In this article, I am deep-diving into the differences (and some overlap) between content writing and copywriting. Whether you’re unsure of what kind of writer to market yourself as, or you’re an organization looking for a freelance writer, it’s important to note the distinction between a content writer and a copywriter.
I identify myself as a content writer, but I do have experience with copywriting. Chances are, if you’re a content writer, you probably have integrated copywriting into your craft, and vice versa.
Here’s an easy way to think of it. Content writers, have you ever written a call to action (CTA) at the end of your blog posts? That’s an example of you writing copy. And copywriters, have you ever had to create an “excuse” for you to write copy? Have you had to create extra content in order to lead into the copy? Then you are writing content.
The difference between content writing and copywriting is the intent or purpose.
Content writing is written to build your brand. It’s written to help people find your business and get to know your company. The content is written to entertain or educate. For example, think about the American Council on Exercise (ACE). They write blog posts to inform anyone about exercise science and personal training. This content is written to establish their credibility.
But of course, content writing often does not come without copywriting. At the end of their blog posts, they have a CTA to buy a course of theirs. That’s called a “hard sell.” They’re explicitly telling us to buy their products. This is copywriting, because the purpose is to be persuasive and convince you to take action.
However, not all content writing has to come with a CTA or selling moment. A lot of content is written purely to inform, inspire, and build a brand. These blogs that are purely for building a brand don’t come with a “hard sell,” or any CTA.
But some of these blogs do come with a “soft sell.” For example, a company blog might say, “Interested in our content? Sign up to receive our newsletter.” That’s a soft sell because they’re not asking you to buy anything, but they are asking you to allow them to build a relationship with you via e-mail. This is still considered copywriting, but it can come off as a similar tone to content writing because you’re still just trying to be a good resource for them (and get them thinking of your brand).
If you’re a content writer, whether or not you include copy in the blog will depend on the company you work for and their goals, or your clients. But I’ve also had a full-time role where sometimes I was writing hard sells, but other times I was writing content with no CTA. Always ask your manager or client what type of CTA they want.
And if you’re writing your own content for your own company, then you have to make these decisions yourself. Maybe your blogs don’t have a CTA, but your e-mail marketing does. Whatever you decide. As a content writer (who dabbles in copywriting), I think content writing is more effective and I like the soft approach. I also strongly believe in building brands, rather than just begging people to buy your products.
And personally, I believe that copywriting certainly has it’s place, but it has to make sense in context with where you put it. It has to make perfect sense. And it has to come off gently (in my opinion). For example, “Try our free demo,” rather than “Buy our product.”
People are so used to getting sold to all the time. I think the beauty of marketing is when marketers are able to market to people in such a subtle way that people don’t even know they’re being marketed to. I prefer soft sells if I am going to write copy. So for that reason, I continue to call myself a content writer. But they usually intermingle with each other anyways!