My Career as a Content Mill Writer
When I tell people I’m a freelance writer, they’re often confused about what I do all day. How do I find work? Do I spend a lot of time pitching and calling clients? As a freelancer, I must never get a break from my desk, right?
The reason I chose freelance writing as my career is that it allows me to work flexible, part-time hours. Currently, I work weekdays 9am-12pm. After work, I run, shower, stretch, eat lunch, and then read or write creatively in the afternoon.
Rather than being a true freelancer, pitching publications and cold-calling businesses, I get all my writing assignments from websites called content mills.
How Do Content Mills Work?
Content mills hire freelance writers — which usually means anyone who can produce a high-quality writing sample. Companies that need content (blog posts, press releases, product descriptions, etc) post assignments on the site for writers to claim and complete.
This is how content mills supply content to companies and work to writers:
- Clients sign up to the content mill and give details about the content they want.
- Each request for a single article/blog post/production description/etc is listed as a job on the content mill website.
- Writers click on jobs they want to do.
- Writers create content according to the client’s instructions.
- Clients review the content and either approve it or ask for changes.
- Writers make changes (if necessary) and receive payment from the content mill — no need to send invoices or chase the client for payment.
- Clients rate writers. Good ratings mean access to more work, sometimes at higher rates of pay.
Content mills that work like this include Textbroker.com, Scripted.com, CrowdContent.com, WritersDomain.net, OneSpace.com, WordApp.io, and Copify.com.
Content Catalog Sites
Some content mills work differently:
- Writers create articles about their subjects of expertise or interest.
- Clients browse articles and purchase ones that suit their needs.
Constant-Content.com and ContentGather.com work like this. The income from these sites is less predictable, as articles can sell within days or hang around for months, but writing about popular topics can result in a steady stream of high-value sales. Clients can also contact individual writers to request one-off or ongoing series of articles.
How Much Do Content Mills Pay?
Pay rates vary widely, from $0.01/word to $0.20/word. Because most jobs require little research, I write about 1,000 words an hour during a focused work session. This works out at an income of roughly $40,000/year working mornings only.
Can Anyone Do This?
I became a freelance writer in 2011 after dropping out of a PhD in theoretical physics. I had no writing qualifications beyond GCSE English (compulsory UK exam taken at age 16) and no copywriting experience.
Most content mills don’t require professional writing experience. What matters is the ability to produce a grammatically correct writing sample that clearly communicates factual information. Some sites also require applicants to pass a grammar test, and some hire only from English-speaking countries.
What’s the Secret to Success?
In my opinion, there are four aspects to succeeding as a content mill writer:
- Sign up to as many sites as possible to maximize your opportunities. Not all content mills have work available all the time, so it pays not to rely on a single one. When work isn’t available, spend time writing articles on popular topics like health, fitness, technology, and home maintenance to sell on a catalog site. Here are some articles I currently have for sale.
- Be smart about which jobs you take. You can sometimes earn more per hour working through a batch of easy jobs paying $0.03/word than spending hours researching a highly technical article for a picky client promising $0.15/word.
- Turn off your inner perfectionist and learn to write fast. Need to complete a 500-word article? Set a 30-minute timer and try to finish before it goes off. This method stops you from going down a research rabbit hole or agonizing over every sentence. Get the first draft down quickly. If the client hates it, you’ll get a chance to revise later.
- Don’t freak out about failure. If everything you write gets rejected, you have a problem, but one rejection every few dozen articles isn’t going to hurt your career. Sometimes you can even post the rejected article for sale on a catalog site so you still get paid in full.
Would I Recommend Content Mill Writing as a Career?
For people who like to write and don’t want work to dominate their lives, content mill writing is a flexible career option. Personally, I intend to continue writing for content mills as long as I need an additional income to support my fiction writing.