What is a copywriter? Hint: It has nothing to do with copyrights

“So what do you do?” someone asks me.

“I’m a copywriter,” I reply.

“Oh, so you do copyrights for movies and books?”

This is the typical exchange that occurs when I explain to someone what I do for a living — so often that I expect it now — but copywriting is not the same as copyrighting. And being a copywriter is not quite the same as being a writer sans copy.

Still confused?

Let me break it down for you.

What is a copywriter?

A copywriter, as the world implies, writes copy. And copy can mean anything from blog posts and press releases to social media posts, content on a website or the words you read on an ad. But here’s the catch: All that copy has to be marketing related.

Oftentimes, copywriters work for marketing, PR and advertising agencies. Large corporations may also employ copywriters in marketing departments, or work with freelance copywriters as needed. In addition to writing copy, employers may ask their copywriters to assist with content planning and marketing strategies.

Though I could tell you, “I’m a writer,” that’s not the whole truth. If I told you I was just a writer, you wouldn’t know what I write about. Am I a travel writer? A fiction writer? A feature writer? Perhaps the more nuanced term “novelist”?

Nope, at least not at work. At work, I’m a copywriter, and I specifically write copy for a senior living PR agency. The work I produce goes to promote senior living providers, as well as their individual communities.

What is a copyright?

A copyright is the legal protection afforded to original works, both written and unwritten, from reproduction without the producer’s consent. Original works are protected from the moment they’re created, but people will often take the additional step of registering — or copyrighting — their work to ensure they can take legal action should their rights be infringed.

So as a copywriter, I don’t spend my days copyrighting. But, the copy I write does indeed have copyrights. In other words, the content I produce is legally protected.

Here’s a final summary to be sure you’re clear.

Copywriting ≠ copyrighting

Copywriter ≠ writer

Copywriter = writer of marketing-related content

So next time someone tells you they’re a copywriter, don’t bring up the word “copyright,” and don’t generalize their profession by calling them a writer — they’re a copywriter, plain and simple.


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