Mark Terry

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Job Titles For Writers

I've been meaning to write more here and for some time I've been meaning to write about the topic of job titles. Which is to say, for freelance writers going through job postings, and, I imagine, for full-time writers looking for jobs, there are a lot of different names for types of writing gigs, not all of which make sense, or that seem to have become coded within the industries they represent and not necessarily to writers. Feel free to add yours.

Technical Writer - This once referred primarily to writers who wrote technical materials for engineering and manufacturing areas. Even though I am, technically, a technical writer in the area of healthcare and medicine, I'm not really a technical writer. Because, as I said, this tends to refer to engineering, manufacturing, and increasingly, computer/IT-related writing gigs. Being "technically a writer" is something else and probably applies to people like Dan Brown and James Patterson for two very different reasons. (That's a sarcastic joke, in case you didn't get it. Although I will say, I have, from time to time, enjoyed both of their works. One, for Dan Brown before he became DAN BROWN, AUTHOR OF THE DA VINCI CODE, and James Patterson, before he started handing off the actual writing duties to other people).

Medical Writer - If people press me about my writing and what type I do, I usually say medical writing because it gets them to leave me alone. Yes, I write a great deal about healthcare and medicine and biotechnology. But, technically speaking, a medical writer writes high-end medical materials, typically for pharmaceutical agencies. At least in terms of what sorts of job postings you see, that's mostly what they're referring to. And although I have a medical background, these gigs are more commonly looking for MDs, PhDs, or people with life science degrees who have had specific training in writing the regulatory materials needed get a drug application to the FDA. If you can do this type of writing, there's a lot of work and it pays a shitload of money, but alas, it's a bit above my pay grade, so to speak.

Copywriter - This one is tricky, but usually refers to people writing some version of advertising copy. These days that can mean print ads, radio ads, TV ads, or a variety of marketing materials that include white papers, market research reports, press releases, etc. I do a lot of this, but, again, within the industry, there is a "copywriter" and there is something you almost never see advertised, but is what I am: a "technical copywriter." A "technical copywriter" tends more toward white papers, market research reports and less toward website copy and advertising copy. Most of the website copywriting I do I refer to as "technical website copywriting" because it's, well, technical, like product descriptions for a clinical lab or a biotech supply company.

B2B and B2C - I wanted to throw these out because they're common in business and technical areas, but writers off the boat, so to speak, may not understand. B2B = business to business. B2C = business to consumer. I write a lot, mostly I would say, B2B. That is to say, I write for professional audiences. Even when not writing white papers and website copy, most of my article writing is for trade journals, i.e., publications about a specific trade. For instance, Podiatry Management, which runs business-y articles about how to run your podiatry practice.

Content Writer - I would want to make sure you understand that "content" refers to, well, the stuff you put into an article, as opposed to say, "he was a happy and content writer." I figure this one to be a catch-all phrase for people that don't actually know any of the other terms. Mostly I see this advertised by "content farms" that want to pay writers $5 to write 400 words or that want to give you a piece of royalties based on how many click-thrus you get on your article. I suspect very few content writers are content with their pay and when it comes to content farms such as Demand Studios and their ilk, well, fuck 'em, they suck. Or as I heard Joaquim Phoenix say on Fresh Air today, "The Internet is a big place and needs a lot of content." Which is apparently true and it's also apparent that there are very few standards about the quality of it, but there you go. Writer beware!

Any others? I'm sure there are.

Mostly, I prefer to myself as a "writer" or a "freelance writer."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Copy Writer/Editor?

(I'm grappling with this question right now as I try to design business cards for myself as a freelance writer.--which is how I found your post) I do the whole gamut....technical writing, marketing, B2B, B2G, federal and foundation grant proposals, business summaries, minutes keeper....I do it all!

But I don't want to just put "Consultant". Thinking of maybe choosing two-three to bullet out underneath the word Consultant....I'm not sure---it's a tough thing to decide!

3:49 PM  

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