Content Mills: How to Get a Job as a Freelance Writer

By: | July 6, 2018 | Tags: , , , | 14 comments

Do you want to write for content mills or an SME business?

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 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?

 

 

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  1. Freelance writers are highly exploited; I recommend joining a the National Writers Union, which is open to bloggers and online writers. Here’s the link: https://nwu.org/

    • Cool Bella! I didn’t know there was a union! Is it free to join? Thank you for the link and contributing to this discussion. Great to see you!
      Janice

  2. If a writer is using a content mill as a stepping stone for their career, it could be useful. It’s important to keep moving and not get stuck in low paying situations for too long. When I owned a bakery, one of the hardest parts was setting prices. I set them too low when I first started up. I eventually raised them to a fair level and absolutely nobody balked at the change.

    • Hi Curious Frugal,
      Thanks for adding to our discussion. I agree a content mill can be a useful stepping stone. You can add the experience to your portfolio to show future employers you have had paid work as a writer. Money aside, the experience is valuable.
      As far as your bakery experience went, I am happy for you. I raised my prices on my guest posts. Everyone is balking, LOL!
      Thanks for writing.
      Janice
      Janice Wald recently posted…Content Mills: How to Get a Job as a Freelance WriterMy Profile

  3. Going the mill route helps one gain some confidence Janice and Katie. I did some mill work many years ago. Just to see dollars hitting my bank account. But I also positioned myself to earn high paying jobs offered by prospering clients by practicing my writing and building my friend network. Have your eye on the future and a bigger pay day if you go the content mill route for a few months. Fab points.

    • Hi Ryan,
      You raise one of the points of the article: Is it better to work for a little money many times to see your bank account grow, or, as one commenter said, be exploited? I always feel the former is better but I have to listen to your advice not to fear losing money. Thanks for writing.
      Janice

  4. Hi Janice,
    The content was important before and is still now. But there are many content writers who write well and earn well.
    And yes doing the work as a freelancer writer is something is good these days.
    Thanks for the great share.
    have a good week ahead.
    Robin Khokhar recently posted…The Secrets of Creating Linkbait ContentMy Profile

  5. This might be interesting to your readers as well http://www.freedomwithwriting.com/writing-markets/

  6. Great article, i write a lot of real estate content, I looking for ways to get it publish online. I will follow you more to get more ideas.

  7. It really is a rough start for freelance writers at start. One should really be patient to be able to build a portfolio. I do agree that the progress would be a lot easier for them if they have their own blog. Anyways, great tips again, Janice. Cheers to you! 🙂

    • Hi Karen,
      I have done what you are recommending on the content mills post– I have built a portfolio. When people consider hiring me as a freelancer, I send them my portfolio so they can see testimonials and examples.
      As far as your other comment: I agree that companies should have their own blogs. Thanks for the compliments on the post. Cheers to you!
      Janice
      Janice Wald recently posted…How to Increase Your Website Traffic and Get People to Read Your ArticlesMy Profile

  8. Great info and also comments. Making my list…..checking it twice! Thank you, as always

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