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Content Writing vs. Copywriting

Not all freelance writers are created equal. You know there are specialists for just about every topic you can think of. But marketers often overlook one crucial qualifier when they decide to hire freelance writers—the need for content writing vs. copywriting.

These two terms are often used interchangeably. What’s the big deal, right? Content writers and copywriters are both wordsmiths. They should be able to help you with all things writing.

Except it doesn’t really work that way.

If you want to get the most out of a freelance writer, make sure you choose one with the right specialty. Here’s what you need to know about content writing vs. copywriting choice.

Skipping the Content Writing vs. Copywriting Choice with Generalists

Before I get into the differences between copywriting and content writing, we have to take a look at Door #3—the generalist approach.

As you scroll through a freelance writer marketplace, you’ll see all kinds of headlines describing the types of work that individuals can do for you. “Content writer” and “copywriter” might be two of the most prominent.

But many of the writers you find will take a more general approach. Hire them, and you’ll be able to cover a wide range of potential projects.

As is the case with the content writing vs. copywriting options, there are pros and cons to hiring a generalist.

There are two main advantages to the generalist route:

  • Lower Prices: For the most part, you’ll be able to find generalist freelance writers for lower prices than content writers or copywriters who have a specialty. If you don’t have much of a budget, you could choose this path and focus on providing more subject matter expertise for the writer.
  • Flexibility: When you’re on a marketing team of one or just need someone to work on a wide range of projects, you might prefer to work with one writer for everything. A generalist will act as your word expert, covering everything from email subject lines and web copy to long-form articles and guest posts.

But these benefits come with some sacrifices, including:

  • Proven Results: Freelancers who specialize in certain projects typically have deep experience with proven results. They’ve done enough work to find what they excel at and can reliably deliver that value to clients. Many generalists are earlier in their careers and may not have the kind of strategic approach to meet certain expectations.
  • Additional Services: Say you want to hire a freelancer to write blog posts for your brand. A generalist can get the job done. They’ll understand your industry, do the research necessary to cover the topic, and deliver a draft on time. But a specialist might go the extra mile to do keyword research, conduct interviews with SMEs, and create images.

There’s nothing wrong with hiring a generalist. Plenty of clients find diamonds in the rough and go on to create great content.

However, when you have lofty marketing goals, you might decide to invest in a specialist. And that’s when you need to master the content writing vs. copywriting decision.

What Is Content Writing?

Content writing covers any sort of project that you’d execute in the typical inbound/content marketing strategy. In many cases, that means any number of written content formats that tend to be longer form.

You can hire a content writing specialist for projects like:

  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media posts
  • Ghostwritten bylines

But content writing specialists come in all different forms. Many will be writers who have found ways to master a particular niche. But others will be former executives, software engineers, business leaders, and other professionals who happen to write—either as a side job or a second career.

The type of content writer you hire will depend on your particular goals and strategy. If you run a blog that primarily targets mid-career developers, you might not want to hire a content writer with no technical background. Instead, you’ll want someone with more hands-on technical experience that enables them to create in-depth content for the target audience.

Or, maybe, you’re looking to create a reputation for thought leadership with a variety of experienced contributors. You could look for freelancers with executive leadership experience or deep industry expertise to bring opinionated content to your website.

There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to content writing. But if you need to draw a line in the sand between this and copywriting, think about it in terms of your specific goals. Suppose you’re looking to build a brand or execute a long-term content marketing strategy (complete with visual assets and distribution strategy). In that case, you may be publishing more top-of-funnel pieces using a content writing specialist—anyone who produces content. Copywriters focus more on the later stages of the funnel.

What Is Copywriting?

Copywriting is far more focused on direct conversions than content writing. When you hire a copywriter, you’re mainly looking for someone to help you bring expert wordsmithing to a specific marketing campaign or project.

But don’t get caught up in the stereotypical “copywriting is advertising” mindset. While copywriters will certainly help you with all kinds of advertising projects, there’s so much more they can do for your marketing strategy.

Hire a copywriter to execute projects like:

  • Web page writing/rewriting
  • Site-wide SEO
  • Video scripts
  • Email campaigns
  • Social media copy
  • Solution briefs/data sheets

You’ll notice that there’s some overlap with content writing projects. It’s normal for specialists to cross the line for certain projects (especially email and social media).

But the most basic differentiator in the content writing vs. copywriting decision is whether or not you’re directly selling the product. If you want to sell the product, a copywriter has the expertise to help you. Need to produce engaging content that nurtures leads and prospects? A content writer could be the better option.

Content Writing vs. Copywriting: Find the Right Freelancers for Your Projects

One of the biggest challenges we hear from brands every day is that it’s so difficult to find the right writers. From evaluating writing skills to assessing specialties, technical knowledge, availability, and rates, it’s easy to slip into a rabbit hole of freelancer research.

Outsourcing content is supposed to save you time and money. Those benefits go out the window if you spend all kinds of time finding writers only to find they weren’t the right person for the job.

We try to solve this problem for our brand partners by connecting them with the perfect nDash writers for their needs.

Want help building your content team? Sign up and let us know what you’re looking for.