I know how hard it can be to find a job that fits around your family schedule and brings in much-needed extra income. In your search for the perfect flexible career, you may have stumbled across freelance writing…and that may have led you down the rabbit hole to content mills. But do they really pay off?
Writing for content mills might seem like a convenient way to make money as a writer. After all, these sites need TONS of content, so you’ll always have a paycheck, right?
Unfortunately, writing for content mills could easily become your worst nightmare. You might waste weeks or months without seeing hardly any return for your efforts. And ultimately, it might discourage you so much so that you give up on your work-from-home freelance writing dreams altogether!
Writing for low payouts and pittance rates isn’t worth your valuable time — there are much better ways to go about supplementing your family income without sacrificing your creativity and well-being!
I’ve already made my stance on content mills clear, but let’s get into more details and talk about better ways to land clients as a freelance writer. In this blog post, I’ll cover why writing for content mills is such a terrible idea and provide 3 viable alternatives that may just help turn your stay-at-home mom dream into a reality!
So, What Are Content Mills Anyway?
A content mill is a platform that provides the content to businesses for very cheap by paying writers incredibly low rates. Because the rates are so low (for both the brands and the writers), the goal becomes for the content mill and its writers to churn out as much work as possible. This is the only way to make any money. And it’s not even good money, in my opinion…
Believe me — you’re not going to make 6-figures as a freelance writer (or any sort of sustainable income) from writing for content mills.
The Problem With Writing for Content Mills
I know you’re eager to earn money from freelance writing, so it might be tempting to join one of these content mills. You may think “it doesn’t matter if my rates are low, I just want to get paid for my words!” But here are a few reasons why it’s not a smart idea:
Content mill writing caps your income
Websites like these make it seem like you can make a lot of money writing articles for them. But the truth is many content mill writers are struggling to make a decent living. The pay scale is just wayyy too low!
Content mills pay around 1 to 3 cents per word on average. So if you’re writing 1,000 word blogs, you’re only getting paid $20 or $30 to write them.
To put that in perspective, it takes me at least a few hours to write a decent blog post. A really strong blog could take me upwards of 10 hours to fully research, write, and edit. That means I would only be getting paid between $2 and $3 per hour for that blog post!
If you wanted to make $3,000 per month at that rate, you would have to write 100 blogs per month (that’s more than 3 blogs every single day – even on weekends!). This is not sustainable and the quality of your writing will suffer (not to mention your sanity!).
I use the copywriting software, Jasper AI, and it helps me write significantly faster (read about how Jasper saved my freelance writing career here). But even still, I would be so stressed having to write 100 blogs just to make $3K! I currently write between 15-20 blogs per month, and that’s quite a lot!
You usually won’t get credit for your writing with content mills
I know not every content mill is the same, but don’t expect to get credit or a byline for the work you produce most of the time (if not always). This is because you turn it into the content mill, not the client. Then, the content mill sends it to the client. They’re the middle man.
As a copywriter, I usually write on behalf of my clients anyway. This is called ghostwriting, and it’s totally fine. And for me — I don’t care if I get the credit as long as I’m getting paid! But some writers do want to build a portfolio and gain recognition for their work.
If you’re in this camp, content mills are not the way to go.
It’s hard (or impossible) to form long-term relationships with clients
The thing I love about my client relationships is that they’re long-term. It makes my income and the work that I do each month very predictable. I don’t have to stress about the oh-so-common freelance writer fear of “where will my next client come from?”
Content mill sites farm the work out to clients, making it very hard to form these kinds of relationships. You might not even know who your client is.
Not having any direct relationship with the client makes it hard to:
- Understand their needs
- Discuss the project in detail
- Get feedback on your work
- Negotiate rates
- Build a relationship with them that could lead to more projects down the line
Quality isn’t a priority
If you actually care about the quality of the work you write, content mills are not the place to be. Because there is so much pressure to churn out as many articles as possible, it’s all about quantity over quality.
The clients want to know how much you charge per word and don’t care about what you write. And the second someone can do what you can do at a cheaper price, they’ll move onto that guy or gal. This means you’re hustling 24/7/365 to find new clients.
And I just know I don’t feel good about putting out sub-par work. Plus, having a portfolio of mediocre work will make it hard to land better clients in the future because you won’t have strong writing samples to show them.
It will be impossible for your content writing to stand out
Digital marketing agencies and SEO companies use content mills to generate massive amounts of content for their clients. The issue with this is that the writers who write for these mills are not given any creative freedom.
They have to follow the instructions, or even outlines and templates, given by the company they work for and churn out content that’s very cookie cutter. And like I already mentioned, when you’re churning out massive amounts of content, there’s precious little time to do research, think creatively, or make it engaging in any way.
Even if you’re brand new to the world of freelance writing and are just looking for experience, this is not the kind of experience you want. If you want to build a writing career that you love, you want to be able to use your unique voice and style.
So instead, consider more effective options that will pay you higher rates and allow you to create high-quality work!
3 Alternatives to Writing for Content Mills That Will Boost Your Creativity & Revenue
If you want to build a freelance writing business that you actually enjoy (and that makes you a lot of money!), there are dozens of alternatives to writing for content mills that you could explore. From looking for work on a job board like ProBlogger to pitching yourself to editors, there are plenty of options that pay more and will be less stressful.
Here are my 3 favorite alternatives (the last one has helped me build a 6 figure freelance writing career!):
1. Cold Emailing as a freelance writer
Cold emailing is one of the most effective and efficient ways to get clients. It’s not complicated, but it can be time consuming.
Basically, you’ll just build a list of people in your industry (your industry is also sometimes called your “niche”? Learn about choosing a profitable and in-demand writing niche here) or businesses you admire, and send them a cold email asking if they need any help with their content. If they say no, then you can go back to the drawing board. But if they say yes, then you’ve got a new gig!
Networking virtually or in person
Schmoozing is an art and a skill. Developing relationships with people in your niche can help you find work, or even just get advice on how to do better at freelance writing.
For in-person networking events attend local meetups or conferences related to your niche. You can introduce yourself as a freelance writer and offer your services to anyone who might need them. Here’s a monster list of digital marketing events and conferences, and you could also look for local events in your area on Eventbrite.
I’m a total introvert, so I prefer virtual networking and building my network on social media (more on this below!). But I’ve heard incredible stories of freelance writers who went to events like Copy Accelerator Live or their local Chamber of Commerce meetings and landed fantastic gigs!
Pitching yourself on LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an AMAZING place to sell your skills because it’s where businesses are looking for writers. I’ve found plenty of long-term contracts and freelance jobs with agencies and companies on LinkedIn. In fact, it’s my #1 source of revenue!
Here’s the basic process:
- Decide what kind of companies you want to write for
- Find the company on LinkedIn
- Connect with an employee in the marketing department that might oversee freelance writers (Marketing Manager, Content Director, etc.)
- Send a personalized message introducing yourself as a freelance writer
- On your feed, share relevant news, success stories, tips, etc. that will keep you top of mind and position you as an expert on writing for that specific industry
This is a very condensed version of what I’ve done to build a six-figure business as a writer. I carefully select my clients to ensure they will be a great fit. I nurture them by giving them personalized attention and consistently deliver on high-quality work. Each of my current clients has been with me for at least 6 months (and some as long as 4 years!), which shows the success of my hand-selected model.
These 3 client-getting strategies can help you build your writing portfolio, give you more creative freedom, and make enough money for yourself and your family. Yes, there are a few extra steps involved with finding writing opportunities outside of content mills, but you get to hand-pick who you work with you avoid your competition.
You can grow your freelance writing career beyond your wildest dreams when you have a solid strategy for sourcing leads. Put quality first — that’s a priority. Focus on finding quality leads and have good conversations with them. Aim for great work in everything you do.
Looking for a more in-depth walkthrough of how I get freelance writing clients (WITHOUT wasting time on content mills)? Download my FREE 13-page “LinkedIn Lead Machine” guide to land high-paying freelance writing clients on LinkedIn. Click here to get access right now!