A little while ago, I was on a call with a potential client when they asked me a question that stumped me. At the time, I felt sort of stupid because I didn’t quite know how to respond.
They said, “I can see that you do both copywriting and content writing, but they’re both different skillsets, so which do you focus more on?”
I can’t remember exactly what I responded with, but I think it was something like, “Hmmm, I don’t know. For me, it’s not about content writing vs copywriting because they’re both about connecting with an audience and getting them closer to the end goal – a sale.”
But it got me thinking. Is there a difference? And am I crazy to think I can do both at once – and do them well?
(Spoiler alert: no I’m not!)
So I dug a bit deeper. Double and triple checked my definitions. And I came up with some answers that you might be interested in, too. Because if you’re a business looking to hire either a content writer or copywriter, you should know which one’s the best fit for your goals and the type of writing you need done.
So before I answer the whole “content writing vs copywriting” question, I think we’d better start with some definitions.
What is copywriting?
Copywriters write “copy”, which is the words used in any advertising and marketing materials you see. This could include website copy, brochures, direct mail, magazine ads, billboards, TV commercial scripts, radio ad scripts, press releases, Facebook ads, Google Ads, company/product descriptions, writing manuals, whitepapers, and so on.
The goal of copy is to get the reader to take action and move in the right direction – usually towards a sale.
What is content writing?
Content writing includes writing for your blog, your social media posts, your regular email newsletter, podcast notes, scripts for vlogs, and possibly even lead magnets (though that one’s blurry… it might be more accurate to consider that copywriting).
In general, I see content writing as something you do for channels that you update regularly with the goal of sharing, nurturing, and connecting with your audience.
Content writing vs copywriting: the similarities
Good copywriting and good content writing have a lot in common:
- Connecting with an audience
- Talking in their language
- Sharing useful information
- Answering questions
- Being searchable and cooperating with search/social media algorithms
- Getting people to take action
- And ideally, generating more leads and more sales
So, what’s the difference?
Content writing vs copywriting – what’s the difference?
Goal is to sell – It’s more focused on selling
Direct – Will usually describe in clear language who you are, what you do, who you do it for, and what makes you different
Timeless – Is often written once, and only updated as frequently your business/offers/campaigns change
Goal is to connect – More focused on nurturing/connecting
Supporting – Works to support your more direct copy pieces and drive traffic back to your website, main landing pages, products, and services
Timely – Is published and updated regularly on your blog and social media channels
So there are some differences, but not that many. And the more I think about it, the more I can see that GOOD copywriting does a lot of nurturing/connecting, and GOOD content writing does a lot of selling. And proactive companies regularly update their copy, and smart content writers create foundational, evergreen content that moves readers closer to taking action or buying.
Let’s go meta on this. While the blog you’re reading right now is definitely content writing, it has a few copywriting elements, too. I’ve included a call to action, and I’ve been not-so-subtly reminding you about what I can do. The goal here is not just to connect with and educate my audience, but to hopefully convert and sell, too, because I know that this type of writing gets me results.
And on the flip side, when I write a page of website copy, I often include elements that you might expect to see in a piece of content. Things like educational tidbits and personal anecdotes. It keeps the copy interesting and possibly gets people off their guard so they don’t realise they’re being sold to quite as much. This is extremely important for B2B copywriting (my specialty) because this audience has seen it all before – heck, a lot of the time THEY are the ones doing the selling so you can’t pull any tricks on them. 😉
So what I’m saying is… I actually suspect that blending both copywriting and content writing skills together makes for a better audience experience and better results for businesses.
Good writers (who understand marketing) can often do both well
I’m open to debating this, but in my experience, there’s not a lot of difference between the skills I need as a copywriter and as a content writer. Especially when a business needs help with both their copy and their content.
When I work with both areas for a single brand, I can keep the strategy and tone of voice consistent across both the content and copy, and seamlessly link the different channels. Based on my experience, for most businesses, it wouldn’t really make sense to hire separate writers to cover both these roles unless you have too much work for one person to cover it all.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should hire one person with both skills.
So, do you need a copywriter or a content writer?
You probably need both skills in your business (if you’re not sure, go ahead and read my definitions above again).
So then the question becomes: do you need separate people to perform these skills?
- Blog content writing
- Website copywriting
- Facebook ad copywriting
- Google Adwords copywriting
- LinkedIn content writing
- Video script copywriting
- Landing page copywriting
- Sales letter copywriting
- Email copywriting
- Brochure copywriting
- TV commercial copywriting
- Facebook content writing
- Instagram caption writing
And the list could go on. If you’re a big business, hiring multiple specialised writers might make sense. But it probably won’t be the right solution for most businesses.
If you’re a small-medium business, maybe you just need a writer
Depending on your needs, you could just look for someone who is comfortable doing both copy and content. For example, most website copywriters can also write blogs, and a good percentage of bloggers are also experienced at writing website copy. Maybe instead of looking for one or the other, look for a writer who:
- Can demonstrate (via their portfolio) the ability to write both copy and content that’s pleasant to read
- Has experience writing for your niche and/or audience
- Understands marketing and how copy/content fit into the bigger picture
- Is open to writing copy or content as you need it across a range of platforms and channels
As a small business, hiring one writer can work out to be more cost-effective (especially in the beginning). Plus, you can both invest more into the relationship so they get to know your business and strategy really well (which will benefit both the copywriting and content writing because it means fewer edits/changes for you).
So to sum it up, the answer to “content writer vs copywriter” will depend mainly on your business size. But most businesses will (at some point) need both content writing and copywriting skills to help them grow and reach their audience.
Does this approach make sense?
I don’t pretend to know all the things. Maybe I’m way out of line here. I don’t know. I’d love to know what you think.
Does it put you off when someone does both copywriting and content writing? Or do you see it as a benefit? What approach do you plan to take for future hires?
(Or if you’re a writer like me, do you do both types of writing or specialise in just one?)
Let me know in the comments!