I don’t need to tell you how great a career in freelance writing is. You already know that. That’s why you’re here right now.
You’re attracted to the ability to control your own schedule. The chance to use your creativity every day. Being able to work from anywhere, so long as there’s WiFi. The freedom to make as much money as you’d like without a monthly cap.
Sounds pretty perfect, wouldn’t you say?
So, how do you make it happen? Can you write anything?
The two strings of writing that are in hot demand at the moment (and likely always will be) are copywriting and content writing.
But what are they? How are they different from one another? And, most importantly: how do you know which one is better suited to you?
This article is going to shine a light on both styles of writing. Plus, I’ll share how you can pick the right path for your career in freelance writing.
So, let’s dive in.
Copywriting vs. Content Writing
Before we explore the definitions of copywriting and content writing and what each entails, let’s just address the elephant in the room. This causes a lot of controversy in the marketing industry as a whole, so let’s clear up any confusion from the offset:
Is a copywriter and a content writer the same thing?
Listen closely, because this is important:
Yes. But also, no.
Confused? Let me clear this up:
Content writing is written to tie into a content marketing strategy. It’s aim is to entertain, educate, or inform. The whole point is to position the brand as the expert, and build trust with the readers.
Blog articles (just like the one you’re reading now), social media captions, case studies, video scripts, and white papers all exist to provide some form of value to the user. The dominant aim is not to convert or sell. Though, it might do that, too.
Content writing surrounds putting the brand out there and showing the target audience that they’re the go-to. It’s about making sure the target audience associates them as the leaders in the industry. That way, when they’re ready to make a purchase, the brand will be the first they think about.
Copywriting, on the other hand, is all about conversion. It’s prime aim is to get the audience to take action. Copywriting – when successful – uses psychology and creativity in balance to ensure conversion.
You’ll see copywriting on sales pages, ad-copy, websites, product descriptions, and even product labels.
Both types of writing have an end goal of pushing for a purchase. But the way it’s done and the time-frame in doing so is different for both types of writers. Content writing is more driven by relationships and trust, while copywriting is driven by sales and conversion.
So, while they work toward the same goal, they are different formats of writing and require unique skill sets.
The main difference between copywriting and content writing, in a nutshell, is the purpose for which they’re created.
Can I Be a Copywriter And a Content Writer?
Considering wearing both hats? That’s fine. You absolutely can be both a copywriter and a content writer.
When you offer both services, you’re actually widening the amount of opportunities and projects you can work on rather than selecting one.
When you work with small businesses and the brand owner is impressed with you, you’ll find that a lot of your clients will be returning clients. That’s the greatest compliment any copywriter or content writer can get – because they’re happy to spend more money on your services.
So, if you’ve worked with this brand owner on building their website, sales pages, and email sequences, they’ve likely seen large growth. And at this point, they want to ensure that their website is seen by all the right eyeballs. So, they decide to invest in SEO optimization and blog articles.
If you offered solely copywriting services, you wouldn’t be able to write these articles for your client, (as blog posts fall under content writing services).
But if you cover copywriting and content writing, you become the go-to for all the brand’s writing material.
That said, you must also understand that there’s nothing wrong with only offering one type of service. There’s not one option that’s better than the other. For some brands, they feel more comfortable investing in a service provider who works solely on that one service, and would prefer to have more writers on their team that work on their specialism only.
So, there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s completely dependent on what you want to offer.
How to Become a Copywriter or Content Writer
You can feel the freedom twirling around you. It’s oh-so-close. Because you’ve made the decision to own a copywriting business or a content writing business.
That’s fantastic. But how do you become a copywriter or content writer? How do you get that all-important first client? What do you need to do to launch your freelance writing business?
Here’s a few things you need to tick off your list.
Learn and Practice Your Skills
Everyone starts somewhere, and that’s with the basics.
Enroll in some courses, read some copywriting books, watch YouTube videos, make your way through marketing and copy/content writing podcasts – just try to absorb as much information as possible.
You don’t even need to leave your sofa if you don’t want to. Grab a coffee, a notebook and pen, your laptop, and get learning. All of these resources are available online. There’s no need to add to your student debt to become a pro copywriter or content writer.
Find Your Niche, Know Who You’re Selling To
Making the decision to niche is a hot-topic in the freelance writing world. It always has been. Some copywriting courses will tell you that niching prevents you from working with a wider range of clients and puts a leash on your opportunities.
Others will argue that brand owners prefer specialists to generalists. Plus, there are writers out there who are incredibly passionate about – say – beauty, perhaps. But if they have to write for a construction company about pavement types, they’d be out of their mind with boredom.
My advice? Niching is your friend. Don’t be afraid of it.
And when you niche, you start to understand who you want to work with. This decision influences your copywriting portfolio and helps you form your elevator pitch.
Struggling to make your choice? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I want to niche? Or would I prefer to write for a wide range of brands and cover a broad spectrum of topics?
- Would I prefer to work with start-ups, solopreneurs, and small businesses? Or am I better suited to corporate, more established brands?
- Is there a deliverable I prefer creating (like blog articles or landing pages)? Or would I prefer the diversity of covering all the formats?
The answers to these questions will help bring clarity in terms of who you want to work with. You’re then able to create messaging that sticks and create a writing portfolio that represents this.
Build Your Writing Portfolio
Did you know that you don’t need a client to build your portfolio? So many writers are stuck in that cycle of “I can’t get experience without clients, and I can’t get clients without experience.”
And it’s needless! Because, as a freelance copywriter or content writer, you can start writing whenever you want.
You simply build a portfolio full of “spec work’.
Spec work is work you have created for brands that haven’t hired you. You’ve simply created it to show your ability. Just make sure you label it as “spec work” on your portfolio.
You could create a sales page, for example, for a brand that doesn’t exist. Or you could create a website for a brand you already love. You could take a brand’s existing copy and make it better. The world is your oyster.
Is Copywriting or Content Writing The Right Route For Me?
To be a copywriter or content writer, you need one thing that can’t be taught: drive. You’ll need to really crave this life, because – I won’t lie to you – getting started can feel overwhelming.
But the skills, knowledge, and experience? They will all come in time.
So long as you’re driven, motivated, and have a natural love for language, copywriting and content writing is a fantastic path for you.
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.