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.
- 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:
- 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 flce writing. So the image I use is a mom working on a laptop with her baby right next to her.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Figure out what you want to write and who you want to write it for.
- Think about where that person is.
- Pitch that person.
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.]
If you're thinking this sounds a lot like finding your niche, you're right. You can call it whatever you want, but you cannot make good money until you choose your niche. And the moment you STOP trying to find the PROFITABLE niche and START concentrating on what you ACTUALLY WANT to write — well, THAT is the moment when we can figure out where the clients — and the MONEY — are.
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.
If I choose a niche, won't I be missing out on a lot of other potential jobs?
No. If you want to find clients easily and get work that you love doing and that pays you well, you need to know WHICH clients you're looking for. And that means you need to know what you want to write and who you want to write it for.
Could you just tell me what the most profitable niche is? That's the one I want.
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” niche. PICK THE THING YOU WANT TO WRITE ABOUT.
Which of these six potential niches do you think will be the most profitable?
This is a trickier way of asking, “What's the most profitable niche?” and I'm STILL not going to answer. The one you are MOST passionate about is the one you should pursue.
Do you think I should go with this “safer” niche of X, even though I really want to write about 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: your niche should always be the thing you really want to write about.
You said that when you first started as a freelance writer, you didn't have a niche!
Ok, that's NOT a question, but I do have an answer for you. It's true, when I first started out, twenty years ago, I didn't have a niche. I didn’t have a college degree. I didn’t have any magazine writing 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 WiFiI. We had to use our Internet while tethered to the wall, like animals. So I didn't have the luxury of reading hundreds of posts about choosing a niche.
Do you know WHY there are hundreds of posts about choosing a niche? Because it's REALLY, REALLY important, and you absolutely have to do it if you want to find clients.
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.
- Go to LinkedIn and fill out your profile.
- Connect with people who need help with writing the thing you want to write about.
- Pitch those people.
The reason you don’t like this plan is because it, like all the other plans that end in you making money, require 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.
You don’t think that’s a thing? THINK AGAIN.
2. Are you clear on what you want to write and who it's for?
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, the PRICES you want.