Copywriting, Content Writing, or Both? Which Path is Right For You?

So you’ve heard how great a freelance writing career can be.

The control over your own schedule. The creative aspect. The location independence. Making decent money.

It all sounds pretty good, right?

The two writing skills in highest demand right now are copywriting and content writing.

But what’s the difference? How do you know which one is right for you, and how do you even start? And what’s the difference between content writing and copywriting, anyway?

Let’s jump in.

Copy Vs. Content: The Controversy

Before we get into what copywriting and content writing are, let’s first address a big controversy in the industry:

Are copywriters and content writers the same thing?

Let’s settle this once and for all:

Yes AND no.

Let me explain:

Content writing is writing that is for content marketing, which is meant to educate, inform, or entertain,  establish the positioning of a brand and build trust with an audience.

Think blog posts (like this one), social media captions, white papers, case studies, and other marketing content that doesn’t have the goal of an immediate sale. Content is part of marketing campaigns that focus on visibility and authority, keeping a brand top of mind when an audience is ready to buy.

Copywriting, especially direct response copywriting––which is what most people think of when they think copywriting––is meant to influence a specific action. Copywriting is writing that uses psychology and creativity to achieve this goal. 

Examples of copywriting include sales pages, product descriptions, ad copy, and even product labels. 

Both forms of writing have the ultimate end goal of inspiring a purchase, but one is more relationship-driven and one is more sales-driven.

But these two forms of writing require different skill sets.

So, while both content writing and copywriting are part of your sales funnel, they differ in purpose.

Can Someone Be Both a Copywriter AND a Content Writer?

It’s entirely possible for you to be a content writer and a copywriter.

In fact, honing your skills in both areas offers you a wider range of opportunities than focusing on one over the other.

Imagine this for a moment:

You’re a copywriter, and you’ve been writing sales pages, sales emails, and brochures for one of your clients. You’re heavily involved in the brand and understand the audience. You’ve developed a voice for the brand and are incorporating it into all of the marketing materials.

Then, the client decides to invest more in SEO, and decides to launch a blogging and thought leadership campaign. SEO is a long term investment, meaning that there is potential ongoing work. 

One of two things can happen here:

  1. You’ve educated yourself on content writing and you can upsell your content writing services as part of a copy and content package, locking in work for yourself for the next several months.
  2. Because you’ve only positioned yourself as a copywriter, your client looks for someone who can specifically write content, and you miss out on income and the opportunity to expand your portfolio.

Whichever option happens for you depends on where you want to put your focus.

That is, of course, not to say one is better than the other. Many copywriters opt for just staying in the “copy-only” lane and prefer it that way.

The same with content writers.

At the end of the day, as a freelance writer, it’s up to you.

How Can You Become a Copywriter or Content Writer?

So, it’s decided: you want to get into freelance copywriting or content writing.

Awesome!

But where do you start? How do you get clients? What tools do you need to launch your business?

Let’s break it down step-by-step:

Learn the Skills

Everyone starts with the basics. Taking copywriting courses, watching YouTube videos, listening to copywriting and marketing podcasts––absorb as much information as you can.

And the best part? All of this is available to you online. You don’t need to spend tens of thousands of dollars at a university to learn copywriting or content writing.

Identify Your Ideal Client

Knowing WHO you want to work dictates your portfolio and your pitch. 

Determine who it is you want to work for by asking yourself these questions:

  • Am I interested in writing for a specific niche only, or do I want to dive into a wide range of topics?
  • Do I want to work with small businesses and start ups or do I want to aim for the Fortune 500 companies?
  • Do I want to focus on a specific area like blogging or sales pages, or do I want to cover it all?

Once you’ve decided who you want to work with, you can create your writing portfolio based on these guidelines.

Build Your Portfolio

One of the coolest things about being a freelance writer is that you don’t have to have experience to create a portfolio. You can create what’s called “spec work.”

Spec work is work you’ve created not-for-hire, meaning you’re creating pieces just for the sake of example. 

You can write a sales page for a business that doesn’t exist.

You can write advertisements for globally recognized brands.

You can write an email sequence for your favorite store.

As long as you indicate that these items are spec work, you can create example pieces for absolutely anything.

Gather Your Tools

Before you begin getting clients, you need to get things in order.

After all, you don’t want to start filling up your calendar and then get lost in the weeds organizing your client work.

Some of the tools you need to get your freelance career started include;

  • A project management tool like Monday.com or Honeybook
  • A payment processor like Melio or Quickbooks
  • Calendar software so that clients can book calls with you, like Calendly or Acuity.

Craft Your Pitch

It’s time to start pitching yourself to clients!

Now, I know a lot of the “gurus” out there will tell you that you should pitch yourself with these long, flowery emails detailing your services and why it’s such a good investment to work with you.

But I’m going to offer a different perspective:

I own a copywriting agency. That means that I both get inquiries from potential writers as well as pitch our services to potential clients.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret:

The decision-makers you’re pitching to are a) too busy to read a dissertation in an email, and b) they get hundreds of inquiries just like yours every day.

What I’ve found works best is a concise email (no more than like, 6 lines, tops), with an attached portfolio and a calendar link.

That’s it.

Oh…

And don’t forget to follow up!

Is Being a Copywriter or Content Writer Right for You?

If you’ve got the drive, a way with words, are self-motivated, copywriting or content writing could be a great career fit for you.

No matter what path you take ––copywriting or content writing or both––I wish you the best of luck on your new endeavor!

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