Content Writer vs Copywriter
Do You Know the Difference?

Nicole Boland
Content Marketing / July 3, 2020

When I began my career in advertising and marketing as a copywriter, my friends would say things like, so you stamp those little “circle Cs” in books?

Uh, not exactly.

I had to explain that I was not a copyright lawyer, but a copywriter and that copy was the text they read in magazine ads, heard during a radio commercial, or even saw printed on the back of a cereal box. They would nod in understanding, and their next question would usually be: So, you could come up with Just Do It?

I could. But I didn’t. Sigh.

Today, I still find myself clarifying what I do for a living, except now I’m detailing the differences between a content writer and a copywriter.

Yes, both write for marketing and advertising. No, they aren’t the same thing. So how do you know if you need a copywriter, a content writer or both to achieve your goals?

What a Copywriter Does

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll see (or hear) a copywriter’s handiwork on traditional mediums, including print ads, radio and television spots, direct mail pieces, outdoor boards, and product packaging. However, in today’s world, the scope extends to everything from social media posts and emails to videos.

Another defining factor of a copywriter is how they write. Their job is to be concise, impactful, and engaging while convincing a wide audience base that it must have whatever it is they’re selling, and also addressing their pain points!
No pressure.

For the longest time, every time I’d walk away from a meeting armed with a list of objectives, my boss’s famous last words to me were “and we need to do it in seven words or less.” It became a running joke, but turns out he wasn’t too far off track. With our shrinking attention span being pulled in more directions than ever, a copywriter must master the art of brevity.

What a Content Writer Does

Unlike copywriting, if you tell a content writer to be short and sweet, you may be met with one serious eye roll. After all, a good piece of content is meant to build awareness and trust while addressing all your audience’s questions. Good luck doing that in fewer than seven words.

Content writers are in it for the long haul. They craft longer copy, including articles, websites, blog posts (like this!), and case studies, all designed to achieve the aforementioned goals.

Think of it in terms of dating. While a copywriter’s job is more like a one-night stand, a content writer wants to get into a full-on relationship. They’re OK with taking it slow, getting to know you, and ensuring everything they do solves your problems and keeps you committed.

Before the relationship can begin, they need to make sure you two actually meet. Content writers spend loads of time researching their audience and topic at hand, so they know a lot more about you than you know about them. They make sure you cross paths by weaving essential keywords and phrases into their copy so search engines latch on and don’t let go. They get you to stick around by answering questions before you even ask and, like a copywriter, addressing your pain points.

Can Someone Be Both a Content Writer and a Copywriter?

In my opinion, yes— but it’s not always the case. Both obviously write for a living, but as you can tell, the goals and styles are different. Plus, not every writer can (or wants to) to do both. It’s almost like asking a graphic designer to code and a coder to design.

When I first started content writing, I really struggled with the longer format. Letting my copy “breathe” was so new, and it took some time before I was comfortable building a long-term relationship with my audience. I had to shift my mindset from sell, sell, sell (quickly) to write and wait, wait, wait. But ultimately both want to do the same thing — earn the attention of your audience.

Whether you’re looking for a content writer, a copywriter, or just some kick-ass content, VIRGEN Digital Brand Marketing can help!