Copywriting vs Content Writing: What Are The Key Differences and How to Choose a Career That’s Right For You 

Which one is better? And how do you know which one is suited to you, your experience, and your skillset? While there is still some confusion surrounding the differences between copywriting and content writing, it’s not debatable that some aspiring writers are better suited to one or the other. 

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Freelance copywriting or content writing? 

So, this article is here to help clear up any grey areas in terms of the differences, and help you make the right choice for your future career. 

Copywriting Definition 

We’ll start by defining “copywriting”, because – after there being hundreds of courses, articles, and copywriting books out there – there are also hundreds of definitions. 

Two of the main definitions of copywriting I see most often are:

  • “Words that sell”
  • “Salesmanship on paper” 

So, which of the two is more accurate? 

Well – both. 

Both of these definitions are accurate. But they also jump ahead pretty quickly.

Because copywriting isn’t always about making a sale right there and then.

If that’s what you’re looking to do, you’re suited to a niched avenue of copywriting called “direct response copywriting.”

Copywriting isn’t always about the dollars.

It’s about conversion.

And that conversion can be demonstrated in many different ways.

It could be gaining an email subscriber from a website.

It could be getting an email subscriber to book a call. 

It could be getting a website visitor to book said call. 

While none of the three examples above are linked to actively transferring money between the reader and the brand owner, they all get the reader one step closer to that action. 

Once the reader is on the email list, for example, it might trigger a sales sequence for a low-ticket offer.

The copywriting there could focus on getting them to make a purchase.

So, it’ll all lead to a sale. But the road to it can have a few back-alleys and winding streets.

As long as the writer understands those streets and how it links back to the “revenue-avenue” destination, then the words can be formed with that direction in mind. 

Content Writing Definition

If copywriting is all about conversion, where does that leave content writing? 

Unlike copywriting, content writing isn’t produced with the main purpose of conversion.

That’s not to say that some content writing won’t convert. Some, when done right, will. However, that’s not the main reason it was produced. 

While copywriting has one clear aim (conversion), content writing has a few:

  • To educate
  • To motivate
  • To entertain
  • To inspire 

It can be tricky for writers who are new to the scene to understand why a brand owner would want that. Because, for those who have yet to understand the sales process, it seems pointless if there’s no conversion. 

But it all comes down to one thing. Something business owners will all tell you is the most important component for a successful brand:

Trust

Without trust, you simply cannot make a sale. 

The target audience need to trust that you understand them, their problem, their potential solution, and the industry as a whole. 

That’s why there are so many marketing professionals out there who will tell you that “content is king”. And that’s why 82% of marketers are actively investing in their content. 

Is It Better to be a Copywriter or a Content Writer? 

This is the question on your lips, right?

Which one is the better career: copywriting or content writing?

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a straight answer. 

Because it’s different for every aspiring writer. 

A career in freelance copywriting may suit one person but not the other, and it’s the same for content writing.

There is not one that is better (or more important) than the other. 

However, you can contemplate the following questions to make your decision.

What Have You Got More Experience In? 

First up: your experience. 

It can be all-too-tempting to shrug this off and say you don’t have any. However, think back over the course of your working life, and even in school.

Have you ever helped a family member or friend out? 

Ever put on a training day? A speech? Written social media captions?

Anything and everything you have written – whether you did so with purpose or not – is experience. 

So, it’s time to take a look at your comprehensive writing portfolio. 

Now that you understand the difference between copywriting and content writing, you’ll be able to assign each project with a label. Then, count how many copywriting projects you have completed and compare that to the number of content writing projects you have completed. 

Is There a Format You Prefer?

For some writers, creating advertising copy is their idea of hell.

Why? Because there’s an awful lot of pressure on them to get it right.

That’s very intimidating – especially if they’ve just started on their journey. 

Others can’t stand writing blog articles. They find them long-winded, and it’s a struggle to complete in-depth subject research to scatter throughout their content.

The point is: everyone has a different style.

List all the formats of copywriting and rate the deliverables on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Do the same for content writing.

Then, look for patterns.

Remember, you can always make it clear that you don’t offer a particular form of writing.

Say you decided you wanted to pursue copywriting and you start your own copywriting business. You could make it clear that you don’t cover online ads, but will do the vast majority of other deliverables. 

That said, you should have a better idea of what your natural writing style is based on these deliverables.

What Are You More Interested In? 

Both copywriting and content writing are not static.

Just like marketing as a whole, they are constantly evolving facets that change throughout time.

While fundamentals still apply now, with groundbreaking technology that seems to be developed all the time, premises change.

Google’s algorithm, for example, is vastly different than it was 30 years ago. 

Just as the impact of video marketing. There are more brands looking for a content writer to help them create a script for their webinar, for example. 

So, you need a keen interest in one of the practices, as you’ll need to keep on top of them, and dedicate learning time on a regular basis. 

Copywriting vs Content Writing: Which One is For You? 

The truth is:

Whether you choose to pursue a career in copywriting or content writing, you’ll be making a fantastic decision. 

The two need totally different approaches. But, that said, there are similarities, and you’ll find that you’re using transferable skills from one to the other. 

So, as long as you’re packed with passion, have a whole lot of drive, and you’re determined to make a name for yourself as a copywriter, content writer, or both, you’ll do brilliantly. 

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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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