Copywriting subject lines: cheats sheets and changing copy

Your subject line can make or break your email. It’s a small but critical part of your email copywriting. “Small” because it’s only a few words. Critical because it either gets people to open your email or doesn’t.

Some copywriters say write your email subject line first. The make the body of the copywriting carry through the promise of the subject line. Another freelance copywriter might tell you to write teh body of the email, then go back and write the subject line, spending just as much time on the 5 words in your subject line as the 105 in the body of your email.

This Seattle copywriter falls somewhere in the middle. I first work with the copywriting client, of course, to learn about the customer (in order to stay true to my “talk to them, not at them” copywriting approach), the email strategy, etc. We come up with the goal of the email, then I suggest possible email messages.

I then start copywriting the body of the email, then I check my subject line “cheat sheet” for inspiration. Although the core message of the email won’t change, the subject line can determine the hook or catch for the message in the body of the email. For example, if I write a subject line like “3 ways to something something,” I will tweak the body of the email to fit into three steps or ways.

At the same time, I brainstorm 4 or 5 possible email subject lines.

Then I go back and forth between the email subject line, headline and body of the email, copywriting all at the same time.

At this point, I’ve lost you, right? Because really now you don’t care about my approach to email copywriting and subject lines. Right now you’re only interested in the aforementioned “cheat sheet,” aren’t you!

It’s not really a cheat sheet, it was an article in way back when, a list of the 100 best performing subject lines for their newsletter. It helps me as the freelance copywriter to read through them when working on email copywriting, inspiring me and encouraging me to think differently about my approach to email subject lines. And hey, the article was titled “Steal this…” so I did!

I hope if you’re in charge of writing email subject lines and email copywriting, you find similar inspiration!

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