Even those of us who aren’t in “sales” are involved in the art of persuading others whenever we want our way.  And often we have to write our wants.  But when you do, does what you write actually mean what you intend?  And how is it read once received?  Did your communication miss its mark?

You can’t use body language in a letter or article.  The tone is hard to convey with any accuracy.  And if you can’t frown or change your pitch, or cross your arms, or send a wave, what can you do?  You have to be sure that your intent is clear.  English is a beautiful language for expressing thought, as there are so many shades of meaning possible.  So when selling self or services, how can you hit that target every time?

Genuine will win.

Over-enthusiasm looks phoney on the page.  And the “too much” testimonial trap is easy to fall into.  Testimonials from gushy clients, with studio pictures, can sound false – even if they’re not.  Use more moderately written recommendations, with everyday photos, and don’t correct their spelling if it’s wrong. 

If your description of your service includes your promise to deliver AWESOME results, UNBELIEVABLE change or LIFE-ALTERING illustration, then you’ll need case-studies or other evidence to back up your “mind-blowing” results. Claims are good – you do get points for making them. But then you need to quietly back up your claims.


“To be honest, the truth is… that you can trust me.”  Trust me; you don’t want to write about yourself or your services with sentiments like those. You do hear trust words used a lot, from well-meaning honest people who want you to believe that they won’t rip you off like the last ones did.  Perhaps they won’t.  Perhaps they are genuine and well-meaning.  After all, most people are.  But the impression given when you use these phrases can be the opposite of what you wanted.

Short and Simple Sells.

Enormous words are weighty and give a knockout punch, don’t they?  But showing your adeptness with precocious puns may not bring the success you want.  Many people don’t grasp the subtlety of word-play; fewer still will understand clever construction and your message will get lost in the flowery dress of the messenger.  Be a clear and concise communicator. Craft your writing in simple, straightforward language.  Use the active voice.  Be precise.  Keep it simple.  Short.  Sweet.  Sold.

Leave out the Jargon.

Often, people won’t understand unless you use simple everyday language.  It’s said that one should think of a twelve year old, and aim communication at that level. Define any uncommon industry-specific terms, and don’t expect everyone to know the ‘latest’ street talk, either.

Avoid the graphics trap.

Unless you’re producing a catalogue of graphical special effects, keep away from odd fonts and clashing colours.  Three fonts or colours is plenty – and please don’t use them all in the same sentence.  At best it’s simply distracting, which you don’t want.  At worst it’s unreadable, goes in the bin, and won’t get you a client.  Your clients want to hear your message, not be jarred by a ‘beautiful’ design.  Elegant certainly works, in the right context. But too often, it’s taken way too far. 

Back Yourself.

There’s a fine line between a realistic assessment and a boast.  But your client wants someone who WILL deliver, not someone whose photographs MIGHT be as good as they’d get anywhere.  Your clients want to have confidence in your business, so they need to see that you do too.


Your clients and customers get many messages from you.  These need to deliver a consistent message.  Consistency is valued; inconsistency is associated with flightiness and unreliability.  You may use written material in your business from a variety of sources, such as old instruction sheets or product descriptions; direct mail written by one copywriter; blog posts written by someone else, and so on.  You need to ensure that the language is similar, and the presentation of your service is consistent.

Proofread for perfection.

Naturally, no-one attains perfection. But you should aim for it.  Let those who read your communications be focused on your message, not your mistakes.  And if you’re talking about how conscious you are in your work to “get things right”, then you really don’t want a misspelling in your claim.

People judge using the evidence they have. You’re writing it.  You get to choose what they see.