engagement: download grocery list

Day 2 Email Subject: Say Goodbye to Time-Consuming Meal Prep

  • Show them how meal prep can be way less complicated and time consuming than they think
  • Engagement: blog posts, YouTube video

Day 3 Email Subject: What You Should Eat if You Want to Lose Weight

  • Provide a list of foods they can eat freely
  • Learn to enjoy food
  • Engagement: YouTube video
  • CTA: Fat Shredder program

Day 4 Email Subject: You Have NOT Failed at Dieting

  • Case Study: Terry
  • Engagement: book free 20-minute consult
  • CTA: Fat Shredder program

Subject: You Can Learn to LOVE Exercise.

  • Starting with small, consistent steps
  • Small win: walk 10 minutes
  • Engagement: blog posts with more challenging exercise, hit reply to tell me
  • CTA: Fat Shredder program

Your sequence map can be more detailed if you want — the idea is that it should show you how the sequence flows. You want to know, before you write a single word, where your readers will end up so that you can get them there naturally — without crazy twists and turns.

Draft Your Email Sequence

Once you have your sequence map completed, it’s time to draft your emails — yeah, the actual writing.

Write to ONE person. Part of the reason we talk about “getting to know your ideal client” so much is so that when you write emails, you write to ONE person — not to an entire list. When you’ve taken the time to really dig in deep and learn about your ideal client, it’s a lot easier to be super specific in your messaging and communicate directly with that person.

A tiny, ridiculously obvious example:

YES: Hey [Name!] Wow, I feel like we haven’t talked in FOREVER.

NO: Hello List Members! I know I haven’t had time to give you all an update in a while.

A more subtle example:

YES: You know that thing your kids pull when it’s bedtime and they’re suddenly STARVING?

NO: Whether you have kids or you’re in the empty nest stage…

When you know your ideal client and you’ve drilled down, you don’t have to talk to the moms of young kids AND the empty nesters. You’ll either know the language that UNITES them, or you’ll only be talking to ONE of them.

If your target market is women ages 25-60 who work as low level admins in office jobs they hate then THAT’S where your personalization kicks in. You could say something like:

Nope, buying me flowers on Assistants’ Day DOESN’T make up for not knowing my name after I’ve worked here for TWO YEARS.

Follow your sequence map. The point of figuring out what information you’re sharing in each email is to give you, you know, a map to follow as you write the sequence. Smart, right?

If you know that on Day 1, you’re going to share links to two blog posts and ask readers to download a worksheet, then you have a lot of content to draw from right there.

Give your readers quick wins. How do you feel when you have to follow a 97-step process? Overwhelmed, intimidated, scared? Your readers want quick wins, so give them quick wins. Each email should have ONE task your readers can complete to get closer to a specific end goal.

Review Your Email Sequence

Once you’ve drafted your sequence, set it aside for a day or two — and get some feedback from people you trust.

People you trust = people who understand your business and your target market. If you’re writing to homeschooling moms, your corporate husband may NOT be the best reader.

When I need feedback on my work, I have a trusted network of awesome ladies who will always be honest with me. (That's an affiliate link for one of the most AWESOME paid groups on the Internet, and if you join through me, I'll earn a commission.)

When I write a sequence that is designed to SELL a product or a service, the BEST feedback is NOT, “I love it! It’s funny and quirky and it sounds JUST LIKE YOU.”

Do you know what the best feedback is?

It’s very simple. The BEST feedback — the feedback I am ALWAYS going for — is: “WHERE CAN I BUY THIS?”

And it’s even better if the person says, “OH MY GOSH, I AM TOTALLY NOT YOUR MARKET AND I STILL WANT TO BUY THIS PLEASE TAKE MY MONEY.”

When you get that response, you know you’ve got a good sequence.

Test Your Sequence

After you have your feedback and you’ve finalized your sequence, it’s time for the REAL test. Load it into your email service provider and start getting people in.

Do NOT make ANY changes to the sequence until at least 100 people have gone through it.

If you start to make tweaks based on feedback from one or two people, you will lose your mind. Wait. Let at least 100 people go through the sequence. Wait a MONTH if you have to. This is not wasted time; this is the time that is necessary for gathering data.

When at least 100 people have gone through the sequence, you can start to make some intelligent decisions.

Look at the open rates for EACH email in the sequence.

Look at the engagement on EACH email in the sequence.

Look at how many people BOUGHT the offer.

Evaluate the data carefully. If your open rates on each email are around 60 to 70%, you are ROCKING your subject lines. If people are clicking the links, hitting reply, and downloading your material, the content is GREAT. If you have a handful of sales from your 100 people, it’s time to break out the bubbly and celebrate.

On the other hand… if you see that open rates on a particular email suddenly drop to under 30%… consider the subject line of that email and the content of the previous day’s email. Change ONE THING at a time so that you can see what’s really making a difference.

If you see that your open rates and engagement are AWESOME, but NO ONE is buying your offer, there’s a disconnect. WHY? The answer to that is different in each situation, and it requires some digging to uncover.

Hint: It’s RARELY that your price is too expensive. It’s USUALLY related to how you are communicating the VALUE of the offer, and we'll cover that in a future post.

Writing an email sequence is one of those business tasks that you really don’t want to put off. Every day that you don’t have a smart sequence in place, you’re missing out on potential sales.

 

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How to Write a Magazine Article: My Process

How to Write a Magazine Article: My Process

When you think about writing magazine articles, maybe you picture yourself sitting at a pristine desk, a view of the ocean out the window.

You have your steaming cup of coffee, your laptop is ready and waiting, and you sit, hands poised over the keys.

Or maybe, you’re filled with sheer panic.

How the heck do you actually write an article?

If you’ve never written a magazine article, your first assignment can definitely feel intimidating. If you’re trying to create a sample for your portfolio and you’re working without an assignment, you definitely might be wondering how to get started.

Send a Query Letter Before You Write a Magazine Article

The very first thing I do is send a query letter to the magazine in question. Never, ever write a magazine article before you have an assignment — that’s the mark of someone who doesn’t have a good understanding of the magazine industry.

Assignments for articles come after you submit a query letter to the magazine. The article the editor ultimately assigns might differ from what you originally pitched. For example, a few years ago, I pitched a magazine an article about Apple’s extreme secrecy, and how that sometimes hurts the company.

The editor liked the general idea, but wanted to focus on one specific area. If I had written the piece without querying, the editor probably would have flat-out rejected it. But because I queried, the editor could give me his feedback, and I was able to write the article the way the editor wanted it.

Don’t Start Writing A Magazine Article Without a Contract

Most print publications have standard contracts they send out. If you are a new freelancer and you are writing for a national magazine, you probably don’t have a lot of wiggle room to negotiate any of the contract terms.

You need to know what rights you are selling — typically, you will be selling First North American Serial Rights (FNASR), which means that the magazine is the first place in North America that gets to publish your article. You may also be relinquishing online rights, and in some cases, you will be asked for all rights, which means that you can never, ever sell that piece again. Ever.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you want to make sure that you are being compensated for what you are selling.

Outline Your Magazine Article Before You Write It

I like to work from at least a rough outline. Most of my drafts tend to start out in Apple Notes. Once I have a decent start, I move into Google docs.

A rough outline might start out something like this:

how to write magazine articles

Set Up Interviews For Your Magazine Article

If I’m writing an article that will include information from experts and anecdotes from real people, I know that I’ll need to find those people so that I can interview them.

I try to figure out how many people and experts I’ll need, and I start looking to connect with those people and schedule interviews as early as possible — like, the day the article is assigned.

To find experts, I generally rely on two awesome services, Profnet and HARO. Both of these sites let me post queries to experts in a wide variety of fields. Experts who are interested in being interviewed and quoted can then get in touch, and I can schedule interviews as needed.

learn how to write magazine articles

To find real people to interview for anecdotes in articles, I look to different sources, including Facebook groups, online forums, or my own personal network. If appropriate, I reach out to local or national organizations and ask them to help me connect with their members.

If you are regularly interviewing people, you will want to invest in a scheduling service. I use Acuity Scheduling (that’s an affiliate link, which means if you sign up, I might get some cash!), which has various plans, including a free plan. The plan I use is $15/month, and it is worth every cent.

I send prospective interviewees a link; with one click they can book an open time on my calendar. We both immediately get email, and the appointment automatically shows up on my calendar. I could not function without Acuity — I use it to schedule student coaching calls, client inquiries, interviews for articles, and anything else where I need to talk to people.

 

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Prepare for Your Interviews

You definitely don’t want to show up to an interview unprepared.

If you’re interviewing an expert, you want to at least skim his or her latest book or have a general idea of who the person is. You want to know ahead of time what questions you’re going to ask — and write them down.

You also want to prepare for your interviews with “regular people” — know what you want to ask them, and be ready to ask the same question in a number of different ways to help people open up and give you usable answers.

Especially in the beginning, you might get nervous during an interview and forget things. Having a written list of questions can help.

how to interview people for articles

Decide ahead of time if you’re planning to record the interview — and test out your technology well before the call.

You might prefer not to record, and instead to take notes — that’s a matter of personal preference.

PRO TIP: Towards the end of the interview, but not as you are hanging up, ask, “Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to share?” You will often get some of the BEST answers this way.

Draft and Refine Your Magazine Article

Once you have your interviews done, it’s time to draft your article. This is where your outline can come in handy — it’s a roadmap you can follow as you organize your material.

I like to set aside a good chunk of time for writing an article draft — about two hours of uninterrupted time — so that I can get all the way through.

Remember that when you’re writing a draft, things don’t have to be perfect. So if you’re blanking on a word, instead of agonizing over it, just write something like:

how to write a rough draft of an article

My drafts are FULL of brackets that mark awkward phrases, missing words, thoughts that need to be expanded, and so on. The idea is to get the main thrust of the article down on paper in one go.

I come back to the article over the next few days and put time in on the areas I’ve marked as needing work. These sessions can be anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour — usually I don’t need another long session once the draft is done.

Finalize Your Magazine Article Before Submission

Before you send your article off to the editor, you want to take the time to carefully review it.

Go back to your original assignment letter and make sure that you’ve complied with everything discussed there. Carefully proofread your work to ensure that you don’t have any typos, missed words, errors, or other problems in the work.

make sure you proofread your article before you submit it

I try to set my work aside for at least 24 hours, then come back and read through it with fresh eyes. You can also have Google read your text to you — hearing it read aloud will help you see if you missed a word or have a typo that your eye keeps skipping over.

Follow the Magazine’s Submission Guidelines When You Send Your Article

You’d think it would be obvious to people to submit their work according to the magazine’s submission guidelines, but you would be wrong.

If you’d like to be one of the writers editors turn to again and again, take the time to see how they want you to submit the work. If they’ve gone to the trouble of including this information in your assignment letter, it’s a really good idea to follow it.

Use the fonts and formats the magazine asks for. If they request that you submit your work in HTML, don’t email the editor asking, “How do I submit my work in HTML?” Seriously — don’t do that. That’s what Google is there for.

 

 

Respond Promptly to Revision Requests

The more professional the publication, the more revision requests you can expect to receive from the editor. A good editor will push you, and your work will be better for it.

If you’re used to writing for online sites and you suddenly break into print, this process can be jarring. TRUST THE PROCESS. The editor is NOT sending you revision requests because she enjoys it. She is creating a stronger, better piece.

Do the work. Do it in the time frame allotted, and do it with a smile. This article will be a GREAT piece for your portfolio afterwards.

That’s it! That’s the process I follow whenever I write a magazine article.

 

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How You Procrastinate Without Realizing It

How You Procrastinate Without Realizing It

Recently, a friend of a friend posted that she was getting started in freelance writing. It always excites me to hear that someone is getting started in freelance writing, because I think it’s a great way to earn a real living on your own terms.

This woman — I’ll call her Penelope, because that’s not her hame — posted, quite simply, something along the lines of, “Excited and nervous to start my new career as a freelance writer!”

My friend had commented on the post and tagged me as a potential resource for Penelope, and not too long after that, Penelope reached out and asked for my feedback on her plan.

Penelope’s plan looked something like this (I’ve changed a few identifying details):

  1. Create vision board
  2. Work on branding
  3. Work on About Me page
  4. Build web site to reflect branding
  5. Figure out niche
  6. Create service packages
  7. Attend conference in another state
  8. Target potential clients with packages

Many of these steps involved spending money — in some cases, several hundred or even over a thousand dollars.

Each step would also take a significant amount of time — Penelope told me that she had learned that creating her vision board and working on her branding would take at least a month.

It would be at least four months before Penelope would be ready to target potential client with her service packages, and to get to that point, she would spend a lot of money.

“So, do you think I should change anything?” Penelope asked.

I thought carefully about my answer for a few hours. Penelope is, after all, the friend of a friend. We might eventually run into each other at a party or be at the same conference. She might one day have too much work and need to outsource. I might one day have too much work and need to outsource.

I didn’t want to alienate Penelope completely, but I wanted to tell her that her plan was a giant pile of… doo-doo.

Yep. Total crap.

What’s a nice way to say that?

Spoiler: I didn’t figure that out.

When I couldn’t put off responding any longer, I told Penelope that I typically recommend that writers first figure out what they want to write and who they want to write it for — choose their niche, in other words — but that they not take any longer than a few days to make a decision.

Then, I said, she should start looking for work.

Without the vision board.

Without the branding.

Without an About Me page or a website, without attending conferences, and without creating service packages.

 

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My focus, I explained, is on showing writers how to actually make money from writing, not how to spend time and money on things that feel like work, but really aren’t.

I’ve worked with a lot of writers, both one-on-one and in my course. I’ve seen writers come in with detailed plans just like Penelope. I’ve listened to them explain — extremely thoroughly — why it is critical that they focus on their branding.

Branding has lately become a really big thing in the online business world. I can’t tell you how many posts I see in Facebook groups where people post their “branding boards” and ask for feedback.

If you want to earn a real living as a writer, you have to stop procrastinating.

This is not work.

I call this one of the most dangerous forms of procrastination.

Spending time choosing colors and fonts, designing a logo, creating combinations of colors and fonts — this feels like work. It even feels like important work.

You are, after all, making critical decisions about your business.

Except that… you are not. You are not making critical decisions about your business, because you don’t have a business yet.

If all you have is a branding board, that’s not a business. And spending hours, days, or weeks on choosing fonts will not get you any closer to getting clients.

You have a business when someone pays you to do work. You want to do everything you can to get to that point as quickly as possible, for one basic reason, which is simply that:

When someone pays you, you will have money.

This, to me, is the heart of a successful business: getting paid.

Vision boards do not get you paid as a freelance writer.

Branding boards do not get you paid as a freelance writer.

Even writing your About Me page won't get you any money. Yes, you ultimately want to have a web site and an About Me page, but you don't need them in order to get paying clients.

Attending conferences might help you meet people who will hire you, but there are so many other ways to find people to hire you that do not involve spending hundreds of dollars on a ticket to a conference, flying to another state and paying for a hotel, hiring someone to take care of your children while you are away, and so on.

When I make a plan for getting started in freelance writing it looks pretty much like this:

  1. Figure out what you want to write and who you want to write it for.
  2. Reach out to that person and offer to write that thing.

Two steps. Straightforward. Earning money happens already in step two.

Okay, I’m oversimplifying a bit. It’s true that I believe strongly in foundational work — getting your time under control, establishing smart business habits, and establishing the mindset you need to build a successful business.

I absolutely believe that you need to do these foundational things before you can build a business that will give you long term results, but if you want a quick and dirty guide to getting started in freelance writing, it really does boil down to the two steps listed above.

None of the things on Penelope’s list are bad things for a business. A vision board can be awesome. Paying attention to your branding matters. A website can help bring clients to you. But you definitely don’t spend time and money on those things before you know what you want to write — and who you want to write it for.

Stop planning the work and start doing the work.

Choosing your niche has to happen before you build a site or figure out your branding, because your niche is what defines all of those things.

And that’s where a lot of writers fall into another dangerous procrastination trap. They spend weeks — or even months — choosing a niche.

Actually, they spend weeks or months avoiding choosing a niche. They are exceptionally creative in the ways they do this.

I cannot choose my niche today because I need to thoroughly research these 47 topics before I can pick one.

This week, I’m moving, so I don’t have time to choose my niche.

I’m going to choose my niche right after the kids go back to school.

As soon as the kitchen is organized, I’m going to figure out my niche.

You probably think that I am exaggerating for comic effect. I assure you that I am not.

There have been times when I have worked with a student one-on-one for several hours, and we have finalized the student’s niche. The next day, I get an email that says something like,

I was thinking that maybe this niche is going to be too difficult to break into, and I should probably go with something else. I’m going to think about it for a few weeks.

At this point, I write back or call the student and inform her that she is STICKING with the niche she chose and that I expect to see a PITCH to a potential client by the end of the day.

I do this from a place of love, I promise.

Because if I let these students continue thinking about a niche, years will go by before they actually get any paid work.

How is that helpful?

If you want to start earning money as a freelance writer, the most important thing you can do is figure out what you want to write and who you want to write it for. Without a niche, everything else is just… commentary. Window dressing. Irrelevant.

When you're ready to start earning actual money, figure out what you want to write and who you want to write it for, and start pitching those clients.

When you're ready to stop procrastinating, you can start working as a freelance writer.

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