3 Lessons I Learned From Writing 29 Sales Letters in 29 Days (...and an Explanation of Why I Couldn't Sleep Last Night)
I was truly, honestly about to go to bed.
Not like a “lie in bed and scroll through Instagram for an hour” go to bed, but like an honest-to-God, dead-to-the-world sleep.
I’d just eaten an embarrassing amount of McDonald’s (20 McNuggets and 2 McDoubles, but who’s counting?) followed by a healthy dose of chocolate ice cream.
I was full of fine cuisine and ready to close my eyes.
But then I checked Facebook, and I’d been tagged in a post in a copywriting group.
Toward the end of last year, I did this ridiculous thing where I wrote a new sales letter about a different product every day for 29 days in a row.
For the most part, it was quiet work.
Every day, I wrote my sales letter, wrote a short analysis of it, and sent it to my bite-sized email list.
By the time the month was over—I was completely drained.
It’s weird, but the first thing I did was take a long shower. Maybe I needed to wash all that hot copy off myself?
Listen, I’ve cycled across the country before, and that was hard. I’ve been hit by a car, and that was hard—like, I was totally fine, but it hit me pretty hard, so…
And this sales letter projects ranks up there as one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
In my mind, just completing the project was cause for celebration—and then three months of largely nothing outside of client work…
…until I got that Facebook notification.
My sales letter project, 29x29, had been linked in a blog post by Chris Orzechowski.
And he was calling me out.
I couldn’t just sit here and do nothing, could I?
I wrote up a little comment thanking Chris and letting him know that his post had worked. It lit a fire under my ass.
I don’t think he’s approved that comment yet—which makes sense, considering I wrote it last night at 10PM and it’s only 7:33AM now…
Anyway, I went back to Facebook and noticed I had a message notification—and it kept me awake for the next two hours.
The message was from Justin Blackman. THE Justin Blackman.
For those of you who aren’t total, complete, utter copy nerds like me, he’s the guy who wrote 100 headlines per day for 100 days.
Justin was the inspiration for my project, and there’s no one who understands the struggle of those 29 days better than Justin.
He even said so himself!
So, Chris, Justin, World—here I am.
Contrary to what it might seem like, that sales letter project didn’t kill me. It just sent me into hibernation for a few months.
Before that, it taught me a TON of things, most of which I’ll share in a more in-depth blog post, but since I’ve now been publicly called out for disappearing from the world, I want to share a few of my biggest takeaways.
1. Use a damn template.
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants.”
Look, I know you’re smart, but here’s the thing:
Isaac Newton discovered gravity.
Not some strange bacteria that lives on the backs of sea turtles in Patagonia. Not some random island in the Pacific overrun by miniature pigs.
The guy discovered gravity. Actual f**king gravity. Like, one of the things that governs the rules of the entire universe.
I can’t speak for you, but I’m definitely not as smart as he is.
If he needed help from those who had gone before him, you do too.
There are zillions of copywriting templates out there for any project you find yourself writing.
I’d love it if you created something more effective than PAS or AIDA, but until then, use what’s been proven to work. No need to re-invent the wheel.
My favorite template during this project was Clayton Makepeace’s 20-part sales letter template. (BIIIIG thanks to Roy Furr for sharing this.)
While the project was challenging, without templates (especially for headlines!) I would have literally died.
(And yes, I know that I’m now one of those people who is completely destroying the meaning of the word “literally.” I literally don’t give a shit.)
2. Commit to the sit.
Surprisingly, this isn’t a Buddhist monk teaching about sitting to meditate, nor is it a strategy to help constipated people get their bowels moving.
Regardless, it was a big breakthrough for me.
When you decide to sit down and work, somehow, almost magically, the work manages to get done.
If you’re having trouble starting a project, you don’t need motivation, you just need to sit down and decide to do the work.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this or not, but it’s almost like, once you decide to make it happen, the Universe moves to allow you to do your work.
It sounds ridiculous. It’s sounds simplistic. But it’s true.
Sit down. The work will get done. I promise.
3. Your subheads could be better.
The headlines in Sales Letter #17 are A LOT better, right? Again, templates were a HUGE part of my improvement here.
At a base level, subheads should do 2 things:
Break up the copy.
Resonate with the reader.
But at their best, they should do 3 things:
Break up the copy.
Resonate with the reader.
Nearly force you to keep reading.
I’m no headline expert (go to Justin for that), but I can tell you that people will likely skim your headlines before they give a shit about any of your body copy.
So, mediocre headlines = mediocre conversion rates.
You don’t have to write 100 headlines in 100 days or 29 sales letters in 29 days, but you should at least recognize you have room for improvement. We all do.
And that’s the fun in copywriting. We’re never done learning. We’re never done growing. We’re never done improving.
So, whether you’ve been hibernating for the past few months or you’re in the trenches on some overwhelming project—you can do it!
Keep moving. Maybe one day, a few months down the road, you’ll get a Facebook notification that keeps you up for hours and lights a fire under your ass.
It’s worth it.