How to Compete with All the Newbie Copywriters

Bob Bly here. This week, I’m giving you my take on how to make it as a freelance copywriter today.

On Monday, I gave you the three key items to freelance writing success. And yesterday, I pointed out the two kinds of competitors you’ll face.

One group is the old pros … senior copywriters, many of them A-level and the rest solid B-level, with much more experience and better credentials – a large client list, great testimonials, good track record of results – than you may have. And I gave you my key strategy for succeeding despite the existence of this heavyweight competition.

The second type of competition comes from newbie copywriters. And no matter where you are in your career, this big group of newbie copywriters represents competition for you.

If you’re an old pro like me, the large pool of newbies gives clients a cheaper alternative to hiring you, putting downward pressure on fees.

If you’re a newbie copywriter, how do you compete against other newbies with training, skill level, and experience as good as or better than yours?

Here are a few strategies that can help you win work and beat out your competition …

  1. To begin with, as already discussed this week, be a specialist, not a generalist.

    Specialists are more in demand and command higher fees. They have an easier time getting assignments and have fewer competitors than generalists.

    To be a specialist, you must pick a niche, marketing yourself as a specialist in that niche, and master the subject matter.

  2. Become a copy cub.

    A limited number of senior copywriters (and I am not among them) hire junior copywriters in some fashion to work with them. These juniors are called “copy cubs,” a term I find demeaning, but no one asked me. (To be fair, junior newspaper reports used to be called “cub reporters.”)

    Becoming a copy cub to a big-name, A-list copywriter can accelerate your career in several ways. First, it’s great training – one of the best ways to accelerate your progress as a high-performance copywriter.

    Second, you build a track record and a portfolio you can use to sell yourself to other clients. Caveat: some senior copywriters require their cubs to keep the relationship confidential and do not allow them to present samples or results as their own.

  3. Get a staff job.

    Get a staff position as a copywriter at a top company in your niche.

    If you want to write financial copy, there’s no better preparation than to become a staff copywriter at Agora.

    If you want to write for high-tech, a job as a writer with Microsoft or Dell would be good starting points.

    For social media? Facebook is the place to be.

    I worked as a staff copywriter for big corporations for a few years before going freelance, and it was a beneficial apprenticeship for me.

  4. The Claude Hopkins secret.

    Legendary copywriter Claude Hopkins said the reason he earned more than twice as much as any other copywriter of the day was that he worked more than twice as hard and long.

    Putting your nose to the grindstone can place you in an income bracket your fellow copywriters would envy. I became a millionaire while still in my 30s, all from my writing. And I still work 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Tell me in the comments which strategy you plan to use to get ahead of your competition.

And then tomorrow, I’ll share what I think is the most important thing you should be focusing on to be a successful freelance copywriter.

Stay tuned …

About the Author:

Bob Bly has been a copywriter for 36 years, is the author of 85 published books, has a BS in chemical engineering, and writes both B2B and consumer direct response. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s Top Copywriter.”

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Published: August 26, 2015

15 Responses to “How to Compete with All the Newbie Copywriters”

  1. I want to get a staff job on facebook


  2. I just want to strategise on social media writing


  3. Number one - be a specialist!

    Guest (Sue)

  4. I am a newbee, specialized in Tax Preparation. I am willing to work as a copywriter or start my own niche in Taxes. I am open for suggestions. I am retired, Specialized, Experienced, Tax Preparer, looking for additional income.


  5. Thank you Mr. Bly, I feel that because I learn quickly and am a very hard worker, becoming a copy cub and learning directly from professional copywriters, I would advance myself the fastest. I prefer to work virtual but that wouldn't stop me from becoming the best I could be. There is nothing more valuable than working alongside an expert.
    I really appreciate your articles that inspire and help us keep going. I want to learn and learn it right so that I can become successful.

    Vicky Jeter

  6. Thanks for this information, Bob. Well, the strategies that I plan to follow is to specialize in a niche (instead of being a generalist), and then put my nose to the grindstone! But of course, to start out I will shoot for several Spec assignments with clients in order to build up my portfolio.


  7. Bob I appreciate your honesty about what we will face as "newbie" copywriters. As a new COS student planning to specialize in the financial niche, I hope finding work will not be as difficult as you've made it sound. I would like to be a staff writer for Stansberry or Agora.

    Doug Martens

  8. Bob,

    The two best options I have is to become a specialist, and that needs to be thought out as to what niche. Secondly, the Claude Hopkins secret. Although not really a secret, many work hard to get you.

    Bradley G

  9. My niche is the business of construction. I have prepared bid documents. I´m familiar with construction materials, equipment, material processing machinery, crushers and screeners. I Will welcome the opportunity to be a copy cub. I already do some writing in my present job as a construction manager. I am ready to put my nose to the grind. I can work long hours.

    Guest (Lionel)

  10. Hi Mr Bly; I believe my best option is "The Claude Hopkins Secret". I have to just put in the hard work and get there. I don't know enough yet to start any other way. It won't be too long though.

    Sarah F

  11. Thanks so much for your to-the-point, no-nonsense advice. Very generous of you to share with us greenhorns. I just finished working on my freelance website, will take it live probably this weekend. Oddly enough, my USP is "The Claude Hopkins Secret." Was glad to read your article and see I had made a good choice. Thanks again!

    Linda S A

  12. I plan to have a little weird niche of my own, work to a schedule, ponder what I have written, check my spelling, and grammar, and go for quality over quantity.

    Guest (Janet nva)

  13. Copy cub sounds great. Great way to get your feet wet. I'd like to write for Microsoft since I have background working with Microsoft and know their products very well and have total respect for the work they've done and do. Been trying to figure out how to work with M\S. You do great work Bob.


  14. Hi Bob,

    Really a very informative piece of writing. I agree with you to follow the suit for success to be a staff, a cub or a specialist. I am mastering the skills for B2B/B2C niche. Though you don't get recognition as a 'cub' but you get work which makes you expert in your niche. I have tried and requested to some established copywriter for considering me as a cub but no response came. Will you please let know how can i get work as a copy cub.
    Thanks and regards

    Mahesh Seelvi

    Guest (Mahesh seelvi)

  15. Sir, I am a published author with six books to my credit. My next book, children;s book is coming out next month. I am writing a sequel to it. However, I want to use my spare time for copywriting. Since I am a retired naval officer and a ship captain of the Mercantile Marine, my niche should be about ships,merchant ships,sea trade, navigation and allied matters. Could you identify my likely clients please?Incidentally, I've been a member of AWAI for long now.
    Thanks, GVR.

    Guest (GVR)

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