Writing as a business

What are content mills?

‘Content mills’ or ‘writer mills’ is a slang term for online organisations that churn out website content at inexpensive rates.

Some organisations allow other companies/employers to post jobs and look for writers. Whilst others keep their writers internal, allowing them to monopolise on social media and advertisement affiliates.

Such content mills (as freelancers call it), usually hire almost anybody and everybody as their writers, allowing them to offer quite subjective pay scales.

For example, a writer associated with a content mill can earn anything from $0.01 cents per-word to $500 per-article!

However, most content mills work on a common agenda of hiring freelance writers in order to create high-quality content at seriously low prices.

How to detect a content mill

Carry out a basic search on the internet and you would find that sites such as Upwork and Freelancer are really popular amongst freelancers.

On the other hand, websites such as Buzzfeed and Bored Panda have created their own sweet space for feeding viral content to the internet.

This inevitably makes the majority of these websites work on the basic models of a content mill.

Checklist to detect a mill

If you’re still unsure on how to spot a content mill, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it an organisation that almost anyone can write for?
  • Does the organisation pay terrible rates when starting out, however, also having the potential to pay better rates down the line?
  • Does the organisation have a ton of people writing for them remotely?

If it’s a yes to all three …it’s most likely a content mill.

Writing for content mills

For writers who are starting their career or trying to carve a space in the freelance world, content mills are usually a good foundation to build their portfolios on.

Not only do these organisations allow debut writers to find their voice but also give them a platform to broadcast themselves and get the right exposure online too.

However, it’s no news that an average freelancer is usually unhappy with their rate of pay. Therefore, freelancers mustn’t hold high expectations for good pay (at the beginning).

With all that said, by reading this article, it will help you get a better understanding of the pros and cons involved when writing for content mills, ultimately allowing you to make a better judgment on them.

Pros: Why you should

1. Sure shot writing debut

Content mills are usually on the hunt for inexpensive writers who are willing to put more efforts in than their pay rates offer.

This usually works well for writers straight out of school, college or university. As they’re usually the ones full of motivation and are thinking of jumping straight into work, without any prior experiences.

With that said, writing content for a well-known mill is often a gold star on your resume and can help you land jobs with larger publications too.

2. Social media engagement

Organisations such as Buzzfeed and Bored Panda are known to have aced their social media strategy. Meaning, these organisations have essentially cracked the code to make their content get across to the right numbers.

If you’re on board with a similar organisation, there’s also a fair chance that your articles perform well and your name is bounced around online like a star too!

3. Online systems and interfaces

Writing for content mills also gives you an interesting opportunity to work in their internal systems and interfaces.

These are designed in a systemized way, allowing you to work efficiently with graphic designers, SEOs and a whole lot of other content related teams too.

Using these systems will not only help you know of other industry related professions but also provide you with a better understanding of how much more is involved when producing effective content online.

4. Getting used to deadlines

Deadlines are quintessential to every organisation, however, for writers, it’s often their motivation.

With that said, if you’re a newbie to the writing industry and haven’t been tasked with deadlines in the past, you want to start working for a content mill, as they’re usually very particular about them.

By doing so, a content mill may essentially get you into a routine, in order to help steer your writing habits towards the right direction (in more ways than just deadlines).

5. On schedule payments

Surprisingly, the scheduling of payments when writing for content mills is often great!

Your pay may be lower than your usual hourly rate, however, getting paid per-word or per-article comes with its own attraction.

There’s often no hassle or disputes, as you’re paid on time through PayPal or through another form of electronic payments.

Some companies may even offer you a bonus, in accordance with your article’s performance online.

6. No prior qualifications needed

For a full-time job, you may not even be considered if you cannot flash a relevant qualification in your area of expertise.

However, content mills allow anybody and everybody to write for them, as it all comes down to your final written output and pitching skills.

Cons: Why you shouldn’t

1. Extremely low pay

If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer at a content mill, you may be getting an average of $1 per-word or $15 per-article, if things are going well and you’re writing for a good content mill.

For those who are less experienced in writing content or perhaps just writing for a lower quality mill, you may be getting paid rates as low as $0.01 per-word!

These rates should hopefully start to increase over time; with your experience and recommendations, after writing more and more articles.

Once you’ve got the hang of it and have built up a good reputation at your mill, you could potentially earn up to $300–$500 per article.

With all that said, relying solely on content mills at an early stage of a freelance writing career may not be a promising idea.

We recommend you take these jobs up on a part-time basis, whilst having another source of income too. Only up until you’ve gained enough reputation in order to earn better rates, allowing you to successfully write full-time.

2. Too much hard work for such low pay

Whilst writing mills may outsource inexpensive content, they take credibility and quality very seriously.

Most of them have very strict no-plagiarism policies and don’t be surprised if you are reported for copying content…

By enforcing their no-nonsense policies, they expect you to work strictly to their standards. Making each article require extreme dedication, which is often not equally reflected through your pay.

Hence why the amount of time for research and creation of articles may surpass the actual pay rates, often leaving writers disappointed by all the hard work they’ve put in!

3. Erratic work schedules

Since content mills have hundreds of freelancers on board, you may have to actually sit idle for a number of days, just to get some work.

On the other hand, some days may get so busy that you get a ton of work coming in all at once.

Meaning, it’s important to keep in mind that you won’t be having a clear cut, nine to five job schedule, which allows you to plan weekends and vacations in advance.

4. No Paydays

Unlike a full-time job, you won’t ever know when the next payday is.

As some websites pay every fortnight, some credit your account at the end of the month and others pay-per-article, as and when it’s been published.

Is writing for a content mill worth it?

Now that you have a fair idea of the advantages and disadvantages of writing for a content mill, asking yourself “if it’s worth it” really depends on your priorities at the time.

If you want to start a career in freelancing and build an active writer’s portfolio, then content mills can be an amazing part-time option.

They can offer a wide choice of topics, which can ultimately help to define your writer’s niche and also potentially offer a gold star on your resume, if you’re writing for a big organisation.

However, if you are looking for a job that pays most of your bills, this might not be a good option, as there is often no job security and the pay rates aren’t that promising either.

Meaning, the best option would be to work with them on a part-time basis, whilst working on other freelance writing activities too.

Once you’re more established and have been offered a better pay rate, you could look into increasing your hours, whilst still maintaining your diversified income (from other freelancing activities). As again, most content mills don’t offer job security.

Have a question for Shaista?

By clicking the Comment button, you have read and agree to our privacy policy, including agreeing to be contacted based on your submission.