People need answers. The internet likes to provide them. If you want to help the internet do just that, writing for content mills can prove fun and lucrative.
Of course, that decision brings with it several questions. Many people are dubious about the reputation and worth of content mills, and for good reason. You’re probably also wondering about pay, hours, flexibility and long-term potential.
I’ll answer these questions and more in this post, so read on!
What Is a Content Mill?
A content mill is a freelance writing site that matches up writers with clients for the production of content. According to The Balance, a content mill is an organization that provides “cheap” website content by paying writers poorly.
This is the widespread belief about content mills, sometimes known as writers’ mills: that they churn out crummy content by taking advantage of suckers with a penchant for the written word.
I would qualify this on multiple fronts. While the phrase “content mill” is sometimes used in a derogatory way, I believe that’s misplaced.
First, content mill output is not necessarily of low quality. Many capable writers can produce articles and posts quickly, using standard English (or other languages, depending on the country) and writing to specific style guides. This can build up your expertise as a writer while keeping your bank account happy.
Second, content mills aren’t merely a dispassionate, robotic algorithm. They are run by real people and bring together real clients with real writers. They can lead to long-lasting relationships and word-of-mouth marketing that keeps your pipeline full for years to come.
How Much Can You Make at Content Mills?
The rate you can make at content mills varies widely. Some don’t pay well at all, offering writers as little as 1 cent per word. That isn’t common, but it does happen.
As content mill writer Hannah Whiteoak explains on her blog, though, you can actually find good work through such organizations. Her pay goes up to 20 cents a word for some assignments, which is competitive with the rates that private copywriters set for themselves.
A more realistic expectation for what you can make is between 3 and 10 cents per word, depending on your experience level and tenure with the content platform. To make a good living, you will need to stick with it for a few years, which allows you to:
- Build a client base
- Forge a relationship with the company, so they’re more likely to recommend you to clients
- Gain experience that, should you wish to, will give you the confidence to branch out to your own freelance writing business
Potential Hazards of Writing for Content Mills
Not all content mills are genuine sources of good work for writers. Some take advantage of you financially, while others provide content to disreputable websites or companies. If your name gets associated with such companies, that could prove detrimental to you later in life.
So, how do you avoid this? Here are a few steps to take to ensure the content mill you write for won’t come back to bite you:
- Look for a physical address: Any reputable company needs a physical address at which they headquarter employees, and which they use for their taxes. If you can’t find one, steer clear.
- Talk to a real person before signing up: If you can get ahold of a live person – not a bot – by phone or chat beforehand, you can feel more confident that this is a real freelance writing site.
- Look up the rates: If it’s a real organization, you’ll find their rates clearly stated somewhere on the site. The same goes for the cut the company takes. If you can’t find it, you can’t trust them.
If you are successful in the above, you can feel much safer signing up for that site!
Where Can I Find Freelance Writing Jobs?
Some writers have more success diving deeply into learning and producing work on one particular platform. Others enjoy using platforms as widely as possible, the better to cherry-pick assignments. You’ll have to experiment to find what works best for you.
Here are some of the most popular freelance writing sites to choose from:
- Constant Content
Ideally, you should start with only one or two of these. To join, you will have to follow a few basic steps:
- Apply with your work experience and qualifications.
- Once accepted, create a profile with writing samples and resume. Fill out every aspect of your profile you can, including a headshot, About section, images for your writing samples, and so on.
- Start reaching out to clients, bidding on jobs, picking up assignments from the talent pool or applying to calls for work.
These steps will naturally vary from platform to platform, so give yourself time to figure each one out before moving on.
The Final Word on Writing for Content Mills
Freelance writing sites can provide a good income in exchange for interesting assignments. If you like writing on a wide variety of topics, you’ll probably enjoy this line of work a lot.
On the other hand, if you value close relationships with only a few clients, this probably isn’t the job for you. Content mill writing relies on doing a lot of work for a lot of different people and organizations. As with anything else, you must simply know yourself to make the best choice.
Want more? Check out our guide to freelance writing for beginners.
FAQs about Writing for Content Mills
Is writing for content mills real writing?
Yes, the work you produce for content mills is absolutely genuine writing. It goes onto reputable websites and blogs. It helps companies promote good quality products and serve real clients.
While content mills might not come with the caché of older or larger publications, they still give you a good experience and good money. And while they don’t come with a byline, many writers actually prefer sitting behind the scenes. It’s all up to you.
Does writing for content mills pay well?
If you work hard for several years and are willing to work a full week, you can earn six figures. If you prefer shorter hours and more flexibility, you can make a decent salary doing part-time work – or even less.
Will writing for content mills look good on a resume?
It is true that many long-established publications are looking for writers who have work published in print or online, under a byline, at outlets they consider reputable. Not all content mill writing will check this box, simply because it is for private companies, small blogs or websites, or print collateral (think business cards or brochures).
However, this kind of writing does allow you to claim experience as a writer, and no one can take that away from you. While it might not get you far with The New York Times, it is excellent resume fodder if your goal is to make a living as an online content specialist or copywriter.