Mention the words “content mill” and most writers I know cringe. They talk about too much work for not enough pay and how content mills devalue the skill of writing. Others are thrilled that content mills exist, making it easy for them to earn an income from home. Here is some information to help you decide if content mills are for you.
What’s a Content Mill?
A content mill is a company that hires writers to churn out keyword-rich, SEO-friendly articles for it’s publishing properties or clients. For example, Demand Media creates content for a variety of media sources including regional newspapers, LIVESTRONG and others.
Why All the Negativity for Content Mills?
Part of the issue is their history. Most content mills started out needing keyword rich articles to fill their sites, get good search engine ranking, drive lots of traffic and ultimately make money. At the time, most of the mills weren’t too picky about the quality of writing. As a result, most of the content is poorly written and not viewed as quality or “real” writing. Although many content mills have more stringent writing quality controls now, they are still perceived negatively. In fact, you might be better off to say you have no clips than to offer up clips written for a content mill.
The other issue is that pay is so low. Many writing experts say that if you want to be a professional writer, you should command a fee that represents that. Professional writers usually try to earn at least a $1 per word, although some breaking in to the field may write for 10, 15 or 20 cents a word to get clips and build to higher fees. Most content mills that offer a flat rate, usually pay only $5 – $15, with a few like Demand Media paying $20 or more for specialty articles. That comes down to as low as 1 cent a word or less. Some mills pay through ad revenue, which is essentially working for free and hoping people will read your article and click on an ad.
Finally, and probably the biggest reason to not write for content mills is that once you’re in and counting on an income, it can be hard to get out. If you’re writing 5 articles a day for $500 a week, to try and break into other writing gigs, you’ll need cut back on content mill writing, which reduces your income. Plus, because many media sources don’t consider clips from content mills, you have to start from scratch. So while you can make money from content mills, it’s nearly impossible to build a writing career.
Why Would Anyone Write for a Content Mill?
With that said, there may be reasons that a content mill will work for you. If you’ve never made a living writing, they can be a great place to get your feet wet and decide if writing is for you. Because they require a lot of writing to make a living, you get lots of practice, and when it comes to writing, the more you do it, the better you get. Many content sites require references and resources, so you’ll also be able to create a library of sources that you can use to expand your writing. Finally, the content mills that pay a flat fee, often pay weekly or even twice a week, so it can be a quick source of income.
Ultimately, whether you write for a content mill comes down to whether you’re writing for money or prestige. If you want the prestige, don’t write for content mills or at least don’t use content mill writing on your resume. But if you want to make several hundred dollars a week cranking out articles, then a content mill might be for you.
Here are some tips to writing for a content mill:
1) Choose mills that pay at least $20 to $30 or more per 400 words (that’s 5 cents to 7.5 cents per word). Because articles for content mills can be written quickly and are usually around 400 words, you can crank out several a day. There are people writing 5 articles (usually in five or less hours) and earning $100 to $150 or more per day. Never go with ad revenue as a source of payment.
2) Make your submission the best it can be the first time around. Many content mills have editors that will kick back an article if they don’t think it’s ready to publish. You maximize your time and income by avoiding having to respond to edits. Some content mills will increase your fee based on the quality of writing, which is another reason to submit the best writing you can.
3) Write on a variety topics to avoid getting bored. The highest paying content mills have a database of articles from which to choose. While writing on the same topics means faster writing (but don’t plagiarize yourself), it also means tedium and boredom.
4) Plan an out. If you’re writing for content mills just to get practice, make sure you plan a way to move on. That might mean spending part of your day writing for a mill and another part of the day pitching online resources so you can expand your career.
Some content mills to check out include: (be sure to read the terms carefully and run the numbers to make sure writing for these sources is worth your time.)
Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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