Copywriter, Ghostwriter, Content Writer… What’s It All Mean?

ghost-writer2With Halloween just around the corner, it might seem like the perfect time to hire a ghostwriter, but depending on your project you might rather have a copywriter or a content writer or someone else entirely.  Just like there are lots of flavors of delicious donuts in the world, there are lots of types of delicious writers out there.  You might want one with pink frosting or that one over there with the sprinkles… you know they’re all donuts, but they’re also not the same — not by a donut mile.

So, let’s get right into it.  A writer by any other name is something wretched, I’m sure.  You’re probably familiar with novelists, they write novels, and journalists, they write news stories.  Although many writers wear multiple hats, here’s the break down of other really common types you’ll find:

Ghostwriter.  A ghostwriter is a special kind of writer, treat them gently.  It’s hard to find a good ghost — but if you do, throw money at them to keep them happy.  Ghostwriters do your work for you, in a voice that your audience would believe is yours.  Basically, they’re doing your homework and your teacher won’t even notice.  It’s quite a skill to be able to write in another person’s voice or bend to a voice of a writer who came before but is now gone.

Copywriter.  Like ghostwriters, copywriters have a special sort of skill that other writers lack.  They know how to sell your product and they’ll help your site turn clicks into sales.  Unlike other writers, copywriters have at least a rudimentary understanding of Search Engine Optimization, can help you with your keywords and metadata and know how to write a Call to Action that gets noticed.

Content Writer.  These dirt-encrusted writers dwell in small, dimly lit rooms banging out copy for less than they’d make flipping burgers.  If your site is in need of content that doesn’t necessarily require a sales message behind it, you may choose to employ one of these skittish creatures, but whatever you do, don’t feed them after midnight.  As far as writing skill goes, most people who market themselves as content writers are very low on the totem pole, so expect extremely mixed results.

No matter what type of writer you’re looking for, from sublime to unwashed and heathenly, understanding the difference between types of writers is a must before you start your search.  Beware cheap substitutions and always ask for samples.

Why I’m a Copywriter

10494722_712028378863229_6891137802911948707_nSo, you know a little about me now, and you may find yourself wondering how someone like me who had an illustrious career interviewing farmers and snapping highly controversial photos of cow utters could have ever given it all up to be a mere desk jockey.  You’re an asshole, but I see your point.  Normally, I’d answer this question with dollar signs, but I think I’ll actually answer it in hopes of elevating whoever reads this drivel a little.

I’m a copywriter because journalism got boring.  I’m a copywriter because I like a challenge.  I’m a copywriter because no two days are ever the same.  The stress level isn’t any lower, the editors aren’t any less fuckery, but I came to an understanding about newspapers a long, long time ago: everything in them is a vehicle to sell advertising space.  The myth of news for the sake of informing the masses was always just that: a myth.

I actually became a copywriter by accident.  I sort of fell backward into this career, but don’t let that make you think I’m not a total professional.  In my dark days, after the newspaper in Marshfield was done, I applied for every writing job I found online.  Hell, I didn’t know what a copywriter was, but I was sure I could figure it out.  I mean, I took poetry AND playwriting in college, so surely I was capable of anything.

I picked up lots of little jobs with trade magazines reporting and websites grinding copy, but one job — just one — was with a marketing house.  God only knows why they decided to give me a shot, but they did, and the rest was kind of history.  When I got my first assignment, I thought to myself, “People surely can’t be paying for this.”  But much to my surprise, they were!  So that’s how I became a copywriter.  You wanted to know why I still am, though, and that’s a much shorter answer.

Unlike other genres of writing, I feel like I can really directly help people with my words as a copywriter.  My college days were a constant struggle between my wanting to follow my artistic-type urges and my need for a viable career — that’s how I ended up with a degree in American history.  I saw myself with a PhD, writing about history and teaching and maybe finding a middle ground I could live with for a while.

My dear newspapers were already dying by the time I finally got around to going off to school, you see.  I knew there was no future there.  But I’ve always been a helpful type, so when I discovered that there was good money in being able to explain things to other people really well — heck, I knew that was exactly what I was born to do.  I’ve been doing for the last four years, and I have to say, I’m only getting better.  So, there’s that, too.  I’m hot stuff…