I Applied To WordAgents So You Don’t Have To
Understanding your local content mill and how to value your writing
Content mills are how most writers get started in the freelance business. These mills will advertise that they are the perfect place to start building your portfolio but only pay you pennies per word. This kind of devaluation of a writer’s skill can kill a freelance writing career before it even starts.
While it is understandable that most new writers should start small, it is unrealistic to think that you can sustain yourself on just $.03 per word for a long period of time.
That’s exactly what WordAgents.com offers. Last week I decided to do some research and see what the hiring process was like, the expected workload for new hires, and also to see if I could negotiate for a higher pay rate.
Always begin by reading the company reviews
After doing a lot of digging into WordAgents.com and sifting through employee reviews, I decided WordAgents was probably not a great place for someone like me (even before I applied).
Most former writers complained that the workload and pay of $.03/word wasn’t worth it. They ended up leaving after only a few months. Others complained that the editors were too picky and that rejection of their work was too strenuous. Some praised the website for quick payments and a guaranteed workload without long spans of nothing to do, so that was promising.
I’ve been a paid writer and freelancer for nearly five years and would consider myself to be out of the “beginner” level. While I wouldn’t say I am an expert by any means, my skills are worth way more than $.03 per word.
Undeterred, in my desire to research content mills for new writers, I applied anyway.
Applying for WordAgents.com
The application process for WordAgents was pretty easy. I found them on Problogger during my weekly perusal of “what’s out there” research in freelance writing.
I was curious about their client base and thought that if I could get a sustainable pay rate from them (at the very least $.07 per word), then being introduced to high-paying clients along the way might be worth the grunt work.
So, using Problogger, I applied. After filling out a quick questionnaire, providing a few links to my website and portfolio, and an email, I sent my application along.
Now to wait.
The hiring process
Within three days, I had a response from the hiring team at WordAgents. A real human being and not a robot provided me my next steps, which was really refreshing!
They were very nice and offered me a 1,000-word test article, which would be paid at the rate of $15.00 through PayPal, as well as a detailed outline and guideline document to follow. Overall, it took me about 1 hour to write a well-researched article on SEO affiliate programs for beginners and small online businesses. Because business technology and affiliate programs aren’t my strong suit, the time and effort it took to write 1,000 words were way more than I had expected.
This was half because I am not well-versed in affiliate programs and half because I wanted to take an extra hour to triple-check everything that I put into it to make a great impression on the hiring team. However, this also meant that (at a total of 2 hours) I only earned about $7.50 per hour on this piece.
This was already a red flag. An experienced SEO affiliate and business writer would have probably charged closer to $50+ for that article, and after all that research, I can see why! My research skills are great, but only paying $15 for an article about complicated systems meant that they didn’t care about who was writing it or their credentials— just that it got written.
Once I finished the article, I submitted it to the email address provided in the prompt. Then I waited again.
Acceptance of my article and a job offer
After another two days, I was offered a job with WordAgents.
They liked my article and would of course pay the $15 that was promised. Even if they had rejected me, they would have paid the $15, which is standard for a lot of content writing jobs. Again, they were incredibly friendly and quick in their responses to my questions and seemed to have a very easy onboarding process.
I would have to fill out a W9 tax form (standard for contract work), make sure that I had an active PayPal account, and read up on their writer guidelines. If I wanted the job, they said it would be preferable if I responded within 24 hours upon receiving the email.
Luckily I get notifications on my phone for all emails pertaining to my freelancing business, so I was notified right away. If you aren’t constantly checking, though, you could miss out on their job offer.
Finally, they said that upon taking the job and completing the tax form, I would hear back from specific people at their HR department and be given the next few steps and orientation.
Why it wasn’t worth it for me
WordAgents starts you at about 5,000 words per week at the $.03 rate (their minimum requirement). If you find that you can handle more, they offer the ability to grow that number. Even for someone who writes constantly, 10,000 or even 15,000 words per week is quite a hefty amount.
So, the payment should be worth it, right?
Well, when I received the job offer, I tried to negotiate. Failure on this part was my own fault since their application said “payment is non-negotiable,” but in my arrogance, I thought my credentials would speak for themselves. I attempted for more but was told that $.03 was as high as they could go.
I looked into how they price their services and saw that they charged about $.12/word for the basic 1,000-word “package” a client could sign up for. Did that mean that WordAgents was getting $.09/word on my articles? Would they make $90 and I would only make $30?
I’m sure they have expenses for operating their sites, paying editors and other employees, and advertising their services, but seeing those numbers really blew my mind.
If these clients were willing to pay $120 for an article, why wouldn’t I just go to them myself? From what I can tell, WordAgents doesn’t really operate where writers and clients interact. Even if I did take the job, there was no way for me to speak to or meet these high-paying clients to try and foster a working relationship. Opportunities like that can lead to life-changing jobs in the copywriting industry, so that was also another major red flag.
Even after attempting to negotiate, they still offered me the job, but I politely declined.
I did the math and didn’t like the numbers.
Simple math told me that if I could write about 20,000 words per week, I would earn about $2,400 a month. That means I would be writing roughly 4 articles per day at roughly 1,000 words and, depending on the amount of research involved, it could take about 4–8 hours per day to write those 4 articles.
This isn’t a bad option for a freelancer who doesn’t have other clients, isn’t starting their own business, or doesn’t have a 9–5 job already. However, any freelancer will tell you that writing 4,000 words per day (plus research!) can be pretty exhausting once you’ve done it for more than a few weeks. That’s 20–40 hours a week on just article writing!
Talk about burnout…
Some expert freelance writers will only write for 20 hours per MONTH. They spend the rest of their time creating online courses, running a blog or their business, or working with clients who pay them a minimum of $50+ per article. An instructor who taught me when I first started freelancing said that she was in a position to charge $150 for roughly 1,000 words at a time — and she earned that money often.
Trying to earn a salary writing 20+ articles per week will kill your love of writing and probably turn you off from the freelancing life altogether. Because I already have full-time clients and am trying to build my brand and blog in my off-time, adding 4+ articles to my plate per day and another 20+ hours of work per week to earn $2,400 per month wasn’t worth my mental health or my love of writing.
So, yes, I declined.
New writers need to value themselves
If it was five years ago and I was still a beginning freelancer, I probably would have taken the job offer. 5,000 words and an extra $150/week in college would have saved me a lot of financial stress and probably helped me put together a savings account way sooner.
Beginner freelancers looking to build their portfolio or gain experience might see this opportunity as a great jumping-off point, and I can’t blame them! However, most freelancers who are already talented researchers, writers, and bloggers should value themselves higher than the content mill rates out there.
It is hard to know what you are worth and then price your services accordingly. Many new freelancers are too afraid to go high for fear of not delivering work worth a high price tag or for fear that they won’t get clients to pay them that amount. But it is important to value yourself and your time. If you don’t, no one else will. Your first freelance job might be something that doesn’t pay out the big bucks right away, but it should be something manageable that motivates and encourages you.
Don’t work for free once you have built up a portfolio of at least 10 pieces of good writing, and don’t work for pennies when you know you’re worth more.
Thanks for reading! You can check out my blog at sageauthors.com to get in touch with me and read more advice on writing, editing, freelancing, or publishing your book!