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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.
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?
MORE: 5 things I wish I’d known about my side hustle
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.
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28 thoughts on “Writing at Content Mills: Can You Make a Living on Low Pay?”
This sounds like something I need to look into. Thanks for this!
You’re welcome, Nick. Glad to hear you could benefit from it.
Interesting! It would be a good thing to start on the side and then maybe build it up to full-time work!
I’d definitely recommend starting writing on the side if you already have a job. I did it the wrong way round, but made it work out of sheer determination and grit. It was stressful but necessary at the time for me.
Sounds interesting. I’ve used content mills to purchase articles, but never considered working at one. I don’t think I could handle the time restraints and need to do quick research. I’m sure the more you write the better you get. They sound like a good option for people wanting to get started writing online.
Will you be mentioning any of the content mills or have you in previous posts?
Thanks, Cynthia. They’re definitely not for everyone. It would be interesting to hear your side of the story though as a buyer of articles.
I’ve mentioned them at the start of this month. Your comment has reminded me to put a link at the end to the weekly roundup for that week, thanks 🙂
Sounds like you had the right idea – to use the content mill rather than be used by it. I guess the magic is knowing which places to work with. I’m surprised you were able to make a decent income from writing for them. That’s something people could learn from you.
I can type very very quickly, Mel. And I only chose the topics that wouldn’t need a lot of research. If a lot of orders were on the same topic, I’d take them and then one bout of research would be enough for all of them. Having a strategy definitely paid.
It’s really sad that writers have to struggle so much to earn heir living. Thanks for sharing your experience. Wish great future for you ahead.
It is a shame, but it’s all relative in my opinion. What may seem low for some, is a lot for someone else. I think there’s something out there for every writer.
This sounds like a wonderful portal for freelancers.
Tried the content mills briefly but it ended up being far too much work for the pay
Some of them really are. It depends on the mill that you find. $25 for 500 words is reasonable in my opinion, and they don’t always require a lot of work.
I have never heard of this. I will have to look into it!
If content mills work for some, I say go for it. It’s better than not making any cash and like you stated, you get to build experience and confidence at the same time!
I wouldn’t be able to do the content mill scene though as I barely have time to finish doing the work I’m currently under pressure to finish! The clients I have keep me busy enough that I don’t have time for any new ones at the moment. Plus, I write PLR so any time I have free is devoted to that site or creating other products to sell as a WSO!
I’m sure some people are jealous to know that your private clients keep you busy. 😉 This week, my private clients are definitely keeping me busy so I don’t need to do any quick work just to make up target. But they’re always there for just in case. I need to look into writing PLR materials. I’ve only really thought about it since starting the Article Writing Challenge.
I wrote for a couple way back when, but it was not my cup of tea. When I enjoy writing, it’s about subjects that I’m invested in and that makes it hard to write stuff about things I don’t care about.
I always say that you can’t knock something until you’ve tried it 🙂 At least you tried to see if it was for you. I don’t mind writing on new topics or topics that I’m not usually interested in. I actually found niches that I’m quite good at because of this. Each to their own 🙂
First, Alexandria, a wonderful thought-provoking review. Everyone has different talents and needs. What I have learnt, especially, over the past few months from intensive online engagement (blog challenges, e-courses and social networking) is that there is soooo much out there, beyond the individual’s wildest dreams and imagination and – there is room for everyone and everything! You just need to perfect your weeding skills to find what appeals to you and more important has true worth. Thank you, HUGS <3
Thanks, Judy. We do have different talents. It takes time to learn what those talents are and how to best use them. But you’re right about there being room for everyone and everything. Sometimes it’s difficult to remember that though. It can seem like markets are already saturated.
This is an interesting topic because I too have hired writers from content mills but have never wrote for them. The only place I ever wrote for was Demand Studios (eHow) but that was a while back and I have thought about doing it again, but have not decided yet.
Thanks for your thoughts, Denise. I’ve only ever heard negative things about Demand Studios, especially recently. I’ve heard the editors put the “demand” in the name. But I don’t have personal experience dealing with the site.
Content mills can be great to get started, and you’ve pointed out so many recently for those interested in giving them a try. I tend to have spurts of time where I can focus on writing, so content mills aren’t ideal for me.
I’ve gotten to that point, Crystal. But a short 30 minutes is usually enough for me to get through an article or two on some sites.
Content mills are a great way to build up your confidence and writing stamina.
Then you have to learn how to forge ahead on your own so that you are not dependent on one type of site in case they suddenly shut down without any warning.
Yes, it is so important to forge ahead alone. So many have been closing down lately with no warning. Google doesn’t want the low quality content anymore, so people are looking to pay writers directly.
Hi, great read
I am also a content writer, and used it to support myself during my studies, but now want to make a full time thing out of it. The trouble is I only write for one site – Greatcontent (which are great), but in order to make this possible I really need to find good content sites to write for, this is what I’m attempting to do now.
If you want to make a living, I really suggest finding your own private clients and setting up your own sites. I tend to dip into content mills now and then just to top up earnings if I’m having a bad week, but haven’t used them that much in the last few years.