Copywriting vs Content Writing: What are the Key Differences? And How to Choose a Path That’s Right For You

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The freelance world is booming. After the pandemic, we were all given time to reflect on our lives, and many people had the epiphany that they simply weren’t happy in their 9-5. 

They wanted to do something that allowed them the freedom they were searching for, while being able to exercise their creativity on a daily basis.

And that brought them to freelance writing.

And now, you’ve narrowed it down to 2 routes:

Freelance copywriting or content writing.

Whether you’re reading this and considering one of the two or you believe they’re the same thing, this article will help hash out the differences and encourage you to make a decision. 

What Is Copywriting?

We’ll start with the basics, because - if you’re going to pursue a career in copywriting - it’s best to understand what it entails. 

There are hundreds of copywriting courses out there that’ll tell you, each in their own unique way, the definition of copywriting. That said, because of the wide range of definitions, there’s now a gray area surrounding the word.

So, I’m going to make it as clear and gray-free as I can:

Copywriting is any form of written language that aims to convert.

That’s not to say that those who claim copywriting is “salesmanship in print” are wrong, of course. Neither are those who say that it’s “words that sell”. Because, ultimately, they eventually will sell. If done right, of course. 

However, it’s not quite as black and white as that.

It doesn’t always go from A to B, (ie: from click to sale). 

If that’s the type of writer you want to be, then look into direct response copywriting.

But when I say “words that convert”, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a financial conversion.

It can take a website visitor and convert them into an email subscriber.

The whole point is to get the reader one step closer to making that purchase. 

It takes the reader’s hand and walks them to the next phase of the buyer’s journey. 

So, What’s Content Writing?

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

The key difference sits inside the purpose of both forms of writing.

Unlike copywriting, content writing doesn’t have a main purpose of conversion. Some content might convert, and that’s fantastic. But the main premise of content existing does not revolve around conversion.

Instead, content is produced in order to:

  • Educate
  • Entertain
  • Motivate
  • Inspire

Examples of Copywriting and Content Writing

So, where will you find both of these types of writing?

Let’s start with copywriting:

  • Websites
  • Sales or landing pages
  • Marketing emails
  • Direct mail (sales letters)
  • Commercials
  • Online ads 

So, no - blog articles are not examples of copywriting. 

Content writing is:

  • Blog posts
  • Social media captions 
  • Case studies
  • White papers 
  • Video scripts
  • Podcast scripts 
  • Infographics

Which Is More Important: Copywriting or Content Writing? 

Your decision to break into copywriting or content writing may hang on which you feel has the greater demand. 

I hate to make this trickier for you, but neither one is more important than the other. 

The two forms of writing are unique to each other. 

It would be like saying “which is a more important sport? Golf or cycling?” 

It depends greatly on the client and their overall strategy. However, every single business out there needs well-written copy. Just as every business out there needs valuable, rich content. 

So, unfortunately, this shouldn’t be a determining factor. 

How to Choose The Right Career Path: Content Writing or Copywriting

Every aspiring writer is unique. Their experience, motivation, and drive will fluctuate from person to person.

So, it’s important to really listen to yourself and experiment. 

Plus, try these strategies to discover which route is best for you.

1. Assess Your Skills 

Before making a decision, you should first assess your current skills. What are you naturally good at, and what skills have you developed in your career? 

Say, for example, you have a degree in psychology. That’ll be far more useful for a copywriter, as words are chosen based on psychology and strategy.

On the other hand, if you’ve got a particular skills in social media, that might push you toward content writing. 

2. Look At What You’ve Already Written 

You may already know your answer. You just don’t know it yet.

So, take a look at the projects you’ve worked on over the course of your life. 

That doesn’t necessarily need to mean that those are big clients - or even paying clients at all. Simply doing a friend or family member a favor and writing their copy or content - that all counts. 

Put these pieces of writing in order in terms of what you enjoyed most, the feedback you were given, and the outcome it produced for the client (or family/friend). 

Then, look for patterns. Are you noticing that you have a particular flare for blog posts and white papers? Or did you prefer creating words for a brand’s website? 

This should then factor into your final decision between being a copywriter or content writer. 

3. Experiment With Both

Can you be a copywriter and a content writer?

Yes. Yes you can.

But you should be well-versed in both. Which is why, if you’re new to either one of them, I’d recommend you start with one. Once you’ve watched all of the copywriting videos and read all the copywriting books you can muster  and you’re confident in the results you can provide, then you can expand and learn the other.

However, if you’re truly stuck between the two and you don’t know which would be a better career path for you, experiment with both.

You don’t need to offer both as a service, though. 

Consider creating SPEC work. Choose a brand you love and create copywriting and content writing for them. These can be used in your copywriting portfolio, too, so long as you label it with “SPEC work”. 

Reflect on your process. Which felt better? Which did you find more challenging? Which did you get done quicker and why? If required, you can also consider taking an internship at an advertising or content marketing company to understand how copywriting and content works.

Copywriting vs Content Writing: Which is the Better Career? 

Realistically, if you head down the path of freelance copywriting or content writing, you’re in for the best ride ever. 

Skills between the two forms of writing are transferable. And while they require totally different approaches, you’ll find there are lots of similarities there, too. 

So, whether you choose to start a copywriting business, content writing business or decide to work for an advertising or content marketing company, so long as you have the drive, ambition, and a love for words, you’ll make the right decision. 

About the Author: 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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