Copywriting vs. Content Writing: How to Decide Which Is Right for You

Explore the different types of freelance writing and what makes each effective.

If you’re ready to start a freelance writing career, let me be the first to welcome you to the party! Making money writing online is a lucrative and inspiring career. But the first thing to figure out is which type of freelance writing is right for you.

Freelance writers can fall into two categories: copywriters or content writers. If you’re entering the online writing world, it’s crucial to understand the difference. 

And soo many online articles are totally wrong in their definitions of content and copy – shockingly so!

The key to differentiating content from copy is to identify the intent of the piece. Content writing usually informs the reader. Whereas copywriting also informs the reader, but takes it a step further by being persuasive and compelling the reader to act.  

Once you understand what copywriting is, you’ll start to see it everywhere. You’ll realize that copy influences your own purchase decisions all the time.

But like content, effective copywriting also uses research to educate the audience. So when you’re first starting out, it’s tough to differentiate these two types of writing from one another.

Freelance writing is a dream career, and I want you to experience all the freedom that comes with it. So I’m going to clarify the difference between copywriting and content writing, and help you decide which is right for you!

Key Differences Between Copywriting and Content Writing

First off, both content writing and copywriting are incredibly valuable. Brands that provide helpful information to their audience through high-quality writing stand out. 

But copywriting and content writing are actually very different. The differences between them include…

  • Intent. Like I said, copywriting compels the reader to take action. Whereas content writing solely informs the reader. Copy leads the reader to a call to action (CTA), like to sign up for an email list, book an appointment, or make a purchase. 
  • Purpose. Copywriting solves problems and offers a direct solution. It leads the reader to the exact product, resource, or sales funnel that addresses their problem. Content answers questions through information but it’s purpose generally isn’t to lead you somewhere.
  • Tactics. Effective copywriting uses psychology and persuasion as tactics for influencing its readers. Learning the techniques that influence people’s decision making is key to becoming a copywriter. 

Copywriting goes a step further than content by leading the reader to engage with the brand. This makes a bigger business impact than informing alone. Since copy drives business results, it tends to add more value than content. And the more valuable your writing is to a business, the more you can charge for it.

First, let me address the common misconceptions about the differences between content writing and content writing. Since there is so much confusion about this online you may think that…

1. Copy is slimy.

Since copy uses psychology to influence decisions, it may feel like a slimy sales tactic. But I actually believe that copywriting is the most important element of marketing. If the copy you write is genuine, helpful, and promotes a product or service that truly improves people’s lives, then it’s not slimy at all.

2. You can decipher it by type.

Despite what online articles say, the format doesn’t define the type of writing. For example, many articles state that blog articles are content and not copy. But the truth is, they can be both. Remember, the primary difference is the intent.

Many blogs are written with the intent to sell a product, where the solution earns a business money. For example, one of my clients earns between $3,000 – $5,000 a month from affiliate & store sales from the blogs I write for her business. Anyone who says blogs are never copy are missing out on an important marketing strategy.

3. Content is long, copy is short.

I see this allll the time but it’s absolutely not true! In fact, long copy often performs much better than short copy. You’ll likely come across a client that argues that people don’t read that much these days. But when it comes to making a purchase decision, they absolutely do. Plus, people will stay on the page and continue reading if your writing is compelling.

Here’s a tip for identifying content writing vs. copywriting: ask yourself, “What does this article want me to do next?” 

If there’s a clear call to action – like a link to sign up for something – then it’s copywriting. 

Otherwise, it’s probably content.

The Psychology Behind Effective Copywriting

If you’re considering becoming a copywriter, it’s helpful to understand the role psychology plays in copy so you can use it in a genuine, helpful way.

As emotive humans, we usually make our decisions largely based on emotions – even when we don’t realize it. Effective copywriting speaks to these emotions to lead the reader to a decision. For example, it emphasizes how a product will make them feel, more than what the product does. 

These are just a few of the psychological triggers that you can use in persuasive copywriting:

  • Empathy and Connection. Demonstrate you understand your audience’s emotions, pain points, and desires. This builds credibility so they trust you. It also helps your reader envision who they’ll become when they buy the product.
  • Reciprocity. Psychology tells us that when we receive something from others, we feel the desire to give back to them – and vice versa. So, if you give away something for free, then your audience will be more likely to purchase something or take action in return.
  • Urgency and Scarcity. Have you ever been on the fence about buying a product online, only to want the product more once it goes out of stock? Our brains are primed to want what we can’t have. So showing your audience they need to act now or they’ll miss out is a powerful tactic.1

These are just a few of the fundamentals of the psychology behind effective copywriting. But, there are actually a lot more tactics you can use that I find fascinating. If psychology is super interesting to you too, it’s a sign that copywriting may be right for you. 

Using psychology to influence decisions is a powerful tool. If you’re worried about feeling like a “slimy” marketer, remember it’s not about influencing your reader into a bad decision. The key is to use this skill for good – and only promote products you believe actually help people.

Helping people make decisions that will improve their lives is incredibly fulfilling!

Which Type of Freelance Writer Should You Become?

Copywriting influences action, which leads to engagement and results. And results make your work more valuable as a freelance writer, which means you can charge and earn more.

Aside from earning more, being a copywriter that influences positive decisions is a fascinating and rewarding career choice. You improve lives by leading people to a product or service that will actually help them! Another way I say this, is that my copywriting is like the matchmaker for businesses – connecting them with just the right people. 

So I always recommend copywriting over content writing.

But to become a copywriter, you have to learn the psychology and skills behind effective copy. This will make your work more successful and interesting. But trying to learn all this yourself is overwhelming – which is exactly why I created Write Your Way to Freedom.

Write Your Way To Freedom is the most comprehensive copywriting course on the internet. You’ll learn the exact skills to write effective copy that gets results and makes a positive impact. But beyond that, you’ll get extensive resources and support to build your business.

Want to become invaluable to your clients and earn more money as a copywriter? 

Take the first step by signing up for my free online copywriting Masterclass: How to Build a Lucrative Writing Career – with No Experience.

I can’t wait to introduce you to the world of freelance copywriting!

Watch Instead

Still confused about the difference between copywriting vs. content writing? Watch my Youtube video to get clear on the two. And subscribe here for more copywriting how-to’s!

Resources:

  1. Neil Patel: How to Incorporate Psychology and Emotions into Your Copywriting

About Sarah

I’m an entrepreneur on a mission to help other people become entrepreneurs.
My blog is a place where I provide business building advice and explore how we can create more meaningful work.

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