You don’t need to be a copywriter to write persuasively, and you don’t need years of experience or training (although it helps). Here’s your crash course on how to be a persuasive writer.
This is part 1 of a 3-part series.
In this part we cover:
7 benefits of persuasive writing3 of the biggest lies you’ve been told about persuasive writing (that may be holding you back)
Class is now in session!
What’s the one thing common to:
Blogs and articlesCommunicating with business partners, team members, investorsSocial media posts (including visual content like IG posts and carousels) EmailsSpeeches, pitches, and presentationsVideo content and promotionEvent promotion Cover letters and job applicationsCommunicating with friends via SMS, WhatsApp, Signal, etc.
Did you catch it?
Everything we read, watch, and listen to is powered by the written word.
Of course, not all writing is created equal, and not all writing is intended to be persuasive. It all depends on your goals.
So why am I so big on persuasive writing? (and dedicating hours of my life to deliver this essay to you)
The truth is…
I wondered whether I would ever get paid for my writing.
I questioned whether my writing was good enough (maybe you can relate?)
In 2007 I started blogging on my own site to practice getting my thoughts, ideas, and experiences down. I knew nothing about the BUSINESS of writing for money or who would pay for anything that I had to write about.
For 6 years I didn’t get paid to write.
Over the years I wrote hundreds, maybe thousands, of blog posts and social media posts (most that weren’t seen by anybody other than myself).
I studied other people’s content, signed up for courses and training, found mentors, and learned what was working for others.
Then one day it clicked:
Becoming valuable as a writer is largely dependent upon identifying your unique voice, developing consistency, and using your writing ability to express something that matters to others (especially when it helps them achieve their own goals).
When I look back at my journey I see two distinct stages:
Before I learned persuasive writing (made $0 😭)After I learned persuasive writing (made thousands of $$ for myself and in some cases hundreds of thousands of $$ for the companies I wrote for 🥳)
Here are 7 benefits of persuasive writing:
1/ Express your ideas more confidently
Many of us struggle with some form of imposter syndrome, thinking that our ideas aren’t good enough or that we’re not qualified to share them.
But when you can express your ideas persuasively, you’ll have the confidence to put them out there and be heard.
So if you have imposter syndrome, you’re not alone… but don’t let it get in the way of serving your people the best you can!! 🙂
— Russell Brunson (@russellbrunson)
Sep 6, 2022
2/ Build your personal brand
As a persuasive writer, you’ll develop a unique voice that sets you apart from others in your industry.
When you publish your persuasive writing online consistently, you will attract attention and followers who appreciate your insights and ideas. This, in turn, will help you build your personal brand and authority.
Whilst we’re on the topic of personal branding, you might enjoy this video from Amanda Natividad where she reveals how she built a sizable online audience in under 12 months (1K – 60K followers on Twitter, more on Linkedin and her email list). The most fantastic aspect is that she addresses the challenges of personal branding head-on, with empathy.
3/ Get people to take action
asking your readers to sign up for your email list, buy your product, or download your e-book trying to get a yes from your bosstrying to get buy-in from a client, key stakeholder or team member on a new projectinviting someone influential to be a guest at your event wanting to move potential customers down a sales funnel
Your ability to persuade with your writing can be the difference between getting what you want and not getting it.
And it all starts with knowing how to express your ideas in a way that resonates with what your target audience is thinking and desiring (more on this next issue).
Mercedes sells status, not cars.
Budweiser sells good times, not beer.
Coca Cola sells happiness, not soft drinks.
The best marketers sell emotions, not items.
— DAN KOE (@thedankoe)
Aug 8, 2021
4/ Improve your critical thinking and problem-solving skills
The persuasive writer must be able to understand the needs and wants of their audience, identify any objections, and craft a persuasive argument that leads to a call to action.
This process requires strong analytical and critical thinking skills. The more you practice persuasive writing, the better you’ll become at thinking on your feet and solving problems.
When you combine logical reasoning with empathy, you’ll have a real superpower that will serve you well beyond writing.
“I don’t want you to think like me. I just want you to think!” – Malcolm X
Yes💯 agree. Critical Thinking is key!
— BlackHistoryStudies (@BlkHistStudies)
Sep 18, 2022
5/ Sharpen your communication skills
Persuasive writing is all about communicating your ideas in a way that allows others to see your point of view (even if at first they don’t agree with it).
If you think you have to dumb down an idea to explain it, you’re not giving your audience enough credit.
If people don’t understand your idea, start with the assumption that you haven’t explained it well.
The goal of communication is clarity, not simplicity.
— Adam Grant (@AdamMGrant)
Jul 10, 2020
This process requires you to:
understand what makes your reader tick, andbe clear, concise, and persuasive in your writing.
The more you practice persuasive writing, the better you’ll become at communicating your ideas, both in written and verbal form.
“If you write something good, you have the power to change neural arrangements in someone’s head.”
This is much like how your phone downloads an app, then can immediately run newly learned tasks.
Someone reading your writing can “install” that idea in their brain.
— Neville Medhora (@nevmed)
Sep 15, 2022
This naturally leads us to benefit #6…
6/ Change minds
If you’re trying to effect change in the world – whether it’s on a small scale in your community or a large scale like with social or political issues – persuasive writing can be a powerful tool. By convincing others to see things your way, you can help bring about the change you want to see.
Invest in your writing skills.
The words we use in writing are the words we use to think.
As you improve your writing skills, you’ll think more clearly & build compelling arguments.
Words battle for your reader’s limited attention; learn to write clearly & persuasively.
— Samantha Leal (@samanthalcc)
Jun 26, 2021
7/ Earn more money
If you’re in sales, marketing, or any business where your job is to generate revenue, persuasive writing skills will help you close more deals and make more money.
Think about it: the better you are at persuading people to do the thing that you want them to do (point #3 above), the more likely they are to do business with you.
But persuasive writing doesn’t always need to translate directly to $$
There’s also power in simply sharing what you’re working on as you’re doing it, and this can help you attract an audience of supporters, customers, collaborators, and opportunities.
This has certainly worked for founders who’ve built in public like:
Nathan Barry of software company Convertkit
@robwalling@tonyennis@NathanLatka Unless an audience is already playing to the founders strengths, I’d recommend focusing almost entirely on sales in the early days and then simply writing a blog post 1-2 times a month to document learnings and progress towards goals.
— Nathan Barry (@nathanbarry)
Sep 17, 2020
Meryl Johnston of online bookkeeping turned e-commerce accounting specialists Bean Ninjas (who I’ve been fortunate to help along the way in different roles and capacities). Check out the first fifteen or so episodes of the BN podcast – they’re worth a listen. Damon Cheng of Testimonial.to
$30,000 MRR for 🎉
I couldn’t have done it without all of you! I will continue to share all my sweet and sour as I build in public! ❤️
— Damon Chen (@damengchen)
Sep 17, 2022
We can go down a complete rabbit hole around building in public so I’m going to save that for a future newsletter (keep an eye out for it).
For now, I’m experimenting with my own weekly build-in-public update (view my Sep 18 update here).
(On a related note: If you happen to know of any other people offering services that are building in public, do let me know. I’d love to connect with them.)
3 of the biggest lies you’ve been told about persuasive writing (that may be holding you back)
Lie #1: “persuasion is manipulation”
This is typically the biggest mental roadblock that stops people in their tracks when it comes to persuasive writing.
There is a big distinction between persuasion and manipulation. Manipulation implies coercing someone into doing something against their will or better interests, often for the manipulator’s gain.
Persuasion, on the other hand, involves convincing someone to do something that is in their best interest.
So while both involve influencing another person’s behavior, persuasion is based on positive intent while manipulation seeks to exploit negative intent. This difference is what sets apart these two strategies.
When given a hammer, you can use it to build something or break something. As with any tool, how it’s used rests in the hands of the user. So while persuasive writing can be used for unethical means, it can also be used for good.
In the hands of a skilled persuasive writer, persuasion can be used to change minds and improve lives.
Lie #2: “people have the attention span of a goldfish”
Yes, I’ve read the research too.
Now here’s the thing, how many people do you know who can binge an entire Netflix series in one sitting but can’t read an article longer than a few hundred words?
I’m going to venture a guess and say not many.
The reality is that people do have the attention span to read your writing – they just don’t have the attention span for something that’s boring, unengaging, or poorly written.
It’s up to the persuasive writer to captivate their audience and keep them engaged from start to finish.
So what’s the secret to keeping readers engaged?
Tell engaging stories (noticed how I started with a personal story earlier? 😉)
When I started incorporating more of my personal stories in my writing, I started seeing more engagement with my content.
A few of my answers to questions on Quora posted in 2016-17 continue to get views until this day:
More powerful to me, I started seeing people responding with comments like this:
Here’s a comment I received this week in response to my essay about The Hidden Cost of Fast Growth:
(thanks so much Eric, you totally made my day!)
Lie #3: “it’s all about what you say”
After having a break from riding scooters for a few years (thank you pandemic life…) I was excited to return to Danang with my wife two months ago.
A big reason for my excitement was the thought of jumping on a scooter again and cruising around the city. I literally feel like I’m flying when I’m on a scooter, even at 20 – 40 km/h 😂
Now what I didn’t expect when I went to pick up the scooter from the rental place was that I’d have to re-learn how to ride one. I mean c’mon, it was only Oct 2019 (less than 3 years ago) when I was last riding a scooter around Bali.
So on that first ride from the scooter rental place to our apartment I:
Put the key in the ignitionLifted up the kickstand where my left foot was (otherwise the engine wouldn’t start)Turned the key clockwise to start the engineHeld the brake control down with my left handWaited for my wife to hop onto the back of the scooterTurned the throttle with my right hand slowly to accelerateSlowly released the break to move the scooter forward.
But I forgot something…
I hadn’t adjusted the rearview mirrors, so as I was cruising along and I couldn’t see when other bikes or cars were coming up behind me on either side! 😲
This is particularly scary in Vietnam because riders and drivers often like to create their own lanes. Sometimes they’ll overtake on the left, sometimes on the right. It’s bonkers!
So you have to be alert ALL THE TIME and pay attention to ALL directions to avoid getting into an accident.
The reason that I’m telling you this story is that it’s critical to pay attention to the order of the steps that you’re taking.
If I were to write a beginner’s guide to riding a scooter, I’d turn the bullet points above into numbered steps and add in the step that I missed to make it complete.
Put the key in the ignitionLifted up the kickstand where your left foot is (otherwise the engine wouldn’t start)Adjust rearview mirrors so that you can see behind you on both sidesTurn the key clockwise to start the engineHold the brake control down with your left handWait for your passenger to hop onto the back of the scooterCheck for trafficTurn the throttle with your right hand SLOWLY to accelerateSlowly release the break to move the scooter forward.
Now let’s imagine that you switch up the order on some of these.
If you switch step 2 (lift kickstand) with step 4 (start engine), then the bike won’t start.
If you switch steps 6 (wait for the passenger to get on) and 7 (start accelerating), then chances are your passenger will be screaming at you as you take off without them on the back!
So the key takeaway here?
If you mess up the order, you don’t get the desired result.
Just like riding a scooter, persuasive writing is also about the order of the steps that you take.
In other words:
In persuasive writing – HOW you write is more important than WHAT you write about.
So that’s a wrap for Part 1 of How To Be A Persuasive Writer (Without Studying Copywriting For 10 Years)!
In Part 2 of this series, I’ll cover the psychology of persuasion and a couple of the techniques that copywriters use to create compelling copy. Look out for it in your inbox next Friday.
Before you go, please click on the poll below to give me some feedback:
What’s new this week
1/ Published 3 blog posts as part of a 5-day blog writing challenge
Why You Should Give Away Free Content (And How to Do It Right) Writing for SEO: How to Write Blog Posts That Rank on Page One (even if you’re not an SEO expert) 5 Best SEO Writing Tools to Win More Traffic from Google
2/ My Twitter thread on How to enjoy life more, instead of feeling like you’re always chasing the next goal has been the best performing thread this month. It helped that I asked some good mates to retweet the thread soon after it was published (thanks George, Meryl, Ken, and String! 🙏).