Since 2012, I've completed more than 8,000 pieces of content for various clients. Nearly 6,000 of those articles were on content mills.
I know a lot of freelance writers out there don't like using content mills. The biggest argument is that the pay is too low. However, using content mills as a beginning freelance writer has several realistic benefits.
Don't get me wrong, you can make far more money finding private clients yourself. But, that is a far more difficult task if you don't have experience.
What Is a Content Mill?
A content mill is a company or organization that finds "clients" to post jobs on their websites. Usually, these jobs consist of blog posts, product descriptions, and ebooks. Then, a pool of writers can pick up these "orders" to write.
As the name suggests, it's all about cranking out as much content as you can as quickly as possible.
Depending on the content mill, you have access to hundreds and even thousands of jobs. Topics for these jobs can range from animals to travel. This means you can find something that piques your interest quite easily. Well, sometimes. If the content mill doesn't do its job right, the order pool can evaporate quickly.
In most cases, content mills operate through anonymity. This means you don't share private information about yourself such as a name or an email address. Otherwise, clients can find you outside of the system, and the content mill ceases to make money.
How Much Do Content Mills Pay?
Content mills vary in how much they pay authors. Some will give as much as five cents per word while others let you "lease" out the article to make quite a bit more.
As a 4-Star author on Textbroker, I get a base rate of 1.4 cents per word unless I write for direct order clients or teams. These often pay considerably more.
Personally, I've made as much as $28/hour for an eight-hour workday. However, there were days when I only made around $30. It varies greatly depending on the pay per word, the number of jobs available, and your own amount of effort.
So, Why Use Content Mills?
Even though the pay fluctuates wildly, I still believe content mills have a place. This is especially true for beginner freelance writers.
And sure, the pay isn't the greatest when compared to signing a nice contract with an awesome company. But without skills to back up the offer, you'll find it difficult to get and keep those amazing private clients.
1. Boost Writing Experience
When I started writing, it would have been next to impossible to find private clients simply because I didn't have experience. While I did have good grammar and spelling skills, I didn't know much about professional writing.
In reality, demonstrating experience is key to success.
Learn AP Style Writing
Most online content today is written using AP Style context. This is much different than college essay writing, which focuses more on Oxford Style.
Since most of the best content mills provide feedback, they essentially help you understand the difference.
In my experience, I would take the feedback from editors and research how to improve. In the first few months, I learned a lot about what makes great content and happy clients.
Expand Knowledge of Topics
If you do your research, you can easily expand your knowledge of almost any topic. You may even learn new facts about your favorite subjects.
I began writing about computers and networking, which was my background at the time. Then, I expanded my horizons by exploring different topics. Needless to say, I found that I have a knack for business and marketing.
As many content mills like Textbroker offer a wide range of topics, you can explore your interests thoroughly as a freelance writer.
Practice Makes Perfect
The more you practice any skill, the better you become. This is true whether you're a writer or a gardener. And content mills offer an incredible opportunity to keep you practiced in your art.
Every order you complete for a client improves speed, knowledge and efficiency. These are very important aspects if you want to branch out later to attract private clientele.
But, this requires effort on your part to grow and advance.
2. Write According to Your Schedule
One of the things I like most about content mills is the ability to write according to personal scheduling. You don't have a strict 9-to-5 job where a boss will stand there tapping his or her foot if you're late.
You have a lot of control when it comes to working your own hours. Essentially, you are your own boss.
Work Around Home Life
A lot of people love the idea of working from home as it gives them the opportunity to work according to life in general. Some of us just have too much living to do for traditional work schedules.
For instance, what if you have an infant and don't have means for daycare? Content mills are excellent in this regard because the orders are available whether you write in the mornings or at night.
Pay attention, though. Those orders can go quickly if other authors are writing while you're not.
Great Part-Time Work
I started writing for Textbroker as a part-time job to offset my pay from the school district. I mean, $8 per hour doesn't really go far when you have a household of four.
If you put in the work and have a workable schedule, you can bring in enough to pay a few bills each week. For myself, it was about putting gas in the truck and food on the table.
The amount I brought in as a beginner freelance writer started paying down some of the bills that were stacking up.
You Can Write from Anywhere
Another awesome aspect of writing online is that you can do it from anywhere. As long as you have an Internet connection and a laptop, you can create content for clients.
In many instances, I would write a couple of articles while on Christmas vacation. While I was sitting around waiting for people to get ready for a party, I could whip out one or two $5 articles inside of an hour.
Having a career as an online freelance writer gives you flexibility in location. If you move to another city, state or even country, you can still write.
Of course, this is true whether you're writing for content mills or private clients.
3. Practice Dealing With and Adapting to Clients
Before looking for private clients, get some experience in adapting. Every job is different, and bouncing from one style to another is often difficult.
This is a skill that is extremely valuable in freelance writing. You might have one client who needs a lot of product descriptions and then one who wants a single, 5,000-word ebook.
Not everyone is going to require the same style, tone, and structure for content. Content mills give you access to hundreds of people who may want articles written in different ways.
Learn Communication Skills
One of the key points to succeeding as a freelance writer is communication. If you ignore customers or complete jobs incorrectly, it'll have a negative effect on your career.
If you're not sure of an order's requirements, ask. Most clients would rather you ask and do the job right than to do a rewrite or revision.
I've gained many direct order clients who paid a lot more per word simply because I was communicative. From the basic greeting message to follow-up emails later on, clients love my engagement.
One thing I tout a lot when it comes to writing content is treating others with respect. A good way to practice this is to interact with clients on content mills.
I only wish more authors put in the effort to view themselves and the job as professional. Too many writers don't finish jobs on time or ignore clients altogether.
Practice Negotiating for Better Pay
Some authors don't realize their own potential or wind up short-changing themselves. This is often due to a lack of negotiating for higher pay.
You need to acknowledge your worth. Of course, you can only negotiate higher pay if you get direct orders from clients. Things like open pools where the price-per-word is set, you don't have a choice.
In my instance, I've made a lot of money from those direct orders because I negotiated a better rate. I've had lots of clients who wound up paying me nearly three times the cost per word because of the amount of work I put into the articles. If you demonstrate strong writing skills and engagement, clients will often pay a higher cost.
4. Easier to Find Jobs
In some cases, you could spend days and even weeks looking for a private client. In the meantime, you're not making money. Content mills usually have jobs available you can do right now.
Again, this also depends on the organization. Some content mills lack a consistent workload. However, you can offset this by writing for several businesses at once.
In my case, I would write for mills in between private jobs. This would ensure a constant flow of money. I would have several browser pages open to a different company and just bounce back and forth looking for writing work.
Content Mills Find Work For You
Like I mentioned above, mills go out of their way to bring in clients so writers have work. This takes the leg-work out of trying to find your own customers outside of those systems.
Unfortunately, this relies on the mill's ability to attract clientele. Some systems are just not as efficient as others. For example, there were days back in 2012 when I would have no work available on Textbroker for days at a time. But that's when I used other systems like WriterAccess and Fiverr.com simultaneously.
After finding a good groove for myself, I had more work than I could do, which isn't a bad problem to have.
Less Stress on Perfection
As a beginner, no one expects perfection. Most of the good writing systems will put you in a class matching your skill. Clients know what they're going to get and pay accordingly. This gives you time to grow as a freelance writer and hone your abilities.
Now, there are some clients who will dip into the pool of in-experienced writers to get the biggest bang for their buck. These people will ask for perfection when it clearly isn't possible. Try to avoid those individuals as best you can. Until you get some experience under your belt, you simply may not be able to provide the expertise they're looking for.
Complete as Many Jobs as You Can
When there is a large number of orders available, you can literally write until your heart's content. A lot of private clients will limit how much you can create in a day or even in a month.
Content mills let you write as often as there is work available. This means you can literally spend all day writing if you want to bring in more money.
This is one of the reasons why a lot of clients would come back to me for orders. I would do as much as I could in the time frame I gave myself.
5. Writing for Content Mills Can Become Full-Time
If you work the systems well, offer a professional attitude, and don't waste time, you can easily turn writing for content mills into a full-time job. But it takes a lot of effort and focus to do so.
Take me, for example. I've been writing full-time since the middle of 2013. I bring in enough money to pay my bills and periodically go on fun shopping sprees. The trick was to push myself to make the systems work for me.
Now, not everyone is going to have the same experience. I cannot guarantee that you'll consistently make $50 an hour as a freelance writer. No one can.
All I can do is tell you that I was able to do it through perseverance, dedication, and effort. And I can honestly tell you, I worked exceptionally hard to be a success on content mills.
Don't assume you'll bring in thousands of dollars a week. But if you approach it with an open mind and are tenacious about making freelance writing a career, you can succeed.
Top 5 Expert Tips to Get the Most out of Content Mills
Before I wrap this up, I wanted to share some tips that may help you get the most out of content mills and freelance writing in general. These are things I practiced from day one which have played a major role in my success.
1. Be Engaging
Always communicate with your client and be respectful. The more interactive you are, the more likely clients will send you direct orders to help you make more money.
2. Have a Quick Turnaround Time
The faster you can turn out an article, the better. Not only will you make more money each day, but you'll impress the clients as well as the content mills.
3. Do Your Research
Always offer the most valid information you can find. Add links to cite high-authority sources when making a claim. This goes a long way to being viewed as a professional.
4. Be Professional, Even if the Client Isn't
When you come across negative clients, don't be negative yourself. Even if the client is having a rough day, offering the best customer experience at all times improves your value.
Create a Schedule When You're Most Productive
Everyone will have peak times of the day when they're the most productive. Find yours as a freelance writer. This may take a bit of trial and error on your part.
The above tips have helped me tremendously over the years. These are some of the most important aspects that I try to teach all new freelance writers.
Content Mills Aren't All That Bad
If you look at it from a beginner's perspective, content mills can play a big role in developing a variety of skills. Sure, you'll make less money than approaching private clients. However, they do help you accumulate experience.
And when it comes to attracting clients outside of content mills, the experience is relevant to success.
In fact, using sites like Textbroker is what helped me move from being an author on a content mill to being the Content Marketing Team Lead of a prominent web hosting company.
Push yourself to be more than you are as a freelance writer.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Michael Brockbank
Michael Brockbank (author) from Colorado on September 26, 2019:
You are welcome...and thank you. It's all about getting that freelance-ball rolling. I know I would be nowhere the success I am today if it wasn't for sites like Textbroker. I learned a lot from the editors and how to deal with...questionable clients. :)
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on September 25, 2019:
I think you're correct about "starting out" on content mills. After you get some experience, and have a portfolio, most of us need to "graduate" to private clients and other ways to find work. Making only a $.01 per word is discouraging for an experienced writer. But, as you point out, content mills have a place for the beginner.
Excellent, well-researched article. Thank you!
Michael Brockbank (author) from Colorado on September 07, 2019:
You are very welcome. :)
RTalloni on September 07, 2019:
Thanks for this practical discussion on using content mills. Offering valuable insight gained from your experience you not only give good tips but help others evaluate whether they have the perspective before they jump in.
Michael Brockbank (author) from Colorado on September 05, 2019:
Sorry to hear about your experience. Though, the content mills I use protect authors and will go after clients who try to use work without paying.
But there are a lot of people who try to game the system or rip off honest writers. It's sad, really.
I built a career out of using content mills, but I love the security I have with my current private client. I make far more today than I did back in 2012. However, I wouldn't be where I am today if not for those online mills. :)
John Welford from Barlestone, Leicestershire on September 05, 2019:
I did try this once, but gave up when I realized that a client could reject your piece, thus not paying for it, but then go ahead and use it anyway. For the record, this was not one of the firms that you mentioned in your piece.