Copywriter vs. Content Writer: Who Should You Hire?
Whether you're hiring an in-house writer or working with freelancers, you need a clearly defined idea of:
- The type of content you need writing
- The type of writer you need to hire
A key problem when hiring writers is finding the ones who are a great fit for your specific task. The first problem appears as soon as you start writing your job post.
Do you need a content writer, or a copywriter?
In this guide, I'll show you the key differences between content writers and copywriters. I'll also show you how to write a job description to attract the best writer for your needs.
Let's jump in.
Does a Job Title Really Matter?
There are multiple areas of specialization in writing.
A writer might specialize in
- Blog posts
- Landing pages
- Email marketing
- Journalistic/editorial pieces
- Press releases
- Technical documentation
- Social media posts
When you're hiring, it's important to understand that. Otherwise, you could end up hiring someone who doesn't have the right skills, and you'll both have a bad time.
Just because a writer is excellent at writing landing pages, it doesn't mean they can write blog content (and vice versa - it's why we only focus on writing blog content).
Most blog posts are relatively long. Data from Buffer shows the average blog post length is 1,600 words and takes 7 minutes to read.
On the other hand, the average headline is only 6 words. There's a big difference in writing 6 crisp and compelling words, to writing a long-form, interesting, 1,600+ article.
Content writers and copywriters are distinctly different, so it's important you hire the right person for your writing needs.
What is a Content Writer?
Content writers create long-form informational content.
Think blog posts, articles, or guides to particular topics. A content writer can also handle content like press releases, whitepapers, and sometimes even video scripts.
Good content writing will help your target audience understand complex topics, convey a specific story or message, and help them answer key questions they had.
If your content has a marketing focus (if you're reading this article, I'm guessing it does), you might also want to hire a content marketer - someone with a specific focus on creating content that contributes to your marketing.
Depending on their area of specialization, a content writer may have knowledge of SEO and content marketing. For example, at Contentbulb, we combine SEO knowledge with content writing to create blog content that helps our clients rank for keywords relevant to their business and customer.
What Skills do Content Writers Need?
Content writing skills to look for in your writer include:
- An understanding of search and buyer intent
- Working knowledge of SEO
- Research skills
- Comfortable writing long-form, educational content
- Self-editing and proofreading
Of course there will be more skills on top of those, but they're some basics to look out for if you're hiring a content writer to work on blog content, whitepapers, or similar resources.
What is a Copywriter?
A copywriter focuses on sales-focused content that's intended to persuade.
They'll focus on writing copy for landing pages, sales emails, digital or print ads, and occasionally social media posts.
Most copywriters won't write content like blog posts or articles, and won't have a big focus on SEO when writing their content.
Like a content writer, a good copywriter will be able to build trust with your target audience, and help your business hit your goals.
What Skills do Copywriters Need?
A few key copywriting skills include:
- Audience and customer research
- Ability to write concise, compelling copy
- CRO expertise
- Can simplify complex concepts
That's not to say every copywriter will, or should, know all of them, but if I was working with a copywriter those are some skills I would expect.
Hiring a Specialist vs. Generalist Writer
I'd always recommend finding a writer who is a specialist in one particular area.
For example, if you need 10 blog posts for your SaaS company, you shouldn't hire a writer who's never worked with a SaaS company. Find someone with past experience in content writing for similar companies, with a style that matches what you're looking for.
Similarly, you wouldn't hire a social media manager to write your new landing page copy.
This is particularly true if you're working with your writer on a freelance basis, but equally if you're hiring someone to work with you in-house.
Hiring In-House Writers
You may need a generalist marketing manager to handle day-to-day work and projects (and manage the specialist freelancers/contractors/agencies you work with), but if you need to hire someone for a specific writing position, it's better to work with a specialist.
For example, the reason you're hiring a writer likely arises from a specific pain point.
- You want to grow your email newsletter
- You want to grow your blog traffic
In both of those cases, hiring a generalist makes no sense.
In the first situation, you should hire someone with experience writing engaging email content.
In the second, you'll want someone with blog writing and SEO experience.
Of course, there are always exceptions.
You may see someone who's early on in their career, shows great initiative, and is willing to learn fast. With some training, they can become a great writer. But at a certain point, they're still going to want to specialize. It's rare to see writers a few years into their careers who jump between blog posts, landing pages, social media ad copy, and other types of content.
Which Type of Writers Knows SEO?
SEO is a common skill that founders and CEOs need in their writers.
But, not all types of writers need to know SEO.
For example, your email copywriter doesn't need to know SEO. It may still be a consideration if you're using a platform like Substack that allows content to be discovered via search, but for most companies, doing SEO work on your emails isn't going to improve any metric in your business.
Landing pages are another one. If you think about SEO too much on your first few drafts, you risk having diluted, SEO-focused copy that doesn't resonate with your ideal customer.
On the other hand, if you hire a copywriter who can write you engaging, sales-focused copy that truly helps your customer understand your product, you can later review it and make small adjustments to ensure it helps your company get discovered in search engines.
To sum it up:
- Content Writers are more likely to know SEO, particularly if they're writing blog posts
- Copywriters are less likely to know SEO, and that's fine - the content they're writing doesn't need to be optimized for search
Creating a Job Description for a Content Writer
To get applicants with the right skills, you need to write a job description that matches the task.
I'm going to show you a few examples of job descriptions taken from Upwork. I'll show you what works, and what doesn't.
Simple and Cohesive Job Description
First, let's look at a good example of a job description for a Content Writer.
This job description qualifies applicants for the person in charge of hiring, and lets content writers decide if it's worth applying to.
Here's why it works:
The job title matches the task, and the hiring manager knows the type of portfolio piece that will best reflect the applicant's ability to do the job.
Another important point is that they clearly mentioned the industry the work is for.
This helps applicants self-qualify (and even if people who aren't a fit apply, they'll be easy to filter out).
If your job title says "Construction Content Writer", you're not going to get people with a background in SaaS applying.
Make everything about your job post clear and simple to understand, and make sure it qualifies applicants.
Potential for Candidate-Task Mismatch
I don't want to call this next example a 'bad' job description, because it may work.
Here it is:
But, it does leave a lot of room for what I'll call candidate-task mismatch.
Firstly, the main task: translate the business owner's vision and values into a short, compelling bio for their website.
That's fine, and it would require someone with the ability to write short, compelling copy. But in the next paragraph, there are multiple other types of tasks specified, including:
- Writing a service agreement
- Terms of service
- Privacy policies
They're going to get multiple types of writers applying, and it's going to be a hassle to filter through them.
And What About a Copywriting Job Description?
Writing a job description for a copywriter is going to have a few key differences.
Quick reminder: if you need content for
- Landing pages
- Ad copy
Copywriter is a more accurate job title than content writer.
Here's what a good job description looks like.
This one works because:
- It's specific (email copywriter)
- There are no extra tasks, e.g. blog posts, help docs, social media posts
- It gives context (coaching business)
One-Size-Fits-All Rarely Works
Copywriting is generally customer or prospect-facing (landing pages, emails, ads etc.).
They need to be great quality.
In most cases, you don't want to hire a jack of all trades. For example, if you're re-doing your landing pages, you'd prefer a copywriter with experience writing landing page copy, rather than one who writes landing pages on Monday, social media posts on Tuesday, and blog posts on Wednesday.
If you want to hire a copywriter, avoid writing job descriptions like this:
Once again, it's not necessarily bad.
But, it leaves the door open for pretty much any writer to apply.
Some will have social media experience, others writing ads, others with landing pages. Some applicants might have written every type, some only one type.
The person hiring for the job will need to review a ton of applications before finding the few people with all of the necessary experience.
If they wanted better quality end work, and a smoother process for each of the writing tasks, I'd prefer it if they split it into multiple job posts.
- Someone to work on their ads
- A blog content writer
- An email copywriter
They'd be able to find specialist for each area, have higher-quality work done, and know their tasks are in the hand of experts.
A potential pitfall of this strategy is that the one copywriter won't be able to easily jump between tasks, and it'll end up hurting the quality of the work, through no major fault of the copywriter.
Hiring the right type of writer is key to a successful project, whether it's blog posts, landing page copy, or ads.
If you need long-form educational content like blog posts, look for a content writer.
If you need short-form copy for a landing page, or Facebook Ads, then you should look for a copywriter.
Remember, there are always edge cases. When hiring a writer, look for past experience on similar tasks, potential, and dig into their processes to see how they're going to approach your project.