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The difference between content writing and copywriting

The difference between content writing and copywriting

Content creator, copywriter, content writer, brand strategist, brand journalist. 

What’s your title?

The beauty of being a writer is that you can use your writing skills to serve many functions aka, you can easily *pivot.*

It’s up to you!

You can write: web pages, blogs, sales pages, landing pages, case studies, emails, whatever.

While it’s important to know the distinctions between various genres of business writing, I try not to get too bogged down in semantics.

Professional writers know how to shift tactics based on the context and what the client needs.

Everything is copy, so here are the key differences:

  • Copywriters are directly selling.
  • Content writers are indirectly selling.

Phew!

It really boils down to intent.

Is your goal to convert the reader?

Or, is your goal to inform the reader?

That’s the test.

In the beginning, you’ll probably write “content”

When I started out writing professionally, I was very confused about which type of writer I was—because theoretically, I was all of them.

It took a few years to figure out what kinds of projects I actually like to work on. 

Currently, they are rebranding or repositioning, case studies, email sequences for ecomm, web pages, and definitely consulting about creative.

I’m obviously a fan of being a generalist…it’s all good until you’re ready to niche.

The beauty of all of this experience is that I have a wide range of knowledge.

There have been many projects I didn’t love working on—SEO content writing (right of passage!), fintech, PR pitching, LinkedIn bios…you name it!

Thing this is, I learned from every single one.

Recently, a friend described me as having “the curse of competence.”

I can get interested in almost anything if my job is to write about it.

It’s important to build up your writing skillset every single day.

Take projects. 

Jump in and DO.

Roll up your sleeves and immerse yourself to figure out the type of writer you are and who you can help with your skills.

The writing life

I would spend all day working creative personal projects if I could.

Back in the day, I went to school for Journalism, specifically magazine writing, so my general title was “freelance writer”—too vague.

My lifelong career goal was to write long form stories, ideally for magazines and print publications. 

As a geriatric Millenial, I gravitated toward blogs.

Eventually, I fell down the B2B rabbit hole when I realized how in demand content writing and copywriting is.

Most of my clients leveraged my long form writing skills for thought leadership.

The truth is, people really struggle with writing long form (and reading it). 

Again, it’s a skill that takes years to develop.

In addition, most business clients are going to be way too promotional and self-serving with their thought leadership.

They mean well, but they often attempt to jump the gun and sell without a proper level of awareness.

This drives editors crazy.

The editor is serving their publication’s audience—not the thought leader’s business.

It’s a balance.

You have an opportunity to help your clients provide valuable information that’s worth sharing—which is a huge value add to their business.

The point of all of that is to show how content writing is naturally where most writers start, and content writing is super important to the digital marketing process.

Content writing is the literal backbone of the internet.

Without it, we wouldn’t have a conversion situation for the copywriter to work.

Quick note for aspiring copywriters

Calling yourself a copywriter when you write content is completely fine in my book. 

The work matters more than the title.

Eventually, your clients are going to ask you to write landing pages and sales pages—if you’re good at the craft of copywriting.

Copywriting is a skill that I believe requires a high level of foundational writing chops.

I believe that to be a good copywriter, you actually need to know all about writing. 

If you can’t have a conversation about logos, pathos, ethos and general persuasive writing, start there.

And finally, every copywriter should be able to sit down and write a 1000 word blog every once in a while, don’t you think?

The art of persuasion on paper

Many content writers graduate to copywriting—it’s a natural progression.

So what’s the deal?

Your client wants to sell their products, services, and brand consistently.

They want to stand the test of time and beat out their competitors.

They have a sense of urgency around this.

Something needs to happen…results need to come through.

They’re looking at the numbers on their phone.

They want metrics to reflect their investment.

Copywriter, you are in the hot seat.

So how do you make the conversion?

Let me tell you a story

People like narrative.

They want the hero’s journey. 

They want to feel involved in something.

The funny thing I’ve noticed is that most copywriting principles align with creative writing strategies.

Yet somehow these two worlds are often described as though they’re completely unrelated.

Creative writing is all about empathy.

Copywriters preach “voice of customer.”

Creative writing is inciting incidents, building tension, and resolution.

Copywriting is problem, agitation, solution.

See the similarities?

I’m not going to go on and on about how much studying creative writing and journalism informs my copywriting—but i will say that it certainly doesn’t hurt.

Stories sell.

Look at the brands you love…Nike, Glossier, Tesla…they’re all selling the idea of something better, not necessarily a product.

In creative writing we call that subtext.

In copywriting, we call it brand.

The point is that as writer’s we are looking to see what that thing is.

Where is the emotional connection happening?

What do they want?

How can we make it feel like if they don’t get it, all could be lost?

I’m a copywriter who consults and a consultant who copywrites

If you’d like to discuss any of the above, email me…I try to limit my time on social media so that I can focus on writing!

Copywriter and consultant based in Philadelphia, PA!

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professional writer Karen Miller

I'm Karen Miller

A website copywriter for entrepreneurs and business owners serving Philadelphia and abroad. Let’s connect.

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