A friend recently asked me if freelance writing and copywriting were the same thing. She was wondering since she had heard a freelance writer being called a copywriter, and a copywriter a freelance writer. My friend isn’t the first one to wonder, many people have asked me this same question before, too. So, what exactly is the difference between the two? Or… how are the two similar?
A freelance writer is one who writes for many different companies or individuals without long-term commitment to any one of them. In other words, he/she pursues a career as a writer on a contractual basis. He/she takes on a project with one employer, and when that is complete, moves on to another project with another employer. These projects may either vary, or focus on just one type, depending on whether the writer is a versatile writer or specializes in one type of material – like web writing, business writing, technical writing, copywriting, and so on. Yes, you read right – copywriting, too.
So, what does this mean? This means that copywriting is a kind, or category, of writing. Properly defined, it is writing a copy, or writing words, to promote a business, a product, an idea, or even a person, with the intention of making the reader “buy” whatever is being promoted. A copywriter may write for a company, a newspaper, or even an individual; and the writing may either be a sales copy, a sales letter, a TV commercial script, a brochure, a newspaper or magazine advertisement, or anything else similar.
To sum up, a copywriter may be a freelance writer if he/she works on contractual or project basis (and not as a permanent employee), and a freelance writer may be called a copywriter when he/she copywrites for someone. So, even if they are not the same per se, they can be one and the other at the same time.
Time for some humor now: Here’s a good video on ‘advertising’, a form of copywriting.