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Confession: I used to get paid to write spam.

It was about 10 years ago, before we all knew that an email from "Your friend Sally" is probably not your friend Sally, but some dude in a Nairobi Internet café trying to scam you out of your hard-earned money. Or, as the case may be, a 26-year-old woman in a cubicle at a Boston company that is now out of business.

I know I'm not supposed to admit this, but I loved this job to distraction—even though I hated myself at the end of every day. I was just so good at it: The emails I wrote always got huge response rates.

I even heard from the sales team that one particular email moved a customer to tears. It was my "true life story" of meeting my granddaughter for the first time. (I was trying to sell a knitting magazine. I knew my demographic.)

In my defense, masquerading as "Your friend Sally" to get you to buy subscriptions to Needlepoint Now, Bird Talk, or the other hundreds of magazines we peddled was a step up from my previous job: writing telemarketing scripts for a product called Brain Gum. (I promise I'll write a blog post about that job soon.)

Those days are gone. I now run a respectable company with my respectable business partner and have a stable of respectable clients.

And though I sometimes miss my life on the dark side, I know I got out just in time. If you know anything about email marketing, you know it's a tough business these days—even when you're selling a legit product or service. Why? We're all just so savvy now. And we have really smart spam-filtering software that helps us if we're not.

Spam filters in most email software programs comb incoming emails for signs of spam and assign points when they see such red flags. The points get totaled. And if the point total is high enough, the suspect email bypasses the recipient's inbox and goes straight to the junk folder.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anna Goldsmith is a partner at the Boston-based copywriting agency The Hired Pens (www.thehiredpens.com). Reach her via anna@thehiredpens.com and 617-359-8133.