Copywriting vs Content Writing

If you’re new to freelance copywriting, you may not know the difference between copywriting and content writing.

While both require creativity and strategy, they’re different formats of writing with different purposes and goals. 

A successful business needs both to thrive. 

But which one should you pursue a career in? 

Copywriter or content writer? 

I’ll explain, bit by bit, the differences and benefits of each, so that you can make an informed decision. 

What Is Copywriting? 

Let’s start with the basics. 

Because there seems to be a bit of a gray area shrouding over the definition of copywriting. 

Copywriting is a combo of psychology, business strategy, and creativity. 

Pop them all in a blender over ice and, in the form of written language, you’ve got copywriting. 

Essentially, anything a business uses to convert is copywriting.

But this doesn’t necessarily need to be financial conversion. 

Converting website visitors into warm leads through an opt-in box: that’s still copywriting. 

If the aim of the piece is to convert, it’s copy. 

What Is Content Writing? 

Content writing is not copywriting. 

Content writing is anything that is written with the aim of entertaining, educating, motivating, or inspiring. 

You’ll spot content writing in blog articles, your white papers (or lead magnets), case studies, and/or your social media captions. 

The Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing 

So, what’s the difference? 

In a nutshell, copywriting is assembled to convert. The whole point is to grow your (or your client’s)  brand.

Content writing, on the other hand, is about providing value for your reader. It doesn’t aim to sell or convert. 

Content writing does, however, deserve a place in anyone’s marketing strategy. 

Because, realistically, if you are gaining the trust of your readers and dominating the industry with subject knowledge and value, your products or services will be seen as more reliable. 

With content writing, you’re playing the long game. 

And if you nail your content marketing strategy, it can become a lead generation machine all by itself. 

With copywriting, the aim to convert is far quicker. Specifically when looking at direct response copywriting.  

The Difference Between a Copywriter and a Content Writer 

Now you know the difference between copywriting and content writing. So, are you destined to a career in freelance copywriting? Or are you better suited to content creation? 

Here’s the truth: 

  • You can, if you want to, be both. 
  • You can label yourself a copywriter and a content writer. There’s nothing stopping you.
  • But to do that, you need to be crystal clear about the differences between them.
  • Not to mention the various techniques, strategies, and approaches you need to take for each. 
  • Take blog writing, for example.
  • That falls under content writing. 
  • You’ll need to have an understanding of SEO, focusing on keywords, meta-data, and more. 
  • While a copywriter – if they offer website copy – should have a basic knowledge of SEO, they don’t need the intricate subject knowledge that a content writer would need. 

My advice?

If you’re just starting out, pick one: copywriting or content writing. 

Because you’ll need to learn a whole lot about content writing that they don’t teach you in most copywriting courses. And why would they? They are different formats of writing, after all. 

What a Copywriter Needs to Know

If you want a successful career in copywriting, here are some of the things you’ll need to know:

  • A solid understanding of psychology 
  • A wider grasp of buyer behavior 
  • The ability to follow formulas and tried-and-tested structures
  • How to research people, competitors, and the market of your clients 
  • To be able to adapt your writing style to fit the brand’s voice
  • An understanding of how people interact with different deliverables of copywriting (ie: how do people interact with a website? An email?) 
  • How to split test and measure results 

What a Content Writer Needs to Know

If you’re considering a career in content writing, the following are just a few components you’ll need to master: 

  • An in-depth understanding of SEO 
  • Excellent topical research skills 
  • The ability to proofread larger documents 
  • A great knowledge of social media and the latest trends
  • Originality – there’s so much content out there. You need to appease Google’s keywords, but you need to do so in a way that’s fresh and exciting. Not easy when 4.4 million blogs are posted every day.

How to Choose Between Freelance Copywriting and Content Writing

By now, you’ve got a pretty good understanding of the differences between content and copy, plus a few requirements for a career in each. 

  • how do you choose? 
  • Which is a better path to walk down? 
  • When it comes down to it, the choice is yours. And there is no right or wrong answer. 

Become a freelance copywriter or a content writer and the possibilities are endless.

Dominate your niche, grow and expand. Teach new content or copywriters. Launch your very own agency. Whatever long-term goals you’re looking for, consider them in the realm of possibilities.

Also, think carefully about the deliverables you prefer to create. 

If you love writing blogs, then that’s another reason to opt for content writing.

If you’re all about seeing results that reflect your hard work, and you’re obsessed with creating ad-copy, then that’s a pretty solid reason to start building your copywriting portfolio.

You need to weigh up:

  • What you enjoy writing
  • What you don’t enjoy writing 
  • Your picture-perfect future 
  • Your niche you intend to choose 
  • Your skills
  • Your subject knowledge (or willingness to learn) 

Copywriting or Content Writing: Both Are Amazing

When all’s said and done, whether you start your copywriting business or decide content writing is the best plan for you, you’re heading into a community that’s all about support. 

You’re here because you fundamentally love to write. That’ll give you a solid head start, no matter which route you choose to take. 

So, if you’re self-motivated, driven, and have a natural way with words, then copywriting or content writing is a great fit. Now, go get ‘em!

Liz Slyman

Liz Slyman

Over the past decade, Liz Slyman has worked as a copywriter and digital marketing executive for a multitude of companies from startups to mid-sized businesses to working as the VP of marketing for award-winning, platinum-selling artists and is now teaching copywriting courses. Leveraging an understanding of the nuance of language in marketing, Liz founded Amplihigher, a content marketing and copywriting agency, designed to connect consumers to companies in a way that results in next-level brand expansion.

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