Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission at no expense to you. Affiliate links are marked with the asterisks (*)
Writing and blogging are great for making money online. If you’re just starting out, you’ve likely found content mills. You may have come across a site like Skyword or Writer’s Bay.
Now, I’m not completely against them. I still have a couple of mills in my backpocket, but I haven’t actually frequented them in five years. I was just thinking about them the other day as I discussed with a friend about how much has changed in writing online, as you can see on this link, writers have tons of resources to help themselves with.
There are some people out there who will tell you that the mills are bad. They get people to churn out content at a low pay, and they can be exploitative. You can use them for your own gain, though.
What are content mills?
Before we get into writing at content mills, you need to know what I’m talking about, right? Of course you do!
Content mills are places that allow clients to place orders and then there is a free for all on the other side. Most of the time, the rates are extremely low, with some paying as little as $2 for 500 words! Yes, really! There are semi-decent ones that pay $10 for 500 words, and others that pay $15-$25 for the same amount of words.
Of course, the more a mill pays, the better quality your work needs to be.
Writers are given a keyword or two, and then some instructions. The amount of instructions depends on the clients. Some are great and will go into a lot of detail. Others are minimal and will just say “write something around the keyword.”
You then need to write the content within a set period of time dictated by the site and wait for the client to either accept or reject it. Some sites will go through editors first to make sure your quality is the best for the client.
In many cases, you’re ghost-writing so you don’t get the right to use the content afterward. However, you get to know the topic and could create something of your own around the keyword for your own samples. There are some mills that will give you a byline to use the work as samples as they are.
How do I use content mills?
I started out writing at content mills and bidding for low-paying jobs. It wasn’t because I didn’t know how to market my writing. It was because I wanted quick access to money, and wanted to build my experience. Also when starting out, I didn’t really know where to start.
I needed samples and I wanted to learn more about the world of writing online. And what better way than writing at content mills?
I learned a lot from my time writing at content mills regularly. And actually, I did make a living. I was paying the rent and all the bills, and I wasn’t slaving away for hours! I still had time to work on my blogs because I chose the right content mills. I found ones that were willing to pay $10 or more for 400-500 word articles.
Yes, there are still some out there.
I also loved the forums at the mills that I did write at. They helped me find private clients and just connect with other writers to network and build my name.
Can you make a living on low pay?
It really depends on you. I have a typing speed of between 95 and 105 words per minute. I touch type, too, which really helps.
I think if you can type that fast, you can certainly make enough money to keep a roof over your head and put food on the table.
But you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. During the summer of 2013, I lost two of my best-paying content mills. One closed down and the other did a huge purge of writers. And I mean a huge purge—to the point where hundreds of writers took to the internet to complain about the treatment. Then in 2016, another mill suddenly dropped its pay without warning, and that was after hiring a bunch of writers so there was never any work available.
This can happen at any time, so you need backups. I did have three that were backups. One I was just trying out and turned into a regular money-making site to write at during that time.
Build up confidence writing at content mills
It is possible for many writers to build up their confidence as well as skill. They get to know the topics they’re better at writing about, and that gives them the push they need to market directly to clients.
It built up my confidence as I learned more about the world of online writing. Eventually, I decided to start marketing my skills directly to clients; and I charged more!
I stopped making a living writing at content mills and was able to work fewer hours while making more. It is important to put content mills behind at some point if you want to really enjoy writing and start working on your own things.
Once I started working with private clients more, writing at content mills became an emergency thing. I still have them there in case of an emergency. Usually when I need a couple of dollars to reach my daily target. I haven’t needed that in five years.
Watch out for being reliant on the mills
Yes, it is possible to become reliant on the mills and that is one of the worst things that you can do! Remember they can close at any time. Do you really want to lose all your income because you focused solely on them?
While I always recommend having eggs in different baskets, I recommend putting them in different types of baskets. I have eggs in a couple of content mills, some in residual income sites and others with private clients.
Writing at content mills could be a way for you to make money online. It really depends what you want from your writing. Are you trying to make a full-time career out of this or just looking to make some pocket change on the side?
I started out writing at content mills as a full-time thing, but I’ve branched out since then. For me, they were a way to learn more about writing online and build some confidence before marketing to clients. Could that be the way for you to use them?
What are you struggling with when it comes to money matters? How are you adding a side income? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Don’t forget to sign up to Amazon Business* to get free shipping on all your business needs.