The 5 Types Of People Who Should Write For Content Mills – A Guest Article

by Anne Wayman

windmillI’m a freelance writer who mentors other writers. In particular, I teach writers I coach to avoid writing for the big  article sites, or any other client that pays under $50 a blog or article.

So why am I writing this post? Because there are whole categories of people for whom content sites are a great choice. If any of the people I describe below sound like you, I say find a content site that’ll pay the most or give you the best exposure, and sign up.

  1. People who don’t care about money. While I am a working writer focused on feeding my family of five and hoping to occasionally be able to afford a vacation with them and eventually retire, that’s not everybody. Some people’s spouses make a ton or they’re the Kleenex heir or whatever, and they really don¹t have to focus on income. Write on!
  2. People who have a book, class, product or service to promote. I personally think these are the very best candidates to write for mills. The pay just doesn’t matter! It’s all about exposure and promoting the other, good-paying thing you do.
  3. People who just want to get published. For some people, simply seeing their byline on an article ­ - not even in print, but just on a Web site – is an all-time thrill. It makes you feel wonderful. If writing for a content site gets you that high, I say it’s cheaper than heroin and better for you. Go for it.
  4. People with deep knowledge of a popular topic who are very fast writers. If you know a great deal about pets, home improvement or some other popular topic you see many open titles for on content sites, you may actually be able to make decent money ­ providing you are also a very speedy writer. If you can churn out three or four articles an hour and make $30 or $40 an hour this way and you find that compensation fair, that’s great! Not sure if there’ll come a day when the universe has all the articles about dog grooming it will ever need, but while the offer is out there, make hay.
  5. People who won’t market their business. I’m meeting more and more writers like this. I ask them about their marketing plan the queries they’re sending, the social media marketing, the cold-calling, prospecting… and get a blank look. They do not have the confidence to market their business. It’s not going to happen. In which case, writing for a content site that feeds you assignments and pays weekly on PayPal may be your best option.

Who shouldn’t write for content mills and other cheapskate clients? People who want to build a sustainable, rewarding, highly lucrative career as a professional writer. Writing for these sites takes too much of your valuable time, pays too little, and does little to build your credibility. It also makes your querying and marketing muscles go all slack and flabby.

They aren’t a prestige byline that will impress good-paying clients, and for most they won’t pay the mortgage. So don’t waste your time on them. For more about why professional writers shouldn’t write for content mills, read 7 Reasons Why I Won’t Write a $15 Blog.

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Carol Tice is an experienced business reporter, copywriter and blogger. She blogs twice weekly about the business of freelance writing at her Make a Living Writing blog and on Thursdays at the WM Freelance Community.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel July 9, 2014 at 7:08 pm

I feel like a horrible writer. Even after spending a great deal of time researching and writing a 400 word article for a content mill they turned me down for no discernible reason. My writing skills must stink. I am never going to try again. If the content mills don’t want me, my writing must really be bad.

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Anne Wayman July 9, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Rachel, you don’t know why the rejected your article. If you want to give up writing, fine. But make it your choice, not the mills. This small sample looks like a reasonable piece of writing.

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Carol Tice September 12, 2010 at 10:13 am

Right on, Vickie! Thanks for making my day.

But think about writing for cheap for that community magazine in a completely different way than writing for a mill, as that work would give you very useful clips for sending editors — as compared with mill clips, which I gather can really hurt your chances with traditional editors.

I wrote plenty of $50 articles for alternative papers when I started out. One of them got optioned for a movie at one point for $20,000, and my body of work there got me a staff writing job that paid $45,000 to start (and went up fast from there!). Writing for cheap for legit publications can be very worthwhile when you’re starting out.

Best of luck with it!
Carol Tice recently posted..Why I Joined a Monthly-Subscription Bloggers’ Learning CommunityMy Profile

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Vickie Mujahid September 11, 2010 at 12:33 am

I am a graduate student in a professional writing program and one my assignments is to research writing blogs that could be helpful in starting my professional writing career.

This posting on writing for content mills is not only insightful but it has allowed me to do a comparison analysis of the different viewpoints on other blogs and in the comment sections. I’ve never heard the term content mills and because I’ve only recently begun to research the world of freelance writing as an avenue to support myself, I have not attempted to seek out writing jobs. This fiction writer (by nature) has so much to learn about freelance writing.

Someone just told me today (Friday) that a local community magazine is looking for writers including online and the job paid very little but it would be good experience for me and AT LEAST I would get published. The trade off of little pay versus getting published sounded pretty fair to me. Then, I read this posting today and now I’m thankful to see this healthy discussion on if a writer should/should not write for a content mill.

I’ve read for an hour linking from one blog site to another trying to find as much information on writing for content mills. I can understand how I could gain some form of experience in writing a large amount of articles in a short timeframe for very little money. For one, some money is better than no money. Second, I love to write and I have written for free in the past and continue to do so for friends, family and for charitable events. Third, it is an opportunity to get published.

However, I’ve decided that it is not worth the money for me to bang out articles on my keyboard at the speed of lightening as if I was playing a classical piece from Beethoven on my computer keyboard. I visualized my hair wild, pajamas still on from the day before and eyes fixed wide open from an overdose of caffeine just to try to make a few dollars to help take care of me and my family. Not! I want time for my passion to write fiction and I want my writing to raise consciousness. I can’t do that writing 15 or 20 articles a month and still be poor.

Carol Tice puts the pay scale in perspective when she says, “When I write 15 articles in a month, I’m generally paid somewhere between $4,000 and $7,500 by my current clients, depending on the situation. Still think it’s not worth the time to pitch editors?” Now, that’s what I’m talking about! I think I will pursue my writing career with poise, confidence, faith, knowledge, practice and perseverance in order to give a part of my soul on paper in return feel the sheer joy and bliss of raising consciousness through my writing. And yes, get paid for it. I will learn to pitch editors. Indeed, I will.

Thanks for educating me!
Vickie Mujahid recently posted..Because I AMMy Profile

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Carol Tice December 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Hi Allena — love your blog!

I’d sum it up this way — there’s a lot of controversy in the writing community surrounding content mills. I’m mentoring many writers trying to exit mill writing because they’re starving and feel taken advantage of, while a few other writers have said they’re able to make a pretty healthy income on them. I say there’s more pleasant ways to make a lot more money at writing, but others disagree.

If you’re a new writer, I’d ask yourself some questions about why you write and what your pay expectations are. Also, what type of writing do you enjoy doing? Would you find writing 4-7 articles per hour on scant research an exciting challenge, or does that sound like the 7th circle of hell to you? Do you have expertise on some basic how-to subjects that would make these stories easy to write? Do you enjoy networking and marketing your business, or does having to pitch yourself make you want to lay down and die?

Are you one of the 5 types described below, a Third World resident, or maybe someone who just wants to dabble in writing and work on your style? If so, you might be very happy writing for content sites.

Here’s something I agree with T.W. on (!) — there’s many ways to make a living in writing. I have friends who only write software manuals, or case studies, or articles for defense-industry trade publications. Only you can decide if writing for mills would be a positive step on your career path. It depends on where you’re trying to go.

I caution writers on one rule of writing: work of one kind tends to lead to work of a similar kind. Do you see yourself working at content-mill rates 5 years from now? Remember to think about your goals.

I think Anne’s blog is linking to it below, but my Make a Living Writing blog yesterday spotlights 8 great-paying writing markets, and last week I described 5 other high-pay niches…maybe something to look at for a reality check on the kind of rates that are available — yes, even in this economy — in the world outside of content-mill assignments.

Carol Tice
http://www.caroltice.com
http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..8 More Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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Allena December 15, 2009 at 11:12 am

I just said this at Lori’s blog, but, FWIW, new freelancers, new writers ARE INDEED watching this debate and coming out on the other side completley confused with big ol’ question marks lighted up over their heads. I get a lot of email from people referencing this debate, and I just, honestly, don’t know what to say except talking to them from their unique situation.

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Lori December 14, 2009 at 9:47 am

Gosh, I love being called elite! That makes me giggle. :)

Somehow I missed Kevin’s comment. Sorry Kevin, I’m not harboring any elitist attitude. In fact, I posted that very tweet on Twitter because someone took it upon themselves to blast me for making more money per article with plenty of name-calling and childish behavior. That’s what the Twitter post was about – nothing more. Sorry to disappoint you!

My friends, as you say, harbor concerns over what the lowering of the rates thanks to such content-generation schemes are doing to the rates in the industry overall. But I’ve decided to return to my live-and-let-live attitude for one reason – if we accept that there’s a change due to whatever influence, we create the reality.

You may call my attitude smug, but I refuse to get into an unprofessional name-calling. That’s not who I am or what I’m about. I’m about trying to help writers create value in their careers. I’ll continue to do that. I’m sorry to disappoint you. You may harbor any opinion of me you like. If you knew me at all, you’d know the truth. :)

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Kevin December 13, 2009 at 3:49 pm

I think I speak for writers on both sides of this debate when I say T.W. Anderson please stop talking. You can’t comment on any blog without publishing a self serving, thousand word post saying nothing about the discussion at hand. There’s no need for you to post your life story every where you go. Say something new and say something of value or say good bye. You’re boring.

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T.W. Anderson December 13, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Personally, I get a giggle out of the debate, especially when my paychecks speak directly opposite as to what the opposition is spouting as “truth”.

Then again, I’m sure the “other side” says the exact same thing. At the end of the day it just goes to show you that neither side is right, and neither side is wrong. Both sides have equal merit, and both sides have plenty of representation.

And both sides draw traffic :) Especially when it’s a hot topic.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Wendy December 13, 2009 at 8:57 am

Sometimes I worry about the new writers or aspiring writers. I think it’s important to show both sides and the pros and cons of each, but what kind of message are we sending to them with the bickering?

I would hate to see some not try just because they don’t want to be retaliated against for the choices they make. I’ve had a few people ask about the best routes to get started and I send them to blogs like this one and several others for tips and information. I just hope they can still get good information and ignore all the nasty comments and bickering.

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Anne December 13, 2009 at 11:25 am

Wendy, I suspect the bickering isn’t a big deal, at least not for any length of time. The debate will automatically drift off the first screen… today or tomorrow most likely.

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Paula Swenson December 12, 2009 at 10:04 am

Anne, I love that you are willing to tackle controversy here at your blog and I enjoy learning what others think and how they cope and fail or succeed. That said, I have to weigh in with the thought that is really is time to put this particular topic to rest. Nothing new is being said and the same few people are using this as a forum for what seems to be a personal pissing contest. I know I can chose not to read it, but I am disappointed not to see more new and interesting topics instead.
Just my 2 cents.
With great respect for all the good you do,
Paula
.-= Paula Swenson´s last blog ..Charter for Compassion =-.

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Anne December 12, 2009 at 11:03 am

Yeah, Paula, I’m getting tired of it too. I may do one more short piece along the lines of we’re all adults – or maybe not. More about writing coming up I promise.

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Deb Ng December 12, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Anne, the FWJ community has had enough as well. It seems as if we all feel we’re right, but no one on either side will budge. I did a post about dispelling some of the myths yesterday but the reality is, I’m not going to change anyone’s minds. As mentioned above, for someone people it’s getting personal and it’s giving me a headache. We’ll probably all have to agree to disagree.

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Laya Bajpai December 12, 2009 at 7:52 am

Thanks Carol. I intend to follow your tips and get into high paying gigs. Even I’m tired of writing 5000 words a day for some $25.

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Ron Lewis December 11, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Oh my, what a thread. You scored on this one, Anne. I say monetize it with some banner ads, lol.

You’ll be glad to hear that I’m going to stay out of this debate — it seems you have sufficient representation from the skeptical POV and it doesn’t look like I could piss anyone off more than they are already, lol. I will say that I love the combo cat sitter/fiction writer business model — scoop it up, then dish it out.

Speaking of #5, I wonder if any of our content mill marketing mavens have considered approaching Costco or Sam’s Club? Sell articles by the pallet load and offer free shipping!

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Anne December 11, 2009 at 8:58 pm

lol – Ron is our resident skeptic, or I’ve come to think of him this way… love the mental pix I have of pallets of articles… who can draw that?

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Carol Tice December 11, 2009 at 12:51 pm

You do raise a point, Laya…maybe there should be a category #6 of foreign workers who don’t have access to many of the better-paying writing jobs. And I gather given exchange rates that mill rates could really raise your standard of living in some countries, if you can write in English well enough to get continuing work.

BTW, I don’t have a college degree, and don’t find it’s necessary to have one to get into good-paying writing! In my experience, hiring is done about 90% by clips — you basically write your way up the ladder with the quality of your work. A degree does seem to help many achieve it, though.

Carol Tice
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..5 Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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Anne December 11, 2009 at 9:03 pm

One of the things that tickles me is the number of countries that show up in my stats – can’t find it right now, but google analytics claims people using 47 languages look at this blog. Blows me away.

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Laya Bajpai December 11, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Hi Carol,
I completely understand your attitude towards content mills but think about people from 3rd world countries for whom those low rates convert decently into their currencies. While Rs 40-45, that is how much one dollar equals to is not enough( inflation is a big problem with us too) but it manages to add up to some Rs 15000 a month which is ok( not good) and people who have just begun or they know that they do not hold stellar degrees to make it to the high paying gigs, where many cater just to US/Uk natives, we have little option but to cater to these content mills.
Trust me it is no joke writing 10-20 articles in a day each containing 300-500 words…but I hope some day I’ll get paid more…
Stay Well!
Laya

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T.W. Anderson December 11, 2009 at 2:32 am

So first I was (and I quote), “telling us all that you write full-time for mills and it’s crazy to ever take time marketing your business to find outside clients, because mills are just sooo lucrative.” But now you are attempting to say that I “haven’t come out and said you write for content mills exclusively, you’ve certainly strongly suggested it with your repeated ‘math’ arguments that ‘prove’ it’s the most lucrative form of writing on the planet.”

At least you admitted that I never said that I worked exclusively for content mills. Kudos for manning up and admitting you were wrong about what I wrote. It really does help to read something thoroughly before you comment on it.

Nowhere have I ever said that content writing was the “most” lucrative form of writing on the planet. What I have done is shown–through my own examples and others–that content writing for content mills CAN be a lucrative form, and that people should stop giving the companies and the people behind them so much flak when they are such a great way of making money for so many people. People act like I’m some anomaly, but I’m not. I’m a redneck from Colorado with no formal education who simply educated myself and took that knowledge to make money. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Although you, and others, would have people believe that “no, it’s impossible. You have to do it OUR way!”

You keep making assumptions that everyone is out here to measure up to your basis of success. You make such an assumption when you ask the question, “why would you write anywhere else?”

Not everyone is you. Not everyone is me. People like choices. Some people LOVE chicken livers fried in butter. Some people like Caesar salad. Others like steak, while some people are vegetarians. Just like every writer out there, I write for a variety of clients (not all of whom pay the same) because variety is the spice of life, and I like taking passion projects because I like to keep writing fun. That’s why I averaged 42 USD in 2009 instead of 60+, because I took some projects that were lower paying to build up some more niches.

At the end of the day, content writing for content mills is a great option for a lot of people, and it is absolutely a viable alternative to querying and waiting around and other traditional means. With enough niches, it can be extremely profitable. It is not the only path to success, but it is one path of many, and it is an extremely viable option for many who know how to work with the system.

Remember, folks…the decision is never “my way or the highway”. With global opportunities comes the ability to find many different paths to success. It’s simply a matter of finding the right one for you, and that’s where knowledge is key. The more information you have about your options, the easier it is for you to determine what the best choice for you will be.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Carol Tice December 10, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Wow, what was that Shakespeare said about protesting too much?

If you haven’t come out and said we you write content mills exclusively, you’ve certainly strongly suggested it with your repeated ‘math’ arguments that ‘prove’ it’s the most lucrative form of writing on the planet. If true, why would you write anywhere else? You’ve certainly written at length about how great it is for you…except, apparently when you do travel and other forms of writing for other clients. Hm.

I don’t think I’m old enough to be described as “esteemed,” but thanks anyway! ;-) I really have to devote the rest of the day to filing articles, so from here I’ll have to ask you to talk amongst yourselves.

Carol
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..5 Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 5:05 pm

Here, just to prove my point, I’ll link the three articles which started your obsession with me last week :)

Firstly, let’s take a look at the guest post which I wrote here last week, http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com/2009/12/assessing-writing-projects-a-guest-article/#comments. Hmm. I looked through it and I never saw where I stated I write solely for content sites. No doubt I praise them in the article, but I discuss looking at writing projects as a whole, and suggest how content sites are a viable alternative.

In the article I mention http://www.completewritingsolutions.com/2009/11/freelance-writing-is-it-possible-to-make-10000-in-a-year/ and http://www.completewritingsolutions.com/2009/12/driving-a-porsche-from-your-ehow-earnings/. After a thorough read you will see that neither of those articles states that I write solely for content sites. In fact, you will clearly see me state that I’m simply showing math based upon my own and other’s numbers.

Furthermore, as I’m sure you have read, because you are such an esteemed writer who knows the ins and outs of research writing, and you surely would have verified your facts before posting anything, you can check out my profile page on the website (http://www.completewritingsolutions.com/about/the-team/t-w-anderson/) where I clearly show MULTIPLE streams of revenue, not solely content sites.

Still not sure where you got your information. Must be those superior research skills at work, eh?
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm

That’s right, Carol :) You won’t find any comment, post, or thread where I state that I only write for content sites.

In fact, if you take the time to actually read the posts I’ve written on the subject, rather than just skim-reading and only seeing what you want to see, you will find that every single time I discuss content writing I always discuss it hand in hand with traditional means.

Now, while I’ve made no secret of my support of content sites, and it’s definitely true that I consider them to be an on-par (and in some cases, superior form) with traditional forms, I never once, in any way, shape, or form, stated that I write for content sites solely.

On my own website, when I discussed owning a Porsche from your eHow earnings, I preface the article by stating that I have never written for eHow, except through Demand Studios. You will also notice that when I talk about how it’s possible to make 100k a year writing purely for content sites you will see that I preface my article with the fact that I only wrote 40 articles in total for Demand Studios in 2009, roughly.

I am always 100% transparent and factual when I make a post on any subject. It’s how I established the reputation I have today, and how I have managed to become so successful. Every single time I talk about content sites I put them up on a pillar because they are a large part of how I became as successful as I am today, but I never, EVER, state that they are the ONLY route.

Don’t believe me? Should I start quoting my comments from these threads and elsewhere, showing clearly how I always (nearly every single post) talk about the MANY paths to success?

I appreciate you taking a stand for your beliefs, but putting words in other people’s mouths is far from professional. I would think that someone with such an established reputation as yourself would actually take the time to verify your facts before posting something about an individual. After all, slander is a crime.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Carol Tice December 10, 2009 at 4:10 pm

T.W., your success story changes every time you tell it. A few weeks back, you were telling us all that you write full-time for mills and it’s crazy to ever take time marketing your business to find outside clients, because mills are just sooo lucrative.

Once I visited your site and saw that you in fact are actively prospecting and have other accounts…your story seemed to change to “there’s many ways to earn from writing”…

I’d just emphasize that while math on a spreadsheet indicates to you that “anyone” can earn real big on mills, my experience from the many writers who’ve written to me about it is most folks who try it aren’t able to write fast enough to turn the mills into a big revenue-generator. It’s more fill-in when they’re slow or marketing exposure.

Carol
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..5 Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Carol:

Please , could you please show me, either on my own site, or anyone else’s, where I ever stated that I write full-time for content mills. Thanks in advance for clarifying that I have never, in fact, said such.

Cheers!
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Furthermore, Carol…you love to point fingers at me (as was evident in my guest post here last week), but it’s fairly offensive how woefully uninformed you are regarding my credibility.

My favorite so far has been your claims that I am trumpeting that writers should ONLY work for content mills. Never once, in any of my posts here or anywhere else, have I ever suggested that individuals should ONLY write for content mills. In fact, you will notice that every single one of my posts on the topic very clearly state that content mills are simply one of MANY ways to achieve success, and when incorporated into a routine with proper niches and otherwise, can be just as lucrative (and in some cases, more lucrative…I love that word) as traditional markets.

Furthermore, since I know you have been over to my website, you will know that I am absolutely transparent in my posts. I never finished high school. I never went to college. As such, my level of success is not based upon some magical formula that I have “in spades.” What I do have is a measure of business sense, and a can-do attitude that sees me getting up every morning and treating writing as a business, not simply a hobby (although it really IS a hobby, just one that I get paid to enjoy).

There are thousands of niche markets that people can write in. Want to write about toenail clippings? Go for it. There’s a niche, and there’s a content site out there somewhere who wants to hear about it. I am just further proof that you don’t need an education, you don’t need a magical key to get you through some mystical door, and you don’t need to follow the traditional way of doing things…although you can if you want, and possibly make it work for you. As long as you have the gumption…the desire to make it happen…then you will.

Furthermore, to suggest that content sites are unstable is a last-ditch desperate attempt to prove your point, but it is invalid. No job is truly secure. Just ask the employees of Enron, Chrysler, or those who suffered at the hands of Madoff or the AIG scandal. Making money is smart business, and taking advantage of a market, whatever kind of market it is, is just smart business sense. There is no such thing as job stability, especially in a recession. Just ask anyone who has lost a job in the last 2 years who worked there for 10+ or 20+ years and thought they would be there until the day they retired.

I like to use Richard Branson a lot in my examples. There’s a guy who has his fingers in a lot of different pies. Does he simply stick to one market? Heck no! He spreads himself out in many markets, and these days the Virgin brand can be found on anything from cell phones to airlines to spaceships and trains.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm

Hmm, could you show me where I have ever suggested that a writer should only ever write for content sites? In fact, part of my rhetoric is pointing out that there are MANY avenues of success, and content writing is simply one of them. I simply take offense to people like you trying to discredit content mills AND the people working for them. It is one of MANY ways to make a living, and if someone wants to include it in their repertoire, you have no right to tell them otherwise.

I’ll be posting public numbers in 2010, btw…so never fear. I’ll be around for quite some time showing how successful content writing can be for content mills with their so-called “lower than minimum wage”. For the record, I averaged around 42 USD per hour for the year of 2009, with about 70-75% of my work coming from content sites who actually pay less than Demand Studios. Ironically enough if I would have written purely for Demand Studios I would have averaged 60 USD per hour for 8 hour days, which is 115k a year.

Here’s the thing: I’m not here to establish myself purely in freelance writing. My main passion is fiction. My wife and I also have some fairly significant investment plans in the next year or two for non-writing projects, including a construction company, vineyard, property, translation company, and her own pottery/art business. I work part-time hours. I travel a LOT throughout Europe (5-6 trips a year, minimum). I have purposefully taken projects that paid lower rates because of the niche work it offered me. Based upon the projected work I have lined up for the first few months of the year, I’ll easily clear 60 USD per hour for every hour of writing done. It doesn’t matter how many words per hour I write, or how much per article I get paid, or how fast I type…it’s the end result that matters, which is over 60 USD per hour.

I plan on incorporating Demand Studios into my regimen for 2010 on a more regular basis.

I am only an anomaly if you cherry-pick your data. Any hard-working person out there who REALLY wants to succeed in life will do everything in their power to make it happen. I am a businessman first and foremost, and content writing is simply one of the many avenues of success I’m taking in my business goals. It is a very lucrative way to go, and one of MANY paths to take.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Carol Tice December 10, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I wondered when you would weigh in, T.W…I don’t like to let a day go by without being called elite, snobby, and afraid. I don’t feel like I’m any of those. Since I’m earning more than ever, I’m hardly afraid of content mills. I just don’t recommend them as a first rung to my mentees. They don’t have much bearing on the kind of clients I work for. And I don’t feel very elite either, since I know a lot of other people earning much more than I am! Take Robert Bly, for instance — $500,000 in the past year.

You have clearly established yourself on these pages as type #4, T.W. You’re fast and have expertise niches, so you’re able to make mills pay well. You’ve also stated clearly that you abhor marketing and think it’s a terrific waste of time, so you’re kind of a touch of #5 too.

I think what you accuse others of is what you’ve got in spades — you fail to realize that most people aren’t you, and can’t use your route to big-paying success. They don’t have multiple great expertise areas they can write thousands of articles a month about, for years on end. They do what they can on the mills, but for most it never pays enough to be financially viable. Perhaps the cost of living is lower in Bulgaria as well, making it easier for you to make the mill equation work?

Your mill-only strategy neglects some time-honored business maxims — don’t put all your eggs in one basket, for instance. Where will you be when the mill you write for shuts down or changes its model? There are strong signals in the marketplace that the current mill model may not last forever…so something to think about.

Carol Tice
http://www.caroltice.com
http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..5 Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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Anne December 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm

Carol, and all, your warning that the content mills may not last is a good one… they are relatively new and things on the net change in a hurry. Heck the net itself changes in a hurry.

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Deb Ng December 10, 2009 at 3:33 pm

This is the part where I’ll hop in to disagree, as I’ve really been trying to avoid the same old content site debates. I don’t feel either side will cave and don’t really see the point of all the sniping. It just divides the freelance community further and creates more bad blood and animosity.

I do believe there are a chance that writer mills can go under as I’ve seen this happen many times, but this shouldn’t be an argument against writing for content sites. Magazines fold every day. Businesses go under. Folks are being laid off across the country. No job is guaranteed. Moreover, I don’t know who started this notion that writers for content sites only write for content sites or only write for one site in particular. The beautiful part of freelancing is all of the opportunities available. No one has to be married to only one type of opportunity and no one is saying anyone should be.
.-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..5 Reasons Not to Have a Cookie Cutter Elevator Pitch =-.

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Anne December 11, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Deb, you’re so right – we’ve both seen web stuff go under… and yes, there are all sorts of opportunities out there – but when I say that to you I’m preaching to the choir!

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Allena December 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm

I don’t know where I stand–still– on this issue. Other than, 1) I don’t care what other writers choose to do, and 2) I despise credit cards, and if I needed stop gap income (say, if the SECOND door broke on my van), I would seriously consider DS over a CC or robbing my savings.

You know, I waited 60 days for a 3,000 payment for editorial work from a major textbook publisher. That is their normal turnaround. Now, I have other, smaller, clients, About.com obviously helps a lot, but, I don’t know, sometimes it may be nice to have a couple hundred come out of nowhere, with no plans or bills attached to it!
.-= Allena´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Income =-.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 1:25 pm

I actually have a plan for something to do with Demand Studios for January, Allena. I won’t reveal all the details at this point, but I’ve talked with my wife about it, and I’m going to be doing a “proof” of how much you can make using ONLY Demand Studios. I purposefully took the entire month of December off of freelancing to work on the website, networking, marketing the brand, and an e-book, but starting in January I’m going to be setting public goals and proving just how lucrative content sites can be without any sort of effort involved whatsoever. No marketing, no querying, no waiting….just several thousand a month in the bank for part-time hours.

You can make FAR more than just an extra few hundred a month for a few hour’s worth of time here and there. It’s fairly lucrative if you have enough niches.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Anne December 10, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Allena… so glad you won’t use credit cards and you’ve got a saving’s plan! Me too… wish more had the same.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm

The business of writing is the making of money. However a person chooses to go about doing that is their OWN business, and nobody else’s. The beauty of the 21st century is that there are MANY paths to success, and not all of them are anti-content-sites. Content sites work for a great many people, and just as much as being a line chef works for some, while being an editor in chief works for others, or being an airline pilot, a hotel manager, or a fortune 500 company owner. At the end of the day each one of us chooses to work a job. How we do that job is up to us, and no one but us. Sneering down your nose at someone else’s choice of work is not only condescending, but downright arrogant.

The last time I checked if a person makes a healthy wage and lives well they should be congratulated, not ridiculed and criticized for the way they put food on the table for their families. The so-called elite writers love to talk about how “benevolent” they are, but we see anything but benevolence in such posts as the above, or in the actions of the so-called elite who try everything in their power to besmear the names of anyone working for a content site, constantly berating and ranting.

Honestly, if you so-called elite writers are so successful and elite, why waste your time worrying about what little ol’ me (and others making great money working for content sites) is busy doing? You claim your business is doing so well, and you are so busy, but yet you continue to have time to run around the Internet doing everything in your power to trash-talk content mills and anyone who works for them.

I love how Carson said it over at his site….Bobby Flay isn’t worried about what the chef at Denny’s is making, so if you all are so wonderfully successful…you shouldn’t be worried about anyone but yourself :)

Meanwhile, content sites are one of MANY avenues for an individual to earn a healthy wage to put food on the table for their family. Accept it.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Zoe Winters January 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I do have to agree with T.W. that people who are truly successful don’t have to waste their time talking down about people doing things they consider “lesser.” Successful people are too busy on their own projects to be that obsessed with it.

Having said that though, I don’t think the original article was meant as a dig. I think it was meant to be helpful and maybe the original writer didn’t realize some people really ARE making the money they need doing it.

I’m also not sure that, even for those it works well for, that the “gravy train” of content mills won’t dry up at some point. And at that point, if you’ve spent every waking hour writing for content mills instead of building up other more secure revenue streams, then that could be a problem.

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Rebecca December 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

I’m not into writing for content sites. I’d rather write for my own blogs or be a guest blogger. I’m serious about writing and serious about the “business” of writing.
.-= Rebecca´s last blog ..What Business Are You in Today? =-.

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T.W. Anderson December 10, 2009 at 6:34 am

Nice attempt, but still far too condescending. I especially love the dig about people who have no desire to market themselves because they “lack the self confidence”.

In many cases it has absolutely nothing to do with confidence. Why waste my time marketing when the 21st century’s demands are all about fast, fluffy topics that you can write off the top of your head with absolutely no research required? When you have half a dozen niches you can write on, there’s no reason to cold call, query, wait, and wait, and wait, until an editor finally hears back from you. You don’t have to deal with rejection, you don’t have to waste time negotiating, you can simply get in there, bang a few out, and make great cash in the process. Bottom line, there is no wasting of time. There is simply generation of cash.

I had to laugh at the “people who don’t care about money”. I specifically write to make money. I’m not in this for the bylines. I’m in this because it’s fast, easy money. I write about the things I love. For all intents and purposes I’m getting paid to write about my hobbies, my passions. Travel, wine, food, interior decorating, home improvement, green technology and so on and so forth. If I wasn’t interested in money I wouldn’t be doing this for a living :)

Content writing is great because it allows people to take their hobbies and turn them into cash. Why simply write on your blog about football when you can write about football for a content site and get paid? Why waste time trying to query a sports magazine to land a 500 dollar article that takes 6 weeks to get an approval for when you can be making a thousand dollars a week or more writing for places like Demand Studios on the things you joke about with your friends on a daily basis?

Content writing is an extremely acceptable, extremely lucrative position for a great many people. The only ones who are complaining about content sites are the people afraid of how the industry is changing, afraid that their lauded positions atop the totem pole is challenged by people who don’t have to do it the old fashioned way, by querying and competing. The 21st century doesn’t require marketing, it doesn’t require competition, it doesn’t require old-fashioned methods. That’s not to say that the old way doesn’t work…it’s still an acceptable method…for some people. But guess what…content mills are just as lucrative for just as many people on the other side of the fence.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Cindy December 9, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I read this article this morning, and I’ve been thinking about it throughout the day. I’d like to add another ‘type’ category, and that’s the one I’m in. I’m a serious writer, but I write fiction. Literary fiction, at that, and I don’t ever, ever expect to make a living at it. I’ve been writing literary fiction for about 15 years, and–while I’ve had several stories published in respected literary journals and have won a couple of well-respected prizes and substantial grants, and have had a few agents interested it my work– it doesn’t pay the bills, and it never will. I’ve considered and tried writing freelance non-fiction, but time and time again, I find that doing it on a consistent basis robs me of the ‘word-generating’ energy I like to reserve for fiction. So, I’ve been paying my bills and financing my writing in other ways for about 2 decades…mostly by either delivering morning newspaper routes (which grosses ~$17 an hour) or by pet sitting (which, if you are independent and not working for a large company, grosses ~$25-$30 an hour). All well and good, and it has been fun, but I’ve really struggled, in recent years, to find another way to ‘pay the bills’ and still be freelance/self-employed. I don’t want to wake up when I’m 50 and be a pet sitter. I’ve finally settled on copy-editing: it’s work that doesn’t require ‘generating’ words, is interesting, and which–best of all!–I can do in the comfort of my own home. So, I’m currently a) writing a novel in the mornings, b) walking dogs and doing a small amount of cat sitting in the afternoons, and c) marketing my copy-editing skills and trying to get that up and going in the evenings, with the goal being to seque all the way into that by the end of 2010.

So, where does Demand Studios come in? Well, I’m living pretty close to the bone, having given up much of my cat-sitting biz to make room for the copy-editing. And, I can’t reply on the copy-editing income yet. And–even when I land a gig–it can be weeks, even months, before I see payment. So, say I need a car repair? Or, my own cat needs an unexpected vet visit? Say, to the tune of $225?

I need ‘fast cash.’ I can a) go onto craigslist in the pet section and find a cat sitting gig….(scooping a stranger’s litter box and working on weekends and holidays), or I can b) stroll into the local newspaper delivery office–they know me well, there, and would snatch me up in a minute to do a route (can you say: the alarm goes off at 3:30 a.m. and you have to go out into the dark and cold…think: 17 degrees. Think: snow). Or, I can log into my Workdesk at DS and grab 15 articles and sit at my kitchen table a few evenings in my pajamas, sipping wine, and the money will be in my Paypal account in 7 days….Hmmmm. Which one? Ding-ding-ding! Yup. Demand Studios.

So….the category, I guess, is ‘Writers of Literary Fiction Seeking Stop-Gap Income,’ or something like that.

But would I ever, ever put Demand Studios on my C.V. or resume? About as soon as I would put ‘newscarrier’ or ‘pet sitter.’ Which means, nope.

If I were seriously considering a freelance non-fiction writing career, would I work for DS? I might manage it the same way: stop-gap income. I would not put it on my resume. I would use it to ‘fill in the gaps’ until I’m up and going, but I would never consider relying on it exclusively.

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Anne December 10, 2009 at 11:38 am

Cindy, you make my point – which is so called content mills actually work for some people. I can’t imagine delivering newspapers at 3 in the morning so back when I needed stop-gap income I did (gasp) telephone soliciting. Today I’d work for the content mills. And I know exactly what you mean about that word-generating energy. The reason I went to telesales is because the (then) secretary jobs robbed me in exactly the same way. Content mills would have been a real blessing back then.

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Carol Tice December 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm

Readers here may want to take a look at I Was Sucked Into Content Mill Writing, an anonymous post at Writers Weekly that just posted.

This writer’s experience seems typical of the feedback I get from mill writers as far as the pay, hours, and what content-mill writing seems to do to their self-esteem.

Carol
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..5 Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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Laura Spencer December 9, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Hi Carol!

Your five types are absolutely on target. In my years as a writer and blogger, I’ve met representatives from each of these groups.

The last group, in particular, (People Who Won’t Market Their Business) seems to be growing. This is a shame.

While I think most people have a natural fear of sales (I know that I do), marketing your writing services is not nearly as complex or difficult as it might seem.

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Carol Tice December 9, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Kevin and Autumn…I think you’re both #4! You’re in the elite group of writers who can do well and earn well at these sites. So congrats to you. That’s the point of this post — for some select groups, content mills will work great. We all have different income goals, too — for some $30,000 a year would be great, while others need to earn much more to live in their locale. Definitions of writing-career success may vary.

While I haven’t written for these sites personally, I do mentor and hear from many, many writers who do. Most feel miserably underpaid — “taken advantage of” is how one content-mill writer described it to me last night — and like this isn’t sustainable for them, cranking out multiple articles hourly.

That’s why I don’t advise new writers to write for content sites. You can write two or three free samples and use them to move straight on to markets that pay far more, and I know lots of writers who have.

If you’ve been able to post on content sites with work of high quality and stand out from the pack and use those clips to get good gigs, Kevin, I think that’s great. I also think you’re a very big exception to the rule.

My personal experience looking over content-site articles I’ve turned up looking for information on Google searches is that they’re usually inaccurate. If anything, the negative buzz about quality on these sites seems to be growing, is my impression. So you have to overcome that from the start — which isn’t to say you can’t, obviously you have Kevin. But why sled uphill when there are so many other ways to lay a foundation for a lucrative writing career?

Thanks for all your comments –

Carol
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..5 Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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Autumn December 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm

As I’ve said before, to each his own. Some of my clients are content mills, and some pay me much more per article. However, I find that I can write the “content mill” articles much faster than I can some other articles that require more research. Some days I want to pound out 4 articles per hour without having to perform much research at all. When I do, I can assure you that there are no typos and no spelling errors. I think you’re assuming that just because some people cannot write quality that quickly, no one can, and that’s absolutely untrue. My clients are completely satisfied, and I highly doubt anyone has ever had to rewrite an article of mine. I know you probably see horrendous content all over the web and assume it’s a product of content mills, and it may be so. However, it does not mean every content mill writer is bad at what they do.

My mix of content sites and independent clients works well for me. I like the variety, and don’t like putting all my eggs in one basket. I still market myself, and I definitely don’t take any work that doesn’t allow me to make over $20 an hour, though it’s usually more. I’ve been freelance writing for nearly two years. I’m sure in the future I’ll get a longer list of clients that will allow me to command $100 an hour, but until then, I’m fine paying the bills and more with my mix of content sites and regular clients.
.-= Autumn´s last blog ..Take Your Writing Destiny into Your Own Hands During Downtime =-.

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Sarah December 9, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I generally agree, but when considering Demand Studios’ algorithm, it’s hard to imagine topics running out. Except, instead of “how to groom your dog” the topic becomes “how does Product X help me groom my dog.” Then the topic becomes “what are the effects of product X on my dog?” And so on … but yeah, in general the fun stuff dries out pretty quickly so unless you have deep knowledge and/or passion for a topic with content demand, you’re kinda screwed.

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Kevin December 9, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Carol, once again someone who doesn’t write for a content site displays her ignorance. I have a sustainable, lucrative, career as a freelance writer. I left my job as a copywriter to freelance. I’m very serious about my new career. My clips from a content site landed me an assignment for a well known publication. Guess what else? My editor was so impressed by samples we’re negotiating a series. Guess what else? That same editor began working for the same content site to supplement her income. You’re stating opinion, Carol. I’m stating fact.

Content sites aren’t my only gig but I’m not discounting any form of income simply because an elitist writer doesn’t approve.

Anne, as you’ve been vocal in your support and endorsement of Suite101 I wonder if you feel the same way? Is it wise to post about “cheapskate” content mills after accepting a sponsorship deal with one of those mills?

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Anne December 9, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Kevin, mostly I think you folks are adults and can figure out what sort of writing you want to do… and if you end up writing for a content mill and not liking it it’s easy to quit.

Your story is actually more or less what I recommend for total newbies… and you’re proof it works.

And just so you and everyone else knows, Suite101 is a non-paid experiment. We’re trying to drive traffic to both sites…

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Lori December 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Oh Carol, you’ve just outlined every reason that separates professional writers from those who want to be or have no intention of it. Professional writers market and do all that nasty stuff that non-professionals think are for the birds. And yes, there are some professional writers working for these places, and I have to ask myself why. No reason any of them have stated so far makes sense to me.

You’re right – if pay doesn’t matter, go for it. If quality of writing matters less than quantity of clips, go for it. If staying in the same, safe place for eternity is attractive, write away.

Like Devon, I’ve had clients come back saying their experiences with the writers who camp out in content mills have been gawd-awful. The last one used words like “bad experience” and “horrifying results.” Content sites don’t train writers in quality, but they sure do train them in speed and quantity!
.-= Lori´s last blog ..Spinning Wheels Require a Slip Differential =-.

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Kevin December 10, 2009 at 8:49 am

Lori yesterday on Twitter you said:

“If you’re happy selling articles for $10 ea, amen. But don’t get upset w/me because I make $1,500 for same article. It’s all about choices.”

You’re harboring the illusion that writers who are paid less are upset with you for earning more. The only people who don’t seem to get how this is “all about choices” are the people who are so very vocal against choices. Your smug remark perfectly proved the elitism point. No one is upset with you or anyone else who earns more. The idea only exists in your mind. No one is upset with your for the money you earn, they don’t like your attitude.

The writers who use content mills aren’t as upset as the writers who are so vocal against them. If they’re “upset” about anything it’s the writers who invent conversations with editors and make like they’re all discussing how evil it is to work for Suite 101 or Demand Studios. They’re not.

If it’s all about choices you and your friends wouldn’t be having the same old discussions with each other about the evils of content sites and the writers who use them. You would leave us to our choices without the barbs and the snotty remarks. Content site discussions are fun because they bring in traffic and drama. They allow the “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” crowd to laugh at the ugly kids.

For every client who you say won’t hire someone because of a content site background, there are a dozen more who look at the writing before they look at experience. A person who hires writers is looking for good writers first and foremost. Half of them don’t even ask for a resume.

If it’s about choices, leave people to their choices and ride your high horse off into the sunset. Watching the same five people hop from blog to blog to say the same thing is getting old.

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T.W. Anderson December 12, 2009 at 8:50 am

I totally missed this one in the halapalooz…but spot on Kevin, you echo my own (and many other’s) sentiments when it comes to the uneducated drivel spewed forth by the so-called “elite” and so-called “content” writers.

If they were so content, and if it really were all about choices, you are absolutely right…we wouldn’t see the same drivel spewed forth on blog after blog after blog by the same half dozen (see handful) of anti-content-mill writers.

You don’t see me complaining about rates. I’m spending more than half my time every year traveling around Europe, living high on the hog from the earnings I’ve made through content sites that are supposedly so demeaning. I also have many traditional clients who are more than happy with my work, and not a single one of them has judged me based upon where my work was published or who I’ve worked for in the past. Each and every time I’ve dealt with someone they look at my writing first, my resume second, and I let my skills do the rest.

Writing for content sites is just one of many ways to earn a living. No muss, no fuss…just easy cash for writing about things you already enjoy talking about in the first place.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Knowledge is power =-.

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Carol Tice December 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Right on, Devon. I’ve been called in to rewrite cheap-content messes as well. The major trend that’s out there is companies realizing it’s not all about SEO — it’s about authoritative content that brings customer loyalty and repeat visits. So I think the call for junk content is going to wane in the next year. Meaning: more good paying work ahead!

Carol Tice
http://www.caroltice.com
http://Twitter.com/TiceWrites
.-= Carol Tice´s last blog ..5 Good-Paying Writing Niches =-.

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Hannah December 11, 2009 at 2:15 pm

I’m just starting out; thanks, Carol, for the insight from your article. And thanks, Anne, for linking to it.

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Devon Ellington December 9, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Absolutely, Carol. I totally agree. I am much more interested in quality work, not quantity, and I get paid a living wage for my work. I’ve also had quite a few clients in the past months come to me at my higher rate to have me clean up the mess left because they tried to save money by hiring someone who usually writes for content mills. They claim they’ve learned their lessons!

This is my business, not my hobby. I’ve put in the work to hone my art and my craft. I’m worth a decent wage.
.-= Devon Ellington´s last blog ..Tuesday Update =-.

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annew September 7, 2010 at 10:10 am

Love you’re article about your husband – http://www.makealivingwriting.com/2010/09/07/why-i-told-my-husband-to-work-for-demand-studios/ – echoes what I suggest to writers about content mills… a short handful of articles is enough, but it does give some writing credits etc.

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