The Profitable Guide To Email Copywriting In 2024 (real examples)

email copywriting guide

Did you know email marketing is 40x more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook?

And a lot of this has to do with copywriting.

But before we get into how important email copywriting is, I want to let you know why I value it so much.

In 2021, I co-founded a startup called Ticker Nerd with my close pal Sam. We bootstrapped the business and in eight months it was acquired by a FinTech company. 

The business was built purely on emails. We converted users via email, we delivered reports via email and we even requested feedback via email. We needed to ensure every single email we sent was opened and read, and if there was a link it was clicked.

We had strong competitors like Motley Fool, so there wasn’t much room for error.

One thing led to another and over time I started writing direct response emails and sequences for various companies. I’ve even built high-converting sequences for this blog. 

So If there’s one skill you learn this year make it email copywriting. 

The good news is that in this guide I’m going to share everything you need to know about email copywriting. This isn’t limited to copywriting itself, it also includes creating a successful email campaign, email deliverability, email marketing tools, and even A/B testing. 

What is email copywriting?

Firstly, we need to understand what email copywriting is (and isn't). Email copywriting is any form of written marketing content within an email. All the emails in your inbox right now were likely written by a copywriter, marketer, business owner, or at the very least the marketing intern.

The intent behind email copywriting is to convince someone to open the email, read the content, and then click the link. Which is the primary job of the email copywriter. 

In some cases, they might be responsible for writing the copy for the lead magnet or the corresponding landing page once the email link is clicked. 

What email copywriting is:

✅ Subject lines

✅ Body copy

✅ Preview texts

✅ CTA button copy

What email copywriting isn’t:

❌ Automated error emails 

❌ Anything outside of the email itself 

❌ Building complex sequences in complex tools

Email copywriting is important for businesses since it has the highest ROI of any marketing activity. According to Litmus, email marketing can generate $36 for every $1 invested. Of course, this depends on factors like the cost of hiring a copywriter, generating leads, customer lifetime value, and other activities that might not be included. However, it’s still clear that email copywriting can help a business generate more revenue. 

Types of email copywriting

Copywriting for outbound emails

This form of copywriting mostly refers to cold outreach (also known as cold emails). The purpose is to send an unsolicited email to someone who you believe could benefit from your service or product. It’s very similar to cold calling but instead, is much more scalable and less intrusive. Outbound emails are about establishing relationships with suitable companies. The end goal is to usually sell a high-end service (and sometimes a product). 

However, you never want to sell anything the first time you send an unsolicited email. You want to establish a relationship and offer some value. 

When writing emails for an outbound audience one of the most critical things to do is keep the email succinct, and to the point, and always ask a question. If you do not ask a question you will not get a reply. Here’s an example of a cold email I usually send to other sites I want to write for.

Hey [name]

Luc here 👋

I was doing some KW research and noticed your [summarised article title] article is on the third page of Google. 

Can I refresh this for you to help you get it on the first page?

 All I ask for in return is one link to a highly relevant post on my personal site.

Here’s an example of a post I wrote for [publication] that actually ranks on the first page.  

Let me know what you think.

Cheers

Luc

As you can see it’s straight to the point, adds value, and asks a question. Most people who read this would hesitate to say no since the value trade-off is so high in their favor. I want to also point out that I’m not actually selling anything of enormous value. Instead, I’m offering to do some work in exchange for a backlink to my blog. 

Copywriting for inbound emails

Inbound is the most common form of marketing emails. This refers to anyone who voluntarily enters their email address into a form that is connected with your email service provider (think of a popup or newsletter signup box). These users generally expect to receive something in return such as a resource or sequence of emails with information that will help them in some way. Here’s an example of an inbound welcome email I received after entering my email for a marketing resource from Drip.

Hi, there!

It's Sam from Drip.

 As promised, here’s a link to the resource you requested (and lifetime access to 75+ free bonuses).

👉 Drip Marketing Resources 👈

[GIF of resource]

We add new resources regularly, so make sure to bookmark this page.

Talk soon,

Sam at Drip.

It’s pretty obvious that I gave my email to Drip expecting to receive a resource. This welcome email is simple, effective, and delivers on the promise. Keep in mind that not all inbound emails are this short.

How to write high-converting emails in seven steps

1. Establish the purpose of the emails

Before you begin researching and writing you need to work out the primary purpose of the emails. Depending on the purpose, the style and number of emails you send will change. 

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this email for an inbound or outbound audience?
  • Are we trying to sell a low-cost or high-cost product/service?
  • What is the number one goal of the emails?
  • How can we add value to our readers?

Selling a $5 product might only require 4-5 emails and a link to the product page whereas a $7,000 service might require 50+ value-packed emails and a link to schedule a call with a sales rep. 

Credit: Litmus CMOs Guide To Email Marketing

According to Litmus, sending between 9 and 16 emails will generate the highest ROI. But I wouldn't take this as gospel since it depends on your product, service, niche, and audience.

2. Nail the research

Copywriting doesn’t work without research. 

You need to know exactly who you’re writing to, what their problems are, and how your solution is the best option for them. Make sure you’ve done your homework. 

You can nail the research by doing the following

  1. Asking your client the right questions in such a way that you learn how the customers think
  2. Conducting customer interviews to learn more about the customer persona
  3. Reading all the product reviews you can find (especially the negative ones)
  4. Researching your competitor's website and their product reviews, Facebook ads, and emails

📧 Looking for an experienced email marketer to boost revenue? I've got you covered. Let's chat and see how we can maximize revenue from existing traffic 📧

3. Apply proven formulas, statistics & sequences

This is exactly why having a swipe file is critical. Successful campaigns usually have proven formulas, and incorporate proven statistics and the right sequences. 

Here are some of my tips when it comes to applying formulas and statistics:

  • Reference the BAB, PAS, AIDA, or AIDCA copywriting formulas when you’re trying to write emails. My personal favorite is before-after-bridge (BAB) and problem-agitate-solve (PAS) for emails. 
  • Reference Drip Scripts if you need help finding a suitable sequence of examples.
  • Here’s a list of 22 copywriting statistics to improve your open rate and click-through rate.

Another key consideration when writing email copy is to match the correct sequence for the type of user and stage of the buyer's journey. It doesn't make sense to blast sales emails to someone who just entered their email address expecting a short eBook. Below are some popular sequences.

Welcome email sequence: This is the most obvious and well-known email sequence. The idea is to welcome your subscriber, thank them for giving you their email and ideally reward them with some value. There's no specific length these sequences need to be but it's important to front-load value so the user continues to open the emails.

Onboarding sequence: These types of sequences are mostly informational and help a user who has already converted get the most out of your product/service. The goal is to help your users successfully engage with your product and prevent them from churning.

Abandoned cart sequence: eCommerce businesses love this sequence. It's the real rainmaker. When a potential customer enters their details in the cart but never proceeds to pay, an automated email is generated. The email is purely to reduce the risk with the purchase and in some cases offer a discount to convince the user to actually make the purchase. These sequences shouldn't be more than five emails.

Value add sequence: A company might want to keep its potential users engaged by giving them as much value as possible. Many SaaS companies do this in the hopes their readers eventually become members. They work best when there is some form of a loop back to the product/service.

Sales funnel sequence: This includes all sales sequences more broadly. The goal is to sell a product or service to the email recipient. There are many different ways to do this but ultimately you need to still give value upfront, point out a problem your reader has, agitate it, tease the end state, and then show them how your solution will get them there.

Email newsletters: These are a whole different ball game. Think of The Hustle, Morning Brew, or even James Clear's email newsletter. Whilst they resemble “blog posts” via email format they do require copywriting for things such as the subject line, introduction, call to action, and preview texts. They're also an ongoing initiative so there isn't a specific cadence to follow.

Related article: Best Email Newsletter Platforms.

4. Apply cognitive biases and heuristics for epic results

This is my favorite part of email copywriting and it might be the most underrated tip in this guide.

But the funny thing is that investors spend more time learning about cognitive biases and heuristics than marketers. They believe them to be systemic errors in their thinking which can ruin decision-making skills.

But if investors spend time learning how to avoid falling trap to them, shouldn’t we be learning how to apply them?

Our target audience isn’t a traditional investor as such but the readers we target still invest in what we’re selling. So it only makes sense we pay attention to these cognitive biases.

Here are three cognitive biases I like to keep top of mind when writing emails:

  1. Liking Bias: This is where users prefer to say “yes” to people they know and like. So if you’re ever trying to draw comparisons or involve a well-known figure, try to include one that you know everyone likes and not someone controversial. Better yet, build a relationship with your readers so they take a liking to you instead.
  2. Spark Effect: Users are more likely to take action if the effort seems small. When you’re writing copy you can frame the action to be low effort. You can even include microcopy that says things like “it only takes 37 seconds”. This increases the likelihood of a reader taking action.
  3. Picture Superiority Effect: This law states that pictures/images are more likely to be remembered. In reference to emails, you could include GIFs or images where it makes sense to improve your conversion rates. If you join my email sequence you’ll notice a few of the emails contain interesting screenshots for context.

5. Write in a conversational tone

As a copywriter, I've experienced the most success when my emails are written in a conversational tone. It is no surprise, that emails in this tone come across as more trustworthy and engaging. No one wants to read an email from a faceless robotic brand. These types of emails end up in the spam folder. I like to pretend that I'm speaking to a friend and I'm telling them about a cool idea I've come across. This way I'm able to write in a more authentic tone.

6. Write for high deliverability

This might come as a surprise to most copywriters but a key consideration in email marketing is deliverability. Since email marketing is notorious for spam it’s critical to ensure the copy of your emails is not triggering spam filters or ending up in the wrong inbox such as promotions. 

There are hundreds of words and phrases you should avoid but in summary try to not make hard sales, bold claims, big promises, or anything that is generally seen as “dodgy”.  

I suggest using tools such as Mail Tester or Unspam to gauge the deliverability and spam level of your emails before running them.

7. Test your work

Great email copywriters test their work all the time.

This is what separates average copywriters from the best copywriters.

Email marketing platforms make it so easy that it should be baked into your workflow and copywriting process. The most obvious A/B test is the subject line. Here’s an example of a campaign I tested for The Simple Science of Copywriting. 

Example screenshot from MailerLite campaign

Treat these as “mini-experiments” by creating a hypothesis, tracking the results, and making a conclusion on which performed best and why.

Consider using this free experiment template.

Two email copywriting examples 

Ticker Nerd Sequence (email 1)

Purpose: The purpose of this email was to welcome the user and deliver value immediately. The user entered their email with the expectation of receiving our secrets to researching stocks.

Subject line: How you can steal stock ideas from hedge funds

ticker nerd email 1
Ticker Nerd Email Sequence. A great example of a value email.

Simple Science of Copywriting Sequence (email 6)

Purpose: This email was further in the campaign and its purpose was to add value and soft sell the Simple Science of Copywriting.

Subject line: {name} I bet you’ve fallen victim to this…

simple science email 3
Simple Science of Copywriting email sequence example

Email copywriting statistics to improve your conversion rates

As mentioned earlier in the article, you should reference copywriting statistics to give yourself the best chance of success. Below are seven email copywriting statistics to keep handy when writing copy. 

  1. Using the word “you” in marketing messages can increase conversions by up to 47%. Source: Hubspot
  2. Email marketing is 40x more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook or Twitter. Source: McKinsey
  3. Using the word “free” in the email subject lines can increase open rates by up to 29%. Source: Coschedule
  4. Using the word “exclusive” in subject lines can increase open rates by up to 27%. Source: Coschedule
  5. Using the word “limited” in subject lines can increase open rates by up to 28%. Source: Coschedule
  6. Simple subject lines get 541% more responses than creative ones. Source: Sherpa Blog
  7. Sales emails with 200-250 words witness the highest response rate of 19%. Source: LXA Hub

Related article: 22 Useful Copywriting Statistics

📧 Looking for an experienced email marketer to boost revenue? I've got you covered. Let's chat and see how we can maximize revenue from existing traffic 📧

Email copywriting tips for creating an email marketing strategy and campaign

  • Avoid spam trigger words so your email lands in your subscriber's inbox and not their spam folder.
  • Ensure you have welcome sequences so you can build trust quickly.
  • Avoid making false promises even if it makes the copy more compelling.
  • Avoid complex words since it's harder to read.
  • Include loads of social proof for building trust.
  • Craft an engaging email subject line to capture your reader's attention quickly.
  • Don't be afraid to follow up if a subscriber misses an important email.
  • Test your email performance by split testing subject lines and body content.
  • Only include relevant information in the subject line and make it relevant to the email body content.
  • Avoid overusing emojis in the subject line.
  • If your email service provider allows a custom preview text, take the opportunity to write something compelling.
  • Use Grammarly to proof-read your emails and avoid spelling mistakes.

Frequently asked questions

Which email marketing tool is best?

This will depend on the requirements and business size.

A content creator might want to check out Convert Kit or MailerLite (I use this) since they have a suite customized for creators.

For corporate or enterprise-level customers I would suggest Campaign Monitor or SendinBlue. eCommerce businesses should use Klaviyo given the tailored product suite and high levels of success other e-commerce clients experience.  

How important is email deliverability?

The short answer is very important. 

You have no email marketing campaign if your emails end up in spam and no one opens them. It’s critical to make sure you comply with email marketing best practices and anti-spam laws. This includes having DKIM, DMARC, and SPF records set up correctly. 

As an email copywriter, this may not be your duty but it is your responsibility to know what it means so you can ensure your client has the highest chance of success. 

It’s also your responsibility to ensure you don’t include any trigger words in the emails and ruin the deliverability of your campaigns. 

How do you become an email copywriter?

There are many avenues to becoming an email copywriter. You can apply for an internship at a company to learn the ropes of email copywriting. This would simply require you to update your resume and apply for roles.

However, if you want to go out on your own and become a freelance email copywriter, I would approach it like this.

1. Learn & practice writing email copy
2. Build a process & swipe file for writing emails
3. Build a portfolio of free work through cold and warm outreach
4. Start looking for paid gigs once you have some experience

Is email copywriting hard?

Copywriting is not necessarily complicated but it can be hard.

If you do not have a foundational understanding of business or marketing you may struggle to write appropriate copy. Successful copywriting relies heavily on the right research, context, and business acumen skills. It will be hard if you do not have these skills. 

The good news is that you can learn these skills very quickly through many free resources including Udemy and YouTube. 

How profitable is email copywriting?

This depends on how much you charge for your services and the expected ROI your client can generate. 

The more skilled you are and the higher return you can generate for your clients the more you can charge. The great thing about email copywriting is that in some cases it needs to be updated very frequently, so you can expect ongoing work. 

Since email copywriting is such a high ROI marketing activity, it is one of the more profitable copywriting services (in comparison to ad copywriting or website copywriting). 

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I help B2B software and service companies nail marketing and growth. In other words, I fill your bucket with water and plug all of the leaks.

Need help with growth?

This blog is supported by readers. I put a lot of effort into personally using and thoroughly testing every product (digital or physical). So, I may earn an affiliate commission if you buy a product or service through a link, at no additional cost to you.
lucianoviteralefavicon

I help B2B software and service companies nail marketing and growth. In other words, I fill your bucket with water and plug all of the leaks.

Need help with growth?