5 Things I Learned Writing at Content Mills

Content mills are viewed as this bad thing for the writing world. They churn out content at a low rate of pay for the writers. Because it’s ghost writing, content mills are viewed as an exploitation of writers; that there’s nothing to gain from writing. Well, I know my opinion is unpopular, but I actually found a lot of benefits from writing at content mills. I still don’t completely write them off as an option for writers.

What I do recommend is still finding your own private writing clients. However, content mills taught me a lot about freelance writing extremely quickly. Here’s what I learned from writing at content mills.

content mill writing benefits

Don’t Wait for the Right Time

You can’t always wait for the muse to hit. There’s no point waiting to send out a pitch. Take advantage of your time to do it all now.

When I wrote at content mills, I had to take a keyword or two and just create content. I’d purposely try to stick to topics I already knew stuff about (or interested me) but that wasn’t always possible. I’d have to force my muse into coming up with ideas. Soon, I had a range of ideas and not enough work on the board for them at the time. I’d jot down the ideas and then use them when the keywords or topics came up again (and they did).

This has helped me overcome writer’s block now. I have a notebook of ideas for topics and blog posts. There’s never something that I can’t write. If it wasn’t for the content mills method of working I probably wouldn’t have developed this skill as quickly or fully as I have. I definitely wouldn’t have had the money to continue my freelance writing business.

Coming up with pitches for new clients isn’t that hard anymore. I can send out 10+ pitches a week without worrying about topics being too similar. I also don’t wait to send those pitches.

Deadlines Are So Important

It doesn’t matter if you agree to a 24-hour deadline or a month-long deadline, sticking to it is extremely important. Some content mills are so strict that they cut writers off if this miss just one deadline. Others will have a warning system in place or allow you to rearrange a deadline with a client.

Deadlines are just as important outside the content mill world. If you don’t get your story to your editor in time, the editor has to rush around looking for a piece to publish for that month’s issue. If you don’t get the blog post to your client on time, he can’t schedule it for his audience on the right date and it could affect his sales. There are high chances that you will lose out financially and you’ll be dropped from that position pretty quickly.

For those who struggle with time management and sticking to deadlines, a few weeks at a content mill could actually help with that.

With all this said, there is a benefit of writing for private clients over writing at content mills. You can arrange with clients for a deadline extension should something come up. Most people are understanding at emergencies and situations.

I once had a three-week internet problem. At first it seemed like a typical maintenance issue that would be solved by the end of the first day. In the end it turned out to be something much bigger that my internet provider wasn’t aware of at all until I phoned and multiple engineer visits occurred. I found alternate places to do my writing and research, but I was able to let my clients know and arrange new deadlines because of the situation. I couldn’t do that with the content mills.


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Writing in a Particular Style

Each content mill has its own style and expectations. Within that, each person ordering content will have their own style that they want you to write to. If you sign up to multiple mills, you quickly learn how to write in different ways. You can learn first- and third-person writing, blog post formats, and even sales or press releases.

You also learn which types of writing suits you best and the ones that you need to work on. I quickly learned that I disliked some types of writing, like white papers and reports. I just didn’t enjoy them at all and couldn’t put 100% into creating them. Now I don’t offer them to private clients. I stick to the types of writing that I enjoy the most.

The skills writing at content mills can be transferred to private clients. You know which types of opportunities to push for and those to leave for other writers.

Following Simple Directions

There’s no chance to ask editors for clarification with content mills. You have to take the directions of the clients, read through them thoroughly ,and then write your piece. It teaches you to use your initiative and work on the minimum instructions.

While you do have an editor for magazines or a client that you can ask questions, they don’t want bugging for every little thing. You can use the skills gained from the content mills here. Editors don’t want to debate rewrites with you all the time or answer the silly little questions. They want to edit and get the issue of the magazine/blog post up!

Benefits of writing at content mills

Know Where to Research

When writing for content mills, you’ll pick up topics that you don’t know much about. This leads to research. To get the best quality, you need to find good places for research to give you the best facts. You need to find reputable places.

This is important for higher paying clients. After writing for content mills, I now know the best places to conduct my research and make sure I don’t use incorrect information. Not only does that lead to getting your piece pulled but it can brand you as an unreliable writer. I now know multiple resources that are aren’t reputable and avoid them when it comes to research. I also have a list of resources that I will check first for information before taking to a full Google search.

Content mills aren’t the best places to write, but they have proven useful for me. I don’t really like the low pay, but they can make good backups when necessary. I definitely learned a lot while writing at content mills.

Have you learnt anything about writing at content mills? Did you pick up any skills that you’re now proud to use with higher paying clients? If you’re still stuck writing for the mills, I’d still like to hear from you and your experience with them.

Note: This post was originally published on July 5, 2013. It was updated on August 7, 2017.

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4 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned Writing at Content Mills

  1. I’ve never heard of a “content mill”, but I’m presuming that I haven’t heard of it because I’m not familiar with freelance writing. However, I can see how an experience like that where you really have to buckle down and get the job done can push you beyond your talent and into your skill as a writer. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to look into this further. It sounds like a difficult and worthy opportunity.

    1. I wouldn’t really say they’re worthy. The skills I learnt, I could have gotten from other places — it just so happened that content mills were the first places I went to. I’ve previously written a post about how bad they are and why writers shouldn’t write for them!

  2. Hi! I didn’t know what content mills were until your post 🙂 Your article is very helpful to me because I am writing a book. I have given myself a deadline to get the book finished, and I’m not waiting for the write time to work on it. I’ve given myself a block of time everyday, and I’m writing. Thanks for providing me more inspiration to write.

    1. Good for you at setting a time to write! It’s so important to do that — but make sure you stick to it 😉 You’re welcome and good luck with your book.

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