Where Can You Start Your Freelance Writing Career?

When I started out as a freelance writer, I had no idea what I was doing. I was a wide-eyed dreamer fresh out of college, and I was looking for a way to use my philosophy degree.


Let me tell you this: freelance copywriting is a far cry from reading Donne’s poetry on the weekends while writing essays on Heidegger during the week!


I’ll admit I was a little out of my element at first. Learning how to find clients, write for an audience, and build my portfolio was a major challenge.


(The fact that I was guzzling coffee the way a Hummer guzzles gasoline didn’t do much good for my anxiety in those days…)


It was a rough time in my life. If I’d been smarter I would have had a plan for when I got out of college. But I learned my lesson, and now I’ve managed to come through with no harm done.


Why am I telling you all this? I’m telling you because I want you to know I started from the bottom. But with help from the right books and the right mentors I learned how to win high-paying clients, run my freelance business, and provide my clients with the persuasive copy they want so badly.


But here’s the thing: all that takes time.


It Takes Time to Build a Freelance Writing Business

No matter how much experience you’ve got, it can take some time to build up your freelance business from scratch.


There are a million little problems you’ll run into along the way, ranging from obviously important stuff like “How am I going to get enough business that I won’t end up on the street?” to less obviously important stuff like “How am I going to motivate and manage myself when I don’t have a boss to do it for me?”


(The flipside of being your own boss is that you have to be your own boss.)


I don’t want to scare you off by making these problems seem insurmountable. You’re not going to have to do anything you can’t do. Running your freelance writing business means you’ll have to stretch yourself, but if you want to do it, it’s just a matter of time and diligence.


But again: it takes time. Let me take a minute to show you a few of the ways building your freelance writing business is going to take time.


First off: it takes time to learn how to work with yourself.


Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of the time life feels like a constant battle between the part of me that’s gung-ho and wants to take over the world and the part of me that wants to sleep 20 hours a day and go for months between showers.


The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed part of me that’s always motivated and the part of me that wants to fling boogers at the wall all day long.


The thing about freelance writing is that you have to bring those two halves of yourself into balance. It takes some time to figure out how to do that.


Second: it takes time to learn how to get clients. (And it takes even longer to figure out how to win well-paying clients.)


You have to figure out your way of promoting yourself—and yes, you have to promote yourself.


Even when you’re a mega-successful freelance copywriter making gazillions a week typing up copy from your yacht in Honolulu, you’re going to have to promote yourself.


If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion: get over it or get out.


Third: it takes time to develop a method and a feel for each type of project. I’ll get into more detail about types of projects in a later post, but the point is that you need to have procedures together for how to handle each type of project.


Does the client want content marketing? You need to nail down your methods.


Does the client want direct response copy? You need to be able to tell them what to expect when they work with you.


Does the client want you to do a case study? You need to have procedures in place for doing your interviews and getting the material together.


To sum it all up: at this point, you’re like Christopher Columbus right after he landed on the coast of San Salvador.


Freelance writing is a vast landscape full of brilliant opportunities and unknown dangers. It’s a great, dark, empty space on your map.


Before you can make the most of freelance writing, you have to learn all you can about what’s on that map.


Let’s take our first few steps.


Start With the Job Boards

If you want to get your feet wet in freelance writing, the job boards are a good place to start.


The job boards are the Caribbean Islands of the freelance world. You don’t want to stay there forever, but it’s a good place for the new explorer to start.


(Note: there are problems with the job boards. I’ll tell you about them a little later, but for now keep in mind that even though they’re a good place to learn what you’re doing, you don’t want to stay there forever.)


There are many, many job boards full of opportunities for freelance writers. Maybe you’ve heard of a few of them. You could try out Upwork, ProBlogger, or FreelanceWritingGigs if you’re interested in starting out that way.


(Technically, Upwork isn’t a job board, but it’s enough like one that it might as well be.)


The companies you’ll find on these sites are already looking for writers. They know what they want, and they already know what they expect from you. This gives you the chance to practice selling your services in an environment where your prospects are already in the market for your writing.


With the online job boards, the work comes to you.


You develop a feel for the process of selling your freelance writing services.


You learn how to manage the different types of freelance writing projects.


Most importantly, you get a life raft you can use to learn how freelancing works while you’re hunting for bigger and better jobs.


Why You Don’t Want to Stick With the Job Boards Long-Term

You’ll never hear me say a word against the job boards. They’re a brilliant way for a beginning freelance writer to learn the ropes and build up a portfolio.


That being said: you don’t want to depend on the job boards in the long term.


Think about it: businesses that are already looking for writers go to the job boards because they know there are hundreds or thousands of writers there, looking for work.


That means the average writer’s odds of getting picked for a specific job are pretty low.


It also means the average writer isn’t going to be able to command a good price.


I don’t want to say that all of the companies you’ll find on the job boards are looking to get low-quality work done on the cheap, but many of them are.


And the ones who are looking for the best work are still drowning in applications.


Perhaps the best reason to avoid the job boards: lack of respect.


In the eyes of the companies who hire you, you’re just another employee.


You’re not a skilled professional offering a valuable service. You’re just another shlub who found the way into a stack of applications.


If you became a freelancer because you wanted to be your own boss, don’t spend more time in the job boards than you have to.


As a way for learning the ropes and doing your time, the job boards are great. But they still won’t beat finding an experienced mentor who can guide you through the process.


Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.


And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.


Good luck, and good copywriting!


Selling, Honesty, and Imagination


Never hide what you’re after. Hiding what you’re after makes people hate you. When you’re talking business, speak directly.


Are you writing a poem? Are you writing a song? Are you writing a novel?


That’s great. If you’re doing those things, it’s fine to be as cryptic as you want to be. But when you’re talking business, speak directly.


I know people will tell you all this malarkey about how you’re supposed to build customer personas and figure out exactly who you’re dealing with and who you’re selling to before you even talk to them. Maybe it works for somebody, but the fact is: most of the time that stuff comes off as incredibly creepy. Worse than that, it leaves you feeling slimy and manipulative.


(And to make it even worse, it doesn’t even work very well!)


Selling is simple. Here’s how it should go:


Person A: Do you want to buy my thing?


Person B: Yes, I want to buy your thing.


See that? It’s simple. There’s none of this mindless, masturbatory song and dance where you act like you’re not trying to sell something and end up making an asshole out of yourself. If you’re selling something, own it. If you’ve got the goods, you don’t have to play a lot of subtle tricks.


There’s nothing people resent more than when you pretend you’re not selling something when you really are selling something.


Take pretty much the entire internet as an example. This whole wrongheaded, bullshitty idea of “content marketing” is just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Sure, make your marketing look like it’s a blog and that will lead customers to you in droves.


Does it work? Eh, maybe, sometimes, sort of. But it’s worth a try.


Or this whole insipid idea of SEO. “I know, let’s junk up our articles with a lot of keywords and slap a lot of complex terminology on commonsense website development.”


That’s what SEO boils down to. But there’s a whole industry built on that one god-awful idea.


Now, I told you there’s nothing people resent more than when you pretend you’re not selling something when you’re selling something. So it’s time for me to come clean.


I’m selling something. I’m a writer, and I’m selling my writing services.


Before you ask: no, I do not want to join your company full-time, no I don’t want to talk to you on the phone, and no I don’t want to visit you in your office. Pretty much the whole point of taking up freelance writing for a living is so you can avoid human contact as much as possible. So unless you’re an insanely beautiful woman with a thing for writers I’m much too busy. Just let me do my writing thing while you do your business-running thing.


And another thing: for the love of God, quit asking me if I’ve got extensive experience in your field. I’m twenty-five years old and my degree is in philosophy—so unless you’re trying to puzzle out the Pure Categories of the Understanding, I probably don’t know a ton about what you do.


But guess what? I know how to read, I’m a quick learner, and I’ve got an appetite for knowledge. The simple fact of the matter is that copywriting doesn’t take a ton of previous knowledge in your field.


I know you’re probably getting all up in arms over there, thinking “My field is so special you could never understand it in all its complexity!”


And you’re probably right about that. But all I need to know is a few simple things I can pick up fairly quickly: I need to know a little terminology, I need to know who your buyer is, and I need to know what your offer does for them.


It’s not all that complicated. No matter how arcane your market is, it’s accessible to that approach. Copywriting is copywriting, whether you’re selling condoms, Communist revolutions, or Tic-Tacs. Human psychology is the same everywhere.


People try to complicate copywriting, as if they’ve got this need to justify their rates. Copywriting isn’t complicated. You grab a reader’s attention and you keep them reading until they feel a strong enough desire to buy. The fact is, the longer your reader reads your thing, the more interested they are in buying.


So don’t shy away from letting people know exactly what you’re up to. People are smart. They’ll figure it out whether you tell them or not, but they’ll like you a hell of a lot more if you’re honest and forthright with them.
Maybe that means a bunch of people are going to quit reading as soon as they realize you’re trying to sell something. That’s great! Because it means the people who stick around are at least willing to stick around to read even after you’ve made it clear you’re trying to sell something.


Guess what? That means they haven’t ruled out the possibility of buying from you. They may even have taken the critical leap toward imagining what it would be like to purchase your product or service.


That’s key. Imagination is key. If you can draw someone’s imagination into what you write, you can tap into their interest on a deeper level. I know that sounds a little woo-woo and airy-fairy, but in all honesty that’s what copywriting is all about. It’s about creating desire, and desire is nothing without imagination.


Let me give you an example: why is a woman in lingerie almost always more alluring than a woman not in lingerie? It’s because the lingerie engages the imagination. You imagine peeling it off her smooth skin, and that simple bit of imagination inflames the desire.


That’s an example of what I’m talking about. Imagination and desire are inextricably linked, and if you’re going to channel desire into sales, you have to know how to direct the imagination.


That’s the artistry of copywriting. That’s the importance of the imagination. And that’s the value of a good copywriter.


What are Case Studies? (Part 3 of 3)


We’ve spent the last couple of days talking about what case studies are and how you can create one. Now, that’s great and wonderful, but in the end there’s only one real question: what are you going to do with your case study once you’ve got it?


I think we can all agree that that’s the real question here.


And what’s the answer? Here’s the short answer: plenty. A well-written case study is a versatile marketing tool, so it’s not really limited to one use.


I’ve taken a little time to get together ten of the most common uses. But before I do that, I’ve got a little admission to make: a case study is usually only cost-effective in an industry where you’ve got a high Customer Lifetime Value. So if you’re selling bubble gum, you might want to move along.


Now that we’ve got that caveat out of the way, here’s our list:


  1. Build credibility for your solution.

This is the value of the interview. if you want to show your prospects why your business is great, who are they more likely to believe: you or your customers?


That’s pretty obvious, I know. If they’re going to be putting their money on the line for your solution, they’ll want to hear from your customers. They’ll want to hear about how your business has added real value.


With a case study, you’ve got an accessible and compelling way to demonstrate that value. And if you pepper your case study with the customer’s own words, you add another layer of trust and credibility.


  1. Prove your industry knowledge.

How many of you have ever had a prospect who was just perfect for your offer, but they kept dragging their feet and saying, “But I don’t know if it will work for me.”?


We’ve all been there before. And we’ve all wracked our brains now and again, trying to come up with a way to dissolve that resistance.


When your prospect reads your case study, they should see a person a lot like them, in a company a lot like theirs. That way, when they see how your solution worked for this other company, they’ll be able to understand how you can help them.


And if you can make it personal to them, you can build a relationship.


  1. Engage your prospect’s imagination.

We’ve talked about this before, but one of the most important things about a case study is that it’s a story.


Now why’s that so important? We’re all human beings, right? Well, as human beings we’ve evolved to pick up information through stories.


Why’s Harry Potter so popular? Why did Disney pay George Lucas a billion dollars for the rights to the Star Wars franchise? Why do people dress up in elaborate costumes to go see the latest Marvel movie?


Simple: because it’s a great story. With a case study, you have a chance to tell your prospects a great story.


Now, I know it probably won’t be anything as dramatic as stopping Voldemort or blowing up the Death Star, but your story has a drama and a value of its own. The people who are meant to work with you will recognize that drama and value.


But they’ll only recognize it if you get that case study.


  1. Educate your prospect about your offer’s value.

Let’s face it: sometimes your prospects don’t immediately understand the value of your offer.


Maybe it’s an older prospect who doesn’t understand your software. Maybe it’s a first-time business owner who can’t see why this equipment is necessary. Maybe it’s an executive who’s worried about passing up a major chance.


Here’s the thing: we’ve all got our areas of expertise, and sometimes you’ll be working with a prospect who needs your solution but just doesn’t get your offer.


With your case study in hand, you can show those prospects why your offer will help them. When they see the way your solution has resolved a problem similar to theirs, they’ll be much more interested in discussing what you can do for them.


  1. Accumulate social proof.

In his classic book Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini spends a chapter on the concept of social proof. He says the principle of social proof “states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.”


So how does a case study create social proof? That’s simple enough. When you show your prospects that others like them have benefitted from your offer, it’s much easier to convince them they could benefit.


When you were a newcomer, it was hard to show a prospect the value of your solution. But now that you’ve built a base of loyal clients, you can leverage that social proof to scale your business.


Case studies are a way for you to get that leverage.


  1. Learn what your best customers value in your offer.

This is a bit of a hidden benefit, but if you think about it for a minute it makes a lot of sense. Think about it: if you’re trying to improve your business, what do you want to know?


That’s obvious, you think. You want to know about the problems customers have with your offer and what you can do to improve it. It stings to hear those customer complaints, but they’re awfully valuable, right?


That’s a good answer. But it’s not the whole story.


Of course you want to know what your unhappy customers think you’re doing wrong. But isn’t it at least as important to know what your happy customers think you’re doing right? Of course you want to know what you need to change. But isn’t it at least as important to know what needs to stay the same?


A solid case study can get you that information. Sure, it’s mostly a marketing tool. But it’s also a valuable insight into what excites your best customers.


  1. Repurpose your case studies (Both on- and offline).

Now, a lot of the things I’ve been talking about here are geared toward softening up a sales process. That’s definitely one of the strong points of a case study. But it’s not the only use, and more often than not it’s not even the main use.


Post your case studies on your website. Convert them into infographics and YouTube videos. Blog posts, podcasts, press releases, you name it! With a little extra work, you can get out feelers on all your marketing channels.


And when you do that, you can have a self-selected group of warm prospects approaching you. In that way, case studies make a great hammer in your marketing toolbox.


  1. Remind yourself what your business is all about.

Now, I know this isn’t really a business benefit. But doesn’t it happen sometimes that we forget what we’re in business for? We find that routine that works, and we fall into it so deep we lose track of what it’s all about.


It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday. We get so caught up in running our businesses that we start to forget they’re about people.


Your business is about serving people, in the end. So sometimes the real value of the case study can be to show you the difference you’ve made. Because we’ve all got to take care of business, but in the end “taking care of business” is just another way of saying we take care of each other.


Business is about the relationships we form along the way. And at its best, a case study can be a way to remind us of that.


As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Be sure to take a look at yesterday’s article if you want to know more about case studies. Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com.


What to do if you Have to Use Cold Email Selling


People will tell you cold email is spammy.


People will tell you cold email is disruptive and annoying.


People will tell you that when you send cold emails, you kill that little part of your soul you wanted to keep safe and secure from the corruption of the cruel, harsh world we all live in.


But the truth is different from that.


Here’s the truth: cold email is spammy, annoying, and soul-destroying. But sometimes you have to do it anyways.


It’s not your fault. It’s the world’s fault. You’re a special, wonderful little creature, and it’s not your fault you’ve got to rustle up business somehow.


So here are the facts, bub: you’ve got to make some sales, and you’ve got to make some sales quick. That means you need to get yourself together and start sending some cold emails.


Are you ready? Me neither.


So if you’ll pick up your soft blanket, your teddy bear, and your motion sickness bag, we can get this unholy thing over with.


In this article, you’re going to find a few things:


  1. A guide to identifying your prospects
    1. Understanding your offer/customer
    2. Customer personas
    3. Building your prospect list
  2. A guide to contacting your prospects and getting responses
    1. Subject lines
    2. Tactics for short letters
    3. Tactics for long letters
  3. A guide to turning responses into sales.
    1. Keeping control of the conversation
    2. When to go for phone calls or Skype sessions
    3. How to close the sale


How does that sound?


Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s much worse.


So: put on the inspirational music, plaster on your fake smile, and come with me through the first circle of the Inferno.


Identifying Your Prospects

You want to get your business going, and that means you need to get your prospects lined up. You need to get a nice, fat list of ideal prospects all ready to hear your pitch and snap up your products or services.


How do you do this?


Well, if you’re a brain-dead numbskull and you deserve to have your brain driven in with a sledgehammer, you’ll reach for the phone book and start contacting businesses one by one.


(Yes, phone books still exist.)


If you’re a little less dumb, you’ll get a customer persona together before you even think about taking a look at your prospect list. I’ll tell you all about customer personas in just a minute, so don’t you worry yourself about that.


Once you get your customer persona together, you’ll want to go online to get your actual list together. If you’re a savvy internet-user and you’ve gotten together a good customer persona, you can take out a lot of the pain of cold emailing.


Because let’s be frank: cold emailing is nobody’s favorite method of selling. But it can be effective, and it can be quick. If you’re smart about it, you’re not going to be bothering anybody.


Put it this way: the better you get at cold email, the less you’ll feel like you’re spamming people. And this is literally true, too: because spammy emails don’t succeed.


A lot of the problem of cold email is the problem of getting out of this mind-set that you’re doing something wrong.


Ask yourself these questions if you have any doubts:


Am I selling a quality product or service?


Am I contacting people who are likely to be interested in my product or service?


Am I approaching these people in a way that makes it easy for them to choose whether or not they are interested in my business?


That’s what it takes to avoid your cold email becoming spammy. Those are the problems we’re here to solve with this article.


Customer Personas

I want you to imagine something: I want you to imagine the kind of person you would most like to sell to. You know the kind of thing I mean.


What kind of business are they in? What kind of problems are they facing? What’s the size of their company?


That’s the image you want to have in mind while you’re identifying your prospects. That’s part of what I’m talking about when I talk about a customer persona.


The first part of getting a customer persona together is getting to know their company. You want to define the types of companies that are most likely to benefit from your service.


That’s simple enough, isn’t it? Sure it is.


What you’re doing here is setting up a list of criteria for businesses to show up on your final prospect list.


Is the company too small to get any value from your product or service? It’s off your list.


Is the company in an industry that’s outside of your niche? It’s off your list.


When you’re putting these criteria together, it can feel like you’re being a little too restrictive. But don’t worry about it: it’s better to start with a list that’s too targeted than one that’s not targeted enough.


Now that you’ve got your basic customer persona together, it’s time for the fun part: now you need to get into your ideal customer’s head. It’s important to get to know as much as possible about the kind of person you’re dealing with, so you can know how to sell to them.


You want to ask yourself questions like this:


  1. What kinds of problems does this person work with all day?
  2. What kinds of fantasies does this person have?
  3. What are the everyday aches and pains that this person deals with?
  4. What is it about my product or service that really makes it indispensable for this person?


These questions are important. These questions are crucial. Because with cold email, it’s extremely easy for you to forget you’re selling to human beings. (That’s when your emails start getting spammy.)


If you can get into your ideal prospect’s head, you’ve got a fighting chance of using your cold email tactics to reel in more sales than you thought possible.


Hunting for Email Addresses

Now, you’re ready to actually go and get your list together. Remember: as you’re making this list, you want to contact the person who is most likely to be the decision-maker.


Maybe that sounds obvious, but let me tell you this much: when you’re doing it, you’re going to feel a real temptation to cut this corner and go for the generic company email. In the moment, it feels like you’re saving time and effort.


So I want you to remember an important truth that’s served me well as long as I’ve been smart enough to know about it. It’s a little truth I like to call NEVER trust your feelings.


Now, this is going to take us a little far afield, but I think it’s worth emphasizing: your feelings have never, and will never lead you anywhere you want to be. Let’s be honest: if you listened to what your feelings told you, wouldn’t you be lying in bed all the time crying your eyes out and eating ice cream?


(I mean that seriously. It’s a serious question. Am I the only person on Earth who feels like that all the time?)


So if you want to make it anywhere in life, you stuff those feelings deep, deep, deep down where you can resolve them healthily sometime long after you’re dead.


Now back to the point. You’re going to want to contact someone who is:


  1. A decision-maker capable of hiring you.
  2. In a company that fits your ideal customer profile.
  3. At a personal business address.


Once you’ve found the address you’re using, you’re going to want to list it on a nice spreadsheet so you can keep track. You can think of them as your hit list. You can think of yourself as the Eighth Air Force, and this is the list of targets you need to bomb.


Or you can just take that list and act like they’re a bunch of contacts you’ve got to email. It’s up to you.


If you’re wondering how many emails you need to send, I’d say you can’t come up short if you get a list of about seven billion prospects. The more the better. Remember: in world domination cold email, your business is to make everyone in the world bow down and worship you aware of your services.


So put it this way: make sure you’ve got enough prospects to be statistically significant. I can’t tell you what that means, because I’ve never taken a statistics class, but I can tell you it doesn’t mean making a list of ten people.


See what you can get done in an afternoon. It’s an iterative process, you know?


How to Make Contact

Anyways, so now that you’ve got your hit list all lined up, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to take care of them. You’ve got to imagine yourself as Lee Harvey Oswald just about to pull the trigger or Donald Trump with his finger on the big red button.


Or whatever works for you.


You’ve got to write up your letters, no matter how you think of it. Writing your letters is the fun part of the process because it’s where you make sure you can really jive with the people you’re selling your services to. You want to make sure you’re on the same page, and that you can get along with this person.


So that means you need to write a letter that does two things:

  1. Makes them curious about your offer.
  2. Makes them want to reach out to you.
  3. Compels them to open up their wallets and give you all their money.
  4. Drives them to tell all their friends and business acquaintances about your amazing service.


There are two ways of doing this: I like to call them the short letter and the long letter.


(Word to the wise: never write a medium-length letter. It’s bad form, it’s disgusting, and it’s outlawed by the Geneva Convention.)


Anyways, let’s get to fundamentals and execution, okay?


Tactics for the Short Letter

The short letter is very short. If your letter is longer than 100 words, you’re getting too long. You want to aim for something in the neighborhood of 30-50 words, full of punch.


You want to use simple sentences. Should you ask rhetorical questions? You should ask rhetorical questions.


Should you make sure the reader feels an overwhelming need to get back to you? You should make sure the reader feels an overwhelming need to get back to you.


How do you do that? Simple. You ask some questions that draw out your recipient’s imagination. He or she should feel compelled to wonder what your message is about.


What am I saying here? I’m saying you don’t spell out why you’re contacting them. You let them figure it out. You write something like:


Hi Jeremiah,


I really like your website, first off. You’ve got a great setup, and I think the product descriptions really let me know why I might consider the Acme Stretching Rack for all my inquisitorial needs. You don’t always see that kind of family-friendly atmosphere around dungeon equipment, you know?


Anyways, I was wondering if you could do me a favor. My name is Geofrey Crow, and I’m a writer with Crow Copywriting. Could you help me get in touch with someone who can talk to me about content marketing?





This is a little on the long side for a short letter, but you see the basic moves here. With the short letter, the whole point is to prompt a response from the reader.


You’ll especially want to look at the end. Now, we’ve already taken care to make sure the reader is likely to be our decision-maker, but we’re not approaching him or her in a salesy way. We’re just asking if they’ll help us get in touch with the decision-maker.


Another point you’ll want to notice is that we haven’t said we’re trying to sell anything. The reader can definitely figure it out from reading it, of course—never forget that your reader’s a smart person. But we haven’t said it, and that means we’re not pushy.


It also means the only people who will respond will be a self-selected bunch who is at least a little bit interested. And that means everything when it comes to our sales cycle.


Tactics for the Long Letter

Now, the long letter is like the short letter, except everything is different.


Instead of aiming for a start to the process, with a long letter you aim to make the whole sale all at once. That means you’ve got about a million things to do, and there’s no way I could possibly cover them in this little section. But I’ll try to give you the basics right here.


With the long letter, your goal is to create something that beats your prospect over the head with how wonderful and valuable your offer is that they feel compelled to capitulate and buy your offer.


It’s about making your offer so desirable and so low-risk that they won’t be able to contain their enthusiasm. It’s about strapping them to the hospital bed and pumping them with an IV full of so much value they beg to be allowed to buy your offer. It’s about demonstrating what you can do with such force and such strength that they can’t help but feel that they need to put your offer to work for them.


When you do this, you’ve got two main things you’re working on: 1) you want to generate buying desire, and 2) you want to lower the fear of purchasing.


Those are important, but there’s one thing you want to do above all else: you want to command your reader’s attention. You want to have your prospect wrapped around your finger. You want them breathlessly holding on to every single word you’ve written.


People are always talking about how hard it is to get attention these days, but they’re barking up the wrong tree. No wonder it’s hard for them to get attention when they’re writing the same boring old drivel that makes you want to throw up.


(And have you ever tried writing that awful stuff? It’s worse than driving silver needles through your hands.)


So when people talk about the attention economy, there’s nothing to worry about. The fact is, you don’t want the whole world to pay attention. You want your ideal customer to pay attention.


Because the really wonderful thing is when you’ve got that attention. When someone’s tuned in to your message just right. When it’s not just some message you dreamed up because some marketer told you it was a good idea, but it was actually your message.


When you can command attention like that, you can close the sale.


How to Close the Sale

Now, with the long email you’re working an entirely different cycle, so I’ll have to tell you something about that some other time. With the short email, your sales cycle begins as soon as you get a response.


Usually it’s going to be something lukewarm, like, “Well, we’re glad you contacted us. Maybe you could send us a portfolio and we can see if we’d work well together.”


That’s not a bad answer to get. It’s an answer you’re going to get a lot. In fact, it’s an answer you’re going to get so often that you’ll probably want to come up with a semi-standard response.


As you move through the sales cycle, you’ve got to define your goals. You need to map out an ideal email exchange. You’ll want to know things like:


  1. How are you going to take control of the exchange? (i.e., How are you going to frame your questions leading to the sale?)
  2. How are you going to ramp up your prospect’s desire for your offer?
  3. How are you going to lower the prospect’s buying resistance?
  4. How are you going to make the transition into closing?


So if your first goal is to take control of the exchange, you’re going to have to figure out why your prospect is going to want to buy your service in the first place. You want to go after some particular pain points, and you want to fasten on them.


Now, unless you’ve got a really perverse love of confrontation, you’re going to have to work yourself up in order to get this done. Because the fact is: everybody hates selling. It’s the reason the people who are good at it make so much.


Because let’s be honest: no matter how great the product or service you’re selling, there are moments when it’s going to feel manipulative. You’re going to feel slimy and weird, and you’re going to hate every minute of it.


You’ll wonder why I’m saying that in a guide to cold email selling. I’m telling you that because I’ve seen other people peddle a lot of doublethink about how “if you’re uncomfortable with selling, it must be because you don’t believe in your product.”


That’s a load of bunk, first off.


The best salesperson in the world didn’t love selling when they started out. But here’s the thing: with time, and effort, and a lot of practice, they got better at it. Eventually they got good enough at it that they started enjoying it.


It’s a little like learning to enjoy coffee, or beer, or chewing on rocks till your teeth grind away. Email selling might sound like an unbelievable nightmare right now, but with practice you’ll be able to do it. And once you start succeeding, it’s easier to continue succeeding.


Just remember: the beginning is the hardest part of any process. If you can make it through the beginning, you can make it through the rest of the process. It’s a matter of grit and determination.


Phone Calls and Skype Sessions

And speaking of grit and determination, it’s time to mention the only things worse than selling via email: selling via phone, Skype, or (horror of horrors!) face to face. We all know you started a business because you wanted to avoid human contact for the rest of your natural life. What’s with all these prospects who want to actually interact with you?


Well, I’ve got a simple solution to that: tell them you’re dead. You’ll never hear from them again after that.


Much as I hate to say it, you’re probably going to have to show your face to your customers at some point.


Now, I know this is like pulling teeth, but you might even want to suggest those meetings yourself. Granted, you’ll probably rather smash your head under a tractor trailer’s wheels, but it’s what you need to do.


If they’ve expressed some interest but they’re still not buying, there’s probably part of them that thinks you’re a slobbering caveman who’s trying to land them in a Nigerian prince scheme.


(Now, of course the fact that they think that about you makes you so angry that you want to get your hands around their throats and let them have it. But you just have to accept it. It’s what people think. Just fill your little voodoo doll full of needles and get over it.)


Just remember: everybody hates business meetings. The person on the other side of the Skype screen is dreading it just as much as you are.


So as long as you can remember that, it means you’re dreading it just a little less than them. And if you can dread it a little less, you can force yourself through the process to the sale. Remember: you’re responsible for everything, if you fail to make the sale it’s entirely your fault, and if you don’t manage to make sales your entire business will die horribly.


But no pressure though. Remember: confidence is key.


How to Make the Close

Making the close is a matter of following through with the momentum you’ve built up from your masterful treatment. You’ve worked yourself into all your customer’s pain points, you’ve met all their objections, and you’ve demonstrated the massive value of your product or service.


Things are going pretty well. That means you’re ready to close the sale. How do you do that?


For starters: you ask for it. You (as in you) have to ask the prospect (as in the prospect) to agree to the sale. There are plenty of ways to do that, so don’t worry.


Here’s the thing you have to remember: if you’re far enough along that you can make an ask without immediately getting shut down, you’re getting close. So ask early and ask often.


Remember: you have to do this. I know there’s a part of you that’s thinking, “Oh please for the love of God and all his angels, don’t make me do this! I’d rather die than do this!”


Every time that thought strikes you, I want you to imagine something: I want you to tell yourself that if you back off now you’ll be the sorriest, lousiest, most pathetic piece of trash that ever deserved to get shoveled off to pollute the Pacific Ocean.


It’s a matter of pride. You have to push yourself through the sequence.


Because in a way it’s not even about the sale. The sale is the dopamine rush at the end. The sale is the reward. But the sale isn’t really what it’s about, psychologically speaking.


What’s it about? It’s about being willing to push yourself through something you hate. It’s about facing that craven, cowardly, submissive part of your soul and doing all you can do to kill it. It’s about willingly putting yourself under the massive psychological pressure that goes into closing the sale.


In the end, selling isn’t about the sale. It isn’t even about the money.


It’s about self-respect.


Conclusion: Remember it’s an Iterative Process

I know you might be thinking this article turned out to be less of a how-to guide on cold selling than a pep talk on forcing yourself through it.


And you know what? You’re exactly right.


Because cold email selling isn’t complicated. I can let you know the basics, but the basics really aren’t the important thing. The important thing is committing to mastering the process and getting it done.


You’re going to send out a lot of emails before you master the process. You’re going to get told NO! more times than you’ll want to count before you master the process. You’re going to get told no more times than you’ll want to count even after you master the process.


The techniques are easy to describe, but they’re tough as nails to master. Mastering the process is a matter of forcing yourself through it, again and again and again.


You need to learn the selling process so well you can go through it in your sleep.


You need to kill that part of yourself that wants everybody to like you. The part that thinks it’s going to die if one person doesn’t approve of you.


You need to take your mind and turn it into a hammer with one purpose: to drive the value of your offer into your customer’s mind.


Remember: it’s a mental game, and winning the game is a matter of practice, persistence, and an absolute dedication to holding yourself to a high standard.


You can’t worry about things like seeming “salesy” or being “pushy.” When you go in to sell, you’re facing two possibilities: when you walk out of that room, either you’ve made the sale, or you’re going to be figuring out why they said no.


That means you have to force yourself through the whole process every time. You don’t have the option of leaving a customer alone after they say, “Maybe.”


Maybe means you haven’t sold them yet. Maybe means they haven’t said no yet. Maybe means you have to keep going, because you can’t allow yourself to take maybe for an answer.


Now go make sales. Let me know if you have any questions.


What’s A Good Sales Letter?


What does a good sales letter look like?


Simple. It looks like a letter that actually makes the sale.


There’s nothing complicated about it. You’ve got simple goals when you’re making a sales letter.


Let me spell it out for you. You’re going to want to:


  • Seize your reader’s attention.
  • Demand their interest.
  • Build up their desire to buy.
  • Induce action.


It’s as simple as that. If somebody told you it was complicated, somebody lied.


Now, realize I said it was simple. I didn’t say it was easy. Hitting a home run is simple. Is hitting a home run easy?


No, it’s not.


So how do you write a letter that makes the sale?


First off: you realize that writing is a complicated process. You realize that just because the kid you’ve got working for you graduated with a 4.0 from Harvard Business School doesn’t mean he knows the first thing about how to write for people.


You realize everything counts in writing.


The length of your sentences.


The order of your words.


Heck, your punctuation matters.


And I’m not just saying it matters in some hoity-toity stylistic way, either. I’m saying it matters for the bottom line. If the person writing that letter doesn’t know what they’re doing, you’re kissing plenty of orders goodbye.


My advice: find somebody who knows how to engage a reader’s imagination. It sounds easy, but it’s what writing’s all about.


There’s a reason people spend their lifetimes writing.


So: what do you do to draw out a reader’s imagination? Do you use the normal tricks of the trade, or have you come up with something new?