The Reality of Writing for Content Mills — 14 Writers’ True Stories

Hamster running on a wheel

Have you ever wondered if there is a content mill out there somewhere that’s better than all the rest?

I get this question a lot, from writers hoping that if they can just find the right content mill, they will finally be able to easily earn a living from their craft. Maybe there’s one where the editors are nicer or the assignments easier?

The thing is, I’ve never written for a content mill. I’ve used my business-reporter skills to analyze Demand Media’s financials, so I’m aware that the “stuff site with junk content, put up ads, and hope for revenue” business model popular with content mills isn’t doing that well, especially as Google continues to change its algorithm to penalize these sorts of sites.

I’ve also asked content mill owners why they don’t pay more. Basically, see the previous paragraph. This business model isn’t very profitable, so there isn’t a lot of pay for you.

My sense is debating the differences between different mills is a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. But I wanted to find out more.

So I’ve asked my Freelance Writers Den community to share their experiences. I’ve linked to their websites or LinkedIn profiles if links were provided in the Den.

Some of these writers have worked for mills in the past, and others are still using them as they market proactively to find better clients. I think this provides a frank look at the real life of content mill writers. I’ve bolded some of the key reactions and feelings about writing for mills that the writers shared.

Here it is, in their own words, organized by mill. Mills are in no particular order:

Demand Studios

Assignments are virtually unavailable now except for a select few. Pay was $15.00 an article, editors were unreasonable and requested revisions without allowing you to ask for clarification. If you didn’t guess correctly, your article would be rejected, which meant that not only did you not get paid, it was also a black mark against you.-Holly Case

I started writing for them in 2010 and wrote a steady 6-12 articles a week or more for about a year and a half. They used to have a lot of mostly boring topics that paid $15/article. They now have a lot of specialty topics that you have to get approved for that pay $25/article. What’s improved, though, is that some of the sites where the content goes are ones I’m not embarrassed to use a byline on.

I’m approved as a parenting writer, and one of the sites they publish to is TheBump.com — a totally legitimate site. You also get to write in a more interesting, “snarky” tone for that site instead of the dry, boring tone they wanted for eHow.

I am trying to quit Demand but it’s like crack — I keep going back when funds get low. If I’m getting $50/post for clients, then $25/post with no marketing starts to look like a better rate…once I have the $100/post clients I want to have, Demand will be a lot less tempting!

Biggest annoyance with Demand is the editors. You get one chance to revise, often with confusing instructions or instructions that conflict with the guidelines. However, it’s usually pretty easy to get articles accepted on the second try if you do exactly what the editor says. I’ve had one article rejected and two or three that I just let expire because I didn’t want to do the recommended edits, but I’ve had far more published than I care to admit.-L.C. Baker

For over a year, I churned out four to five articles per day at $15 each. Then all the good assignments started to go south, so I backed out of that situation.-Debra Stang

I started contributing to Demand in 2009. Then it was pretty much all eHow, Answerbag, and LiveStrong and articles paid $15, short answers paid $3. Pretty much anyone who signed up was accepted. Recently, they’ve really cleaned up.

You now have to be approved to write on certain topics. But I question how they go about determining this. I applied to be a travel writer and a parenting writer. At the time, I was working for a travel company as their blogger, I had several travel clips from websites, blogs, and magazines, travel Europe and the US extensively and often, had my own expat/travel blog and was the Netherlands travel Examiner for Examiner.com. Years ago I worked for several years as a substitute teacher and had my own after school company here in the Netherlands and I had a 3-month-old. Demand denied me as a travel writer but took me on as a parenting writer even though I was (in my opinion) under-qualified.

They have stepped up and are now doing more legit sites like thebump.com, globalpost.com, thenest.com and a few others, and the topics are much more interesting and better categorized. Pay is now $25-30 depending on the site you’re writing for. But, still, that’s for a 400-500 word article. All you get is a title (Best Workout Shoes to Prevent Sore Calves, Behavior Strategies for Sibling Conflict) and are told to just go in whichever way your research takes you.

You’re supposed to list any resources and references you used to write the article, which are included at the bottom of the piece in college-term-paper footnote fashion. It just looks really amateur.

Under the title of each article that’s approved and posted online is “Your name, Demand Media,” so the site may be a good one, but any editor who checks them out is going to see my name tied with Demand Media before they even start reading the article. Yes, there are editors out there who don’t care, but there are enough of them who do and will write you off immediately that I will always hide those articles, no matter how well-written they are or for what site they were used.

DM hates direct quotes, so they’re looking for you to find all the info on websites and in books and paraphrase. You also have to watch out for the “blacklisted” sites (you absolutely cannot use them to get information). Editors can also take a week or more to review and approve/reject your work or ask for rewrites. Yet, if you’re given rewrites, you’re expected to get it done and turn it in again in three days.

The only nice thing is that you get paid once a week, so you’re never waiting around for payment.-Tiffany Jansen

Textbroker

I wrote one piece for Textbroker at $.05 cents per word. I have never gone back to write enough to meet the minimum threshold for payout, so they still owe me $1.50. I chalked it up to a life lesson and went on to find real clients that pay real money.-Jennifer Roland

My strategy is to take assignments from all of my favorite categories and write the very best article I can. Eventually, a client “clicks” with me and starts requesting me at my “personal rates.” I almost never need to accept job board prices anymore.-Debra Stang

I wrote for Textbroker for a couple of months when I first started, and the work was easy.  The pay was usually around $0.02 per word, depending on your level as a writer.  There were seldom any requests for revisions and the pay was regular.  That being said, you couldn’t get any clips from the work and I never got any regular clients. The problem with all of these sites is you can get so used to them that you don’t get motivated to get better work… until you burn out.-Joyce M

With Textbroker there’s no bidding, no resume, I just did a writing sample, submitted it for review and waited on my rating.  Little did I know I would be toiling away at a penny per word until I broke my comma habit and propensity for dangling participles.

In order to move up in pay, your articles must be reviewed and rated on a scale of two to five. The article review takes place once per month.  Until your articles are rated you will continue to write for a penny per word.  However, there is a very wide variety of articles to choose from at or below your approved level.  Everything from automotive to movies to sexual dysfunction.  Articles are approved, typically within 48 hours and the money is deposited into your Textbroker account immediately upon approval.  The nice thing is Textbroker payments are made weekly provided you have $10 in your account.  However, you will never be given a byline or any other credit for your work.-Jennifer Hawkins

Writer Access

There was still a writing test for a rating and a rather arduous application process [when I applied].  You are able to select assignments based upon your writing level.  The pay is usually $0.01 to $0.05 per word for Level 3 writers.  The variety of articles is unfortunately, rather mundane.  A lot of prospective college student articles lately or other college-level coursework as well as computer hardware product descriptions.

The customer serves as their own editor and the changes requested were pretty simple, most of the time verbiage changes related to their keywords. The biggest drawback — WriterAccess only pays once per month by the tenth day of the following month, painfully slow in the content mill world. There are no bylines or credit for your work.-Jennifer Hawkins

Writer Access – pay between $.01 and $.15 a word but most assignments pay between 1 cent and 3.2 cents. Very few revisions and you deal directly with the client, so your experience varies widely based on who hires you. There is a feedback system so you can get a heads up if a client is difficult. No bylines. Lots of work available. Topics can be interesting but usually aren’t.-Holly Case

Yahoo Contributor Network (Associated Content)

I’ve written a couple of pieces for Associated Content and Suite 101. Both of those are fun because you can write anything you want. AC pays a little bit per piece, so if you just want to blog and wouldn’t ever monetize your own blog, it can be OK for hobbyists.-L.C. Baker

Pays per page view and you don’t really have editors. You can write about anything you want. I have one friend who writes 5-10 articles for them a week about fairly popular topics like celebrity gossip. She gets a lot of page views, but the most money she’s ever made was $18.00.-Holly Case

Most of my content mill experience is with Yahoo! Contributor Network, known as Associated Content when I started writing there in July 2009. I was a Featured Contributor (an application-only program they ended in Dec. 2012) where I made $15-$18 per 400-500 word article. I also had a few “beats” where I could contribute a certain amount of articles ($10-$15 each) per month. Each topic in the Featured program (Pets, Movies, TV, etc.) had a designated editor who you could contact. But I never received feedback once the article was submitted or got any rewrites, so there wasn’t any sort of real writer/editor relationship.

I did get bylined articles placed on Yahoo’s Movies, News, and OMG! platforms. There’s also the Yahoo Voices platform (which pays in the single digits per article) that replaced the old Associated Content site. Since the Yahoo takeover, it seems like the whole point of writing for them is to get your stuff published on one of the “higher-end” platforms. But in order to make any sort of regular income, you have to be fast and write five to six 400-500 word articles a day.

I’ve used my Yahoo Movies clips to get paying gigs on non-content mill sites, which in turn got me a few private clients who found me via those sites, but no clients who found and contacted me directly from my Yahoo work.

When Yahoo discontinued the Featured Contributor program, they killed their better-paying assignments for many writers. I still get a few bucks a month from views. I also still have one daily “beat” ($10 per article), but I haven’t written anything for them since March 2012.

When I started writing for them in 2009, it was a way for me to learn about web writing, not to make a living. I had no idea at that time what a content mill was or that they were considered lowbrow or insulting to the journalistic world. On a positive note, I did learn a lot about web content and how to apply SEO tactics in a non-spammy way, write catchy headlines, and use social media as a marketing tool.

To Yahoo’s credit, they do encourage these skills in their new writers and recently started a web writing course called the Academy to help newbies learn. Their book, The Yahoo! Style Guide, is actually a great web writing resource. Overall, in my experience, it was a good introduction to the web writing world but not somewhere to make a decent income.

I’ve also written for [several other mills] — from what I observed, all of them require a lot of time and effort for little pay.-Vanessa Stewart

Suite 101

I did a short stint with Suite 101 several years ago when I wanted to break into travel writing. At the time, I was working as a travel planner.

To start, you had to write a sample article, a few hundred words on a topic of your choice. Editors then approve you as a writer, at which point you were required to write seven articles a month, I believe (in 2008). I only did it that first month before I saw the writing on the wall. Articles went through an approval process before being posted, but I don’t recall the process being too terribly arduous.

Suite 101 gives you a byline, and you are paid via paypal periodically. If I recall correctly, there’s a minimal amount you have to reach ($10?) before they make a deposit. In the past five years, I’ve probably made about $50 from that little batch of articles. I’m pretty sure they changed up their pay scheme, as I’m not being paid for them anymore, and I’m definitely sure I don’t care.-Rachel Beavins Tracy

Seed

I also write for Seed but didn’t sell anything there either. That was supposedly better paying work, but you have to choose from their titles (like a content mill) and compete against lots of other writers (like a job board). And you have to write the piece on spec. So lots of disadvantages there.-L.C. Baker

Examiner

I started writing for Examiner.com in September as a TV Examiner. I was lucky that I had a built-in audience since I already write for a TV Magazine site (for free, sadly). Anyway, at first, I was doing great. I made $350 my first month, which was a nice supplement to my day job income. I did even better the second month, but I was writing over 100 articles.

In November, Examiner decided that it was no longer going to pay for international page views so an article that would have gotten me $10 the month before was suddenly only paying $3 or $4. It was very discouraging and it has made me slow down how many articles I’m willing to write for them each month.

Editor-wise, it’s a crapshoot. They forget their own rules and sometimes they dock you for dumb things and other times, they miss glaring errors. It just depends on which volunteer is editing the copy that day. But if they do dock you, you lose your status and have to start over from zero.

There is zero communication. They’ve made it very difficult to talk to a live person and sometimes you need to email five or six times before you get a real response.- Mandy Treccia

I wrote for Examiner, too. You can write anything you want. They force you to stay within a niche, which I guess is good if you don’t know how to write in a niche. But I never got paid a cent from them. For all those pay-per-click sites, you have to write a ton of pieces before you see any return.-L.C. Baker

Examiner.com has changed their policies multiple times since I started writing for them in 2010.

The way things work now is that you get money based on page views, comments, and article shares — to give you an example, yesterday my articles had seven page views and my slideshows had four views, and I earned $.05). Payment comes on the 20th of every month, BUT you have to earn a minimum of $10 to get paid AND you have to have published at least one article that month. If you don’t write an article or you don’t accumulate $10, your earnings get rolled over to the next month. If you go more than three months without contributing, you’re stripped of your earnings and your Examiner title.

How much you earn depends on how many articles you write, the popularity of your topic, and the amount of time you invest in promoting yourself. Long story short, even if you have the most popular topic on the internet, have written hundreds of articles, and Tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, etc, etc, you may be making nice money, but when you figure in the hours you spend working on Examiner, you’ll always be making less than minimum wage.

There are editors, but they only leave comments reminding you to use pictures, let you know when you haven’t written the minimum number of words, and ask you to change little things in the headlines.

The other wonky thing? I am the Netherlands Travel Examiner. But there’s also a Netherlands Lifestyle and Travel Examiner, and a Netherlands Tourism Examiner. I love my adoptive country, but, the way I see it, it’s just not big enough and there’s just not enough going on to warrant three Examiners.

I did learn a lot of valuable things from working at the mills, but you don’t need them to get a writing career off the ground — and they’re so easy to get sucked into and so difficult to pull yourself out of. Eventually you reach the point where you realize what a huge waste it was and that you’ll never get those hours of your life back (and that those articles are on the internet to stay and haunt you for the rest of your life). I’m there right now and it’s not a pretty place to be.-Tiffany Jansen

Blogmutt

The new kid on the block is Blogmutt.  The pay at Blogmutt is $8 per article if approved.  Customers sign up to have blogs written for their business based on a selection of keywords. Articles are typically 300-400 words and do not require an extensive amount of research in an area you’re familiar with.

However, when you get out of your expertise area, providing blog topics on such things as battery backup systems, real estate in Alaska or IT management you can get bogged down in research in a hurry.  Customers edit their own articles and at times, can be arbitrary from “too short” to “just didn’t like the post.”

The site owner is very good about keeping the customers in line with their demands.  Customers rate their own posts on a star system.  The drawback is when there’s a small set of keywords from which to derive an article.  Payment is made weekly upon article acceptance by the customer but as blogs go into the customer’s queue, the customer can pick and choose which blogs to post which weeks.  This can cause your blog to slide down the list.

While content mills are a good place to see if your writing is commercially acceptable, staying in the mills is nothing more than intellectual slavery.  If you can write with very few spelling or grammatical errors and can sell or product or engage a person’s interest in a business niche then you, too, can be a business blogger.-Jennifer Hawkins

CopyPress

I’ve written for CopyPress since 2011. The best people I worked with are now no longer there.

Their pay started at $2 dollars per 300 words and paid out once a month. They now pay $30 for “sharebait” articles, $7 for product descriptions, $4–$6 for regular blog posts. CP also pays out twice a month, but with the little work they have available, you’re likely to bring in $150 – $200 every two weeks. But, because it takes an additional two weeks for clients to approve anything, you’re not likely to get your pay on time during the two week payout. Waiting for this little pay is particularly unfavorable.

Only one editor was ever helpful there. She was awesome, to say the least. Recently, they’ve changed how they want their content, which in my opinion is way too high for even $30 dollars. I believe they have a lead editor who is useless and doesn’t point out anything to improve in your work due to “far too many mistakes to begin with.” These comments are mysterious and non-constructive because editors I’ve worked with at CP in the past were extremely helpful, unlike this mess now.

Also, any mistakes, even minor ones are immediately reported to the content manager. The CM will kick you out of the system if the lead editor complains to her. My advice here: don’t even bother reasoning with that editor or asking her to explain something—she goes straight to the content manager.

Forget about getting enough assignments for gas money here, unless you want to put in long hours for a measly $30 dollars. Work was never consistent since they had lost two seriously generous clients. And, if your work is not up to par, CP will cut your pay by half.

There is no byline on anything. All content is ghostwritten so the client can put their name on it. They did start a blog called “Copy for Bylines,” which is essentially content for free. But, the company killed CFB not long after it was launched. I did inquire of running it for them, but I never heard back from them after the initial conversation.

Now, there was a huge variety of topics when they had work. I wrote on gambling, technology, property management, business, product descriptions, education, law, and more. There were always so many different topics I was never bored. But, like I said, work was scarce, so I jumped on the opportunity when higher pay came up.

I’m certain they would create useful clips, but because you don’t own the content they would prefer you not to post it anywhere else online. I don’t think you can even state it is ghostwritten. They’re funny about that.

Right now, it’s a pain to write for CP. After that useless feedback with the “sharebait” editor, I moved onto another company that pays far better, and the editor has been very helpful and supportive. For advice to others aspiring to work for CP, I wouldn’t make them a primary source of income, if at all. Unreliability is the word that comes to my mind.

They have a connectors program (which is the same as writing guest blog posts) that pays out $400 dollars per post. Yeah, it sounds great, right? Just try getting that $400 dollars. You’ll be jumping through hoops and pulling your hair out. You’ll spend a good two months without pay while you wait for someone to accept a post. Another catch is when someone does allow you a post, and it’s not up to CP’s client’s standards, you’ll be posting for free. Honestly, I didn’t need the extra stress and work without pay for my effort.

I loved CP when they started. The team they had was genuine and awesome. Now, they are beating down on writers to produce great content, which I’m sure many of my fellow writers do, but for pennies. I’m learning I can make $50 and more per blog post on my own without their help.-Nida Sea

I started Copypress as an advanced writer. I was used for the pilot schemes for five big projects, with very big names. Three of them we won. One was my project alone, and paid $20 per post, two were expanded to bring in other writers. Pay has always been low-ish. The editors were relatively friendly, and the community was awesome. CP constantly promise higher pay.

Last year, they lost the three big clients in the same month. All said that they needed higher quality work. CP’s response was to ask the writers if they’d write for lower rates. It put most of the writing down to $5 a piece. I refused, but some writers continued.

They then brought in a certification program, where writers needed to take training and submit original samples to get work. All the work is now $30 Sharebait or $7 product descriptions. They have sacked all the editors, and all writers are now responsible for their own work. Any mistakes equal being sacked.

The Facebook groups are in meltdown, the usually friendly staff are endlessly being “reshuffled” to be never heard from again, and there seems to be less work every time I check. They do send out emails asking for advanced writers to help getting a project, but they expect you to be available at a moment’s notice for rewrites/changes, and don’t pay extra.

The biggest issue with CP is the pay. They promise the earth, and many people fall for it. The new big thing in mills seems to be promising the earth, and delivering a pittance.-Elle Blake

Internet Brands

I only wrote for them for a few months back in 2008. I made about $25 total.

They paid no more than $5 for 100-150 word, SEO-heavy, coupon-code blurbs that probably ended up on some scam-ridden pop up page.

I barely communicated with any editors. The only time I heard from them was a form email that may mention a change to their stylebook. Yes, even crappy content mills have stylebooks.

The assignments were kind of scarce since the pieces were so small and so easy to write. You just had to be quick on the draw. I did not get a byline. I couldn’t even tell you where my pieces are on the Internet.

Coupon code clips that were written according to a stylebook have proven to be useless.-Ashleigh Johnson

 Break Studios

I wrote 2 articles for them back in 2008. They were paying $8 per article then.

There weren’t multiple rewrites. I faintly remember being asked to change a comma or something. That’s it.

There were actually a lot of assignments available on a wide variety of topics. I did have a byline. My articles are still online on one of their sites. I got two useful clips out of it that I actually use to this day. That’s the only positive thing I got out of working for a content mill.-Ashleigh Johnson

Media Shower

I volunteered to sign up and see if the “headache factor” was similar to the only other content mill I know — Demand Studios.

I got a reply to my application two weeks later. They loved my portfolio, and wanted me to write a test article for them, for which I’d be paid their standard rate ($25 for a 500-word blog post). They provided the title and gave general guidelines for what they wanted included — which is much more than Demand provides.

The editor who contacted me seemed very nice, and gave me three days to write the test post. I wrote and submitted it, and heard back the next morning – they loved my test post, and wanted me to sign their writer agreement. I received payment that day.

Their agreement requires you to “keep all information relating to your work with Media Shower confidential, now and forever,” and also that all work you produce for them is theirs, and you can’t reproduce it without permission. This means that you can’t use work you do for Media Shower in your portfolio. I’m guessing that you can ask them on specific pieces, or get links, but as I haven’t gone any farther than this with the company I don’t know what the response would be.

Payment (aside from the test article, for which you’re paid immediately) is between the 7th and 10th of the month (depending on weekends, etc), for all work completed the previous month.-Angie M.

Content Authority

Pay is between $.007 and $.015 per word and they have different tiers. Everyone starts at Tier 1 and then works their way up, getting a review after five articles per tier or so – most writers on their forum are at Tier 3 and get 0.01 per word.

There’s no direct contact with clients but the editors are quite easy to work with. They’ll only send pieces back if the client as requested something or there is something really bad missing – the odd full stop missing or capital letter and the editors will change it usually. If the client asks for something that wasn’t in the original piece, there is the opportunity to dispute.

No byline. The only reason some people stick around is for the knowledge you gain in the earlier stages. I’ve seen many people comment on how much it has helped their writing so they’ve managed to go onto bigger and better pastures.

That’s my experience, except with the sites like Suite101 and HubPages, where I write for sample pieces and just for fun really – not Suite101 anymore since that went down the drain and I got my pieces off there before it affected me too much with bad press.-Alexandria Ingham

Epinions

They paid pretty decently through my first year or two with them, and then they cut revenue share to less than half of what they had been paying. Buh-bye.-Debra Stang

Web Answers

I still spend about half an hour on Web Answers a day. Answering the questions (where do folks come up with these things?) is a good way to relax, and every couple of months, I get a deposit of about $150 to my account. Not bad for a little light entertainment.-Debra Stang

 

What do I take away from all this? I’m struck by how many stories are about sudden changes in pay and working conditions.

If you write for mills, remember it’s writer beware — especially if you have all your eggs in one mill basket.

Have you written for content mills? If so, add to this post and share your experience in the comments.

 

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149 comments on “The Reality of Writing for Content Mills — 14 Writers’ True Stories
  1. Larry Phillips says:

    Well , every traditional job or work at home job has something we do not like. This includes pay, work environment, bad bosses, bad editors, or bad interfaces. The list could go on for days. It is how we approach each situation that determines whether or not we can make it as freelance writers. Content mills are a big part of my income at present times. It allows me the flexibility to hone my writing skills along with developing a strong marketing plan. I write for Textbroker, The Content Authority and a mill that was not mentioned in the piece, CrowdSource through the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. I can make a decent living while I pursue other goals, especially through CrowdSource. They pay $11.00 for a 300 word article where I can write two quality articles in one hour where I average around $22.00/hr. I work a traditional eight hour schedule and built a schedule that works for me. My point is, they work as a great supplement to your income while you try and build your client list and move up to professional writing status.

    Good luck to all,
    Larry

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yes, but traditional jobs come with things like paid sick leave, retirement-plan matching, and a host of other benefits you have to pay all on our own as a freelancer. Also with a professional salary that might make it worth the hassle of the micromanagement.

      Doing the math I get you’re making about $3,500 a month gross…so I’ll just say my definition of “good living” and yours are probably different. The question is, how long could you continue writing 16 articles a day for Textbroker before you run screaming into the night? It’s an OK-paying short-term solution, but where is it leading? Could you be doing this 5 years from now? Would you want to?

      • Terr says:

        I love this response! The bottom line is, content writing is like the Mc Donalds of writing. I mean, who really wants to make a career out of Mc Donalds?

        And yeah, I realize that sometimes we have to do what we have to do, because I’m doing it. Sometimes a person needs to take a fast food gig to pay the bills and keep food in their belly. But that person should be looking for ways to upgrade their pay and their lifestyle. The problem comes when that person becomes complacent with working at Mc Donalds, or at a content mill.

        I read these types of posts and I always feel a bit of shame. It’s a good thing I’m presently in a personal place where I’m working my way upwards.

        • Carol Tice says:

          GREAT analogy, Terr! Which I especially love because my son has been working for McDonald’s lately. ;-)

          I don’t think anyone should feel shame for working at content mills. It’s only a shame if you never think you deserve better and go out in search of it.

          • Larry Phillips says:

            I need to point out that I am merely supplementing my income through the three mills I mentioned. I am trying to learn the marketing side of writing and the mills pay the bills while I do that. I have no intention of staying with mills for five years trying to grind out a living. I am trying to build plenty of irons in the fire.

            As for McDonald’s, many a great person has gone on to great success work for the fast food giant. Some own upwards of 10 franchises. Not me personally, but I have a couple of friends who worked their way to upper management along with owning franchises. There are plenty of other jobs that are far more dead end than McDonald’s, believe me.

  2. LindsayA says:

    I write for Textbroker UK, and I love them. I had not written for years and needed to rebuild my skills, and Textbroker provided the opportunity to do that, along with a small income. I loved the anonymity at first, as the articles I wrote were fairly rusty. In addition, the staff are very friendly and helpful, the site pays regularly, and submitted work is automatically accepted if the client sits on it for more than a few days. I recently passed their proofreading test, so I am in the running for Level 5. The pay at Level 5 still isn’t anywhere near that of private clients when you are an established freelancer, but I am seeing it as another rung on the career ladder, much like when you work your way through the ranks at a conventional job. I also found a lovely direct order client who gave me a huge project with a byline. My several months with Textbroker has given me confidence to start exploring other areas of the freelance world, but I’m still staying with them, even if I can start to build a bigger client base. I love that you can dip in and out when needed, and have the opportunity to make money at home – something I would have killed for when I was a student. That said, Textbroker is my one and only content mill. The others look awful. Reading your post, I’m especially glad I didn’t get accepted when I applied to Demand Media!

    • If you’re headed to level 5 at Textbroker then you’re ready for the outside world where the comma police aren’t so terrible. Wouldn’t it be nice to be pad $200 for something similar that you were paid $15.00 for at Textbroker?
      Jennifer Hawkins recently posted..A Jeeper’s version of Afternoon Delight

      • LindsayA says:

        Ha, that is very true! Yes, it would be nice. It could be awhile before I get to that point, though. :)

      • Terr says:

        I co-sign on this response. After you twist yourself into knots working up to level 5, you really might as well throw up a site and sell your own services!

        And the “comma police” comment is hilarious, yet notorious!

      • Nikki says:

        But how do you find people to pay you $200??

        • Carol Tice says:

          Great question, Nikki!

          Obviously, not on Craiglist or Elance or Fiverr. It involves proactively prospecting, qualifying, and marketing your writing to better-quality clients.

          I’ve got an e-book coming out in just a week or two called How to Get Great Freelance Clients. It’s based on a 4-week bootcamp on that topic we did inside my Freelance Writers Den community. So feel free to check out either of those resources for finding better-paying clients.

          If you’re talking per blog post, you can also check out my current ebook, How to be a Well-Paid Freelance Blogger — over 100 pages of tips on how to find better blogging clients and satisfy quality clients.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think this is the thing I hear writers say most — that if they feel insecure about their skills and like they need to brush up, content mills are good for that.

      The trick is not to hang around too long, if you need to earn a full-time income from writing and pay some serious bills! Burnout seems like an epidemic…seems like only so long you can go on with this before you’re toast. Or the mill you’re at closes, or changes their rules or editors and suddenly the party’s over.

    • I wrote for TextBroker a bit in the early days, am a tier 4 there, and passed the test years ago. I did get a couple of decent paying jobs from them…about $80 each. But I never log on to the site because everything listed is at 2 cents a word, and I’d rather check out Indeed for real writing jobs or pitch some magazines. Listen to Carol, she will guide you in the right direction!
      Denise Gabbard recently posted..Friday Writer’s Roundup: Great Advice for Freelancers

      • Carol Tice says:

        Thanks Denise!

        In my view, no “decent-paying job” pays less than about $200-$300…tiny projects never pencil out at a good hourly rate because of the ramp time of starting up a new client. And as you say, at Textbroker that was the top of the pile. These platforms just aren’t good places for serious freelancers — they’re more for hobbyists.

  3. What about writing meaty posts just on your own site and make more w/ lots of passive income?
    Financial Samurai recently posted..Should I Convert My 401(k) Into A Rollover IRA?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wel, I’m with you, Samurai. But clearly, there’s an ease of earning — even though it’s often a very small amount — that clearly appeals to some writers. The mills basically profit from writers’ reluctance to market themselves. They’ve presented an easier route where you don’t have to market, and in return can pay a pittance for that convenience. Clearly the tradeoff is working for some.

  4. Daryl says:

    Believe it or not Carol, content mills are are NOT the worse places to find jobs.

    The bid sites are.

    Particularly (shudder) Odesk.

    FIRST let me give a disclaimer. There are legitimate, decent paying jobs to be found on Odesk, Elance, and the other bid sites. I myself have found a few.

    But lots of jobs on Odesk (I’ve looked, believe me!) Pay the princely sum of $1 per 100 words.

    That’s right, they pay at the rate of $.01 cents a word.

    Of course,all of these jobs want native speakers, original content, and always tell you that you’d better not plagrize, because they’re checking them on Copyscape!

    Oh, and that’s if you’re lucky.

    In fact, I’m seeing one job that pays $2 for 500 words. But don’t worry, because that pay rate will increase after 10 articles!

    Of course, for such a high rate of pay (can you hear the sarcasm dripping of the page) you need to first submit a test article to ensure that you’re up to the task of earning the massive sum of $2 per 500 words.

    It’s bad enough that these jobs, exist, but even worse when you consider that they make up the MAJORITY of jobs available.

    I’ve found Elance to be better, but not all that much!

    For my FIRST Odesk job (I was then operating on the principle of “get the cheap jobs for reputation first) I had to write 12 300 word blurbs on a various number of insects.

    That’s roughly 2500 words. This took me 3 excruciating days of researching and learning the differences between ordinary cockroaches and palmetto bugs, finding out the adult life cycle of the termite, and other FASCINATING facts.

    At the end of the job, I received…

    $10
    $9 after paypal fees.

    For about 6 hours work, I received a total of $9.

    Thankfully, I’ve now taken up your own advice, and am now writing for my own blog, and beginning to approach blog owners to guest posts (although they’re hard to find, because of my specialised niche)

    However, I’m confident that if I continue to put in the hard work, I’ll be able to make more money in an area that I’m both qualified in and enjoy than writing about bugs for 6 hours for $9 pay.
    Daryl recently posted..Marketing Psychology: The Reasons Behind Why People Buy!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Daryl —

      I think if you take the wrong sorts of gigs you definitely CAN earn even less on the bid sites! We had a guest post a while back on how to earn well on bid sites, and it involves being very selective about what you bid on.

      • Daryl says:

        Hey Carol,

        Sure you can make a living from bid sites. I’ve found a couple decent jobs myself. While I’ve never honestly tried Guru, it can be pretty difficult if you’re looking to write for a particular niche for say Odesk when literally 99/100 writing jobs don’t pay more than $1 per 100 words (I wish this was an exaggeration but it isn’t!).

        Again, I take your point (and agree to an extent) on that it is possible if you’re selective enough.

  5. Wili Morris says:

    I have applied for a couple of those mills, but realized it wasn’t for me. I did work for a Wiki site and made a few bucks per article, but I was only spending like 20 minutes on some fluff I’d never use myself. The problem, though, is that you are expending a lot of time and effort for little money. I was just thinking today that I would rather not be paid for my writing and just post in my own blog than not get paid what I’m worth!

  6. Barbara says:

    I currently write for Demand Media and have set a goal to be free of them by the end of this year. (Does that tell you anything?) Editing inconsistency, slow review times and very condescending comments from editors have taken away any respect I ever had for this company.

    The only reason I am planning to continue with Textbroker is the ease of the titles and being able to write one a day -fast – so I can get to other better-paying work. The pay builds up through the month and I can make one withdrawal to take care of multiple smaller bills.

    • Terr says:

      Just to let you know Barbara, you’re not imaging things with that editing team. DM hired a lot of their editing people from another company, and these people are a bunch of evil low-lives, to say the least.

      I just wanted to share that, to validate anything you might be sensing or feeling.

  7. Wow! I have NEVER written for a content mill, and after reading this, I feel fortunate indeed. Really helpful to see the results of this anecdotal survey all in one place–thanks Carol (and everyone who shared their experiences.)

  8. Some of these I’d never even heard of. Back when I first started blogging for a living, I tried applying to Demand and Yahoo, but was turned down by both of them, thank the gods. :)

    Now I’m slowly working my way through a bunch of content mills and freelance broker sites to understand what their writers experience and see if it works any better for a pro writer with years of experience than for a newbie…. so far, my conclusion is a big fat NO. I’ll drop you a note when I make my findings public!
    Sophie Lizard recently posted..Don’t Be a Fool: How to Avoid Getting Played By Your Clients

    • Carol Tice says:

      I actually heard from a longtime professional journalist yesterday who’s stuck on the mills, and the thing is having skills doesn’t seem to help you. You still earn the same sort of pittance. Maybe a bit more, but still nothing like a living.

      And yes, new mills seem to be born every week. I know because I get their press emails asking me to promote them to my audience! Think they don’t read this blog. ;-)

      But you knew once Demand Media managed to go public and raise multi-millions off the stock market there would be dozens of imitators chasing that same dream. But given Demand’s stock performance, I’m doubtful we’ll see many more mills going public. The financial scrutiny has been unpleasant for Demand, which was asserting they were terrifically profitable…until they had to disclose their figures for the IPO and show the world they were really losing buckets of money.

      • Lisa says:

        I’m almost ashamed to admit that back in ’09 I wrote for Demand Media. It got very hard to motivate myself for that lousy $15 per story. If you have never been published, a content mill is worth your while if only for the clips. In fact, that’s about all it is good for. It’s not going to pay for much food or gas.

        Let me back up a little. I’ve been published in a lot of well-paying newspapers and websites but I thought, “Hey, I need the money.” But in the end, it wasn’t worth it. You can’t use the Demand clips for anything because the mills aren’t respected by the industry.

        So…unless you’re a completely unpublished newbie, don’t do it! And if you are, set a time limit for yourself, then move on. Learn how to market yourself. Ask other writers for help. Most of us are more than happy to help newcomers who genuinely want to learn and get published.

        • Carol Tice says:

          Great advice, Lisa!

          And I think you point up the real problem…can you MAKE yourself do this? If so, for how long? I see it as non-sustainable for most writers.

    • Lisa says:

      You’re right, Sophie. Whether you’ve been published for 30 years like me or never, all the damn mills treat you the same.

      I’m so glad that Demand had to admit they weren’t making jack. Let that be a lesson to the other mill wannabes.

  9. Nida Sea says:

    Wow! This post is great! I was ready to break away from content mills years ago, I just didn’t know how. By using the den, other resources and finding a mentor, all that finally changed. I’ve said goodbye to mills and moved on. Thanks again and great post!
    Nida Sea recently posted..How To Know When it’s Time to Make a Career Change

  10. K.G. says:

    Just about to start a marathon day at Textbrokers actually, as I have a huge bill to sort out next week. I feel stuck and am starting to get pains in my hands from all the typing. Would love to find better paying clients but after a day of writing I just don’t have the energy or know where to look for clients who love content mill clips. Most importantly, I don’t know how to pay bills while I’m looking/querying/waiting for payment. I know people make the shift every day, I just don’t see that it’s possible for me at this time. If my finances ever calm the plan is to build some Textbrokers savings….seems so far away.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I hear an Elvis song playing, K.G…. “You’re caught in a trap…you can’t walk out…”

      I have a post coming in a couple weeks about cash flow management that should help you get out of this cycle. But it’s really tough. When you have to work every waking hour to make just enough to scrape by, it’s so hard to escape. As you say, you can’t find the time to LEARN how to find better clients! And you’ll have to survive the awkward transition point where you go from getting paid weekly to waiting for client payments, which should be much larger but take longer to arrive.

      It’s very hard to build up a savings on mill pay…but there are ways. Stay tuned for more on that.

      • LindsayA says:

        Ditto to all of your comments, Carol! The cycle is a hard one to break, because you are working so hard to churn out low-paying articles that you don’t have time/can’t afford to take time out to look for higher-paying stuff. I make it a rule to never do more than one mill article a day, so it’s only for practice and gradually building a savings account. Thankfully, I don’t NEED the funds, so I’m not trapped working for them just to make ends meet. I think it has come to the point to start branching off – the confidence-building period is no longer needed. But it is nice to have a fall-back. Also I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved at TB in the last several months. Thank you for a great post! It’s inspired me to stop being lazy and start doing something.

  11. Thank you for discussing the various content mills. I started my paid writing career with Textbroker. After writing for them for a couple of weeks, I realized that the only way I would make any decent money would be if I were a 5-star writer.

    Currently rated as a 4-star writer, I decided to take the proof reading test to gain level five status. I got 50% on the test. Then I found out that there were two answers for every question. But I couldn’t retake the test right away.

    After taking the test, you have to wait three months before you can take the test again. Fortunately, I found your site a couple of days later and have moved on to better assignments. I still check the board occasionally, but decide its not worth it.

    I have also written for Examiner and Yahoo, but never made more than a couple of pennies for the content I submitted.

    Thank you for the great content and advice you provide on this site!
    Teressa Campbell recently posted..How to Find Strength Without a Strong Support System

    • Carol Tice says:

      Some of the nutty rules these mills have are a bit unreal. I just still go back to the fact that my husband, who has a degree in film from UCLA Film School, couldn’t get accepted at Demand as a videographer. Rules are capricious and even bizarre sometimes…and yet many writers are willing to put up with it if we just…don’t…make…them…do…marketing!

  12. Rob says:

    I wrote for Demand Studios for awhile. Wrote about 50 articles total @ $15 each. It was a pretty painful process with a kind of fill in the blanks template and instructions to start every paragraph with an “actionable verb.” Research was sometimes the hardest part of the job because you couldn’t use commercial websites for research, so I’d sometimes spend an hour finding acceptable sources. Some of the editors were a pain – kind of a combination of arrogant and incompetent. I actually preferred working for clients who paid less but were real people. Demand Studios was a machine.

    Just glad to be out of that world now. REALLY glad.
    Rob recently posted..Is there Really a Success Formula?

  13. Jake says:

    A theory to ponder…

    1) You can’t change the content mills, no matter how many great articles you write.

    2) You can’t change your prospect’s desire for a sales free writing income, no matter how many great articles you write.

    Thus….

    3) It might be easier to provide the service your prospects actually want, than it will be to talk them in to buying the service you want to sell.

    I say this having myself wasted years trying to sell what I wanted to sell, instead of what folks actually wanted to buy.

    What makes this mistake so easy to make is that as the seller we can actually be entirely correct about what will best serve the client. It’s possible to be right, and still be wrong, because…

    If the customer is shopping for fast food, no amount of brilliant writing about the value of organic vegetables is likely to work.

    • Carol Tice says:

      You know, Jake, I review article queries in some of my premium courses, and I totally agree with you. Many writers have a thing they want to write about and just keep trying to find somewhere that will publish it. The more effective way is to study markets and then give that magazine exactly what their readers need to know…but seems like it’s hard for people to make that mental switch. Doing an upcoming post on this topic as well!

  14. The sad fact is that many traditional clients are just as bad as these content mills.

    They just want keyword-stuffed nonsense and will squeeze you until the pips squeak.

    Most of these are, of course, one-man bands and small local businesses.

    As Carol says time and time again, keep swapping ‘em out. It’s painful, but it’s the only way out.
    Kevin Carlton recently posted..Blog vs news? The 3-point checklist to help you choose

    • Carol Tice says:

      Certainly, you can go out and find really low-paying, dysfunctional clients on your own, but if that’s the level of client you’re getting, something’s wrong in who you’re targeting with your marketing.

    • Erica says:

      Kevin, I’ve experienced those same clients. And now I have a set of red flags I pay attention to that helps weed them out. The first is their asking me what my typing speed is (see how fast I can type “no thanks”?) and they throw out ridiculous hypothetical scenarios in which I write 10 500-word articles a day.

      Good for you for getting rid of a bad one. I know it’s not always easy.
      Erica recently posted..How this Little Ducky Went Freelance: Part 1

  15. Kathy Kramer says:

    One thing I want to add regarding Textbroker is that they monitor any communication between you and the client and they will edit messages between the two of you. Part of the user agreement you sign is that you agree not to poach clients from Textbroker. So if you get direct orders from a client and you write for that client on a regular basis, you and the client can’t get away from Textbroker. This is actually bad for both the client and the writer. If you try to send contact info to a client or they try to send you outside contact information, TB edits that out of your messages.
    Kathy Kramer recently posted..Plains Magazine February 2013 is Online

    • Carol Tice says:

      I didn’t know that…sounds sort of creepy!

    • LindsayA says:

      I got a byline out of TB! I even cleared it with their staff; they said once the client has paid for the content, they can do what they want with it. I was able to send the client my full name and use the website as a portfolio piece. The down side is I’ll never be able to do any work for him directly, because then I would be poaching him from TB. It’s a shame, because he’s a great client to work with, and he really likes my writing.

  16. jordan clary says:

    I wrote for Writebay (or something like that) for about a week. The ad said academic writing, and being naive, I thought it would be textbooks or something. It’s actually writing assignments for students. Since I also teach college English (part-time), I felt like writing for a place where students “buy” their homework was a major ethical conflict. I never took the money for the few assignments I did do. They still send me emails now and then trying to pay me. I just don’t want anything to do with them or the content mills. Period.

    • jamie says:

      Insightful post into the experiences of writing slaves (real sympathy to the writers)

      I had a look at some of the sites listed, such as Demand Studio’s and Textbroker a few months back . It seemed like an online literary Auchwitz – I wouldn’t get out of my bed to write $0.05 per word for some sleazy SEO niche site peddling baby carriers.

      Carol and Sophie Lizard are right – stay away.

      Better to write for free for some respectable sites and even small press articles and use them as samples for approaching real clients. Recognize your value as a writer. You can write for decent rates and be rewarded and you can write for free and have some dignity – and clips for future work.

      Here’s the formula

      Pro bono work
      Start a blog (writer site)
      Network and guest blog
      Pitch quality clients – and keep pitching until you get some
      Get regulars – negotiate rates
      Up your game – and you are on your way to being pro

      Good to be back on this blog

      • Carol Tice says:

        Well, I’ve always agreed with your point of view, Jamie. And love that phrase — literary Auchwitz! Though fortunately death is not usually the result…except maybe brain death. ;-)

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah…we view that as an unethical writing niche, and I do advise writers to stay away from it. As the mom of a college student, I’d like him to do his own homework!

  17. Chris says:

    I’ve worked for Demand and Break Studios, as well as Examiner.com. I left Demand when the editors and titles got progressively worse, and I haven’t done anything for Break Studios or Examiner in a long time. The money is terrible, and not worth the stress. There’s nothing like writing a piece for $15 and then having to deal with a rude, incoherent editor.
    Chris recently posted..Vegan Coconut Curry

  18. Margaret Mills says:

    I wrote for both Demand and Examiner for about a year and a half. Did get some pay from Examiner, slightly over $100 if I recall. From Demand I was making four and five hundred per month. I had published for many years in print magazines, but mostly in the low-paying markets, so wasn’t so off-put by the low pay. I was recovering from chemo at this time, and I used these two sites to start writing again. For me (“chemo brain” is a real thing) the structure of those sites was very beneficial, and pay – any pay – was a real boost. My ratings with Demand were very high and only one article was ever rejected. I don’t have many complaints, actually. I even found the article choices interesting. I do understand the problems with the business model, and the need to avoid being trapped in something like that, but it did work well for me. I just quit writing for Examiner and they eventually dropped me. When Demand required writers to apply for certain channels and upped their pay a bit, I just didn’t and moved on to other things. Am now writing a book for a client/friend for very decent pay as well as working on some other projects. I’m maybe one of the few who feels grateful to Demand, especially, for giving me a boost and re-start when I needed it.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think situations like yours are really well-suited to working for a mill, where you’ve GOT to work from home, don’t have a lot of energy right now, and any extra cash is welcome.

      When Demand execs are interviewed they never say mills are a place to earn a full-time living. They say their average person wants a few hundred bucks a month of extra cash. That’s their vision of it…it’s writers who try to turn it into a living. And then wonder why their hands hurt (as one writer above noted!) and they’re really burned out.

  19. I just “left” Examiner.com. I had been writing for them since 2008 and I think my highest paid month was $60 (the month I was paid for a referral). Aside from that, I would make the $10 payout every other month. I did manage to get a $30 payout the month I put my all into it and wrote 25 articles.

    I then did a little research to find out what the topics are of writers who claim to be highly paid.Turns out they are nearly all celebrity or politically related. That’s not my scene and I began to feel like I was giving my best work to a platform that isn’t designed for my subjects. I will be focusing on doing that writing for my own blog from now on.

    I really appreciate this article, as I was wondering if there was a better alternative.

    Thanks!

  20. John Coutts says:

    No one seems to ever mention Distilled (http://www.distilled.net/) when there’s talk of content mills. I haven’t written for them in a few months, but the last article I did for them paid me 60 UK pounds, which at today’s exchange rate is over $92. That was for a 600 word article too.

    Distilled are good to write for. Their only drawback was the lack of regular work. However, I used to manage maybe five or six articles a month with them, which was a nice addition to my income. Available work is posted on a private board, and it’s first come, first served, so you need to check them very regularly if you want to get work.

    Here’s an application link, if anyone’s interested in trying them out. They’re a British company, but I know they take on anyone who has the necessary writing skills:
    http://distilled.wufoo.eu/forms/apply-to-work-with-distilled-as-a-freelance-writer/

    Regards,

    John Coutts.

  21. As usual, great post and info!

    I started working as a paid writer for DMS, having seen a want ad, not knowing anything about freelance writing, and being accepted upon application. At first it was a supplement to full time income and I rather enjoyed it. My desk job was slow and easy and I could write for DMS while at work. Things went fairly well for about two years.

    When their tighter (and seemingly arbitrary) rules for section approval came down, I was cut out. At the time I was approved for their “style” section and had written easily 300 articles for typef.com with good “scores” (blech) from editors. Then I had to reapply for their style section (as did mostly everyone)…and wasn’t approved. Makes sense, right?

    After that it was off to Elance. I had quit my day job, naively assuming DMS would hold out forever. Elance offered a way for me to build a good portfolio, so I wasn’t relying solely on DMS clips. But it did not provide good clients. Exactly the opposite. Through my own trial and error I learned that basically everything Carol says is spot on true. If you are going to use Elance for decent gigs (they’re there) be prepared to search daily, scour, negotiate, decline bad offers and in general spend a ton of time looking, when you could be prospecting for quality clients out in the ether.

    As of now, I have one client I use from Elance for a bit of a regular cash cushion and another that pays between $25 and $200 per 500 word post. And of course, am working on marketing myself for bigger and better gigs.

    As Carol says, to some extent you’ve got to serve the market what they want/need. I’ve learned that copywriting pays well, that I enjoy it, and am focusing on that niche and improving my skills there. Anyway, you can absolutely find better writing clients!

    Even if you think you’re doing “okay,” “fine,” or even “well” at content mills. At one point I was trying to bang out two $15 articles per hour for $30 per hour, feeling like ‘hey, that’s pretty good!’ but the stress and loneliness of not talking directly to the client was so not worth it. Today, no joke, I’m going to be making $200 per hour, for about four hours (writing about fashion and beauty).

    This isn’t typical for me — yet — but if I can have a day like that, anyone can. And can increase them too.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Marisa — I know so many writers who’ve made the same mistake — they find one mill, assume it will never end or change, and then make life decisions on that basis…and regret it later.

      Glad you’re learning how to find better pay now!

  22. I laid myself off Textbroker after over three years there. A penny and a half for a few months, until one misplaced comma on one article cut me down to a penny a word. This is after receiving many congrats from satisfied clients. Now recently retired, feel no motivation for them. Did some articles for Writer Access, which paid at least twice what Textbroker paid. Sporadic work at WA, mostly technical when available. Did real estate, auto, and aviation articles when I could grab them before the herd, but tired of checking their job board often. Now trying to make passive income with sites, blogs and e-books without luck. Doing your own thing in your own way is the way to go.

  23. I discovered Demand Studios just after I’d been let go from my “safe” job in March, 2009. After a few months I recognized it was a dead end, and I stopped writing for them. Writing for Demand at least got me started with writing for the web — a very different animal than the business writing I’d been doing for my employer.

    At the time they offered flat rate assignments and commission-based assignments. I grabbed the commission-based assignments whenever I could, and 4 years later I’m still getting monthly royalty checks of around $20. Over time I’ve earned well on those commission pieces.

    I’ll never go back to writing for a content mill again, though. It’s the most poorly rewarded, soul-sucking type of writing I can imagine.
    Susanna Perkins recently posted..My First Year as a Panama Expat

  24. Sherry Jones says:

    This is pure exploitation, of the worst kind. Why don’t our minimum-wage laws protect freelance workers? A former print journalist turned novelist, I recently realized that I need to earn some income to supplement my royalties, so decided to start freelancing again. Imagine my delight to find a client on LinkedIn — quite by accident — who would pay me $25 per hour to research and write SEO copy for websites he designs! (He also told me that my price was a bargain.) He’ll hire me again, but for now, he’s in between jobs. However, all was not lost! I found Elance. Then I found Textbroker. Ta da!

    BUT the only work I’ve been offered at these sites is for slave wages, and I won’t do it. A penny per word? You’ve got to be sh***ing me. When I wrote of this situation in one of my LinkedIn groups, some writers actually defended these sites. “I make $20 an hour on Textbroker, and that’s more than I earned as a full-time paralegal,” one person wrote. OK — but were you getting benefits at your job? Those count for a lot.

    In my opinion, if you can’t afford to pay your workers a decent wage, you should not be allowed to hire them. Period. But, since I don’t rule the world, darn it, I can only refuse to participate.

    Finding this website has been a godsend in that way. I feel vindicated in my refusal to sell myself cheap. Now I’ve got to figure out how to find more freelance assignments that pay a decent wage. I feel so much more hopeful about it all now that I’ve found this terrific, supportive community.
    Sherry Jones recently posted..Death Threats, Fatwas, and Feminism: Looking Back at “The Jewel of Medina”

    • Carol Tice says:

      I hear ya, Sherry — we had a lengthy discussion recently about how freelancers get confused and think $25 an hour is a workable rate for them… The Deadly Math Mistake That Will Make Your Freelance Business Fail.

      • monique says:

        I wouldn’t consider myself confused.

        I’ve been out of work for months, I’ve been sending query letter for months, and I’ve received exactly zero responses in all these months. I’ve tweaked my queries, and I’ve received feedback from others doing better than I am, and it hasn’t made a different. Maybe my writing sucks, and content mills are my only option other than finding a low-paying job outside of the house.

        I can’t afford, nor justify, paying for courses and memberships when my kids need to be fed and I’m still paying for my daughter’s surgery that she had 3 weeks after I was laid off. My other daughter has a prescription that I won’t be able to pay for next month if I simply wait for a better-paying opportunity to come up.

        In the meantime, I work at content mills and I’m happy to get a pay check. Content mills, like McDonald’s needs people to work for them, and right now I’m glad that they’ll accept my work.

        I’m not on welfare or unemployment, and it’s only because of content mills. I’ve got bills due today, but my savings is dwindling and I can’t afford to wait, wait, wait for better opportunities to come my way. I’ve got bills due today – literally – and the little bit of money I make keeps my utilities on, pays my gas, and buys our food.

        I’ll still query, and hopefully, something will come my way soon, but until then I have bills to pay.
        Monique
        monique recently posted..#Shakleeblogger vlog

        • Carol Tice says:

          Hi Monique –

          It can definitely take time for query marketing to pay off…but zero responses usually means there’s something wrong. We work a lot on queries in the Den and find few are in great shape to send off when we start. Some writers have trouble matching the right idea to the right market, others don’t pre-report the story so editors can be assured the writer can deliver it…there are a lot of places they go awry.

          Can’t help but noticing there are at least three different grammar and word usage errors in the above. You might be helped by having a writer friend proofread queries before they go out.

          There are also many other ways to market your writing besides query letters — it’s possible another approach might pay off for you better.

          The $25 an hour issue sounds like it is affecting you — low pay from mills keeps you broke. Many freelancers don’t realize that getting an equivalent to their previous hourly wage at a company won’t work because of all the expenses you have to shoulder…that’s all I’m saying. You can’t compare employee wages to freelance wages because they’re different.

          Best of luck with it –

  25. Erica says:

    I don’t know what’s scarier: the low pay, the high number of these mills or the outrageous ways they apparently treat writers.

    I’ve never heard of a writer being “docked” for mistakes. Or for communications being monitored and edited. Luckily I sidestepped the mills (maybe just barely) and right now I’m really glad. I’d rather write what I love for free and find something else to pay the bills than go through that. Ridiculous.
    Erica recently posted..How this Little Ducky Went Freelance: Part 1

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah, that monitoring and editing of email to clients was news to me, too! Creepy.

      If you want micro-management, you can go back and get a real, full-time job and at least make some real money while people monitor your every move…

  26. Tiffany says:

    Writing for mills is draining. The first one I ever wrote for was Textbroker. I’ve written for a slew of them ever since including DS, Interact Media, Writer Access, Suite 101, and Media Piston (which I believe is owned by oDesk). At one point I had all my eggs in the DS basket, and after they went under I was floundering around the net for a long time. I always wanted to make a certain amount writing for mills, but it took a lot of trials before I finally realized that I couldn’t meet my earnings goals that way. You do so much work for so little money…it’s demoralizing. Marketing yourself takes time, but then you get paid 5 to 10 times more than you would at a content mill. Also it’s work you can be proud of since it won’t end up on a site like eHow.
    Carol you emailed a post about working on a mill vs. working outside the home while you get your business off the ground…I think that the universe is confirming that I should take that route. Thanks a lot for your blog and those dose-of-reality emails I get in my inbox every week.

  27. Michael says:

    Wow, huge article. I don’t know why people still write for these content mills who clearly doesn’t care about writers. All they care about is filling their own pockets. Freelance writers should market themselves by having their own blog and remain active on Twitter and LinkedIn.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Reputation dot com – the “early days”

    Writers who worked freelance for reputation.com received 7 cents per word for the content pieces they wrote, short, informative biographies and articles from 250 – 400 words. Pay was twice a month and editorial approval could take up to 2 weeks, which meant that you could wait up to 5 or 6 weeks to be paid for a piece. The work was plentiful, though, and once you got used to the pay cycle, you could expect bi-weekly payments of up to $1,000 if you could write 20 – 25 pieces a week. The editors were friendly and helpful, and were (and still are) expected to make minor spelling and punctuation corrections. Management was approachable and understanding. Peace reigned, goodness and mercy thrived, and freelancers paid their bills on time.

    At the end of 2011, things changed. Responsibility for managing the writing end of the operation was contracted to an outfit called SkyPublishers, and a new manager reminiscent of Nurse Ratched was put in charge. Payment was shifted to oDesk, and I understand Sky also contracted with oDesk to write a text management system to replace the outdated system they were using. Pay was upgraded from bi-monthly to daily (after editor’s approval). Pay was also reduced from 7 cents per word to $20 per biography, and $10 for other pieces. When writers pointed out the inequity there, Nurse Ratched casually mentioned that the wordcount for the other pieces was reduced to 150 words.

    One of the casualties of this change was communication between editors and writers. Under the old system, editors would provide feedback about every item written, to alert writers to the number of approved words (for invoicing purposes) and to share constructive criticism, which was invaluable. Writers universally acclaimed the system and acknowledged they used the criticism to improve their work. With the elimination of the per-word compensation, Sky also eliminated the constructive criticism, so unless an editor goes out of his or her way to email, writers don’t get any feedback – even though the system requires editors to evaluate each piece and write any comments about the work. Sky apparently doesn’t see any benefit to sharing these comments and evaluations with the writers.

    Even after these changes in late 2011-early 2012, a writer could easily write 4 – 6 biographies a day and make $400 – $600 per week. The bios involved working with material provided by clients, and the articles were pretty much anything a writer could show was related to the client. Nurse Ratched also introduced us to a concept she referred to as “professionalism,” which we learned meant that freelancers were forbidden to criticize management or the “internal team,” the on-site salaried staff the freelancers interfaced with. Freelancers ignored this at their peril, and several were dismissed. Overall, the workload was adequate, and most of the freelancers learned to ignore Nurse Ratched and the internal team.

    More Changes

    In early January of 2013, Nurse Ratched asked some of the writers how they would feel about a scheme that cut pay to $10 per item, bio or article, inclusive of an annual bonus, coupled with a guaranteed workload of 150 – 250 items per month. All who were asked responded negatively. In early March, Sky implemented a program that was similar, only worse. Pay for all items was reduced to $7.50, without any volume guarantee, and the minimum wordcount for all items was equalized at 150 words. Writers who produce 100 or more items a month will get a bonus of $1.50 per item, assuming they pass a quality evaluation. Thus, a writer who earned $2000 in February by writing 100 biographies would earn $750 for the exact same work in April, with a chance of up to a $150 bonus; the writer who earned $1000 for 50 biographies in February could look forward to earning $375 in April for the same work.

    One of the problems with this arrangement that Sky doesn’t seem able to grasp is that the minimum word count is almost immaterial – writers who commit to producing quality work need time to learn about their subject, and a bio of 150 words takes almost as long to research and write as one of 400 words. At $20 per bio, though, writers didn’t feel under the gun to produce in a hurry, though, and could craft high-quality pieces, generally in an hour or so. At $7.50 per piece, though, there’s real pressure to produce and get back to the writers’ queue to try to claim another job.

    Got a Backlog? Hire More Writers!

    There’s more. Before 2013, Sky accepted only US-based writers, but this year started hiring writers from around the world. These writers may have textbook-perfect English, but their idiomatic and cultural awareness is sorely deficient. Sky’s editors, also freelancers whose pay has suffered dramatically, complain that for many of these, English is clearly not their first language, which increases their workload.

    Since the beginning of the year, there was a significant backlog of work, but it diminished rapidly, especially during February. Nurse Ratched was apparently hiring like mad, though, apparently under the impression that any backlog at all justified more writers. The backlog, which had been reducing by about 100 tasks a week, lost its last 100 tasks literally overnight, and suddenly hordes of writers found themselves competing for work that had obviously slowed to a trickle. Most writers now are lucky to write 2 items a day (for $15), and the talk about bonuses now appears to have been a cynical attempt to persuade writers not to jump ship. In addition, the text management system continues to produce new bugs almost daily, and the “internal team” at Sky seems clueless about how much work there really is.

    The worst thing, though, from the perspective of many of the writers, is that in the short year since SkyPublishers came on the scene and imposed this system and management on the freelancers, what was once a collegial, cohesive group of creative people has been thoroughly demoralized and effectively destroyed. The management style might generously be called “passive-aggressive terrorism.” There’s a Potemkin Village-like atmosphere, with the appearance of positivity commanding a higher priority than honest discussion, if such discussion might cast management in a poor light.

    After reading the stories elsewhere in this thread, it’s apparent that $7.50 for a 150 – 250 word item for which the research material is provided isn’t such bad compensation for content mills. The problem is that the enterprise wasn’t a content mill, but was trying to provide a useful service to clients whom it charged very good money – in the thousands of dollars for some of the packages, with the fees paid to the freelancers representing a very small percentage. Sometime in 2012, though, the decision was made to turn reputation dot com’s writing operation into just another writing mill. Perhaps they decided clients wouldn’t notice the dramatic decline in quality, or wouldn’t care.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Wow, all this for the chance to write a maximum of $30 of work a day? Guess the big question is why you stick around, when clearly everything’s changed and it’s a loathsome environment for you.

      As with many of the stories in the post, there’s a common theme: Writers come on a mill, imagine conditions will never change, and are rudely surprised.

      In fact, change is the norm at all these sites as they continue to struggle with how to turn a profit. And not change for the better, from writers’ point of view.

      Thanks for sharing – this is a mill I hadn’t even heard of before.

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually, I think the reason it may not have been on a lot of people’s radar is that it wasn’t a content mill to begin with, or if it was, it was several cuts above the rest, in terms of compensation and treatment of the freelancers. Sadly, those days are gone.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Well, yeah – I think, from the comments that erupted when the recent slashing of rates was announced, that an awful lot of the freelancers had grown accustomed to earning a decent pay there, and are all now scrambling.

  30. Amanda says:

    Thank you for the article Carol. It was very enlightening.

    I’m currently setting up my own freelance business and just used your discount count to sign up at Flex Jobs as well.

    I dumped a client that I was running a help desk for at the pitiful rate of $8.00 hour and where I was dumped upon and working extra hours at no cost. I got a retainer of $15 per week for each of the two sites I ran the help desk for officially but had to work 7 days a week and was paid by the minute.

    My average weekly earnings were $38-45!

    I am now writing at Hire Writers trying to make up that money whilst I try and find better paying clients. I try to only take the jobs that pay over 1 cent per word and have managed to snag a few that pay up to 3 cents!

    What annoys me is the attitude and demands of many of the requesters who practically want you to jump through hoops for less than a cent. I’m far too picky to work for any of them!

    My plan is to get away from there by the end of May at the latest.

    I have managed to find a couple of gigs that paid $200 a day for a couple of days work but so many people are looking for you to write their 50,000 word book, including research, for 2 cents per word! That’s not for me!

    I know that being a member of The Den is going to help me get to where I want to be.
    Amanda recently posted..Viral Content: A Very Brief Introduction

    • Carol Tice says:

      Hi Amanda — Well, I hope so! $15 a week…is just NOT a retainer. It’s a joke.

      When writers tell me excitedly that they’ve managed to work their way all the way up to 3 cents a word…you know things have got to change. I never wrote for that little, even when I started out, in about 1990! Why should it be less now?

      Start going through the Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success bootcamp in the Den, and things should start to improve soon. ;-)

  31. All of this sounds very discouraging for aspiring writers. I think I will stick to writing for fun. At least I enjoy what I am doing, and still love writing!
    Lorraine Marie Reguly recently posted..4 Things to Say (Announcements, Thanks, and My Latest Discoveries)

    • Carol Tice says:

      Lorraine, that is certainly not the effect I meant for this post to have!

      The point here is for people to see what content mills are like. They are hardly the only place to write for pay! Just the only place to write for LOW pay. There is still plenty of good-paying freelance work out there, for those willing to take themselves seriously and market their writing.

  32. Wow! I really needed this info. I’ve got roughly 20 years experience as a broadcast/newspaper journalist. After that I went to grad school for film/video and concentrated on documentaries and short film screenplays, but had to stop to concentrate on my children’s college.

    I just started with DMS and Writer Access to get my feet wet. While they’re by no means journalism, they represent the content world … or so I thought.

    I befriended a neighbor who’s a branding/marketing coach. She’s cultivated a growing network of women entrepreneurs. I started writing for some of them to help them get their sites off the ground. I was surprised at the demand. So, at my friends insistence, I’ve begun creating a small-scale writing service that’s still in development. I’m trying to resolve a target/services dilemma. One thing’s for sure, I can command more money doing it myself.

    I’m just hoping the mills will start a much-needed cash flow while I’m getting up and running. I hate that I can’t get clips, though.

    • Carol Tice says:

      It sounds to me like you HAVE clips, Sharon! Get PDFs made of your older clips — they still show you can write and report. Just move forward from there.

      There’s no need for someone with your experience to spend time on mills for a tiny pittance. You’re already finding clients and getting a portfolio of web content work — now, just pitch up to bigger companies than solopreneurs.

  33. Halina says:

    Hello again Carol,
    Thank you so much for compiling this long list of content mill workers and their experiences! Given what I’ve read here, I’d say my mill experiences were better than most- I got in on the ground floor of Associated Content before Yahoo! snapped them up and was able to snag $30 assignments for at least a year or two. On Textbroker, some of my clients sought me outside of the mill and sent me their work directly, which allowed me to get better rates and actual client feedback. But in the end, I had to ask myself, “Is this what I see doing in my future career one year from now? Five years from now? 10 years from now?” What about shooting for the real deal, like newspaper and magazine articles, or copywriting/copyediting, or just something where I’m not writing 4-5 articles at a day at 5 cents/word just to pay my bills?
    Again, thanks!
    -Halina
    Halina recently posted..Catch me at UW’s Taking Charge of Your Career April 6th

    • Carol Tice says:

      Sounds to me like you asked the right question, Halina! Mills are such a short-term solution for most…because who CAN write 5 articles a day year after year? I can’t even imagine.

  34. LindaH says:

    I wrote for Examiner for two days. Two articles, one didn’t “rank” for payment, and the editors took forever to respond. I ended it faster than I started it. I don’t work for free. I’ve stayed away from the others. I don’t even check Craigslist much anymore, but I have one lead company that provides quality leads–but I pay for them. I’ve used them sparingly. You don’t know what you get until you talk to the client and then it may be too late to save your money.

    Resume writing mills exist too. I know one person who puts in lots of hours writing tons of cheap resumes ($100 each, which is CHEAP), but then she complains of burnout, poor interaction with colleagues, and crazy clients. No thanks.

    Based on what you’ve taught regarding proactive marketing, what Linda F., Ed Gandia and others have said on your podcasts, I’ll spend the time proactively marketing and looking for better gigs than working for mills. As one friend said when he’d lost his brick and mortar business, “I spent 20 hrs a week working a part-time job instead of marketing and rebuilding my business. By the time I saw my error I’d lost the business.” He said to spend that 20 hrs a week marketing and reaching out to potential clients. Long term you’ll make just as much or more money and the longer-term rewards will be higher and greater. I listened. He was right.
    LindaH recently posted..What Do You Say When an Interviewer Asks — Why Should I Hire You?

  35. Holly Case says:

    I used the mills as a bridge, to provide income during the first months of my full-time freelancing career. As many freelancers know, assignments can be few and far between, and therefore, so can the paychecks. It took me over a year of full-time freelancing to find enough good-paying clients who paid me regularly, so during that year, I used writing for the mills as my fall-back income. I’m very happy to say that I’m now earning enough money from my regular clients that I no longer need the content mills (but I’m not yet earning the big bucks Carol regularly talks about here; that’s a work in progress.) I just wanted to offer an alternative view for any writer who’s currently using the mills, or considering it, but dreaming of more. It can be okay to write for the content mills if you really want to just make a living from writing and wouldn’t be giving up a job with benefits anyway – just use it to carry you while you get better clients, and then ditch the mills as soon as you’re able.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Holly, I know a ton of writer’s who’ve done just that, used a little mill work to spackle the holes between clients, until they fill all the holes. Glad you don’t need them anymore!

  36. Tim Elliott says:

    Thanks for this post, and also thanks to all the commenters who have added to the discussion. I’m just getting started with freelance writing and it’s good to know that the mills are not the best place to make money.

    But similarly it’s good to know that they can be used to hone skills. I guess anything that helps you speed up your writing, through practice will help in increasing your hourly rate in the long run.

  37. This was great to hear so many perspectives on content writing companies. I’m always interested in seeing the writer’s perspective since I’m the Community Manager for CopyPress. Reading the information about CopyPress was both good and bad. It was good because it makes me feel great about how far we have come at CopyPress. But it was also bad because I see that some of the stigma of our old ways are still stuck to the CopyPress name. CopyPress isn’t for everyone, but now we do have many happy, well paid writers. For more information about the changes at CopyPress, please check out our blog post: http://community.copypress.com/a-new-direction-leads-to-happier-more-sucessful-writers/ Or if you have any other questions or thoughts about writing for CopyPress, please reach out to me!
    Raubi Perilli recently posted..Grammar Rules Made Easy: Lesson 3 – Commonly Confused Words

    • Carol Tice says:

      We probably have a different definition of “well paid” than you might, but thanks for weighing in with your perspective on it.

      • Hi Carol, yes it’s always hard to define “well paid.” But in our most recent pay period (which is paid on a biweekly schedule), we had 9 writers make over $1,000. Four of which made over $2,000 which to me is a far improvement over the content mill days and a great place for writers to get started in the business. Thanks for your thoughts!
        Raubi Perilli recently posted..Your Blog Post Isn’t Finished: 5 Areas You Need to Polish

        • Carol Tice says:

          Hi Raubi — thanks for sharing that. So that’s 9 out of…how many? And how much work did they have to do for that $1,000?

          I’ll be doing a post coming up about writers’ experiences with what I’m calling “move-up mills,” so I’ll try to get someone to talk about the pay and conditions at CopyPress.

          • Hey Carol, I was sure I submitted a response to your last message or maybe I forgot to submit. :/ Anyway, we have over a 100 writers in our working community. Many of them work for us along with other clients. That number 9 is out of 12 writers who work with us as experts — meaning they write for us almost exclusively. Let me know if you would like to contact any of our writers for their opinions or feel free to join our Facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/186901618020210/
            Raubi Perilli recently posted..Connections Sharebait 101: What Is Connections Sharebait?

          • Alicia says:

            Carol, I was one of those 9 writers. For that pay period, 110 articles were client approved, with articles ranging from $0.90 to $30. (I’ve also written a few $60 articles, but they weren’t in this pay period.) Now, even though that sounds like a lot of articles, I probably spent around 50 hours or less on all of them, making around $20 per hour (give or take on the assignment and my motivation). This is all while going to school full-time, so people who can work full days can easily make more money. CopyPress has always been good to me, and their training sets them apart from every other freelance writing site.

            I’ve been working with them since November 2010, and I engage in the community, always turn my assignments in on time (often days before the due date), and I even contribute to the community blog (without payment). I also don’t live in the mindset that as long as they’re paying me, I can submit mediocre articles. I think that all of this is what bumped me up to expert writer status.

  38. I can honestly say this is the exact OPPOSITE of my experience with CopyPress. When I came, you guys were at the very end of the low-paying assignments, though I did complete a great number. I then worked for another content mill – which is exactly as described by these writers – until work at CP picked back up. I was on what I’m sure is two of the three large clients one writer mentioned – and yes, at one point we accepted a lower rate to keep the client. Personally, I was willing to do this because it was a big fish, even though I didn’t feel like I was to blame for the poor quality. I work full time for you guys, with just a couple of other small clients on the side. I’m perfectly happy with my pay, and I could not ask for better people to work with. I’d like to mention especially how helpful and understanding these great CPers are: Raubi P. – has given me fantastic opportunities and helped me stretch my wings!! Monica L. is a gift from God who always helps out and works with me every way possible. I don’t work with Ryan W. anymore, but she has also gone above and beyond to help me succeed, particularly by taking most of two days of her time to help me understand some new processes. Courtni B. is also wonderful. I work with her every day on a news post. Her comments are always constructive and helpful, and if I have problems with timing, she’s got my back. Jillena O. is the BEST EDITOR in the WORLD!!! I’ve worked with her on several big clients, and she is DE BOMB!!! Great advice, helpful, understanding… and when she gets through your stuff is RIGHT!! I also have to mention how much I enjoy working with Josh K., Kelly Q., Harvey G., Rajiv K. Stefan, and Dave. Each one has been helpful in every way possible. I’d recommend a job at CopyPress to any writer.

  39. Alicia says:

    I completely disagree with everything said about CopyPress.
    First, people are completely wrong about the pay. A Sharebait article never takes me more than an hour and a half to complete, but most often it’s around an hour. That’s $30 an hour. A lot of the $1.5 product descriptions that I write (50 words) only take about three minutes to complete, which is another $30 per hour. They pay $0.03-$0.06 per word, and I have yet to find another site that pays the same for people without some sort of writing degree.
    Like most other writers, I was a bit annoyed with the training as well, but my writing skills skyrocketed once I completed the training, and I’m grateful that CopyPress chose to do it.
    I love the people I work with, and I don’t know what you’re talking about with the editor. Whenever there’s an issue, editors point them out and have you revise the piece. They don’t simply throw you out without giving you a chance, and they always offer constructive advice. I even had one editor go through one of my articles and highlight what the client would consider “fluff,” and suddenly it clicked! I learned quick how to reduce fluff because my editor took the time out of her busy schedule (and believe me, she’s VERY busy) and sent me an email explaining how I can improve my articles.
    CopyPress is all about team work, so if they have to cut pay to keep a huge client, then we all need to make sacrifices, even if it is a $1 cut per article. If they have to train their writers to deliver quality content and increase pay, then that’s what they should do. In my opinion, they’re doing what they need to do for the sake of their writers and their clients, and that’s what’s going to make them succeed.
    CopyPress is great and has always been my favorite website even after trying out most of the ones mentioned. I wish you would have had some good comments up there along with the bad ones so that people could see the good side of CopyPress.

    On a final note, I’ve been with them since 2010 when they started, so I’ve seen the good and the bad.

  40. Natasha says:

    I have been working for CopyPress for over three years. I’m not going to lie, there have been ups and downs. However, the way that the company was portrayed in this article is definitely not the way it is. I am one of the writers Raubi mentioned that has made over $1000 in the last pay period, and almost made $2000. I hit the $2000 mark the pay period before.

    The Sharebait articles are generally quick and easy. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than an hour and a half on one. Generally, I spend more like 45 minutes on them. Though I don’t always get as much work as I could possibly want, I certainly get enough to pay the bills!

    I’m not sure what editor runs to the CM to get people fired. I’ve never had an editor that was that out to get people. All of the editors at CopyPress are great. Sometimes you get edit requests that seem inane… but those ones generally come from the clients, not from the editor.

    I’ve been through the good, the bad, and the ugly with CopyPress. We went from good pay to horrible. We went from tons of articles to nothing for months on end. Now we are at a great place. We are at a place where I can easily help support my family from home. I get the articles I need to have a good income. I don’t get bored with the articles (most of the time), and the editors are great. The community is amazing, and the support we have is outstanding.

    There is a lot more I could say, but for now, I think this is good. :-)

  41. I’ve written for CopyPress for a long time, and I don’t actually have a problem with the pay rate. You can make more than just gas money at this place. Some of the writers even make a decent full-time salary by working 40 or so hours a week. They give you the sources and the ideas, so it’s all pretty easy. Rarely takes me longer than an hour to write one of their sharebait articles.

    The biggest issue I have with them is the fact that they don’t give us bylines. Instead, some fake pseudonym gets credit for my work! I can’t build a portfolio with what I write for them, so all I’m getting is money. It doesn’t give me any incentive to write better content for them like they’re always pushing for us to do.

    Also, the company isn’t up front about the fact that you’re not getting bylines. They even have made a couple blog posts to the effect that we would eventually get them, but so far I have seen NO evidence to this effect. Their content management system has recently allowed us to start putting in our writer profiles, but this is misleading because my writing is STILL appearing under some other fake name when it goes live.

    Until Copypress fixes this, it will be a Content Mill. It pays decently, so it could be one of these “Move-up Mills” that Carol mentioned. It will always be a copy mill in reality, though, until we writers get credit for the work we do.

    • Natasha says:

      It depends on the articles you get, and the clients. Some clients actually do allow for bylines now. I’ve written quite a few articles over the last few months that have offered me a byline.

  42. I’m publishing a “Building Your Business” series this month on my blog, and August is dedicated to writers (the business principles could apply to anyone, however).

    In doing research for my next post, which details content mills vs. private clients, I came across your post, Carol. I’ve admired you for several years and applaud how you help writers cross over from mills into the world of other gigs.

    I’ve got no big beef with the mills except that for most folks, mills don’t work. For multiple reasons – some which are not the fault of the mill business model – it seems to me that content mills are not an exclusive path to riches.

    And that’s why we work, right? Riches are relative, but at the end of the day, I want my bills paid, Uncle Sam taken care of, my healthcare plan paid, my daughter’s college tuition (and her living expenses) paid, savings for emergencies and my retirement, and money to have fun with.

    If you aren’t getting that, and you’ve worked with the mills for a period of time, why are you going back?

    It’s my observation that two factors play heavily into this phenomena:

    1) Writers have misconceptions about working with private clients.

    2) The lure of an easy (i.e. weekly) payout becomes an addiction.

    I haven’t formulated my post, but I wanted to say “thanks”. You’ve put an honest, thoughtful piece together, Carol. And it’s straight from the mouths of the folks in the middle of the mills!

    It doesn’t get more real that that. :-)
    Laura Townshend recently posted..Building a Successful Business: A Marketing Guide for Writers

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks, Laura — I think your 2 points capture it!

      When mill owners are interviewed about who writes for them, their vision is that it’s housewives who need an extra $50 a month for fun money…not people trying to do it full time for a living. They’re not set up for that. It’s writers who make the mistake of trying to hop on a gerbil wheel and do it 80 hours a week in hopes of paying their bills.

      Mills are not an exclusive path to riches? I think mills are not a path to riches, period. They’re a path to subsistence and burnout, based on the many conversations I’ve had with mill writers. And as you say, quick low pay becomes an addiction that’s hard to break. It sort of reminds me of the old pre-union labor days of the “company store,” where you got paid a pittance and the company store was the only place you could buy supplies, and they were all overpriced because it was the only game in town, and soon “I owe my soul to the company store.”

      Worst thing about the mills is that the clips you get are all but useless for finding better gigs.

      Send us a link when you do your piece!

  43. Pamela Wray says:

    I have been a remote freelance and contract writer, editor and designer with my own firm for 28 years and I thought I would try several content mills for fun assignments in between my established work. Well, the fun stopped about a month ago. When you are dealing with the assignments that are 4 to 5 star on the site, you have professional companies that want well-researched, cited articles for use other than blog or web content. My experience in dealing with level 2 and 3 clients have been a nightmare. I have found these companies to be unexperienced entities that can not differentiate the style or matter that a writer is supposed to complete the assignments and editors that give your revisions asking for cites, then the next revision is “put it in your own words”, and then we are back to the cite version.

    I guess I am old school in that I have dealt directly with publishers at book and magazine firms for so long that I am used to working relationship with my editor and I have problem dealing with a broker who tells me what their clients want after several attempts of revisions. This is when you have asked questions to ascertain what the assignment is all about.

    I will just go back to my old clients of 28 years and if I want to have fun writing, I will pro bono clients who need writers for something other than blogs.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Pamela, I think you’ve hit on why I never was drawn to content mills — I’m also used to working directly with clients and haven’t had great experiences working through middlemen.

      It’s like playing telephone, and you don’t end up with a client testimonial…and of course the pay is awful. What’s to like?

  44. Karen Judge says:

    I did one assignment for cmcopywriters.co.uk and I truly could not make sense out of the editor’s comments/feedback, which were contradictory and inconsistent with their guidelines. I figured he was being taken advantage of and was miserable with his own situation. I didn’t want to end up like that and backed away from them very quickly….

  45. Stacy says:

    Given the rates that experienced and good writers are willing accept (as evidenced by Elance, etc.), it seems that it is (or will become) very difficult to secure freelance writing contracts at what were once respectable rates. Could you give your point of view regarding this phenomenon? Do you see a trend of diminishing earning power for writing since clients will simply demand the rates that they now know many work for (with content mills, Elance and oDesk clients, etc.)? Thanks.

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think if you want to buy into that negativity, then you probably won’t earn much.

      I’ve earned more each year since 2005, so I don’t agree. I’m not sure what you think is “evidenced by Elance” except that there are a lot of desperate writers out there willing to write for peanuts for the Internet’s many shaky startups, especially writers in the Third World. This is the underworld of freelance writing…and its existence doesn’t mean the aboveground, above-board world of legitimate writing has disappeared, just that a new world of crummy jobs and mediocre work has appeared below it.

      Meanwhile, major magazines and corporations and trade publications and many others continue to need compelling writing that subscribers and customers will want to read…and that’s not easy to deliver. Which is why they continue to need to pay professional rates to get it.

  46. Ryan says:

    Content Mills Suck! I was writing for Squidoo but then they banned my account and deleted all my lens and they didn’t even tell me why (when I read the article saying why I would get banned it turns out most of the filtering work is done by their bots not real editors!)

  47. Bettina says:

    Thank you for compiling the experiences of Content Mill writers. After researching a job ad for WriterAccess, my jaw dropped at their pay rates. A “3-star writer” makes a grand total of $19 for an 825-word article, while a “2-star writer” will cash in $10!
    At that rate, working at McDonald’s sounds much more profitable, considering that two hours of work at minimum wage earn you $20.
    As a former feature writer who earned $1500 for a story in a free, healthy living magazine I am appalled at these professional exploiters who have invented an intricate rating system that prevents a writer from making more than 1 cent per word until she obtains a “3-star rating,” based on some arbitrary bot/algorythm evaluation.
    I hope all the examiners and WriterAccesses of this world drown in the shame of the bad quality of writing and content they will ultimately get stuck with for lack of good writers who refuse to accept these pay, or non-pay rates. Disgusting!

  48. Ms. P says:

    I got a lot out of both your post and its comment section. Thank you! Now I need to check out the rest of your site, but I’m one of those people churning away on the mills and finding it hard to get off. Today I’m taking a day off writing and looking at both higher paying mills and other freelance writing alternatives. It was hard to force myself to do it (I could make $35 today! LOL), but it’s the only way to move up in pay and have a bunch of eggs in my basket. I’m going through your site and a few others and creating index cards for each mill and other employer, comparing pay rate, pay frequency, editorial interaction, ease of interface, application process, etc.

    The mills work for me right now, because I have another part-time business and live out of the country, where my overhead is pretty low. I’ve been scraping by and needed to find income I could do from home that would fill my budget gap. I really don’t want to spend a lot of time marketing myself to private clients, as I’m already doing this for my other career. And the flexibility is nice. The bid sites just eat up too much of my time for too little return.

    So far I’ve written for TCA and TB with no problems from either. In fact, I’ve found both to be easy to deal with and prompt with payment. It helps that I’ve done high volume writing professionally in a variety of fields, and I was able to start out at both mills at a high tier. It would appear it is no longer necessary to start at level 1 and work up. After a short time, I’ve become more efficient at researching and producing work that is well received by clients and editors alike, which is in and of itself a good skill to have.

    While I could never make a full-time career out of writing for the content mills, especially if I were still living in the states, they do fill a need for me now. If I can find some relatively easy ways to reach out to private clients, I’ll spend a little time doing that. Meanwhile, my goal is to at least find the most lucrative and satisfying mills, get some direct order clients there, and spread my work around in case any go dry. This isn’t intended to be a long-term gig for me, but I wanted to present a positive side to it for those who are still stuck there or just starting out as writers. And I wish I had discovered this source of income back when I was earning more and wanted a little fun money. For your readers who just want some casual extra income, the content mills might be just the ticket.

  49. ProsperG says:

    Wow, I can really relate to the comments on this site. I have been through the content mill wringer and I’ve had enough! I’m currently working on my ebook. IMHO, there’s nothing like writing for yourself. I’d rather take an outside job on the side until I receive what I feel I’m worth before I let the content mills dry me out. Freelance writers get caught-up on the quick money pitch, and during these economic times, people need the cash. However, it’s no excuse not too look for better pay while sweating it out at the mills.

  50. Kevin Casey says:

    Great post, Carol. One site that hasn’t been mentioned here is Constant Content. There’s no bidding, and you set your own prices. I netted $65 for the very first article I wrote there, and earned $1870 during my first two months, writing less than 20 hours per week. Will I make a career out of it? No, because I’d rather pursue my own clients (many of which I source through LinkedIn), and make better money long-term. But as an occasional source of extra income when higher-paying gigs are slow, I’ve found CC can come in handy.

    I once wrote 6 articles for Textbroker and made a not-so-whopping $29 total, so I didn’t stick around there too long…

    But overall, going out and grabbing your own clients is the only real way to make a secure, full-time living at freelance writing.

    I am currently writing for a private client ($65 for 500-word, easy-to-write blog posts) that gives me a decent volume of work, and I have a few other irons in the fire (I also write eBooks), so life is good.

    Cheers,
    Kevin Casey
    (Remote River man)

    • Allene says:

      Kevin:

      What’s the typical word count of the articles you’ve sold on Constant Content? Are any of the article categories more successful than others, in your experience?

      Haven’t tried them before but I’ll give it a shot thanks to your recommendation.

      • Kevin Casey says:

        Hi Allene –

        In my first two months at CC, I wrote 71 articles in 61 days, and sold 57 of them (just over 80%, which is higher than the average). My average word count was 741. However, some people regularly write 300-400 word articles, and the very first article I sold was 1510 words, so it does vary a lot.

        When I wrote Writer Pool articles, they were on all sorts of subjects: insurance, mobile phones, energy, internet marketing etc. When I write ‘on spec’ pieces, they’re mostly about travel/nature (my specialty, as the Remote River Man).

        Constant Content has been a bit slow lately, but when they get a couple of big clients needing articles, you can get steady work for a month or so. My suggestion would be to avoid anything that pays less than 10 cents a word, though.

        I’ve made a bit of spare money from CC now and then, but I’m a lot pickier than I was at the beginning.

        Cheers,
        Kevin Casey
        kevincasey88@hotmail.com
        https://www.amazon.com/author/kevincasey-prowriter

  51. Dear Carol,

    I just found this blog and read through it and all the comments. I once wrote two articles for Helium (before it changed its site) but never got paid for them. I suppose I didn’t meet the minimum amount or something. But I got the lead to Helium, as well as many others (Elance, Guru, Media Shower) from a site called Freedom With Writing (freedomwithwriting.com). I wondered if anyone who has posted here has got any good content writing leads from that site; and also what experience people have had with Helium.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Mark, I don’t think of sites like Helium or any of the others you name above as good places for writers to hang out.

      I haven’t heard anything good about Freedom With Writing and don’t like how they operate, where no content is free until you give them an email. I have a post coming up about another platform they’ve recommended that is going to be a mind-blower. They don’t seem like a useful resource for serious freelancers, from what I’ve seen.

      • Carol, I just got a notice from Helium that they are ending. Here it is, for any who’ve used it:


        May 14, 2014

        You are receiving this email because you have been identified as either an active or inactive Helium Publishing community member.

        NOTICE: The Helium Publishing 360 sites will be available on a read-only basis effective May 21, 2014 and will continue to be available on a read-only basis until December 15, 2014. During this period, if you have an existing Account, you will continue to have access to your Account and accrue potential earnings, but you will not be able to add more content to the Helium Publishing 360 sites or create a new Account. If you have attained the Minimum Payout Threshold, which currently is set at $25.00, we strongly encourage you to withdraw your earnings because the Helium Publishing 360 sites will terminate on 12/15/14 and you will no longer have access to your Account.

        Dear Helium Community,

        After eight years and well over one million articles, we regret to announce that Helium Publishing will be closing. Here are the key dates that impact you:

        May 21, 2014

        •the Helium Publishing 360 sites will become “read only” and no article changes or revisions will be possible

        •no new work can be completed or created in the Helium Network dashboard

        •new member registration for Helium Publishing 360 sites will cease

        December 15, 2014

        •advertising revenue share will cease

        •you will no longer be able to access your Account

        •all 27 of the Helium Publishing 360 sites will shut down and your articles will not be available via the microsites

        •access to the Helium Network dashboard and your ability to retrieve your Helium Publishing articles, message others, and request payment will be terminated

        What about my earnings? Your Account will be accessible until December 15, 2014 so that you can view and (if applicable) request a final payout. Your tax ID and a valid PayPal account are required to process and receive payment. Details about accrual and earnings can be found in the FAQs, available in Announcements and in the Helium discussion forum.

        What about my open assignments? The workflow portion of the Helium Network will be disabled on May 21, 2014, and you will not be able to work on any assignments.

        What happens to my articles? You may download your work by following the instructions available in Announcements and in the Helium discussion forum.

        What if I have questions? You’ll be able to reach us through the Helium HelpDesk and Helium discussion forums. In addition, an FAQ is available in the discussion forum and in the Helium Network dashboard.

        For many of you, Helium Publishing has been more than a place to hone your writing skills; it’s been a place to call home, a community to connect with friends and like-minded creatives. Thank you for making Helium a nurturing space for new and emerging writers. It’s been an amazing and gratifying journey, and we’re grateful you were part of it all. Good luck in your future writing endeavors.

        Very sincerely,

        The Helium Publishing Team”

        So there you go…

        • Carol Tice says:

          I got one of these as well, though I’d never written for them. I hope writers keep this in mind. These sites promise you can build a retirement income with revenue that never ends…but what really happens is often, they go bust and close their doors.

          It at least sounds like maybe people could download and maybe resell their articles now that this site is defunct…I’m hoping so.

  52. Had to comment and ask why there were so many “content mills aren’t so bad” comments… that’s just crazy talk! This post is awesome, Carol!

  53. Jalyn says:

    I want to say something about textbroker.com and I am a noob, so please forgive me. I like the content mill as a starter simply because as a military spouse, with two young sons, I see it as a benefit. So many of my peers, other young wives of soldiers, are peddling romance products, it works wraps and scentsy candles for a pittance while looking for jobs. Currently, we are stationed in El Paso, which though claims to be a part of the U.S. is actually very much Mexico, in that the job requirements all want bilingual. Of course, they can’t say they won’t hire you for not being bilingual but you get beaten out for this reason.
    If I managed to get a job here for minimum wage, plus paid out child care and added gas in, I’d make almost nothing. Here, I am getting something and can work on my patio all day while the kids scream and run or splash in the pool.
    I would like to know anyone’s recommendations for a step-by-step plan (maybe an ebook) for how to break past the content mill cycle though and begin writing what I want that people want to buy. I don’t need my name on them, I just need better pay.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Jalyn, see my ebooks page for The Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success…it will give you loads of ideas on how to start building a better portfolio and finding your own, better-paying cilents. You may love Textbroker…but what does it pay you? Most of us freelance for clients from home with the same flexibility, except we earn far more than mills offer. Step by Step will take you through how to get started on that, build a portfolio quickly, and find good first clients.

  54. Travis Ross says:

    Wow. The part about Demand Media is awesome. I wrote there for six years. When articles were available I wrote, and when things dried up I didn’t. There were a few times I tried to quit because I was starting to neglect my family at night; I would just sit down and crank out articles. The money was addictive. I also worked there as a copy editor. I eventually got squeezed out as a CE and recently I lost my writing privelages. It was just becoming too much work for $25, and it was getting to the point where it was impossible to fulfill the rewrite requests. Nice article.
    Travis Ross recently posted..Jimmy the Sandwich Guy or: How I Became Afraid of Ordering Food in the Company Cafeteria

  55. amandaaa says:

    Thanks for putting this together. I just submitted my writing sample for Textbrokers. The decision not to bother with anybody else was easy after looking over this article.

    I know first hand that burnout is *inevitable* when the pay is absurd for the work. It’s nice to hear that this isn’t just a moral failing on my part. LOL I’m not going in expecting much more than the opportunity for a little practice and maybe some portfolio-building.

  56. Carol Tice says:

    Hi Janine —

    I’m glad that rates such as $7 will work for you…for most of the writers I know, that doesn’t cut it.

    The key thing to realize is that platforms like Textbroker go bust quite often — we just saw Helium go under in May, for instance. So have a backup plan in case this “great” situation with Textbroker changes.

  57. I currently write for Media Shower, and I recently spoke with the head editor about using articles I write for them in my portfolio. She told me that we are absolutely encouraged to use our bylined articles in our portfolios. The only problem is that most of the assignments I’ve gotten through them have been ghost-blogging assignments that don’t use my byline. But they recently made me a regular contributor to Yahoo! Education, which does use my byline, so those are going in my portfolio.

    Having worked with Demand Studios for years, I have to say that I’ve been really impressed with how dedicated Media Shower has been to working with their writers to produce good content and help us grow as writers. They not only give you direct lines of communication to your editors (and encourage you to use them) and clear guidance on what they want for each assignment, they also provide a lot of free training materials and hold monthly seminars aimed at helping us grow in our careers. Compared to Demand Studios they have been a breath of fresh air.

    My only problem with Media Shower is the lack of flexibility. You don’t get to choose your assignments, and they expect pretty fast turnaround, often waiting until the end of the week to assign articles that are due that Sunday. Not too big a deal if it’s only one or two articles, but sometimes they’d dump as many as five articles on me on Thursday afternoon, which would force me to work through the weekend to make deadline. But I finally got up the nerve to complain and found that they were happy to work with me to accommodate my writing schedule. It took some trial and error and several e-mail exchanges to get things smoothed out, but now I’m writing for them at a pretty comfortable pace, and overall I’m enjoying the assignments they give me.
    Jean Marie Bauhaus recently posted..What Is Content Marketing?

  58. I have a question about writers’ experience with these particular content mills and websites: oDesk, iWriter, guru.com, MadContent, and Skyward Review. I realize these may have been discussed previously in this forum, but I missed them. If none of these are good to work for, I’m going to delete them from my list. Thanks!

    Mark Cotter, Author

    • Carol Tice says:

      Mark, we just did a piece on Skyword — not sure if that’s what you’re referring to with “Skyward.” It’s here:
      http://www.makealivingwriting.com/writing-for-skyword/

      oDesk has now merged with Elance, which you can read a bit about here: http://www.makealivingwriting.com/elance-odesk-merger-freelance-writers/

      In general, though, my advice is this: There is no “good” content mill or bidding site. You can take your list of them and toss it out.

      Anywhere thousands of writers are competing for the same gig is not a good environment for getting well-paid. And the content-mill model dictates low pay, because it is actually a failing business model — traffic and ad revenue at all of those sites is now plummeting, thanks to Google search changes that are excluding their junk posts from search results.

      Rules and pay may vary slightly from one to the other site, but the bottom line is they are all places for dabblers and amateurs, not anyone trying to earn a full-time living from writing. If you ask the owners of those sites — which I have — that’s what they’ll tell you.

      To earn well as a freelance writer, stop looking for any kind of mass website to hand you gigs, and learn to prospect and find your own clients. You can check out my Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success e-book for more on how to do that.

  59. NLF says:

    How do you make the step from content mill to writing freelance for private clients? I’m stuck in a mill right now and it’s good extra money but I’d like to develop freelance – I just don’t know how.

  60. I just registered with two sites that I read some favorable things about: Media Shower and Textbroker. However, Media Shower sent me an email as if I were a client looking to pay them to write for me, at a $ cost. I tried to correct this by sending an email reply, and it came back as being undeliverable to the posted address. Weird. Also, Textbroker sent me a response asking me to identify my U.S. citizenship by sending them a copy of my driver’s license or other documentation, which request I find creepy and disturbing. Also Weird.

    Mark P. Cotter

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’ve never heard about that with Textbroker, Mark! That is weird, but I think they get a lot of non-US writers trying to get in the door. And have heard mixed reviews on Media Shower. That email was probably from a no-response address…you’ll have to hunt around for a way to contact them.

      But…why sign up with these types of sites? Pay is generally very low.

  61. Mark, that’s weird about Media Shower. Did you apply through the “Writer Applications” link way down in the site’s footer? Also, I should warn you that it took them a couple of months to respond to my application. By then I had forgotten all about applying with them and had to look them up to refresh my memory and make sure they weren’t trying to scam me. ;)

  62. I followed the advice of another freelance writing instructor and set up shop on Fiverr.com. At first my intention was only to use it to get some non-mill writing clips and testimonials to use on my website (and it worked great for that), but the thing many people don’t know about Fiverr is that once you’ve earned a positive seller reputation you gain the ability to add “gig extras” and start charging a lot more for your services. So I lowered my per gig word count and added some extras, and now my Fiverr writing gig is my primary means of income.

    I’m still marketing through my website and pitching clients outside of Fiverr, and I’m not at the level where I want to be yet, which is why I’m still keeping a foot in the content mills — they’re like a security blanket. Even though I’m currently only writing about two mill articles a week, I feel more secure knowing I can get more work from them if I need to to keep the lights on.
    Jean Marie Bauhaus recently posted..Know Your Content Marketing Personality Type [Infographic]

    • Carol Tice says:

      So…what sort of rates are you earning on Fiverr? I hadn’t heard about this feature – curious if it enables you to get something like a professional rate. I hear the worst things about Fiverr being one of the lowest-paying sites with a ton of Third World competition.

  63. Currently, I get anywhere from $5 to $80 per gig. The $5 gigs are rare, and they usually entail just a few lines of website copy. On average, the majority of my gigs are in the $25 to $60 range, which probably looks like peanuts to you, Carol ;), but they’re quick and easy assignments, usually on subjects I’m knowledgeable about. If I need to do research, customers pay for that via a gig extra. I’m planning to lower my per-gig word count again once I reach 100 positive reviews (I currently have 66).

    There is indeed a lot of Third World competition, as well as a lot of bottom feeders looking for cheap slave labor, but the latter is pretty easily dealt with (it’s easy to cancel an order you don’t want to do, and Fiverr doesn’t penalize you for it). As for the competition, I’ve found that there are plenty of customers on Fiverr who are happy to pay a premium for quality writing by a native English speaker. That seems to be a bigger issue in the design-related sections than with writing.
    Jean Marie Bauhaus recently posted..How to Revive a Ghost Blog (and Keep it Going)

    • Carol Tice says:

      Jean… $60 is not “a premium.” They are still paying far below professional rates, unless it’s under an hour’s work. Taking many tiny gigs like this makes it hard to add up to real money, as each needs client contact.

      To give you an idea, I don’t take any gigs below $500 at this point…and back when I started, it was $200.

      But if you make a good hourly rate from it (we’re hoping north of $50 an hour), then good for you.

      I don’t really understand about lowering your per-gig word count — you write shorter blog posts or something?

  64. The way Fiverr works is that you have to offer a base gig for $5, and buyers can buy multiples of a single gig unit and/or add on gig extras to meet your price. That’s really the only rule, so how much you charge and how much work you have to do per gig is really up to the individual seller. I’m still relatively new there and still working on building my reputation, but there are “Top Rated Sellers” in the writing category who charge as much as $5 per *up to* 25 words.

    And yes, on average, I don’t spend more than 30 minutes on an article. As I said, most of the assignments I accept tend to be quick and easy.

    The biggest advantage of Fiverr over content mills or bid sites is that is that it’s simply a marketplace. Other than the $5 base gig rule, you decide what services to provide and how much to charge. Basically, it’s your store and you run it how you like. Is it going to bring in as much as pitching directly? No, but then again I’ve had very few successful pitches at this point in my career, although I’m still trying. Fiverr isn’t my end game, and it certainly isn’t going to be an attractive option for someone who can command hundreds or thousands of dollars per article and have her pick of assignments, but it’s definitely a huge step up from the content mills for those of us who are still on our way up.
    Jean Marie Bauhaus recently posted..Know Your Content Marketing Personality Type [Infographic]

    • Carol Tice says:

      Well, glad you’ve been able to make it work on there! I know many others who’ve earned basically nothing bidding on these sorts of platforms.

      When you say the top sellers on Fiverr get to charge as much as…one-fifth of what they should be paid, I just want to cry.

  65. Christopher says:

    As a person that lives as a professional writer, I applied for Demand Studios a while back and was denied as I was not “Qualified”. Had they checked my work history, they would have seen I started writing for Yahoo, then moved on to work as a staff employee for two different newspapers and eventually moving on to taking over and running my own newspaper. Not Qualified enough for Demand Studios….sheesh…what did they want? A Masters Degree?

    • Carol Tice says:

      Christopher, my husband has a UCLA film degree and they rejected him as a videographer! All of the content mills seem to have rules that are pretty capricious. I’d consider it the best thing that ever happened if you were unable to get started on a content mill. ;-)

7 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Reality of Writing for Content Mills — 14 Writers’ True Stories"
  1. [...] a Living Writing was on fire this week, collecting true tales of woe from a bunch of content mill writers and reminding us that we all have our own crosses to bear, even when we don’t publicly [...]

  2. […] Another post from Carol Tice. This time about reality of writing for content mills. […]

  3. […] Tice, at Make A Living Writing, wrote a fantastic blog post on this topic, in which she featured lots of testimony from content-mill writers. It’s worth […]

  4. […] in line to demand money from websites that offer content, guess who moves further down the queue? Too many writers get ripped off already by content mills like Demand Studios, and sites that offer “exposure” instead of cash. As much as I’d like to […]

  5. […] Unfortunately, unless you’re at a big firm that has invested in a modern, cutting edge marketing department, people just don’t want to pay copywriters well at all. And it frustrates the hell out of me. Many salaried positions are listed online to be worth salaries of $45K-65K, but at the end of so many interviews I’ve been on, I’ve received offers of $25 to 34K at most. That is not a bad salary, but what is the catch? It’s that you’re expected to produce at least 16 pieces of content per day, one every half hour. This might be fine for social media, but for landing pages and blog posts that require any amount of research, it’s quite a lot of pressure and sends most people into working overtime. In this respect, copywriters are treated like content producing machines, a statement which is actually proven by the existence of content mills. […]

  6. […] found a few sites where I could make money: content mills like TextBroker and Content Authority. Writing for them certainly wasn’t fun (get paid $5 to […]

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