Do you need a copywriter or a content writer?

In the metaphorical forests where copywriters huddle around their virtual firepits and thrash out the issues that matter in our community, you’ll frequently hear the strains of the most pointless debate ever to exist in the word of commercial writing:

What’s the difference between copy and content and can one writer do both?

I wonder if a non-writer – a potential client, perhaps – has ever pondered this. 

I’d hazard a guess that they haven’t, and are more likely to be thinking, “What on earth is all this about? I just want someone to write my website!”

Perhaps it’s because as writers, we love words so much that we can’t just believe that one word can mean the same as another. 

‘Clarifications’ I have seen regarding the two roles include:

“Content writers are the people who write the actual content for your website while freelance writers write copy on the websites they work for and also sell for clients.” (Ummm… I don’t think so!)

“Copywriters write persuasive content to sell a product or service, while content writers focus on informative and educational writing that provides value to the reader.”

“Content writers may use storytelling and narrative development to craft long-form content, while copywriters may use storytelling when writing persuasive advertisements that resonate with customers emotionally, such as television and radio commercials.”

Do clients care whether you’re a content writer or a copywriter?

I don’t think they do. Organisations are looking for a writer who:

  • works to understand what it is they do
  • grasps what their main selling points are and transforms these into compelling messages
  • helps them communicate these messages to various stakeholders in a distinctive way, so that people experiencing these messages will understand what type of business it is, and exactly why they should buy, click or sign up.

Whatever the end result – a website, a blog, a white paper, a press release, an ad, an email – it will need to persuade, inform and educate. 

Because eventually the organisation will want to sell something, or get someone to click something, or sign up to something – whether that’s as a direct result of a piece of writing, or because that writing triggers the reader to do something else that moves them closer to the moment they buy.

3 reasons to be a copywriter

1. People search for copywriters, not content writers

If someone’s looking to hire a writer, they’re around three times more likely to type ‘copywriter’ into the search bar than ‘content writer’.


2. Content writers limit their potential

Because content writing is ostensibly about informing, and copywriting about selling, positioning yourself as a content writer means you’re buying into the myth that writing ‘top of funnel’ copy (content designed to inform and educate) is often seen as less valuable than ‘bottom of funnel’ copy (content designed to elicit a sale or sign-up, or whatever the desired end result is) which can command higher rates. 

But as I said earlier, all copy written for a client is designed to sell (or prompt a click or sign up) in the end. People rarely get to the bottom of the funnel without starting somewhere near the top.


3. Copywriters can charge more

Google ‘Who earns more copywriters or content writers?’ and you’ll get results like this:

“Content writers can typically only charge a flat rate based on article, word count or monthly deliverables, experienced copywriters are able to charge more per project, lock-in higher monthly retainers and even earn a commission on sales.” 

“A dedicated copywriter has a better possibility of earning more than a content writer because they are hired by large marketing companies that pay a bigger incentive and commission based on conversions and sales.”

Personally, I don’t know any copywriters who earn a commission based on sales, unless perhaps they are writing very specialised, direct marketing letters or emails where sales can be directly traced back to links in the copy.  They’re not the only type of writer to be allowed to call themselves a copywriter, though. 

I don’t think it’s clients who expect ‘copywriters’ to charge more. It’s perfectly skilled writers who shy away from calling themselves ‘copywriters’.

Eliciting interest, sparking relationships and laying the groundwork for future sales requires writing that’s just as thoughtful, skilled and worthy as copy that pushes a customer over the line. They wouldn’t even be on the home straight if it wasn’t for that earlier work. 

Why writers themselves would want to imply otherwise to clients  is beyond me. 

When clients hire a writer, they’re paying for their skills, experience, creativity and, most importantly, understanding of how language can be used to move the customer on

It’s all copy. And we’re all copywriters. 

If you’re looking for a writer who can turn their hand to copy, content or anything else you want to call it, get in touch.