Tag Archives: Content Mills

Why Is It So Bad to Work for Content Mills?

QuestionI found the search string, “Why is it so bad to work for content mills,” while studying Big Grey Horse Media’s Google Analytics page. I felt immediate compassion for the unknown person out there, searching for the answers to this question.

Course, then I was compelled to write!

 

Why Is It So Bad To Work For Content Mills?

The short answer would be to read and study my prior articles about what it’s like working for a content mill. I’ve summed it up pretty nicely, and you can take my experience as a content mill worker and as someone who has private clients.

Content Mills Got You Down? Research, Query, Write!

Building a Successful Business: Content Mills vs. Private Clients

If you want the longer answer, read on.

Here’s the deal. It’s only bad to work for content mills if you think it’s bad to work for the mills. What I’ve seen happen, in the majority of cases, is writers either 1) burn out or 2) find other ways to write and make money. I’d say the rest of the people continue to write for one or more content mills. These folks make it work for them.

I’m part of a writing group that includes folks who write for content mills. I also look at discussions about the mills in several writers’ forums, and I glean information that way, too. Some of the people I know have written for one mill or another for years. I hear continuous complaints about working for content mills.

And that’s the problem.

In my opinion, one of the worst reasons to sink everything you’ve got into one or two content mills is that they close! Yep. In Angrythe blink of an eye, an intense Google crackdown of online crap can and will obliterate the mill’s places in the SERPS. Google crackdowns do the same thing to the mill’s clients’ sites who have nothing but keyword-stuffed, written on the fly nonsense.

Or it could be that the mill has no more work. I’ve written for mills that were great the first year (i.e., plenty of work, decent pay for a mill) but then the business model changed, and presto! No more work. Or the projects that are left pay less but ask for more work on the part of the writer.

Another reason I don’t suggest working for a mill is the inconsistency in editing. It seems that content mills hire editors the same way writers are hired. A group of people edit hundreds or thousands of articles daily. While the editors always have a in-house editorial standard to uphold, there’s always inconsistency in how the editors approach the overall process. This can be confusing to writers, especially new writers, and irritating as hell to seasoned writers.

Ranting, Bitching, and Griping

I understand the need to vent negativity. I understand the need to express how I feel and to get rid of emotion that doesn’t serve me. But ranting, bitching, and griping online? Maybe one, maybe twice, but after that, if the mill isn’t serving your needs, it probably is time to move on to greener pastures. It amazes me how folks can continue to gripe about a content mill, for whatever reason, yet show up the next day and expect things to be different.

Why Do I Think Content Mills Are Bad?

Actually, I don’t think content mills are bad. If you want to write for a mill, that’s your business. And truly, I don’t think mills are inherently bad. All a content mill is doing is making money like the rest of us.

IdeaWhat makes a mill bad is how writers perceive the mill. Which plays back into the loop I’ve already described.

I’ve never seen anyone get rich from a mill. And I’ve seen plenty of people go into the mills foolishly thinking it’s a job, or something secure, or a way to pay the bills consistently.

Remember this and you will be okay:

  1. Content mills do not have your best interests at heart. A mill is a business. They are serving their clients, and you are not their client.
  2. You have your best interests at heart. You are your business. Serve yourself and don’t make stupid choices.
  3. Never put your heart and soul into one income source. And if you don’t know why you shouldn’t do that, then you probably need to be someone’s employee. If you do take the gamble of only one income source, make sure your plan is a good one.
  4. Be smart. Take care of yourself. No one is going to take better care of you than YOU.

 

If you’d like to talk about your goals, if you need support, or want someone to help you get started, contact me. I help writers set goals, get busy with marketing, and reach their dreams.

Images courtesy of HubSpot.

 

Building a Successful Business: Content Mills vs. Private Clients

This is the second part of Big Grey Horse Media’s Building a Successful Business series.  Today, we zoom in on the dilemma some writers have: content mills vs. private clients. Check out our Marketing Guide for Writers if you need help marketing your business and snagging the gigs.

One of my favorite forums had a lively discussion that turned into a small debate about content mills vs. private clients. It’s the same old argument, with writers on both sides, and each declaring why they work for the mills. Or not.

It was a highly agreeable discussion that was quite friendly, but it boiled down to a few specifics I find questionable.

Specifically, the idea that content mill writers hold is that marketing isn’t worth the time spent. Or it’s too much time spent on an unpaid activity, and they want money now. So why market when you can write a $3-$25 article? This logic makes sense, but my take is different.

What happens when you have to pay taxes?

Remember that those $3-$25 articles get chopped in half – fast. You’re not working for an employer, you’re a subcontractor/freelancer. You’ve got absolutely no benefits except that you are working from home (a big benefit, for sure, but that’s not a safe model to build a business upon).

What happens when the work runs out?

Content mills are businesses. There are no guarantees. This business model is not out to protect writers. The mills are a business like any other and the profits that are made line the pockets of the business’ owners.

More importantly, when the work is gone, you better have more content mills on the schedule or you’re screwed. You’d think freelance writers would operate from this premise and work regularly with several mills. While a few smart writers do spread their work out, the majority DO NOT.

Myth

Private Clients are hard to find and the time spent marketing to find private clients is unpaid.Why would I want to spend hours looking for work in a highly competitive market when I can crank out five $3 articles at XYZ content mill? My hourly rate is then secured at $15 an hour, which ain’t too bad.

The Truth

I’ve found that content mill work also has the unpaid time or downtime, too.

  • Time spent looking for articles in a queue.
  • Time spent refreshing a screen when there is nothing and you’re hoping something will appear.
  • Time spent finding those content mills.
  • Time spent filling out applications and turning in samples/clips.
  • Time spent on administrative tasks (which we ALL do, no matter who the client is or how they roll).
  • Time spent posting in forums, Facebook pages, etc. that the mills offer as their “writer water cooler”.
  • Time spent dealing with edits, rejections, appeals.

For me, working with higher paying clients is a dream come true. Content mill work can be easy because once you’re in, work is in a queue and “handed” to you, seemingly without struggle.

The problem with this model is the lack of personalization. It’s crowdsourcing. While that’s certainly one solid business model in our new way of working, it can bite many people in the arse if they’re not careful.

While the work is there, the light shines brightly upon everyone who’s working.

When the pickings are slim, well, mass panic and a huge exodus occurs.

I’m not slamming the mills or anyone who works with them. I’ve done it myself and from time to time, will pick up work to test the business model.

But it’s not worth it, for me, to do it long term or as my primary way of making money. Too unstable, the pay SUCKS, and everyone is treated the same.

Don’t be afraid to pick up a private client – or fill your list exclusively with private clients. You don’t have to travel to their locations, either. I’ve worked with clients from around the world and made it work.

I prefer the meetings and greetings and kissing babies and shaking hands simply because I’m my father’s daughter. He was a very successful entrepreneur and marketing/sales was his specialty. What he did to rise from a poor family to being worth millions by the time he was in his 40s are the same principles people talk about today.

Relationships. Taking care of your customers.

So when you’re looking for work, whether it’s a mill or something else, take care of your customer. The mill probably won’t have too many ways for you to be a shining star, but you can cut your teeth on the gig and learn. If you choose to work with this business model, there’s nothing wrong with that. It has excellent points and it has limitations. As long as you realize that crowdsourcing can run out, and as long as you have back up plans or more income to rely upon, then I say go for it.

I don’t have the luxury of relying upon anyone’s income but my own. While I have multiple income streams, I have to watch my money carefully and be aware because there’s no one else to look to if my money runs out.

Private clients rock because the opportunity exists to package a deal and make it work over the long run. And if you over-deliver and rock the gig, you get referrals.

Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful, folks. And you won’t get this from a mill.

When you get exclusive, private client work, it’s solely on YOUR terms. It’s YOUR work – the project isn’t going anywhere if you step away from the computer. You’ve set the parameters with your customer and as long as you deliver what you’ve promised in the time frame you’ve discussed, it’s your gig.

And please, please, please don’t take what the bottom-feeder, crab apple clients want as real work. Sure, it’s work, but it’s the most distasteful work around, and it’s abundant. This is not the pool that you want to cast your net into.

I want to show the bright side of stepping away from the mills – not because I think they are wrong or bad – because I fear some people get the wrong impression about private clients and how to work with them. It’s not the huge pain you think it might be, especially when all things are considered and the entire picture is in focus.

Dealing with private clients means you factor in the administrative, downtime, and marketing costs. It’s not like you throw away the time you are unable to bill.

You factor those costs into your overall pricing structure.

You can’t do that with a mill. The price is set and it’s up to you to make it work (taxes, admin time, downtime, vacations, holidays, savings, expenses, etc.).

If you have questions, need some guidance, or want to talk with me about a project, contact me. I’m here to help!

Content Mills Got You Down? Research, Query, Write!

With the recent changes made by Google hitting certain writing sites squarely over the head, I hear the drums beating and the people calling – how will I continue to make good money as a writer? While I’m not here to judge how you make money writing, I have a few tips that might help. I, too, have done articles for a few content houses. It’s never been a main source of my income, however, and I feel for those depending upon these avenues as their livelihood. If you’re freelancing, or want to hit bigger markets in print (or the web), consider how it works for me.

“Research, Query, Write!” first appeared as a response to Hope Clark’s newsletter. I wrote an op-ed piece and she loved it. Purchased and published the piece in FundsForWriters. I’ve tweaked the article a bit for today’s audience, but the wisdom holds true. Going back to 2009, when my business was taking off in a grand way, I vowed never to become dependent upon one client, and certainly not one publisher. It’s 2011, and I think you can pick up a few jewels as you mine through this piece. It works for nabbing clients, querying magazines and writing strong articles editors love.

When I scour the forums and work at home boards, I read countless posts about “Where can I write?” and “Who will hire me?” Say what?

Is the old fashioned way of writing dead? Or is the market wide open for those who would research, query and write?

Call me a mixture of modern and antiquated.

While I agree that writing for content houses can pay some bills, I am a firm believer in reaching as high as I can. Rather than sweat it out for a residual site or pump out thousands of words for lower pay, I prefer to take the road less traveled: research, query, write.

Thinking

Mornings and late evenings are my prime times for figuring it all out. I lay the plans for the following day before I close my eyes and in the morning, I take more time to digest where I’m headed. This quiet time is my magic, my source and the place I draw ideas from.

Researching

Once a story is conceived, I discover if it’s viable. I look for sources, gather background information, etc. From there, phone calls, email, and leg work. Less worthy stories die on the vine, while strong ones gather speed. When it feels juicy, I know it’s hot. By then, I’m mentally prepared to query.

Querying

This is the most frightening aspect of writing for newbies and clearly, the most often overlooked. Grab Writer’s Market at the local library (or better yet, subscribe and get your markets online) and make a list of publications you can write for. Google subjects you’re interested in. A strong query can open the door to writing for the publisher of your choice. Find local and regional publishers and query the editors. Next, put the query together. This is your time to shine, share and have fun! If you need help, enlist the aid of a seasoned writer. This process seems terrifying at the onset, but believe me, when an editor emails back, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

Writing

This is when I sit down. I know what’s expected, I’ve got the slant and the clock’s ticking. Sitting in the chair and writing, editing, fact checking, calling a source again, and editing, editing, editing can be mind-numbing! However, the end result is the crown jewel of what I do and most of all, I love weaving words. I’m extremely careful and my pieces take a lot of time to produce. If the writing’s not up to par, if it’s not what the editor wanted, if I missed something, I’m out of a check.

For those who long to be published, reach as high as you can. Dream big and do your homework. Continue honing your craft and never, ever give up.

These times seem uncertain, but the long and short of it is this: times change. That’s the nature of business. We’re all in it together — writers, clients and prospects. The written word isn’t going away, and with new technology, there are abundant opportunities for good writers. You may have to stretch a bit, but holding the bar higher is a great thing. Go for it, give it your best and let me know how it works for you!