An advertising corporation hiring a fiction novel writer when they were looking for a business copywriter would not be a good move.
Likewise, a writer signing up to complete a company whitepaper when he only has a meager grasp on what that project actually entails could end up equally badly.
Whether you are a writer looking to take on more freelance work or a buyer trying to hire a freelancer who specializes in your area, you’ll need to understand the differences between the types of writing you can find on freelance websites.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering…
“What is copywriting, anyway?”
…you’re reading the right article.
We’ll help you figure out the nuances of each of the most common types of writing so you can avoid misunderstandings and preventable pitfalls.
But if you prefer to watch a video instead, click here:
What are the most common types of writing you can find on freelance websites?
An exhaustive list of different types of writing would be huge. From autobiographies to newspaper articles, each medium requires a different tone, voice, and style than most others.
To help get you started navigating the sometimes murky waters of freelance content marketplaces, this list is intended to provide brief overviews of what you can expect when you search by a particular keyword:
Copywriting: writing for publicity materials or advertisements.
This can include things like writing email newsletter campaigns and putting together landing pages to generate clicks on ads or sales of a product.
Scriptwriting: writing scripts for everything from video games to movies, plays, explainer videos, corporate advertisements, and more.
Web pages or web copy: writing that is specifically geared toward being displayed on a website, either for general content or for generating sales.
Whitepapers: a type of copywriting that distills complex information into comprehensive reports on a particular subject.
This can include topics like market research reports on a specific sector or the persuasive promotion of a product’s benefits based on research.
Technical writing: writing that explains or instructs readers on a particular subject.
Legal explanations and product instruction manuals both fall under the umbrella of technical writing.
Blog writing: writing specifically for blog posts.
This is different from general web content writing. Blogs tend to have a more informal, conversational style and may be much longer and more anecdotal than most web pages.
Article or content writing: writing for the purpose of informing the reader about a subject or providing general content.
Technically, article writing can fall under many different categories like web pages, blog posts, technical articles, journalism, and plenty more.
Writing for SEO: writing for the purpose of getting placed higher in search engines.
Search engine optimization is important when writing all sorts of internet content, from advertisements and sales copy to how-to articles. If you want your writing to be seen by readers online, consider brushing up on SEO techniques.
Journalistic writing: reporting on news or events.
You may publish this type of writing on the internet, in magazines, in newspapers, or other journalism media.
Creative writing: simply put, this is writing that requires creativity, in contrast with technical research or reporting on facts.
Creative writing usually falls under poetry or fiction genres.
Novel writing: a type of fictional creative writing that focuses on long-form stories.
Think full-length books or even multi-part series. Novel writing is very popular on freelance websites right now because self-publishing platforms have made it easy to package and sell novels in ebook form.
Short story writing: also a form of creative writing, usually fictional, but focusing on short-form stories instead of longer ones.
Short stories are not usually more than 10,000 words or so. You may also find freelancers selling “quick read” stories in this category.
Ghostwriting: this can be any type of writing (article, blog post, novel, etc.), but the key feature of ghostwriting is that it’s done without giving credit to the writer.
The writer is a “ghost.” Once a customer has purchased the piece, he or she owns full rights to the work and may put his or her own name on it as the author. In return for giving up the right to claim their work, ghostwriters are generally compensated with higher pay.
Social media posting: writing for the purpose of being displayed on social media.
Social media writers put together posts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social platforms. Typically, companies hire freelancers to generate social media posts advertising a product, a new blog post, an event, or some information about the company.
Email marketing and newsletters: writing for the purpose of sending out emails to subscribers informing them about important new releases, changes, or news regarding a business or product.
Technically, email marketing and newsletter writing are forms of copywriting.
B2B writing: writing content from one business to another, or “business to business.”
If a company manufactures cardiac monitors and sells them to healthcare technology distributors (other businesses) who then sell the monitors to hospitals (the end-users), their correspondence with those distributors would be considered B2B writing.
B2C writing: writing directed from the business to the customer, or end-user.
If the healthcare technology distributors offered pamphlets selling their cardiac monitors to the purchasing coordinator for a hospital (the customer), that would be B2C writing.
Biography writing: writing nonfiction pieces on the real-life and events of a person.
This type of writing tends to be journalistic, since technically the writer researches and reports facts on a person’s life.
Resume writing: a type of writing where a writer interviews a client and puts together a resume based on that client’s work experience and education.
This can often require skills like research and document formatting beyond simple writing skills.
How-to articles: articles written on the basis of explaining how to do something to the reader.
It could be something like “How to Change Your Own Oil” or “How to Master Job Interview Techniques.”
Product descriptions: crafting descriptions for items listed on marketplaces.
This can range anywhere from describing the cut and color of gemstones in a jewelry store magazine to creating in-depth descriptions of products on an Amazon seller’s store page and everything in between.
Product reviews: writing reviews of products listed on marketplaces.
Freelancers should be wary of jobs asking for product reviews. While review jobs are often legitimate (i.e., the writer is asked to test out a product and provide an accurate and truthful review of their experience using the product), many others are fraudulent. Fraudulent product review jobs will ask writers to write fake or embellished reviews, often for items they have never used at all, in an attempt to mislead future shoppers into buying this “highly reviewed” product.
Buyer’s guides: informative articles intended to help shoppers make a decision on a particular type of product.
For example, a writer may be asked to test five heated blankets from Amazon and write a buyer’s guide explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each blanket. Ultimately, the goal is to form a recommendation based on the best option so that shoppers can make their purchase based on an informed decision. Similarly to product review jobs, writers should be careful to accept jobs in this category that require honest opinions (rather than pushing a particular product above the others).
How can you determine whether a freelancer is an expert in the type of writing you’re looking for?
The keyword here is specialization.
If you’re looking for a technical writer to piece together a detailed instruction manual for a highly complicated air conditioner repair manual, you probably won’t be happy with a jack-of-all-trades style of writer.
Though generalists can be great writers, they rarely truly excel in one field beyond all others. If they did, they would likely focus in that area and work their way to the top tier of freelancers in that field, where they could command higher rates and more interesting projects.
So if a writer’s profile says he specializes in “nonfiction,” keep scrolling. What you’ll want to look for is a bio that emphasizes a hefty amount of experience with technical writing in particular, with a portfolio of example work to back up those claims.
Even better, try to look for a writer who not only specializes in technical writing but in your particular topic of technical writing. If a freelancer can show previous work writing repair manuals for appliance companies, you’ve hit the jackpot.
Likewise, how can a freelancer set himself apart in his field of specialty?
Make sure you clearly highlight the type of writing you consider your specialty on your profile bio.
Ideally, back up that expertise with work showcased in an extensive professional portfolio.
If you don’t have a portfolio of previous work from actual clients, write something anyway.
Prospective clients will likely be more interested that you can write under their areas of interest rather than hinging their decision on your history of selling work to clients.
Who cares if you have made money from your work before? What matters is that you’re capable of doing a great job churning out high-quality writing according to this client’s specific deadlines.
If the client can see from your writing samples that you have the tone, style, and skill they’re looking for, they likely won’t care about much else.
Whether you’re coming at it from the perspective of someone trying to hire a writer or as a freelancer looking for work, it’s critical that you understand the different types of writing you will find in job listings.
The goal is to form the perfect match between the client’s needs and the writer’s specialty, at a mutually beneficial price point. It all starts with deciding which if the above writing niches most closely fits your situation. Keep in mind, there are other types of writing not listed here; if at first, you don’t find the perfect match, start with the closest one and dig deeper to find what you’re looking for.