This is the third time I’ve updated my Contena review. I’ve revisited the service twice in 2018, asked the company some searching questions to clarify some details, and aimed to provide lots of extra information to help you decide whether it’s worth your time and money. I’ve also read a HUGE amount of what other people out there have to say about the product – and it’s primarily reflecting on these comments that have led me to update the review once again.
Contena is a service for writers, and one that divides opinion, primarily due to its cost and business model. The company provide a curated job board containing job opportunities from a range of sources, along with a host of resources to help novice writers. These now include access to a professional coach who can help aspiring writers develop their business and writing skills.
I’m going to start by asking the same question I asked in my original review:
Which of these statements do you most agree with?
- “Never pay out for something you can get for free.”
- “You’ve got to spend money to make money.”
Your answer to that question is likely to have a major impact on how you feel about Contena, and is at the core of why there are people out there with a negative opinion of it. You won’t have to search very hard online to find them. While you won’t find free coaching out there, many of the jobs Contena lists are available freely if you trawl individual online job boards.
Contena costs money, and not a particularly small amount of money either when you consider the need to commit to a subscription. Contena doesn’t provide any real way to dip a toe into the water without a substantial financial commitment – and this, quite rightly, rings alarm bells for many people.
Plenty of people baulk at the cost of Contena, so hopefully, this review will help you to decide whether that cost is worthwhile.
An Important Note
Before I go any further, I’d like to respond in advance to anyone who might be in any way tempted to think I’d recommend a service I don’t believe in for the sake of financial reward. If you don’t believe me on this, have a read of my review of writers.work, which like this review I amended when new information came to light.
The other day, I saw someone opine that “almost all Contena reviews are sponsored by Contena.” This isn’t the case. Like many other companies, Contena pay affiliate commission to webmasters when people click through from their sites and buy products. So I’m not being “sponsored” by Contena in any way, shape or form. As you’ll find out when you read the review, I believe Contena has good points and bad points, and I’ve not only made a point of giving a completely honest opinion, I’ve also gone directly to the company to ask probing questions about issues I was uncertain of.
My aim is to provide enough information for people to make up their own mind. My professional reputation and the reputation of this site is far too important to me to compromise it for some scraps of commission.
So, with that out the way, let’s get started.
What is Contena?
Contena is an online service dedicated to helping writers find freelance writing jobs. The central feature is a job board that curates writing opportunities from all over the web and presents them to you all in one place. The company also provides members with access to a range of training resources including videos and worksheets (the “Contena Academy,”) “Platinum” subscribers also get one-to-one access to a “success coach” who can help them develop their skills in writing and business.
Ironically, the main job listings feature is the thing that critics of Contena often focus on. This is because Contena DOES primarily curate its information from a range of job boards (such as ProBlogger Jobs) that are freely available to those who know where to find them.
I shall move on to why I think the people making this criticism may be missing the point shortly – but first we’ll look at some of the other features.
In addition to listing writing jobs from a multitude of sources, Contena further adds to the information with a “Quality Score,” an indication of typical rates, where this information is known, and additional “Contena Intelligence” about the role, including alerts as to when a company is advertising more than one writing job.
It’s also possible to filter opportunities by business sector, only look at certain job types, and only view roles with a chosen minimum quality score.
Now, if you’ve ever spent time looking for writing jobs, you’ll know what a time-saver all this is. It’s possible to spend a huge amount of time flicking from job board to job board, separating the “wheat from the chaff.” With Contena it’s done for you, leaving you with one central place to manage your pitching and marketing.
There are also “Leads” and “Submissions” sections, which compile lists of companies that hire remote writers or accept article submissions, respectively.
As someone who frequently looks for post submission opportunities, having a list of around 500 places to pitch to, complete with information on what they pay, and a direct link to their guidelines, is a decent feature.
The “Alerts” capability is very useful too, allowing you to set up custom email alerts for new writing gigs in your chosen categories. Try finding a way to do this with 10 or more different job boards and you’ll soon see what a timesaver this is!
The Contena Academy
Since I produced my last review, Contena has introduced more features that will make it appealing to aspiring writers who want to learn about the trade.
The central part of this is the “Contena Academy,” a nine-module course designed to help freelance writers increase their success.
The modules include content on building a portfolio, pitching for jobs and negotiating with clients. The content comes in the form of videos, questionnaires and worksheets. While they are probably of limited use to experienced writers, novice writers could probably learn a lot from these materials. It’s worth pointing out that the majority of the content is about setting up a writing business rather than the writing “craft” itself.
One thing that I don’t like here is that people (like myself) provided with a review account for Contena don’t have access to the training and coaching materials. Like so many of Contena’s business practices (see the pricing section), this leads you to question “why?” – especially as unlocking the training modules would be perfectly straightforward.
(Anyone keen to improve their writing skills should take a look at this recent article which contains a selection of tips).
What Contena also offers, but to “Platinum” subscribers only, is unlimited access to a writing coach. Members can seek direct feedback on their articles and pitches, and interact with a real human being regarding their work and their business efforts.
Something I found out after talking personally to a coach is that “Gold” subscribers also get some level of coaching. They can still email the writing coach while they’re “training,” and submit their portfolio and up to three writing samples for personalised feedback.
Finding out in detail about this coaching offering was one of the reasons I was initially keen to revisit this Contena review. I not only asked for a lot of detail about what members can expect if they sign up (and pay the money), I also directly asked what credentials a coach would have to qualify them to provide this kind of help.
The coach I spoke to, Amanda, holds a Master’s in Writing, Composition, and Rhetoric and worked for five years as a tutor in a university writing center. To me, this seems like someone in a legitimate and well-qualified position to support new writers. The cost of Contena is quite high, and we’ll discuss that shortly, but I feel inclined to defend Contena a little on behalf of some of those who try to dismiss it out of hand as a “rip off” or a “scam.” Prices tend to average out to around $50 per month across the various plans, and I struggle to think of another way to have access to professionals who will give constant feedback for that kind of money.
However (and this is another reason I’ve updated this review), I’ve seen a rather scathing review of Contena from someone who wasn’t particularly impressed with the coaching service. The reviewer claims that the coaching lacked substance. I have to reserve judgement here as I’ve not been in a position to have first-hand experience of the coaching, but you may wish to read the review linked above. It’s worth noting that the review is on the Medium platform and doesn’t contain any affiliate links, so there’s no reason to doubt the motives of the reviewer.
Is Contena Worthwhile?
Contena does have some value for certain groups of people. The two demographics I would say would particularly benefit are:
- Established, professional writers who are willing to invest some money in having work opportunities organised into one place, because they’re happy to pay for the convenience of not searching multiple job sources week after week.
- Fledgeling writers who want some support in developing their writing and establishing their writing business.
However, a more pertinent question than whether Contena is worthwhile is whether people will consider it worth the money being charged for it – and that’s where it all gets a little trickier.
How Much does Contena Cost?
I have to admit that when I first started trialling Contena, I was perturbed by the fact I found it difficult to find out exactly what it costs to subscribe. In fact, membership seems to open and close periodically, making this even more complicated.
I don’t think Contena do themselves any favours with their lack of pricing transparency and their use of this “false scarcity” marketing tactic. It’s a widely used sales technique online but I don’t like it, and feel that it adds fuel to the fire of those who have a negative perception of Contena.
Once you’ve signed up for a free demo (which whets the appetite but only really tantalizes you with the jobs on offer), you’re notified by email when registration is open, then you finally get to discover the cost.
And the price IS fairly high by some people’s standards. Rather than try to work out the pricing for myself, I went direct to the source and asked for a full breakdown of Contena’s pricing. It is as follows:
- Standard Payment Plan (Gold), provides one year of access for six payments of $99 per month ($594 in total). This only includes limited coaching as described above. If you pay for “Gold” in one go, the price goes down to $497.
- The Premium Plan (Platinum) includes full coaching and provides two years of access for six $199 payments (totalling $1194). If you pay for “Platinum” in one go, the price reduces to $997 for a two-year subscription.
So, before any discounts (see below), the real monthly cost of Contena works out to just over $41 per month for Platinum over two years, or for Gold over one year. In essence, it’s the longer commitment that gets you the full coaching, not a higher monthly price.
When you look at the cost like this it’s not actually that much, but the charging strategy is clearly designed to get your payment from you over a shorter time period than the period for which you’re subscribing. Once again, I don’t feel Contena really does itself any favours with this policy – it just creates a lack of trust from the start.
It’s worth being aware that there are discounts out there, and you can get 15% off if you sign up with this link and use the code “homeworking10.” This brings the monthly fee, once extrapolated, to just over $35.
Is Contena Good Value?
This, of course, is the most important question, and the answer is going to depend on your own situation and outlook.
I’ve talked above about how I don’t feel Contena have got it right with their pricing strategy. The way they’ve designed the pricing actually detracts from the fact that you can get a curated job board AND access to a writing and business coach for less than $50 per month IF you commit for two years.
$50 a month is nothing when it saves you the time it takes to trawl all the job boards. As an established freelance writer, you only have to work for an hour or less to earn 50 bucks, so it’s hardly a big expense in the grand scheme of things. And if you’re a novice, you can also make use of the training resources and coach.
If you were setting up as a carpenter, you wouldn’t hesitate to drop several hundred bucks per month on a van lease, and $50 per month is the same as what a graphic designer would pay for access to Adobe Creative Cloud.
On the other hand, I can imagine novice freelance writers feeling wobbly about such a commitment, especially if they’ve yet to start earning.
Personally, I’m firmly of the “speculate to accumulate” school of thought. Just from a quick scan of the opportunities on Contena, I’m confident that I’d quickly find new, well-paid gigs if I were currently looking for them. Add to this the fact that novices may not know where to find these jobs on open job boards, and Contena could still be an option for aspiring freelance writers, so long as they could afford it, and were serious enough about writing to invest in their future.
However, I’m not going to pretend that the price isn’t going to put some people off, and I completely understand that perspective too.
The key thing is (and sorry if I’m labouring the point here) that I can’t help but totally get why people are turned off by Contena’s pricing strategy. I wonder if they wouldn’t actually benefit by just making everything more simple and more transparent, and letting people simply sign up on a monthly basis.
The more I think about this, the less I feel comfortable about giving Contena any more than a very cautious recommendation. Of all the reasons why I revisited this review, this creeping discomfort with Contena’s business practices was at the top of the list. When this feeling of discomfort led to some late night Googling and I found out that Contena once sent a “cease and desist” email to someone who produced a negative review, everything began to feel even more sinister.
As things stand now, the pricing options above are the options you have. You pay your money (or not!), and take your choice.
Contena Review: Verdict
I wrote my first review of Contena about eight months ago. I looked around at other write-ups then, and I’ve looked at plenty more in the intervening period. Opinions are fiercely divided – primarily along the lines of whether people fundamentally think it’s worthwhile to invest a little money in earning more money.
Personally, I don’t think spending 50 bucks or so per month on something that saves time is a big deal if you’re earning well from writing – or aspiring to. Furthermore, Contena does list jobs that will help you establish a good income level.
I also don’t think that people should be so quick to dismiss the potential value of having someone there to feed back on their writing, especially in the early stages. As mentioned above, I’ve made a point of reading some reviews where people have a negative impression of the coaching, but I think it’s important to point out that a coach is there to help a writer develop – not to guarantee them lucrative work regardless of their skill level.
As I’ve discussed at great length in previous articles, writers typically have to “pay their dues” in a big way before they start to bring in anything approaching a full-time income.
However – and this is really important: I understand why people may be scared off by the price and the business model, especially as the pricing is revealed somewhat “reluctantly” during the registration process, and anyone signing up is making a significant commitment. I’m not a fan of the way Contena is being marketed, even though it is a good tool that I have some belief in.
With this in mind, I’m concluding this third revision of my Contena review by reemphasising my general feeling of discomfort with the company’s ways of doing business, and a billing policy that is designed to ensure people have to hand over a significant amount of money to try the product out.
Sadly, it feels like every time I look online to gain a sense of public opinion around Contena, I find something else to concern me, such as the comments underneath this review that seem to allude to issues with discounts being honored and problems claiming under the money back guarantee. This requires people to complete Contena’s training work to their satisfaction to get any money back. It’s a shame there’s not a slightly cheaper point of entry for Contena with a shorter commitment, as it would remove some of my doubts – as would a genuine, no quibble guarantee.
I think serious writers of any skill level who are willing to invest in their career could get a lot from Contena, and even end up finding it central to their marketing efforts. However, I feel like every time I delve further into the way Contena’s business works, I am left with a longer list of questions, rather than a list of reassuring answers.
If you want to take a look at a cheaper alternative, have a look at writers.work – it’s a rather different offering and doesn’t include coaching, but will no doubt be of interest to some. However, please read that review in full too, as there are sadly some things that make me uncomfortable with that service as well!
Finally, if you’ve used Contena, please feel free to contact me personally. I’d be delighted to hear feedback, and am definitely open to incorporating it next time I update this detailed Contena review.
It's a shame that many people won't get to experience Contena due to the pricing, subscription and guarantee policies. Contena do themselves no favours with their business practices.