Content, Writing, and Copywriting

Earn more with your writing by learning how to effectively show clients some of the not so obvious differences between content, writing, and copywriting.

Understanding Writing

In most cases, a writer is to a copywriter what a house painter is to an artist. That’s not to say that you’ll never find a house painter making art, but rather that you’re far more likely to find an artist willing to paint houses. This is because, while both of them can paint, only a copywriter is generally capable of creating art.

Unfortunately, because writing is the second most common form of communication in the world, chances are that nearly everyone you interact with will be able to do it. This makes it a trivial skill in the eyes of most people, along the likes of breathing, or walking. Of course, put any of those people under water or on a tightrope, and they instantly find new appreciation for the difficulties breathing and walking can present.

Sadly, drowning clients or forcing them work in the circus isn’t likely to earn repeat business, however satisfying it might be at the time. Forgoing those option can make it difficult to effectively demonstrate the differences between simple writing and the complexities of copywriting. This is particularly true if you’re not dealing with an experienced marketing firm, or a knowledgeable client. That said, there are steps you can take to make yourself and your writing shine. It just involves a little panache.

Explaining The Difference in 15 Minutes

If you’re serious about your clients, take them out to lunch. You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain. That’s because there’s nothing better than a menu and a hungry client to effectively demonstrate the difference between generic content, professional writing, and copywriting. It also lets you explain how and why they all work together, and more importantly, when they don’t.

I recommend either a steak house or a sushi bar, but depending on the client, you might want to go with something else. The important thing is to make sure that food is available that you can apply a copywriting description to. Having more than one client at the table also helps but isn’t necessary.

For this exercise, you’re going to explain the food as if you were the waiter. Then it’s just a matter of drawing the comparison between your client’s needs and their order – all before their lunch arrives. Because they’re hungry, and you’re describing their food in great detail, they’ll positively associate you with the food rush – especially if you’re good at selling yourself. Just make sure the establishment you select is on par with your skills as a writer. If you’re in DC, I recommend The Old Ebbitt, or Ruth’s Chris Steak House, but anything similarly upper crust will do.

The Selling Points

Just pick whatever steak the client ordered, and offer them three explanations, comparing each one to a particular type of writing. You should have pen and paper, and be good enough to bang this out at the table, or you’ve lost the client.

Your associated price points should account for the time involved in each. A few minutes for content, which equates to the value menu at McDonald’s, a little longer and more expensive for writing, which isn’t unlike Red Lobster, and then the icing on the cake for the restaurant you’ve chosen. Price points should look a little like this:

Content ($0.05): Hi, have you decided what you want to order yet?

Writing ($0.10): I can recommend a perfectly seasoned steak, grilled to perfection, with your choice of two sides. We offer broccoli, fries, potato, or a salad. Which would you like?

Copywriting ($0.20): I’d like to suggest one of our aged, top shelf cuts of beef. It’s a mouthwatering 8-ounce filet, seasoned with a blend of the freshest herbs, and grilled over a wood fire to seal in the flavor. How would you like it prepared, medium well?

What we’ve done there is give a common, real world example to the difference between each writing style, pairing it with a price point, and the associated results. In this case, the result is a hungry client, hopefully hooked on your tempting description of the steak they ordered. Don’t forget to point out that copywriting is much more than just ‘per word’ content, and that the $0.20 per word rate is a ground floor. Good copywriting can run upwards of $1000 per page or more – make sure your client understands this, or you’ll be selling yourself and your talents short.

Then you can go on to describe another menu dish, such as chicken, in the same tantalizing manner, and lead into co-branding, where you establish several different products under a single brand, expanding your trust pool. With a little practice, you’ll have outstanding success rates at closing new business.

If you’re having difficulty, just schedule your meetings before lunch at your client’s place of business, bring a menu, and use the same pitch. Just be prepared to buy them lunch and come clean on the marketing aspect of your pitch. Few things are worse than a hungry and irritable person trapped in a cubicle. If you’re visiting someone in a corner office, then you probably don’t need my advice.

Marketing Yourself

For some, getting to this point will take time. Most copywriters are notoriously bad at meeting people, and even worse at closing cold calls or first round meetings. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but rather that it takes work. There is also a level of trust and understanding that needs to be built between client and writer. That can also take time.

It’s helpful to take things one step at a time, introducing yourself and services, and demonstrating how what you do will add value to an organization. Treat it like a romance at first. Do a little extra, be polite, and don’t mention things like your early adoption of Bitcoins, or your part time free gambling habit.

These four steps are far from the final word on how to go about marketing yourself, but they’re a good start.

Step One: Build Relationships

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with inexperienced marketing firms, they just take a little more effort to work with. Likewise, some of the best clients are also the least knowledgeable about the differences in copywriting and writing. This is because capable firms and individuals are usually very focused on what they do, and therefore quite good at it. This is often the reason why they’re not good at writing. Taking the time to work with them usually results in lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.

Step Two: Demonstrate Results

One of the easiest ways to do this is by demonstrating the strengths of both copywriting and writing, as opposed to just focusing on one. By showing how copywriting can build brand, and writing can reinforce that brand, you’re showing how your work will build value. More importantly, help establish brand. Clear, concise, and direct communication is the ticket to accomplishing this and winning the business.

Step Three: Don’t Be An Artist

True, this article opened up comparing copywriting to art, and it is, but professionals rarely want artists. Let’s face it. Artists are unreliable. They’ve been known to cut off their ears, and in extreme cases, drown clients or force them into the circus. No one wants to hear about your art, and the person paying for it also doesn’t care about it either. They just want results, which loosely translated means profit.

Step Four: Be Professional, But Be Yourself Too

At all times, be professional. If your client invites you out for a drink, then have one. Note the emphasis on having one. Don’t press your client into accepting favors, or at all make them feel manipulated. You’re buying their time for a meeting, just like they’re buying your time for copywriting. Keep it professional and honest. Clients worth maintaining relationships with will appreciate this.

As an example, I once interviewed with Latham & Watkins for a low level writing position. I was between jobs, and could have used the work. When it was all said and done, I was told that I was overqualified. The partner who came down to give me the particulars asked if I’d like a drink, and having nothing to lose, I said, “Since we’re all being honest, and it’s late, is a rum and coke out of the question?”

Everyone had a good laugh, we had drinks, and then the attorney who conducted the interview took me out for a few more drinks. We got along famously, and are friends to this day. I didn’t end up working for them, but it was a springboard into other relationships.

So, be professional, and be yourself. Nothing sells copywriting to a client you understand like honesty and sincerity. You never know where opportunity will take you from there.

And You’re Off

On that note, you’ve got a basic set of tools to market yourself, and can build them into your website or other copywriting platform, enabling you to build a better portfolio, and ultimately better clients.

Image Credits: Flickrcc

I am an artist, painting words on the canvas of my life. What you take away from this is as much about you as it is me. If you'd like to learn more, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or . To hire me, visit my copywriting page.

  • Stephanie Morrison

    Excellent comparisons between content writing and copywriting. Some knowledge I will definitely use with clients.

    • https://hjbuell.com/ H. J. Buell

      Thank you very much for the comments, and especially for taking the time to leave them.

  • ContentRX

    It took me a bit to see what your point was in this article – mostly because I’ve always seen myself as just a writer. However, as I read further on, I realized that I’m more than that. Oh, I can churn out generic writing that really doesn’t do the client much if that’s what they want, but I prefer to find out what they’re looking for, what their goals are and try to write with their voice, not my own. The final four tips described how approach my meetings and client relationships. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

    • https://hjbuell.com/ H. J. Buell

      Yes, I had the same issue, seeing myself as a writer, and not really understanding that there even was a difference, or that to some people I was much more than ‘just a writer’.

      I think we all churn out filler content just to feed the family and keep the lights on, but in turn it makes us appreciate the clients we’re allowed to really ‘write’ for. Thanks for the comments, and good luck with your endeavors.