Content Writing vs. Copywriting: What is the difference?

Remember the lyrics from the ’70s song, “Does anybody really know what time it is (I don’t)?” The question amongst many of us, to the tune of the song, is “Does anyone really know what copywriting is (I don’t)?”

Unknowingly, bloggers tend to identify themselves as content writers, or even copywriters, without an inkling of what they are saying. A blogger may be a writer who crafts a 200-word post because they are inspired to do so, or because they are skilled at creating a quick message. There isn’t a solid connection between writing when you feel inspired to do so vs. writing compelling content that keeps the reader reading or copy that compels the reader to plop down something personal (i.e. money or an email address). So, is there a connection between content and copywriting? Yes!

Purpose is the Defining Element

content vs copywriting www.relianceoutsourcing.comPurpose is the defining line between content writing and copywriting.

Think of a copywriter as an immensely talented salesman who persuades people to take action through text (written or printed work). A copywriter’s precise purpose is to promote, advertise, and directly market through written copy materials.

The purpose of a content writer is to capture the reader’s interest, to inform, and to build trust.

The two roles intertwine, so buckle your seatbelt for the twisty ride as I sort it out.

Content Writing

Content helps to market brands.

Through well-structured blogs and website articles, content educates readers and markets brands as the experts.

You may have heard the advice, “Keep the blog post short. In today’s society, people are no longer readers.” Content writers do not follow this “rule.” They spend a sizable chunk of their time completing research and fleshing out content to create comprehensive and evergreen articles that captivate the reader—basically keeping them on the page (reading…and reading…and reading).

Why does content writing not follow the “keep it short” rule? Content is a tool that establishes brands as authoritative and knowledgeable leaders in their industry. I recently read an article where it was obvious that the writer knew nothing about the topic. The post was short and sweet, granted, but I didn’t want to linger long. I learned zilch! I wondered, “Why even bother reading this filler material?” It was a waste of my time, and I vowed to never visit the website again.

Tip: Think of content as web real estate that never goes away. Real estate that search engines index. The more acreage your content claims, the more success in search results.

Basic components of a content writer role:

  • Completes research, which enables writing from a wide range of industries
  • Writes in different voices, which requires studying both the brand itself and competition
  • Writes in a friendly, compelling, and “human” style (content should not read like a procedure manual)
  • Is knowledgeable with social media—informative writers must keep up with the trends (right?)
  • Understands keyword density and current SEO best practices
  • Some (not all) use “light” web formatting tools, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Completes pieces within reasonable deadlines, with time allotted for research and formatting (not “we need this done by tomorrow” requests)

Copywriting

Written copy is geared towards pitching either a product or a brand.

Unlike content, the focus of copy is to influence the reader with a short-term goal—to sign up for the newsletter, or to leave an email address, or better yet, to buy a product!

Remember, the purpose of content is to educate the reader, and even though this is important for the trust of a brand or product, it does not compel the reader (emotionally) to subscribe or to buy—as does copy.

Copy is found in a host of places, anywhere there is an audience for advertising.

  • Online in web content and pop-ups, sales funnels, taglines, social media/banners/profiles, and email
  • Printed materials – packaging, magazines, brochures, and paper handouts
  • Public spaces – public transport (buses, taxies, delivery vehicles, etc.) as well as billboards, posters, and murals
  • Media – television, radio, digital (gaming, apps, phones, and technology devices)
  • Visual arts – movies, video, and photography

Basic components of a copywriter role:

  • Completes research, knows the market and the competition
  • Writes in different voices
  • Writes in a professional and compelling style (pointed at a brand or product)
  • Is knowledgable with social media—market trends are a key element to sales
  • Understands keyword density and current SEO best practices
  • Some (not all) use “light” web formatting tools, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Completes pieces within quick turnaround times (when focused on smaller projects)

Let’s spread the word – content writer vs. copywriter

So, the next time you hear someone say, “I am a copy (or content) writer,” you’ll know EXACTLY what they do. We can only hope…and perhaps you can help (us/other) writers educate the world (remove some of the mystery), so potential clients, and want-to-be writers understand the foundations of copy vs. content.

Credit: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

 

Smart Goals and Word of the Year

I am not fond of New Year resolutions. I like goals, but only those that are smart goals, with my main focus set on goals that are accountable and measurable.

Smart stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

So, if I say I want to lose weight in 2019, that is not a smart goal. Why isn’t it a smart goal? Take a look at these questions and answers:

  1. How much weight do I want to lose? 22 pounds
  2. Is weight loss achievable? Yes – through diet and exercise
  3. In what time frame will I lose the weight? (How much weight loss per week, month, or year?) No less than 2 pounds per month, 22 pounds lost by 12/31/2019.

Now that I’ve answered these questions with specifics, I compiled my responses and set a smart goal. My goal is achievable. It isn’t as if I said I plan to bring in one million dollars revenue within the next week. Would that be achievable? Ummm…likely NOT. I will lose 22 pounds within the set time frame, 2 pounds per month, and 22 pounds lost by 12/31/2019.

When setting business goals, relevancy is crucial. So, let’s look at an example.

Fact, I am currently a virtual assistant and my business focus is freelance writing and web design and maintenance, and my ideal clients are life coaches, therapists, speakers, authors, consultants and teachers—female owned and operated small businesses.

Example goal for my business: To obtain new clients in 2019 and the deliverables are colorful yearly planner templates.

Is this goal:

  1. Specific? No. See the next question.
  2. Measurable? No. How many new clients in 2019?
  3. Achievable? Yes, but only if additional smart goals are set, such as, learn how to make the yearly planner templates (when and how?). Determine how the templates are going to be produced (color, file type, etc.), and add these products to my current business offerings (on my site and in marketing materials, by when?).
  4. Relevant? No. Not to my current business model. What changes to do I need to make to my business model, specifically, and by when?
  5. Time-bound? No. By when do I plan to onboard the new clients (per week, month, or year)? By when do I need to produce the planner page products?

Before I create my smart goals for any season, I focus on a single word. Grit was my word in January 2018. Did I follow through with all of my 2018 goals (did I stick to them with grit)? No. Some, yes. Where did I fall off track in 2018? I did not set and retain the measurable and time-bound portion of the goals. I wanted to claim grit, but “wanted to” and “did” are two entirely different things. Without measurable and time-bound goals, accountability flies out the window. Poof! Gone to the wind. I claim victory for many smaller, measurable, and time-bound 2018 goals.

My word for 2019 was difficult to come up with. I ended up asking my husband, my in-house life coach partner for help. He said, “Extraordinary.” At first, the introvert in me wanted to reject the notion.Then, I thought why not? Mirriam–Webster defines extraordinary as 1a: going beyond what is usual, regular, or customary. 1b: exceptional to a very marked extent. 2: employed for or sent on a special function or service. Wa-la! 1a describes me to a “t.” My focus is to go above and beyond for my clients—always! I do everything in my power to help make the operations of my client’s business flow smoother through the work that I do.

My calling: provide encouragement and inspiration to women, through both written and verbal words, and to plant and grow myself as an example of light in the world.

My planning process involves taking the word of the year (or month, whatever…as the word can change throughout the year) and wrapping my smart goals around that word. What do I want to achieve in January 2019? Let’s make that extraordinary! Let’s celebrate business and life, and that’s how I will claim “exceptional to a very marked extent.” Do I want to write a few blog posts, or do I want to reach thousands of people through encouraging and helpful words? The latter. Extraordinary.

I always keep a white board in my office with either words or a quote that moves my soul, inspiration in my line of vision at all times. I don’t want to erase these words, but I’ll have to if I want to allow new ones to come into my life. Here are 2018’s quotes and thoughts: When was the last time you did something for the first time? (Think like a child. Look at life with refreshed eyes. Life is a gift.) Don’t believe everything you THINK. (You are what you think…) All in!! (It is all or nothing, right?!)

Final note: Just to keep things transparent, I do not plan to design planner pages for clients. I do design my own. I bought oodles of pre-made planners last season and didn’t like a single one except for the bullet journal.

This year, I have a bullet journal, a blank spiral bound calendar for social media planning, and inexpensive spiral bound notebooks for daily and monthly notes (specific notes what worked/did not work in my business/marketing). I also print my own month (begin and end) questions. Such as:

  • What milestones did you reach this month?
  • What is the must-reach goal for this month?
  • Did you reach your goal(s)?
  • What stopped you from reaching your goal(s)?
  • What are you looking forward to this month?
  • What are you grateful for?

These are example questions, there are more. You can see that I ask questions that dig into me personally. Why grow a business if you’re not happy? We have to stay on track with who we are uniquely created to be.

Non-affiliate link to bullet journal: My favorite brand Leuchtturm. Numbered pages. Can also be bought in discount stores, but not this brand, and the paper quality is not the same.

No Distractions are Small

“Can I interrupt you for a moment? It will only be for a second.”

A second. Isn’t it difficult to rise above any interruptions even when it is short-lived? Yes!

I find this especially challenging as a freelancer, to be in the midst of focusing on a task when I hear the ping of an instant message. When I stop to read the message, even if I pause for only a few minutes, it requires a much longer time to get back into the groove of what I was working on. I do not yet know how to resolve this issue with instant messaging (with humor – are you ready to create the next million-dollar invention?). What if instant messaging came with a mode of notification that lets us know—without looking at our phone—that the sender clicked the option “no need to respond to me right away.” Doesn’t that sound like having an “easy” button on our desktop? Ha.

Email? An email comes with a lesser sense of urgency. I’ve noticed comments and articles that email is going out of style, especially with the younger generation, but seriously, instant connection creates crunchiness in our day, and the old dinosaur—email—doesn’t hold the urgency that instant messaging does. We might peruse our email basket once or twice a day, no more than 3-4 (and that’s too much for productivity).

“Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions. And yet amid all of this we still assume we can rise about it and do what has to be done within our deadlines.” (via Gary Keller, The One Thing)

This post isn’t a complaint. The question is, “How do we handle interruptions?”  The best choice, in my estimation, is to communicate our needs to others. Ask your clients, and clients ask your contractors, how do you want to be reached? What is your preferred form of communication when it is not an emergency?

So, as I map out my to-do list for the day I also include time for interruptions. Of course, we wouldn’t be in business if we weren’t being interrupted at some point, right? But, what is the solution to staying on track when we’ve been pulled away? Again, I believe it is communication. I also believe it is collaboration—an agreement of sorts between client/contractor/employee, and this is an integral piece of a smooth-operating team, especially when remote team members are part of the picture.

Last, but not least, be prepared to create a landmark. I worked for a refrigeration service company in Central Texas. From May through late September, we were inundated with data and interruptions. As the full-charge bookkeeper, my office was my territory, yet, when people lined up at the customer service desk, or when the phones rang off the hook, I knew when to set everything down and jump out to help. What I learned was how to landmark. I wrote down where I was in my task, and I carefully took a moment to do so. I responded to customers right away, but only after politely saying, “I will be with you in one moment.” Customers appreciate knowing that you care about your own work, and they love the full service and attention they receive once you’ve cleared your mind for them. Always make the “one moment” a quick moment, don’t delay the customer for long!

How do you handle interruptions? How do you bookmark your thoughts when you are interrupted?

 

The Importance of Inspiration, How to Find It

wwww.relianceoutsourcing.com importance of inspirationI looked the word inspiration up in my beloved hardback, my yellowed and aged thesaurus. Just by reading the string of inspirational words in print, my mind went into picture painting mode.

Mirriam-Webster also led me to continue research with their definition of inspiration:

  1. a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
  2. the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
  3. the act of influencing or suggesting opinions
In an article from Harvard Business Review, Why Inspiration Matters, the importance of inspiration includes three (of several) key points:
  • Inspiration is the springboard for creativity.
  • Inspiration facilitates progress toward goals.
  • Inspiration increases well-being.

This is also thought provoking: Inspiration is not the same as positive affect. “Inspiration is more related to an awakening to something new, better, or more important: transcendence of one’s previous concerns.”

Inspiration is incredibly important to us as people, as business owners, or in any role that is part of our walk in life. Without inspiration we fall short of growth. We forget to connect to our value system. We lose creativity. We stop settings goals — we do not feel driven to meet goals that we’ve already set.

So, how do we seek inspiration? We know when we’ve become inspired. We recognize that stirred up or awakening moment. But, if we don’t feel motivated, how do we find it?

Step Away and Take a Break

It is difficult to find or recognize positive inspiration when you are in the middle of beating yourself up. Step away, take a break, and do something different. Go somewhere — get into a different environment. Take a walk. Take a drive in the car. Go to a movie. Dig in the garden. Just go somewhere other than the place where you were frustrated and looking for inspiration!

Have Faith in Yourself

Sometimes it feels impossible to piece it all together. This is especially true when we are trying to reach our end goals and feel as if we cannot connect the dots to get there.

Remember this, we can look at where we have been, and connect our path from there to the present, but we cannot connect the dots to where we are going because we aren’t there yet.

If you feel lost or confused, with the feeling that you cannot make sense out of where you are going, it is okay. It is okay to shift gears. To is okay to rewrite action steps that move you towards your goals.

Walt Disney said it well, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

So, whatever your stuck point is. Don’t sweat it. As long as you keep moving forward, even if moving forward includes taking a break, or taking in music, art, gardening, or a nap, inspiration will return. 

 

5 Basic Proofreading Habits

proofreading www.realianceoutsourcing.comProofreading can be skewed based on our mood, our level of fatigue, as well as our mindset. If you think you are not going to do a good job of proofreading, then you probably won’t. 

I frequently proofread for clients and friends, and when I write, I find it over-the-top difficult to proofread my own work if I don’t follow my system.

1. Wait!

Do not complete a final proofread as soon as you’ve finished writing the piece. Always set your work aside. Proofread your work hours later.

When you proofread your finished product immediately, your eyes have a tendency to see what you want them to see. You do not see the depth of your grammar, spelling, or even the flow of your words. You hear the story or words as you intended to write them, not as you actually wrote them.

2. Read backward

Seriously. Read your work in a different order than you wrote it. This fools your mind into seeing it as a fresh piece, and this opens your eyes to see glaring mistakes such as misspellings, repeated words, and incorrect formatting.

3. Change the format

Print the piece out. Read it on paper. Or, read the piece on a different computer (on mobile – your phone, or on a tablet). Looking at your work in a different format helps you to see the writing with fresh eyes. Go as far as changing the font or the color of the print, anything that helps you to see the work through a different set of lenses.

4. Read your work out loud

This is key! Read the piece out loud in a natural voice. When you stumble while reading sentences, you’ll know the sentence is structured poorly. As you read out loud, you might find yourself saying, “Wait!…What?…This makes no sense!” Bingo! You’ve spotted an area of your writing that needs correction or clarification.

5. Read it again

Read your work multiple times. If you are not comfortable with the piece after a second reading, put it aside until you are rested, then read it again.

6. When in doubt…ask a proofreader

After re-reading several times, if you feel you might have missed errors, or if you feel you have what I call “fuzzy” muddy writing, ask someone else to read your piece. It can be painful when someone changes your words, or recommends a complete string of corrections, but, you’ll learn from it, and your finished writing will be completed with clarity. Remember, the world listens and holds interest when your writing is error free!

A good proofreader will either edit, if you’ve instructed them to do so, or they will make suggestions for correction. People that proofread on a regular basis have well-trained “eagle eyes” for sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. Don’t miss out on help!

(Note:  This blog post is for the basic practice of self-proofreading. When I proofread for a client much more is involved. In short, a proofreader/editor should complete more than one read-through, a spelling check, a grammar check, a check of all links, a fact check (if client requests), ensure the piece flows well, and that it includes only pertinent information – no drifting off-topic.)