What is a copywriter? (once and for all!)

Copywriter definition

Yes, 20 years into my profession, I still get the blank look from many when I answer: "I'm a freelance copywriter." So here's a definition to clear up any remaining confusion.

Copywriter definition

A copywriter is a commercial writer who writes to brand, market, advertise or sell a product or service. Copywriters come from different backgrounds: literature, language, psychology, philosophy, sociology, marketing and business.

Copywriting has something in common with all these fields, but it’s a distinct practice requiring the right balance of innovation and discipline, market knowledge and brand expertise. It’s both a science and an art – fact-based and imagination-driven.

A freelance copywriter can promote one business to another (B2B copywriting) or promote the business to a consumer (B2C copywriting).

Copywriter, copy writer, freelance writer

If you want to hire a copywriter on a project basis, searching for any of “copywriter”, “copy writer”, or “freelance writer” can lead you to the one that’s right for you.

While the term ‘writer’ covers all types of writing – from screenwriting to novel-writing to poetry-writing, copywriting is a specific business discipline. In much the same way as a scriptwriter is a writer of scripts, a copywriter is a writer of commercial writing - called copy - that converts.

"Copywriting" often confused with "copyrighting"

Confusing copywriting with copyrighting is a common misunderstanding that’s important to clear up. Copyrighting refers to securing a creator’s exclusive legal right to his or her work. A copyrighter is a person who secures copyrights. In contrast, copywriter refers to a writer of copy (promotional content). Some copywriters are equally capable in branding, marketing, advertising and selling. Copywriters who practice direct response copywriting are conversion experts – they write highly reader-focused copy designed to elicit an immediate response or action from the reader.

It's ideal to find a copywriter who is equally talented at branding and marketing as at sales and direct response copywriting so that you can lift your content from communicating to inspiring loyalty and action.

Copywriter vs. content marketing writer

The distinction between copywriter and content writer is not so clear-cut. Content writing combines promotion and marketing in a seamless way - without sounding directly promotional. A content writer could be a blogger or social media content writer. Content is about starting and maintaining conversations with an audience - copywriting is about moving that audience to act and purchase. Not all content writers are good copywriters, and vice versa. The ability to master both disciplines is the mark of a versatile, talented and focused writer.