Are you interested in freelance writing jobs?
If yes, you may be familiar with the term “content mills.”
“Content Mills” is an expression given to a company whose goal is to provide cheap website content, usually at a high profit for themselves, and usually by paying very little to writers.
Some freelance writers may believe getting paid low rates is better than not getting paid at all especially when you are first starting.
If you would like to become a successful freelance writer, this article is for you.
This post will contrast writing for content mills with higher paying writing jobs writing for businesses.
How to Get a Job as a Freelance Writer at Content Mills
by Katie Mills
At this point in time, there are lots of online writing jobs out there, including plenty of freelance writing jobs for beginners. What’s more, all the signs are that the massive demand for internet content will ensure that this stays the case for a long time to come. In particular, there are numerous opportunities for people looking to earn a living as a professional guest blogger. If this is you, then here is a suggested way forward.
Decide whether or not you want to spend some time working for content mills
Some writers feel that doing a stint with content mills is, at best, a waste of time you could be putting towards either developing your skills as a writer or earning more money than these sites typically pay.
Others feel that the fact that content mills are full of freelance writing jobs for beginners means that they are a good place for new writers to cut their teeth and discover whether or not online writing jobs are actually for them.
Basically, they will give you a chance to find out what it’s like to work to briefs and deadlines (instead of writing what you want, when you want) and to experience the reality of being a freelance home worker.
If you do choose to start here, then you should aim to make your decision and move on as quickly as possible, since the marketplace for online writing jobs is so big that it’s generally fairly easy to find online writing jobs which pay better, even for beginners.
Start building a writing portfolio
Aside from the low pay, the single, biggest problem with content mills is that the blogs you produce are usually published under someone else’s name, which means that they will get all the kudos (and SEO juice) from your great work. The first step in getting the better-paying online writing jobs is to build up a portfolio of writing samples for which you can claim public credit and the most obvious way to do this is to start a blog of your own.
A smart way to go about this is to choose a name for which you can buy a domain (domains are very affordable) and then point your domain to a Blogger page. This will give you a free and very user-friendly place to create your own blog, to which you can link when applying for online writing jobs, and as long as you own the associated domain, you have the option to move your blog to WordPress and monetize it in the future if you so choose.
You may also want to consider guest-posting under your own name for free in order to raise your public profile as an online writer. If you are going to go down this route (which can be extremely effective), then you need to check two points very carefully.
First of all, you only want to guest post on high-quality sites, basically sites you’d be proud to give as references to anyone hiring for online writing jobs. Secondly, you want to ensure that you are given a “follow” link back to your own blog.
In simple terms, a “follow” link means that the high-profile site actively endorses your blog, whereas a “no-follow” link means that the high-profile site simply recognizes its existence but does not endorse it in any way. The former is massively more valuable than the latter to the point where you would have to have a hugely compelling reason to offer a guest post to a site which used “no-follow” links.
Start looking for work on corporate blogs
Corporate blogs are the bread and butter of online writing jobs. Most companies know they need to produce them and, these days, many companies understand that they really need to be good, but relatively few companies have the skills they need to produce their blogs effectively in-house. Instead, they go down one of two routes to get the content they need.
Content Marketing Services
Content agencies, or content marketing services, vary from being very little more than content mills to being real experts in their niche. You can generally get a good feel for their standards by looking at their websites. Some content marketing services only use in-house staff, although even they may have positions for remote workers, many will use freelancers, so it can be very worthwhile looking up some of them online and making contact with them.
Contracting directly with freelancers
Online marketplaces such as Upwork are usually full of online writing jobs for corporate blogs and again, the level of expertise (and pay) varies hugely, so there’s normally something for everyone.
These are great places to get properly started in your career as a professional guest blogger, but they can take quite a chunk out of your earnings, which means it is very much in your financial interests to find as many online writing jobs as you can yourself. Usually, the best way to do this is to look for an SME business (Small to Medium Enterprise) in niches which interest you and reach out to them.
There’s nothing to stop you from applying to larger companies but you need to be realistic about the fact that they are likely to have either their own, in-house communication staff or the resources to use agencies. An SME business, however, is much less likely to have the budget for either, which is why they often turn to freelancers.
A quick reality check about working for an SME business
Since an SME business really is the biggest market for online writing jobs for professional guest bloggers, it’s worthwhile taking the time to understand three key points about working for them.
Niche knowledge can often compensate for a lack of writing experience.
An SME business is generally fairly open to taking on people who are new to online writing jobs if they have a good knowledge of the area in which the SME business works. With this in mind, think about your life interests and look for an SME business working in that niche.
For example, I have a background in health so I looked for companies with products which delivered health benefits they needed to explain to the public. My search led me to vidalux.co.uk, which is the UK’s leading manufacturer and retailer of steam showers and hydrotherapy showers. They were very happy to take me on their writing team because I really understood the health benefits of their products and so could write about them clearly and enthusiastically.
You’re unlikely to be credited for your work but you will probably be able to reference it.
Corporate blogs are about the company, not the writer, so they are usually posted as “Company X Admin”, but, in contrast to the content mills, you’ll probably be fine referencing them when applying for other online writing jobs.
For example, after I discovered vidalux.co.uk, I then found a site called poshh.co.uk. This is a premier homewares site, but many of its products do have a health connection and I noticed that their bathroom range included steam showers and hydrotherapy showers by Vidalux, so I referred them to some of the blogs I’d already written for Vidalux (Vidalux were fine with this) and as a result, Poshh quickly offered me some of their online writing jobs.
SMEs will usually be quite happy to help you build your network.
Another huge difference between an SME business and content mills is that in my experience, once you’re on good terms with your main contact at an SME, they will be quite happy to connect with you on LinkedIn (or in the real world if you live close enough). This, obviously, helps you to build your professional network and get access to even more (and ever better-paying) online writing jobs.
Readers, please share so freelance writers learn the difference between writing for content mills and writing for an SME business.
Which is your preference? Trying to write for content mills and making a small fee often or trying to write for an SME business and making more money even though the odds of getting chosen are slim?
Update: January 2020
AB 5, a new law, goes into effect January 1, 2020.
The law affects all California freelancers.
To avoid giving freelancers benefits like health insurance and minimum wage, many companies will use in-house content creators instead of outsourcing to California freelance writers.