Copywriting vs Content Writing: What are the Key Differences and How to Choose the One That’s Right For You

Which are you destined to: a career in copywriting or content writing?

Chances are, if you’re new to the world of copy and content, you’re still doing your research and learning.

You may have enrolled in a bunch of courses or are diving headfirst into copywriting books, but if you’re waiting for the course to tell you about blogging, social media, and white papers – you may be waiting a while.

Because there’s a very distinct difference between copywriting and content writing.

So, what is that difference?

And how do you know whether you are more suited to copywriting or content writing?

Don’t panic. This article is going to tell you, without any fuss or jargon, the difference between copywriting and content writing.

Plus, I’ll give you some tips on how to discover which one you’re better suited to.

Let’s start with the basics.


Copywriting vs Content Writing: What are the Key Differences and How to Choose the One That’s Right For You


The Definition of Copywriting

To begin with, we will take a look at the definitions of both copywriting and content writing. Then, we’ll explore the differences.

So, what exactly is copywriting?

The Balance Small Business defines copywriting as:


“Copywriting is the craft of writing persuasive messages that prompt people to take action.” 


Ultimately, I agree. That’s the overall definition of copywriting.

There are a whole lot of people out there who will define copywriting as “words that sell”.

Realistically, that’s not 100% accurate.

I mean – it can be.

But copywriting is not just “words that sell”.

Copywriting is all about conversion. Sometimes that conversion is in the form of a sale.

However, it can also be about converting a website visitor into an email subscriber.

Copywriting uses words to get readers to take the next step in the sales process.

So, while sometimes that can mean getting them to buy something, it doesn’t always have to be.


The Definition of Content Writing

Okay, so we’ve covered copywriting.

So, what’s content writing?

HubSpot define “content writing” as:


“Content writing is the process of writing, editing, and publishing content in a digital format.”


It’s far broader in terms of purpose. The aim of a piece of content writing could be:

  • To educate
  • To entertain
  • To inspire
  • To motivate


While pieces of content can convert, it’s not usually the dominant purpose.

But – if that’s the case – why do we need content writing? What good will it do a business owner if it doesn’t convert?

The truth is, when you have a solid content marketing strategy with well-written content, it can become a lead-generation source that outweighs your other marketing streams.

It comes down to trust.

Showing your brand to be the expert within the industry, and allowing readers to build relationships with you based on your content will, ultimately, lead to conversion.

So, while there are different purposes, the roots all lead to business growth and capturing leads.


The Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

Have you spotted the difference yet?

In a nutshell, direct response copywriting is assembled to convert. Its sole purpose is to get the reader to take action and get one step closer to being a buyer.

Content writing doesn’t prioritize this. While it can convert, it’s about building relationships, proving subject knowledge, and providing value.

Neither one is more important than the other.

Both copywriting and content writing are fundamental to a successful business.

But, which one is the best route for your career?


Should You Be a Copywriter or Content Writer?

You now have a solid understanding of the difference between copywriting and content writing. So, which one is best for you?

Here’s how you can find out.


Assess Your Skills

First thing’s first, you need to know what you’re good at.

Copywriting and content writing use totally different techniques and will need a contrasting approach.

So, make a list of your skills.

Then, match them to copywriting, content writing, or both.

You’ll have a better idea of which style of writing will come naturally to you.


What Do You Like Writing?

You’ll find copywriting in different formats than that of content writing.

Copywriting is covered:

  • On websites
  • In marketing emails
  • In sales/landing pages (specifically direct response copywriting)
  • In direct mail (sales letters)
  • In Commercials
  • In Online ads

Content writing, on the other hand, covers:

  • Blog articles
  • Social media captions
  • White papers
  • Case studies
  • Video scripts
  • User manuals
  • Press releases

Based on the lists above, which formats do you enjoy writing best? Which do you hate?

I’ve known a few writers to find blog writing tricky because it requires extensive subject research.

Equally, though, I’ve known a few writers to hate writing online ads, because the pressure is monumental.

It’s down to you and what you enjoy most.


What Experience Do You Have?

Last but not least, consider your current experience.

So many wanna-be-copywriters and content writers think they have zero experience.

But when they start reflecting, they realize that they’ve got far more than they anticipated.

So, take a look through your writing portfolio.

Whether you’ve written for a friend or family member, created words for a marketing agency, or simply built a copywriting portfolio with spec work, you’ll be able to spot which type of writing you’ve produced more of.

Then, put them in order of work you feel most proud of. Look for patterns, and allow it to be a contributing factor to your decision.


Copywriting and Content Writing: Both Excellent Careers

The reality is that whether you choose to pursue a career in copywriting or content writing, you’re entering a fantastic world.

So long as you have a way with words, bucket-loads of ambition, self-discipline, and the willingness to learn – you’ll do just fine.


About Liz Slyman

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.