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Life After Demand Media And Other Content Mills – A True Story

Freelance WriterA Guest Post by Kristy Robinson who blogs at International Criminal Justice.

After arriving home from vacation I received the October announcement that there would no longer be a plethora of eHow articles available from Demand Media and it was uncertain that  there would be any topics available at all.

I wasn’t sure where to go but I knew I needed to work hard on finding new writing outlets somewhere else. I took a couple of days to think things through and I set up a game plan for starting a whole new writing career.

I spent the first month reading blogs, gathering information on how to start and develop a freelance writing career. Moving Past Demand Media was particularly helpful.
I learned there was a completely different world outside of content mills. During this time I also began developing a new blog, devoted to showcasing my professional writing skills and writing about the topics I wanted to write about professionally. No more how to articles or random assignments about simple topics.Randomly throughout the month I began to discipline myself to looking through the job listings. I quickly found visiting several websites too much work and instead set up the RSS feeds in my Google Reader. I soon found that even this became too much and I searched for ways to tailor the search results to reduce the number I was receiving. I used the available feed generators on the websites that allowed you to generate RSS for specific searches and managed to narrow down my job listings quite a bit.

Still, disciplining myself some days seemed overwhelming because there are so many jobs out there and most were not good. That’s when I read on a series of blogs posted online aimed at helping those of us left behind by Demand Media and for anyone stuck in content mills. They helped me with being able to skip over many more job listings that were not what I was looking for and provided vital information about freelancing that I did not know. I also learned some writing lingo including the various names for types of projects so that I could more easily recognize the ones I did not want and I learned some ways to cope with rejection.

It is imperative to know what types of writing jobs you will and will not do. Don’t let desperation and fear lead you to take on jobs that you cannot do well at or that will cause you too much stress.

Finally I just had a little mini breakdown. It seemed like a lot to learn and I was scared I couldn’t do it. I kept questioning myself and second guessing everything. I just gave it all up. I would click my job listings every day and “mark all as read.” I did this for about a week before I finally felt the motivation to look again and this time I had a fresh set of eyes. It made a world of difference.

I only found one job to apply for that day out of about 500. It was in my price range, they were willing to pay what the job was worth and they wanted someone who knew what they were doing and it just so happened I felt like I did.

I landed that job! My very first client and I got it in less than 24 hours! They closed the listing after my sales pitch.

Now let me assure you, the sales pitch is where I have the most trouble. I’m a very realistic, straight-forward person so twisting a job ad to turn it into a sales pitch is not my thing. Instead I write my pitch with information about my background and how I know I can do a good job. This job ad wanted to know what I would do to make the newsletter the client wanted more interesting so I indicated something I thought would add interest but not bulk. They loved it.

I’m now one client happier and I no longer have the fear that I can’t make it. What makes this even better is that this job requires much less research and pays almost twice as much as Demand Media. Sticking to my plan of not compromising the value of my time and waiting for a realistic and clear job paid off. It took me 6 weeks total to land this first job because I let my own stress get in the way. It’s possible I could have done it sooner but I’m happy with the way things worked out and you can be too!

The other blogs I found helpful included: All Freelance Writing, Words on the Page and Problogger.

How do you go about finding clients and markets for your writing?

Kristy Robinson is a criminal justice writer enthusiast who specializes in writing sales letters, humorous blog posts and informative articles aimed at protecting internet users. Her blogs can be found at International Criminal Justice and  White Bhabi.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Ooh, thanks for this. The site I write for is changing its format soon, and I’m not sure I’ll survive the new assignments. One good thing is that the work is going to be quality vs. quantity, so if they do hang on to me I’ll have less to do each week, which will help me make time for other things. And if they don’t, that’s fine too. I’ll be glad to include them on my resume because I’ve had fun writing for them and that little bit of extra income has definitely helped.
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Favorite Movies to Watch at ChristmasMy Profile

  • Valerie Bolden-Barrett

    Hi, Kristy — Thanks for sharing your experience with DM and offering advice on moving beyond content mills. You’ve shown “mill sowers” that a sudden and unexpected drop in assignments — or other setback — can actually help them advance their writing and/or editing careers.

    Thank you, too, Anne, for your advice and encouragement.

  • Great story, Kristy, and best of luck to you.

    I have no regrets about the two years I spent at Demand. I did some great stuff for USA Today and paid my bills, but when their travel writing dried up I took the leap away and quickly learned I could make much more at many other publications.

    Marcia recently posted..Sonoma Wining and DiningMy Profile

    • Demand did work for some, maybe still does. But as you and others show, it can be a launching platform for better things.

    • I don’t regret my three years there either. It did teach me some things about writing and forced me to brush up on English skills I hadn’t cared about since my school days. I took my job there seriously (because I always like to do my best) and it benefited me in many ways other than the paycheck.
      CyberForensicWriter recently posted..Think Smaller – Be the 1% in Your Own Life!My Profile

  • I started out in the mills as well, not really knowing the field at all. In a way, I’m kind of glad I did. I know what I DON’T want now!

    I think that for someone who is unsure of their skills (blush) they can be a great way to hone your voice a bit, and get a little taste of success. But it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut. I still have one I look at when the well runs a little dry, and it makes me sad to see people who could be far more successful preferring to work there because it’s “easier.” I don’t think it really is easier, but they’ve convinced themselves that it is.
    Amelia Ramstead recently posted..My Tragedy of ErrorsMy Profile

    • Amelia, of course I got started before content mills, but I think I agree with you… they are a place to start and get paid a little… I hate it when writers get stuck there though.

    • In ways it did seem easier and sometimes I still think it was. I had more structure there including the already selected topics and specific format. It’s challenging sometimes to move out and into your own thoughts and ideas and to figure out how to best put them together but it’s proving to be a much more interesting challenge.

      I started out like you did, not aware I could even write though I loved journaling offline and I maintained a blog. I had no idea what the writing field was all about I just needed a quick easy way to make money and DM fit that to a tee. I too found it was a good learning experience for me and I have no regrets other than not branching out before the well run dry.
      CyberForensicWriter recently posted..Think Smaller – Be the 1% in Your Own Life!My Profile

  • Congratulations Kristy. It’s a great start. 🙂

    Thank you for the link love. I think you’ll find a ton of valuable info at Cathy Miller’s site, Simply Stated Business, too.

    Keep adding to your client list, Kristy. One client is great, but four clients, even better. More stability comes with a larger client list.
    Lori recently posted..What Doesn’t WashMy Profile

    • Absolutely! I’m still actively seeking more clients and also writing articles on my own and pitching to magazines. I have a unique advantage in that area as I’m currently residing in India (temporarily) and so I can bring a western perspective to articles and there is a high demand for that now. I also have a background in forensics and the country is just starting to implement forensics here which gives me quite an advantage. It’s been eye opening to learn about myself through this writing adventure from DM to true freelancing.
      CyberForensicWriter recently posted..Think Smaller – Be the 1% in Your Own Life!My Profile

  • Helpful, encouraging info, Kristy. Thanks for being transparent and allowing us all to see that great things can happen, with hard work and determination fueling the engine!

  • Hi Kristy! The best advice I can give you (after freelancing for 4 years) is that growing your business is all about relationships. Nurture relationships. Talk to people. Keep them all in your sales pipeline. Word of mouth is the strongest marketing tool you have in your arsenal. Ask for testimonials and endorsements and consider offering an incentive to current clients who share your information with their circle of peers. The more people you meet, the better your chances of growing exponentially. And BTW, I started out with content mills, too (blech!). Best of luck!
    Candace recently posted..December 13, 2011: Oatmeal Blueberry White Chocolate Cookies RecipeMy Profile

  • Wow!!! good for you!!! I’ve been looking for this kind of job for about 12 weeks!!! I gave up…I’m trying to make money from blogging…we’ll see how that goes…
    Larissa recently posted..How to get rid of scars- fast and easy!My Profile

    • Don’t give up Larissa – keep look and work on blogs… something will come together. You know about the job postings lists here, right?

    • Try out the ProBlogger link, they have tons of good advice there. Keep looking for clients, maybe just try new places to look or search in different ways. I recently ventured out into Craigslist – which I thoroughly hate and almost fear due to the overuse of it by criminals. Something will come along but unfortunately I’m learning holidays are much slower most of the time. Best of luck to you in January!
      CyberForensicWriter recently posted..Think Smaller – Be the 1% in Your Own Life!My Profile

  • Love the line I’m one client happier. 🙂 Soon it will be I’m multiple clients happier.

    You picked some great blogs to follow. One of the best things I have found in freelance writing is the helpful community. You have to weed out the legends in their own mind and those that crank out stale advice – kind of like weeding out writing gigs. 🙂 But, I love how you picked yourself up and did what it took to find another path. That shows staying power!

    Continued success, Kristy!
    Cathy Miller recently posted..Are Your Business Communication Vehicles Driving You?My Profile

    • Thank you! I did have to go through my Google Reader a few times and delete some showboats who think they are God’s Gift to the Internet. At least they were easy to spot. Things are still going well and my confidence is growing which is leading me to seek out even more opportunities including videos to accompany the articles – a job that pays literally 8 times what Demand Media paid. A girl could really get used to that kind of pay raise!
      CyberForensicWriter recently posted..On the 12th Day of Christmas – Home Alone or Not Home at AllMy Profile

    • Cathy, isn’t that a great line!

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