What I’ve Learned From Writing Email Copy for 1000+ Clients

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Sep 05

This month, I got to a point in my writing career where I had a lot of my preconceived notions about writing email copy challenged.

Over my freelancing journey, I’ve written email copy in over 40 different industries. Tons and tons of emails. In short, my clients have been happy. After all, I made them a lot of money.

Then, it dawned on me.

When you first start learning any new skill, you know nothing.

Then you start learning more and you think you have everything figured out.

Then you get some experience and you KNOW you have everything figured out.

And then you get even more experience and you realize you don’t know a gosh darn thing.

Your understanding is like wading in the shallow end. There is a world of depth you haven’t even begun to see yet.

Guess where I am right now?

I’m at the point where I’ve learned a lot of things I once thought were true… simply aren’t.

And that’s because for the longest time I looked up to people who spent a lot of time talking about copywriting, yet didn’t actually write for clients.

So once I stopped listening to everyone else and set out to discover the truth, a whole new understanding beckoned.

I looked back on the bazillion emails I had written for my clients, and I identified a few universal truths that have always held true for me — no matter the list, market or product.

I’ll let you in on these secrets here.

#1 Email copy is not a dying art; it is very much alive and thriving.

And anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool.

Is deliverability an issue?

Always has been. Always will.

Are people more distracted than ever?

That goes without saying.

Are open rates declining while spam complaints are skyrocketing?

Sure, in some industries, for some people. But there are other people who have the opposite of this problem.

I always chuckle when people say that email is dead. Email copy isn’t dead. It’s actually more important than ever. And I’d say it’s actually increasing in importance.

Ever check out how many auto responder companies there are? Have a look at how many funnels you see asking for an email address. Just take a glimpse at your inbox.

If email is dead, then why is email everywhere?

#2 Writing is mechanical, not romantic.

Movies love to portray writing as so…romantic.

It humors me.

And the reason why it humors me so much is because most of the successful writers in the world view writing as a mechanical process.

When people like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling sit down to write their 3,000–5,000 words every single day, they don’t sit in a bathtub, pour themselves a cocktail, and wait for the muse to come calling.

They put their butt in the seat and assemble greatness.

As I’ve grown into a better writer, this process has become less and less about trying to channel inspiration and more about assembling compelling sales messages based on tested and proven formulas for persuasion.

When you get past a certain level of experience, writer’s block should become increasingly rare. And that’s because you’ve internalized the formulas and structures you need to produce a compelling sales message.

All successful email copy follows the same formula

Ready for it?

Subject line



Call to action

This is a proven formula for persuasion when selling with email.

And when you start looking at every email in these four parts, it makes things a lot easier for you to ‘fill-in-the-blanks.’

#3 Your subject line is infinitely more important than the body

To be sure, 33% of email recipients open email based on subject line alone

Nothing happens until your email gets opened. Just like a regular advertisement — nothing happens until the headline is read. Email copy is no different.

Opens might not be the most important metric to track, but they are what starts the conversation with your prospective customers.

#4 Short subject lines usually work better

A while back, I started counting the number of words in my subject lines.

(Just call me a nerd.)

I noticed that almost every subject line clocked in at usually 10 or 11 words.

Now, this isn’t bad. But oftentimes, entire subject lines can’t be displayed on mobile unless they are 8 or fewer words.

I’ve tested this out in a number of ways and shorter subject lines usually do a bit better than longer ones.

What’s also important: the human brain processes information in chunks.

So the fewer words you use, the easier it is to process. If you can get across your idea in five words instead of twelve, people will be more receptive.

It’s hard to do this, but it’s a great skill to develop. And better word economy will not only capture interes;, it’ll help people scan through your writing faster.

Say more, with less.

#5 Curiosity is king (er, queen)

The best subject line formulas I have ever used fuse curiosity + benefit.

I use that 1–2 punch for almost every subject line I write.

It’s incredibly powerful.

And just like our tendency to stare at car accidents on the side of the road, people click far more if a headline produces curiosity. Even more so than a straight benefit or shocking subject line.

Look at all the clickbait headlines on Facebook and Buzzfeed and all the native ads you see around the internet.

Those content powerhouses work the system.

#6 Stories sell and they’re easy to write in email form

Every time I write a story in email copy, it explodes.

That’s not because I’m a good story teller. It’s because humans like reading stories.

It’s how we’ve always communicated with each other. Human nature hasn’t changed. And it never will.

Anytime you can illustrate your sales message with a story, it helps your prospects relate. And if you can get them to do that — you’re golden.

#7 The more personal your tone, the better

Write like you talk. Assuming you have some semblance of an intelligent voice, this is an effective strategy. The closer you can match your tone of voice in email copy to a one-on-one conversation, the more successful you’ll be.

It’s not always easy to do this.

Especially when you’re sitting down writing an email that’s going to go out to over 700,000 people.

But if you can channel that voice, you’ll immediately draw in more people.

#8 Your job is to get them to click

That’s it.

That’s all the email copy is supposed to do.

Manage this and you’re an email genius.

Don’t worry about making the sale in the email. Are there times when you SHOULD focus on pre-selling them inside the email? Sure enough. But only if it’s going to get more people to click through.

Just move more people through. Let your conversion piece (sales page, VSL) do the rest of the heavy lifting.

#9 Add links in email copy

I used to think that if my copy was good enough, people would read all the way through. So I got in the habit of only putting my link at the end of the email, right before the signature.

Then, I realized I had believed a fallacy.

So I started embedding links all throughout the copy.

I didn’t just plaster a “click here to blah blah blah” hyperlink.

Instead, I targeted benefit-laden phrases and hyperlinked them.

Like this: “Her only goal was to earn $2500 every month.”

Once I started doing this, click through rates went way up.

The human eye is attracted to the links in the email. So much so that sometimes they block out the other text that’s not hyperlinked.

By embedding links into my copy like this, I’m essentially making a claim that seeps into their subconscious. And if they want that specific benefit that is described in the hyperlinked text, they can’t help but click on it.

One last thing: If you enjoyed this article and found it useful, I’d appreciate if you liked and shared it. Thanks.



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