Freelance Friday: Content Mills & Shady Clients


I’m not one to get fired up by much, but if there are two things that grinds my gears, it’s content mills and businesses/people that exploit unsuspecting writers. In my opinion, marketing is the hardest part of freelance writing for new writers. They’re not sure where to start, who to target, and if they even want their services. So it’s not surprising that a significant portion of writers spend all of their time working with mills or people that pay subpar rates. So here’s a list of reasons why writers who are looking to freelance long term should avoid these types of endeavors.

The Problem with Hourly Logic

So the content mill/client you write for has assigned you 500 word assignments at $15 a pop. They tell you that “great writers” can do 2 each hour. $30 an hour, not bad at all right? Nope it’s way wrong… wayyyyy wrong. If you’re a writer who is freelancing full time slowly but surely, you’ll realize that it’s not sustainable. No one can churn out (well-written) articles of that size for 8 hours a day. You’ll end up hating what you’re career.

No Benefits, No Problem… PSYCH!!!!

As a 1099 worker, you bear the responsibility of taking care of your benefits, 401k, healthcare, vacation, etc.. You must also factor in that you are not accruing paid time off and that health insurance premiums are not cheap. So while you may believe you’re being offered a “steady supply” of work, when you’re not writing, you’re losing income in more ways than one.

The Burnout Struggle is Real

One thing that is for certain is that you will experience burn out and you’ll want to stab your eyes out. If this is your only means of income, you’re stuck running the rat race until something better either falls into your lap (if you’re lucky) or you start marketing your writing services and get better prospects.

The Quality of Your Writing Diminishes 

Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that the quality of your writing will diminish. Imagine, the very thing you’re doing all day is hurting you simultaneously, the irony is not lost on me. Anything worth writing takes time. Plus half hour puff pieces do not hold up as solid clips to send to publications. Lastly, you’re so burned out from writing all day to even want to try and improve your skill set.

What to Watch Out for

Steer clear of businesses that say “great assignment for those starting out (unpaid), “you’ll get great exposure” (i.e. you should feel grateful to be writing for me, let alone even think about getting paid, nope!) or my favorite “great writers can do this in “x” amount of time” (if that was the case, why aren’t they doing it)

The Takeaway

Bottom line, you’re seldom (if at all) going to find the writing clients you want in content mills and job board postings. Why? For starters the market is so saturated that companies/clients put out lowball prices knowing full well that some poor schmo will gladly take the assignment. Moreover, let’s not forget about the dozen of other unsuspecting writers waiting to take your place. It’s a fantastic crap cycle.

Well that’s my content mill rant. If you’ve learned anything from this, it’s best to put in the work of marketing yourself, pitching clients/editors, etc. You’ll have better pay and work with clients that understand your time and worth. So that’s it for this week. Anyone out there that wants to share their content mill experience? Let me know!


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