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Confessions of a Content Mill Writer

Writing Etc.: Become a writer for hire.

February 26, 2015

~~ Notes from Minnesota ~~~

Hey Writing Etc. subscriber,

Fast question: How many queries do you send out each day?

Another question: How many sales letters do you send out per week?

Final question: How much freelance work do you have in your queue?

Hmmm. I’ve been hearing many horror stories about freelancing, changes in the industry, declining rates… but when I ask those three questions in response to the complaints, I invariably receive similar dismal responses.

Here’s freelancing’s big secret: Writers say they love to write. They tend to enjoy talking about writing. They often enjoy reading about writing.

But actually write? Not as much. Market that same writing? Definitely not as much.

But these are some topics I’ll tackle starting today. First up? Content mills, yay or nay?

Read on.

More later,



Got Questions?

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How do I get published?
How do I gain a readership?
What makes an effective query?
How do I sell my writing?

All these questions (and many more) answered here: “Advice to Freelance Writers: Insider Secrets to Effective Shoestring Marketing, Managing a Winning Mindset, and Thriving in Any Economy, Volumes 1 – 3.” Get the scoop here. 

~~~~ Feature Article ~~~~~~~~

Confessions of a Content Mill Writer

Beth’s note: I received this information and am passing in on with his/her permission. I have a couple comments at the end.

   Well, this is embarrassing.

It all started innocuous enough. A writing friend needed help. “We’re swamped. Pay isn’t great, but work is steady, you can easily squeeze the articles in between your other projects, and we could really use your help.”

Whether I was feeling adventurous, wanted to stretch my writing chops, or am simply a glutton for punishment, I found myself saying, “Sure. I’ll help.”

I was a little surprised when I had to interview for this low paying assignment. Terms were interesting: Five bucks per article, 100 percent original, I was selling “all rights,” everything ran through Copyscape. I evidently passed inspection and was immediately given 20+ articles to edit. Pay rate? $1.25 per 900 word article. But no rush. The pay felt dismal, but… well… I was doing this for a friend.

Oh wait. Did I say “no rush?” Two days before my deadline, I started getting emails asking to submit the articles early.

The next week, they needed five articles. Perfect. At five dollars per, I wrote one per day, submitted them, and all seemed well, except for the nagging sensation that I’d just whipped up five small batches of “Google Goulash.” I vowed to be a bit more imaginative on the next batch, despite the low pay rate.

The week of Christmas I received an email requesting I write 23 – 900 word articles on a subject I know nothing about, using specific keywords… in four days. This would mean I’d need to research, then write six of these little guys (for a total of 5,600 words per day), including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I would also be required to highlight each keyword.

I turned it down, explaining I could only do five articles per week.

The week after, I received a request to write five articles, but they were due within 24 hours.

I turned that one down as well.

Then I received a curt email from my rep telling me to “email when I was ready to write for them again.”

He’s still waiting for my reply.

(Beth again): Here are my thoughts concerning this situation:

1. Selling “all rights” to an original article for five dollars is truly disappointing. The writer receives no byline, no author credit, no new clips, no credibility building… it’s truly one of the the worst ways to sell your time and/or talent.

2. Rather than write for a content mill, you may find your time better spent contacting local businesses offering to write their promotions. The pay is far better, they generally respect your talent/education, and it’s really fun. Send out a set number of sales letters every day and (like magic) some get responses. It’s really that easy.

3. Why do you write? I’m sure it’s not to spend your day writing click-baity Google goulash. Writing is the most powerful activity you can engage in. Words possess the power to change worlds, create fortunes, ignite dreams.

IMHO, I’d suggest you hold tight to your dream, treat it as precious as it is, and don’t bruise it by writing for content mills offering insulting wages for what is basically nothing in return.

What are your thoughts? How do your experiences with content mills compare? Join the discussion here. (As always, be kind.) 🙂


You can use any of these articles free of charge on your own website or zine. Just don’t make any changes and be sure to include this byline:

This article is courtesy of Filbert Publishing. Make your writing sparkle, write killer queries, get published. Subscribe to Writing Etc., the free e-mag for freelancers and receive the e-book “Power Queries.”



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