If you’re a writer who spends time looking for freelance websites where you can find work, you’re not alone.
Job boards, move-up mills, and agencies can be places to find good clients. But freelance websites for writers can also be a cesspool of low-paying gigs.
How do you know what freelance sites are worth your time, and which ones to avoid?
Do your homework — and read this blog. We like to check out freelance websites for potential opportunities and let you know where to find great gigs and what sites totally suck.
Doing your own marketing by sending LOIs (letters of introduction) and query letters is still one of the most effective ways to grow your freelancing business. But picking up work on freelance websites is a great way to help you move up and earn more.
We recently vetted five new freelance sites for writers. Three turned out to be good places to find clients that pay decent rates. But two new content mills we haven’t featured before didn’t measure up to Make a Living Writing standards.
Here’s the scoop on two new content mills that suck, and three promising freelance sites for writers.
2 New Content Mills That Suck
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. New content mills seem to be popping up all the time. We’ve featured many before. While a few freelance websites have caught on that paying pro rates attracts more talented writers, many are a dead-end to low-paying gigs. Here’s two more to add to the list of content mills that suck.
This content platform has been around awhile, but we haven’t featured it on this blog before. And it’s gone through several changes since its initial launch a few years ago.
Back when I started freelancing, I signed up for CopyPress as a copywriter and worked for several months making $4 to $16 per article. That was bad. When they launched their flagship blog to pull in more freelancers to support their platform, I thought it would be different (as in pay better rates).
Writing for CopyPress
When I interviewed writers about the new CopyPress, however, I heard a different story. Does the CopyPress Blog pay higher rates?
Yes, but don’t run out and build a profile just yet. They don’t publish their rates, but writers interviewed for this post indicate that they’re now paying a whopping $30 a post — and that payments are slow to arrive.
“I wouldn’t really recommend anyone write for them, unless they’re looking for spare change from time to time,” says freelance copywriter Rai Rose Cornell, who wrote a few posts for the CopyPress blog. “It was a pretty soul-sucking gig.”
However, CopyPress CEO Dave Snyder says the reported rate doesn’t match up with current rates for marketing copy.
“We use a limited number of writers on our blog,” says Snyder. “Articles we have on CopyPress.com need to be a minimum of 1,000 words a piece, meaning this writer is claiming we paid them 3 cents a word for marketing copy. This is not a rate CopyPress offers.”
Once Cornell completed work for CopyPress, she says it took four months to get paid.
But that’s not typical, says Snyder.
“In terms of four month payment timeline, this is not typical,” says Snyder. “We have a 90 day net maximum from the date of assignment. This aligns with our customer’s longest net terms. This is clearly stated in our terms and conditions with writers.”
Snyder says CopyPress has many freelancers making a significant income on the platform. But he also pointed to areas the company is working hard to improve:
- Payment processing issues
- Overall rates for freelancers
- An update that allows writers to set their own rates
“We pay different writers different rates, however I can say we don’t pay writers a flat rate for writing on the CopyPress website,” says Snyder. “It is a per word rate that they negotiate.”
This is hybrid content mill that lists freelance writing jobs. The process for landing gigs looks a lot like other mills. You create an account and apply for open gigs posted by hiring managers.
How has Contena differentiated itself from hundreds of other freelance websites that only pay low rates?
It’s a pay-to-play membership site, although that’s not readily apparent on their website. In addition to connecting writers with freelance and full-time gigs, Contena provides courses and coaching to help writers understand the ins and outs of starting a freelancing business.
But’s here’s what will happen if you hand over your email address to get access to the Contena job board. You’ll get put on a waiting list. Then you’ll get an invitation to join the membership site. The cost to access Contena’s course content for writers? $497, and up to $997 to hire a Contena coach to help you.
“Contena is a membership site,” says Kevin Fleming, the founder of Contena. “We offer a suite of powerful tools that allow writers to instantly search and find the best location-independent and remote writing gigs posted across the internet.”
Fleming says once a writer finds a gig, they work directly with the marketing or editorial staff at those companies through the Contena platform.
“If a high-quality writing gig is posted on the internet, chances are, we will find it,” says Fleming. “Contena finds both part-time and full-time writing gigs…Pay for part-time gigs can vary, but since we focus on finding high quality remote gigs, many will pay in the $50 per article range, or higher.”
Unfortunately, the writers I spoke with cited very low rates on Contena. One writer reported $2 an article for blogging in the education industry. This is a writer with extensive education, training, and solid writing skills unique to this niche. Inside Freelance Writers Den, Carol suggests $50 as an absolute floor for articles and blog posts.
Writing for Contena
Penelope More, a freelancer who uses Contena, said she loves the guidance and coaching they offer.
“I tell others it’s like having a college course,” says More. “Same price as a college course, but better. It teaches you where to start, and how to put together a portfolio. You get a coach available for any of your questions.”
Andrea Filimon, another freelancer on the platform, agreed and said she also appreciates the guidance.
Maybe other writers are earning pro rates on Contena. But that’s not what I found. And if you’re thinking about signing up for Contena’s membership services, you’ll have to wait. Fleming says there’s a waiting list to join.
3 Promising Freelance Websites
Fortunately, I’m not just the bearer of bad news about low-paying freelance websites. There are several newer sites this blog hasn’t reviewed before that appear to be promising outlets for freelance writers.
Agencies, or agency-style publishers (companies hiring freelancers to work with their staffers on projects for clients) are popular markets. Many of them offer better pay and clientele than content mills and mass jobs sites. Check out these freelance websites for writers:
NewsCred helps companies with their marketing, including native advertising, brand journalism, writing and publishing of content. With their own software system, this company allows clients to plan their marketing and access customized writing and licensed content from NewsCred’s pool of freelance writers.
Many writers report receiving great rates at NewsCred. Although NewsCred doesn’t publish rates, I’ve heard firsthand reports of rates starting at $350 for articles. Exact numbers vary depending on the writer, type of project and industry niche. This company appears to pay well and return to their favorite freelancers with more work on a consistent basis.
Multiple sources told me NewsCred is one of their favorite clients, so that also bodes well for freelancers looking to earn more.
High-profile clients use NewsCred
This platform has clients from a variety of different industries. Many prominent companies seek NewsCred’s expertise and content.
According to the NewsCred website, their clients include Pepsi, ConAgra and VISA. Writers who freelance for NewsCred may be assigned high-level projects or other marketing work for major companies.
One writer I spoke with, Jennifer Gregory, said she loves NewsCred’s opportunities to work directly with top companies.
“On most projects, we work directly with the client,” says Gregory. “You have their real email and they get back to you.”
Writing for NewsCred
Gregory also said NewsCred takes care of their writers. They have a refreshing flexibility and willingness to recognize freelancers as professionals and independent business-owners, she says.
“They really advocate for writers and really work with their writers,” says Gregory. “They understand their writers are very important to the NewsCred business.”
Getting in with NewsCred
Freelance positions are listed at the NewsCred website. I also noticed several NewsCred recruiters on LinkedIn who may be able to connect you directly with the company.
Researching and reaching out to appropriate contacts at the company and applying through their website seems like the best way for new freelancers to break-in to this market.
Gregory believes that the best qualifications to have are simply your niche industry experience. Highlight your background when you contact NewsCred, and share clips you’re proud of that demonstrate your skills.
SmartBug Media is an inbound marketing agency. This agency claims to be a leading force in the world of inbound marketing. They tackle the full range of content marketing projects and also offer web design services.
SmartBug Media founder Ryan Malone says the agency works on a distributed model, with an all-remote workforce so that people at the company can “enjoy their lives and have a great career at the same time.” This, he noted, allows the agency to draw in talented employees and freelancers.
Rates are negotiated with the freelancer. Malone says his company values long-term relationships with trusted freelancers, so they strive for pay rates that build those connections.
For blog posts, rates of $75 were reported by writers. Longer projects, such as 3,000 word e-books, may receive rates as high as $800 — hardly top rates, but much better than what you’ll find on Craigslist ads for e-book work.
Writing for SmartBug
One Portland-based writer, Evan Jensen, said he’s received great rates at SmartBug, and that multiple factors influence rates. “I think the rates may vary depending on their agreements with clients,” says Jensen.
He added that SmartBug Media is also prompt and fair with payments.
Case study and white paper specialist Angie Mansfield also works with SmartBug Media. She says their rates are reasonable and characterizes them as a good market for freelancers looking to move-up to premium clients.
“I would definitely consider SmartBug a move-up client,” says Mansfield. “Their pay is decent, especially if you’re coming out of the mills, but it’s not as high as you’d get working for a bigger client. Overall, I wouldn’t hesitate to take another project from them.”
Focus on B2B writing
Most of SmartBug’s freelancers write B2B writing for their clients for inbound marketing purposes. Content is key part of any marketing strategy, says Malone, so freelance writers play important roles in helping our clients.
Knowledge of the industries you write for is important, and SmartBug works with many different spaces such as healthcare, nonprofits and insurance. If you want to write for SmartBug, it’s helpful to have some experience in a specific niche.
“I’ve written lead magnets, e-books, and blog posts for SmartBug,” says Jensen. “Once you’re assigned to write for one of their accounts, SmartBug provides writer guidelines and assignment details.”
Mansfield wrote a case study for SmartBug, so they definitely assign those to freelancers as well.
Getting in with SmartBug
SmartBug Media has freelance openings posted on their website along with an online application process. You can also reach out to SmartBug’s creative director with relevant clips and info about your experience and background, or email SmartBug founder Ryan Malone.
nDash is a “content community platform” that helps companies find and hire qualified freelance writers. Writers can choose their own rates and aren’t anonymously listed. This company aims to offer a higher-quality content experience than many low-paying content mills do.
According to their website, nDash was started by freelance writer Michael Brown in 2016. He began freelancing in 2013. Within a couple of years, he had so many clients that hiring other writers made sense. That’s when nDash was born.
One writer, Rebecca Theriot, says she loves nDash because it has good opportunities and pays reasonable rates.
“I have my rate on nDash set for $75, which is what I earned for a 500-word assignment,” says Theriot. “Then I got an offer from a different company of $80 for 800 to 1,000 words.”
“nDash says that the average assignment pays $175,” says Theriot. “The highest-grossing writer made $8,000 last month and was also the writer who pitched the most.”
This company attracts a wide range of clients, such as Tech Target, Cloud Endure and Data Dog. Projects range from blog posts to white papers, e-books to marketing materials. You can create a profile, pitch clients, or hear from interested prospects directly.
Getting in on nDash
To start, new freelancers need to create a profile on the site and complete it with details such as writing samples, industries they have expertise in and requested rates.
While writing this post, I made a profile with nDash. I’m very impressed with this platform and I’ve already applied for several assignments and sent multiple pitches.
The only significant downside, from what I can tell, is the newness of nDash. Right now there aren’t many companies using it, so there are few prospective clients and few assignments. I recommend trying nDash, but don’t plan on using this as your only or primary source of clients.
Find better clients to earn more
If you’ve been thinking about moving up in the freelance writing world and leaving low-paying work behind, you’ll need to step up your game. Writing for freelance websites, agencies, content publishing platforms and higher-paying clients can help you earn more. But you may need to do more than simply apply for “jobs” and wait around.
Here’s how to make the most out of these freelance websites:
- Find a real person to contact when you apply. Even if you’re submitting an application online, it pays to contact someone at the company via email and say “hi.” Introduce yourself briefly and mention your application to make a personal connection.
- Do your research. Spend some time investigating the company to see what assignments they typically offer, who their clients are, etc. Visit their website. Any info you can gather before you contact them will help set you apart.
- Highlight your experience and start there. Your work experience, education and knowledge can give you an “in” and set you apart from other writers.
- Don’t be afraid to pitch, apply and connect. Volume marketing, where you contact lots of different prospects and apply with plenty of different agencies, increases your chances. This is a numbers game. Apply and move on to more applications, LOIs, and query letters.
- Build your portfolio and include a variety of different types of assignments. High-paying clients want to know you’re competent as a writer and can tackle a variety of assignments. Show them by having a portfolio filled with different types of work. If you have to, work for free for a few nonprofits or small businesses to get your first samples.
- Nurture relationships. Relationships with prospects may take time to build, but they’ll pay off. Not every nibble is a client. Connect with enough new prospects, though, and your marketing efforts will be worth it. Find ways to stay in contact without being annoying, and you’ll create your own referral network.
Remember, it’s best to market to a variety of different types of prospects and go beyond applications and freelance websites. Proactive pitching to find your own clients will help protect your income and may give you more career stability in the long run.
What freelance websites for writers would you recommend? Share your recommendations on my Facebook page.
Kaitlin Morrison is a freelance healthcare and finance writer in Moses Lake, Wash. You can find her online at www.kaitlinmorrison.com.