An Apple and an Orange

Are You Asking a Content Writer to do a Copywriter’s Job?

As a content and copywriter, I communicate with a large number of potential clients over the course of my working week. Most of them have absolutely no idea about the distinction between copy and content writing. And why on earth should they? That’s one of the reasons they hire me.

What often happens (about four or five times a week) is that a client will ask me for a quotation to write content for their website. I’ll ask them about the purpose of the proposed web page, during which conversation it becomes abundantly clear that they’re expecting me to create copy. Then they’ll be taken aback by the comparatively steep price of copy vs content.

If you’re not sure of the difference between content and copy, or the reason for the price difference between the two forms, this article’s for you.

Content Is…

…any piece of writing whose purpose is to inform. Content does other things as well, of course. Effective content entertains, inspires, invites comment and prompts a whole host of subtle responses in the reader. It isn’t easy to write content (in fact it can be pretty tricky), but it’s usually straightforward.

Copy Is…

…something closely related but quite distinct. Copy is content with a special purpose: it markets your product or brand to potential customers, persuading them to engage with your message. As you’re probably aware, this can be done quite overtly or much more subtly.

Why Charge More For Copywriting?

The no-flannel answer to this question is, “Because it’s a lot harder to do well”. Any fool can write, “Buy my widgets – they’re really brilliant”, but probably only another fool would comply. Despite the popularity of reality TV, consumers in the 21st century are sophisticated, and they won’t be moved by simple declarations of awesomeness.

Does a Copywriter Need Special Skills or Attributes?

I should say, but they’re not what you might expect. The same fool who writes, “Buy my awesome widgets” probably also has a cookbook of copywriting formulae, and maybe even sounds as though they know their stuff. They may even have formal training. But they might be completely lacking in psychological awareness and the ability to imagine themselves into the mindset of a different kind of person. The last two attributes are essential, because your potential customers probably aren’t all like you (or like your copywriter, for that matter).

When you pay extra for copywriting, the writer’s ability to understand and influence diverse people is what you’re really paying for.

So, now you have a better idea of whether you need content for your website, or whether you’d be better off with copy. The two forms of writing aren’t exactly apples and oranges, but copywriting is generally the more demanding exercise. My team is living proof that the ability to create both does exist in the same person, but don’t be surprised if you’re asked to pay quite a bit more to reflect the greater demands of the copywriting task.

Lynn is the founder and quality-maven-in-chief of Lexis Writing, a collective of expert writers creating high quality content and copy for businesses in the UK and beyond.

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