Are Content Mills Worth Your Time as a Freelancer?

I recently had a comment on a video in which the person said how content mills will never pay a writer a decent amount of money. That people should stop trying to be copywriters and run their own websites. Today, let me break down the possibilities from both angles.

First, what is “decent” to this commenting individual? Was he or she upset about not being able to buy a McLaren inside of a month as a content writer?

You see, goals and achievements are different for everyone. As is capability, motivation, and focus. But just because you failed at something, doesn’t mean that content mills are a joke.

It just means you weren’t that good. And that’s not a bad thing. Not everyone is going to excel at being an online writer. Just like I’ll never be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Obviously, the commenter found his or her niche and moved on.

What Are Content Mills?

A content mill is an online company that connects writers to clients for creating content. In most cases, this material is usually in the form of blog posts, product descriptions, or other promotional writing.

Sometimes, you might even come across a client or two who wants eBooks, tutorials, or news pieces.

You earn a set amount per word, which can vary greatly depending on the client. For instance, you can earn $0.014 cents per word as a 4-Star in Textbroker, but still charge $0.07 per word for direct orders.

And many clients are willing to pay the higher amounts if you demonstrate professionalism and produce quality content.

For the most part, mills are pretty easy to get into. However, many of the better platforms do have testing to put you in the right skill-class of writer. After all, systems like Textbroker don’t want poor writers creating material for high-paying clients.

That would be like Gordon Ramsey putting an inexperienced cook as a head chef in a Michelin-star restaurant.

After writing for these platforms since January of 2012 and completing more than 8,000 pieces of content, I think I am qualified as an expert.

And although I support using mills, especially for new writers, there are negatives you need to address. Keep in mind, not everyone is going to have the same experience.

Benefits to Using Content Mills

Benefits of Writing

So, let’s start with some of the benefits of using mill services like Textbroker, WriterAccess, and Fiverr. While everyone’s opinion is different, these are my thoughts and experiences over the last decade.

For the most part, I try to keep it practical and realistic according to my own performance.

Helps New Writers Learn

When I started writing, I knew nothing of AP Style English or how to properly structure sentences and paragraphs. The editors at Textbroker, WriterAccess, and Constant Content were helpful by telling me what needed fixing.

In fact, it was their input that made the biggest impact to my success. Every comment, I would research suggestions using Google and then put the “fix” into immediate practice.

Great Practice for Client Interaction

Since writing for content mills, I’ve interacted with a myriad of clients. Everyone from the ultra-happy, bonus-giving, client who gives constant direct orders to the “I hate what you do and will blacklist you” type.

But in every case, I was able to hone my customer relations skills and provide the highest level of professionalism. According to many of these clients, it’s one of the biggest reasons why they sent me so much work.

Usually a Lot More Jobs Available

I would rather spend 20 to 25 minutes making $7.80 on a short blog post in Textbroker than nothing while waiting for private clients to respond and send work. There’s no reason why you can’t do both, actually.

At any rate, I found myself far busier with writing content for clients on mill sites. And with how fast I’ve become, I can easily clear quite a bit of money throughout the day.

Some Content Mills Go the Extra Mile for Writers

It’s been my experience that companies like Textbroker and WriterAccess go to great lengths to protect and appease their writers. Not only does something like Textbroker offer some great bonuses, but they take a very dim view of clients who try to abuse the creator.

Unfortunately, not all mills are created equal. Some that tout having the lowest rates on the Internet for clients also have the lowest payouts for writers. You need to find the best ones for you’re needs.

Can Replace an Income, If You Work at It

I was able to surpass what I made from the school district thanks to content mills. However, it took a year and a half of dedication, motivation, and honing my skills. It’s not something you can easily do overnight.

Now, there are days when the workload dries up. That’s why I would track an average throughout the month, or even yearly. On average, I would bring in roughly $25 per hour.

Drawbacks to Content Mills

OK, while content mills may sound quite appealing to the new writer, they’re not without their own set of drawbacks. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows.

In fact, some of the drawbacks might be enough to prevent you from exploring what mills can do for you.

The Pay is Often Quite Low

One of the biggest complaints I hear from others is how content mills don’t pay writers enough money. Why make $0.014 per word if some companies will pay out nearly a dollar?

Usually, those high-paying writing jobs on major websites will only contract you for two to three articles…per month. Which means you’ll need to acquire a lot of these clients to generate sustainable income.

I’m not saying that mills don’t pay well. I would love it if some of them paid higher rates. But consider the industry and how most companies are looking for the cheapest alternative possible to make the most money.

The trade-off, though, is perhaps the easiness of creating content. Most clients on mill sites just want quick and easy blog posts that don’t take much time to write at all. Which means you can crank out a lot of these smaller pieces to make quite a bit.

You’re a Ghostwriter

One of the biggest issues I have is not being able to have my name on a piece of amazing content I created. That’s part of why I’ve branched out into a lot of different things over the years.

If you create the most incredible blog post, someone else’s name is listed as the author. And I’ve done a few pieces that impressed even myself.

In fact, there were times when I would keep an awesome post for myself and then write another for the client. Of course, the flow would be different than the one I wrote before.

Some Clients Try Hard to Rip You Off

I’ve had some clients try to squeeze every bit they could out of me while pushing for constant revisions. And sometimes, you can tell what some of them are trying to do with how they word the request and message responses.

I’ve had to cancel quite a few orders because I suspected the client taking advantage. Sometimes, it’s just not worth the few bucks you can get with an article.

Just make sure you’re canceling for the right reasons. Some clients might have legitimate requests depending on your skill and the topic.

Immense Amount of Effort to Succeed

There’s no doubt that it takes an incredible amount of effort to succeed as an online writer in any regard. You’re not going to come out of the gate making as much as I do.

As I said earlier, it took around a year and a half before I was able to quit my job at the school district.

I had to streamline my writing process to become faster, learn A LOT of AP Style nuances, and dedicate myself to being fast while offering high-quality content.

The Work Can Dry Up Quickly

And lastly, the workload in content mills can dry up rather fast. One minute you’ll see hundreds of orders you can pick through, then nothing the next.

One of the teams I’m on in Textbroker drops more than a thousand jobs every month. But, they are so easy to write that the team quickly snatches them up. Those jobs can easily disappear within a few days.

Not to mention how the open pool of orders can have slumps as well. This is why I would write for several mills on a daily basis. I would go back and forth picking up whatever work was available on these systems.

Is Writing for Content Mills Worth the Effort?

Writing for Content Mills

So, is writing for companies like Textbroker and WriterAccess worth the effort? Well, that really depends on you.

For me, it was an amazing experience as I’ve met some great clients and built myself up to where I am today…the Content Marketing Team Lead of a great web hosting company.

I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for honing my skills with content mills.

But before you decide, ask yourself the following:

What are your future goals?

Are you trying to find a writing job so you can make it rich in the next month or so? Or, do you need something to offset your small regular-job paycheck so you can afford to live – which is why I started writing.

What you want to get out of freelance writing is going to weigh heavily on whether you succeed or not.

Are you experienced enough to find private clients?

A lot of people who want to become writers have little to no experience. You can’t expect to land prominent clients without knowing how to string words together properly on the Internet.

Content mills are a great place to learn a lot of those skills. From there, once you feel more comfortable, make the transition to start finding private clients.

How do you view content mills in general?

Your mindset about any topic is going to govern over your success. If you try to do something you think is stupid or that you hate, it’s far more difficult to excel. This is because, well, your heart isn’t in it.

Why do you think people often say, “Do what you love?” This is because a job that you enjoy is less likely to feel like a burden or mundane chore. Being excited about what you do keeps you focused and motivated.

If you go into content systems like Textbroker or Fiverr with a negative opinion, you’ll most likely have a negative experience.

Even though my friend at the time hated content mills because Textbroker rated him a 3-Star and he was adamantly upset, I still gave it a shot. I kept an open mind and became quite successful at what I do.

It All Comes Down to Effort and Choice

You can boil down success in anything to “Effort” and “Choice.” If you choose to put in the effort, you can succeed in any career path.

But what about those who really put in the effort and failed at content mills?

Not everyone is going to have the same experience. It doesn’t mean those people are failures, though. It simply means that they did not get out of the experience something for which they were looking.

For me, content mills opened doors I never thought were even there. So, from my point of view, yes…content mills were worth every moment since 2012.

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Michael Brockbank

I've been a freelance writer since January 1, 2012. I've worked with a myriad of clients and currently the Content Marketing Team Lead for GreenGeeks web hosting. My fingers are also in a lot of different industries such as gaming and fitness.

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