If you’re reading up on how to become a copywriter, chances are that you’ve seen the terms copywriter, content writer, and even technical writer used interchangeably.
While these fields have things in common, they also have important differences. Nuance matters when you’re trying to decide what skills to develop, what type of jobs to seek out, and what your goal should be once you take a job.
Copywriters, content writers, and technical writers all want to help companies earn customer loyalty with quality writing about products and services.
The Difference and Why It Matters
Broadly, the difference between these types of writing comes down to the type of messaging you’re creating and why. Each serves a different function for your client. You can think of it in these basic terms:
- A content writer writes to inform. They produce content that educates their audience on a topic through blogs, whitepapers, and other long-form writing. When a potential marketing or sales lead has a problem or a question, they search the internet for an answer. Your client uses your content to provide that answer.
- A copywriter’s job is to sell. The content is usually short form and similar to direct marketing in tone. A lead has primed a buyer—copywriting converts the sale.
- Technical writers focus on the details. A technical writer’s job is to boil down complex ideas for either internal use at a company or customers seeking information about products and services.
These are the baseline differences. However, those learning how to become a copywriter, content writer, or technical writer should carefully consider how and why each functions differently to maximize their success—regardless of the field they choose.
Copywriter Exchange can help. Here are the differences you should consider when deciding what kind of professional writer you want to become.
If copywriting is making the sale, content writing is the road a buyer takes to get to that decision. Content writing informs an audience about solutions to their problems organically. It does this by providing valuable information that educates on an issue your client is uniquely positioned to address.
Content writing addresses the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey.
Often, someone will type search terms into Google or—more often—they’re using natural voice searches on smart-home devices like Alexa, Siri, or Nest.
As the IoT marketing world and SEO best practices evolve, content writers must try to create content that will help clients reach their target personas. Once a potential lead engages with your content, the writing should bring awareness to their problem or help them consider the best solutions.
Content writing doesn’t seek to take a sales-like tone or market directly to its audience. Instead, it relies on SEO (search engine optimization) and other tools so that an audience can organically find the resources they need. It also encourages buyers view your client as a thought leader and a potential solution to their problem.
Content writing usually takes on lengthier, more information-based formats like:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Podcasts and webinars
- Press releases
- Scripts for long-form video content
Content Writing Brings Awareness and Consideration
Long before a buyer is ready to make a purchase or take action with a brand, they often begin by searching for different solutions to their problem—or maybe they weren’t aware of the solution until they saw a social media post or received a link from a friend.
Content writing addresses the beginning and intermediate stages of the buyer’s journey, priming its audience for copywriters once they reach the decision stage.
Think of copywriting as “making the sale.” While it’s not always a straight line to direct advertising, the goal is to urge your audience to respond in a positive way to a company or brand and then take an action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a subscription.
Because of this, copywriters typically convey messages with immediacy, get to the point quickly, and use only as many words as they need. The goal is to get more conversions as quickly as possible. In other words, think of copywriting as trying to win a sprint race, whereas copywriting is more about pacing yourself to finish the marathon.
Some typical forms of copywriting include:
- Ad copy
- Social media marketing
- Email campaigns
- Commercial scripts
- Direct mailers
Learning how to become a copywriter is all about learning to sell. However, no matter how brilliant your copy is, not everyone you want to sell to is ready to buy. They may be at an earlier stage in what we call the buyer’s journey.
Copywriting Urges Someone to Make a Decision
To understand what part of the buyer’s journey you’re addressing, think of the natural steps someone takes before becoming a customer–they have a problem, so the search for solutions on the Internet.
At the very tail end of that journey, a buyer has become informed and is ready to make a decision. Copywriting serves to help finalize that decision—a purchase or other action that connects them with your client’s brand.
Yet the buyer goes through several stages before copywriting can effectively reach them. Let’s look at how content writing addresses these stages and works alongside copywriting to meet your audience where they are.
Technical writing doesn’t always address the buyer’s journey, per se. It can but often doesn’t fall into the category of marketing writing. Yet, technical writing serves an important role in supporting a company’s employees and current customers—thus, ensuring they remain loyal customers.
As a technical writer, you may find yourself writing highly technical SOP guides full of industry-specific jargon. Or you might write software installation manuals for users, helping a layperson understand something technical without needing to become an expert.
The technical writer provides solutions beyond the sale. They prove a business’s usefulness for the long haul and help define how that business will run now and in the future.
Some examples of technical writing include:
- User manuals
- Troubleshooting guides
- Employee handbooks
- Standards of Procedure (SOP)
- Case studies
- Installation guides
- Internal company documents
- Service level agreements
- Technical B2B marketing
Whereas content writing informs and copywriting sells, technical writing seeks to define in clear terms.
Learning How to Become a Copywriter
In any professional writing job, we believe you never stop learning and growing. Trends change, standards evolve, and there’s never a shortage of new challenges to conquer in the marketing world.
If copywriting—or any combo of these styles of writing—seems like the right fit for your goals, Copywriter Exchange can help you kickstart your career and gain the skills you need to succeed in the short and long term.
As you continue to grow and learn how to become a copywriter, Copywriter Exchange wants to support your journey and help you foster techniques that will take your career to the next level.
Connor Holmes is a content writer with Content Workshop who comes from a diverse writing background. He worked as an award-winning public safety staff writer at his hometown newspaper, The Cape Coral Daily Breeze. He earned his MFA in creative writing and has professionally published fiction and poetry. He has also tutored English to students from grade school to grad school.
At Copywriter Exchange, we’re a group of master content marketing pros who bring their diverse talents and backgrounds to bear on the art and science of creating high-performance content tailored to your needs. We exist to help copywriters thrive in today’s economy by connecting them with the resources they need to step up their game. Join now to access our templates, guides, and courses to help you grow your career, skills, and network.