This article could be controversial; Content mills divide opinion in the freelance writing world. Fiercely.
I’ll be honest: Writing for content mills is nobody’s idea of a dream job. It can be repetitive, monotonous and soul destroying – and it typically pays low rates too. Not really selling it am I?!
Even so, plenty of novice writers earn their first ever writing income by working for a content mill. As such, it would make no sense not to properly discuss the topic here on HomeWorkingClub.
This article will teach you everything there is to know about content mills, and introduces you to five that you can apply to right now if you want to earn some money from writing.
What does Content Mill Mean?
A content mill is a company, usually online, that links up firms who need written content with writers who can produce it.
Typically, this content is produced in high volume and not particularly great quality. The rates paid to writers are usually low, with the content mill creaming a significant amount of commission from what the clients are paying.
What kind of work is there on content mills?
Content mill content can be literally anything – from blog articles to written news items. However, a recurring theme is that it’s the kind of content companies need in bulk. This can mean loads of website articles intended to target different keywords for Search Engine Optimisation purposes, or a ton of product descriptions for a large online retailer.
As a result, content mill writing is often repetitive and dull. However, there are times where you can “get lucky” with content on a topic you enjoy writing about, or find a specific writing task that’s easy and fast to complete, resulting in a much better hourly rate.
Why are Content Mills Controversial? My Take.
There are plenty of online “experts” who advise aspiring writers to go nowhere near content mills. This advice can seem well-intentioned, but often those people then go on to try to sell a fancy course or membership scheme promising higher rates and easier ways to get started.
Back in the real world, the reality is that there are thousands of aspiring writers who desperately want to break in the industry, but have have no training, no portfolio and no experience with clients and editors. I know this to for a fact, because I hear from dozens of those people every week.
Is it Worth Writing for Content Mills?
I don’t agree with those who advise ignoring the existence of content mills completely. I’ve written for them myself in the past, both when I was a complete novice, and when lean patches in my other work have necessitated it. I’ve definitely endured some low points(!) but I’ve also gained experience and topped up my income.
I also hear from committed and determined people who’ve grafted away at content mills, “levelled up” through the different writer rankings, and ended up making a significant amount of money from writing hundreds of articles.
Anyone who’s read a lot of my content will know I say things like this a lot, but you will earn in proportion to the effort you’re willing to put in. Plenty of people join these sites and give up after one article, because “the editors are idiots and it’s too much work for the money” (I’m paraphrasing!)
Meanwhile, there are other people who are putting their heads down, learning how to play the game, and gradually making content mill writing work for them. Eventually they gain experience and move on to better-paid writing work.
How do Content Mills Work?
There are obviously subtle differences between how all the different content mills work, but generally you’re looking at something along these lines:
- You apply to be a writer, which usually involves a test and a short writing sample.
- If you’re accepted, you gain the ability to browse available jobs on the platform and choose to complete some.
- There’s often a “star level” or rating system that impacts which jobs you can apply for. Usually you have to prove yourself with good client feedback in order to progress to higher levels, which qualify you for more choice of work at higher rates.
- You work on each job, either with an editor or with the client directly.
- The content mill pays you for work successfully completed.
- If you impress certain clients, there’s usually a system where they can give you work directly instead of offering it out to the pool of writers.
- Over time you gain more of a reputation on the platform, increasing your choice of work and earning potential.
How Much do Content Mills Pay?
Content mill rates tend to start very low, at just a cent or two per word. However, rates can increase as you become more experienced and gain access to the more lucrative jobs.
It’s inevitable that rates will feel low in the early days on any specific content mill. However, pay does increase to a more respectable level. As an example, when our reviewer looked at Writer Access (see below), she said her rate of pay worked out to around $15 per hour within a couple of months of joining. Higher rates than that are not unheard of.
Content Mill Pros and Cons
- Relatively easy to get accepted and start earning money.
- Builds experience in some essential writing skills, such as working with clients and editors, meeting deadlines, and dealing with content management systems.
- Sometimes you can uncover good clients or work you genuinely enjoy.
- Potential exists to rise up the chain and earn higher rates.
- You can usually work at a time convenient to you, and pick up and drop it as you need to.
- Rates always start off low, and it’s a grind to become established on each platform.
- Some of the work is incredibly tedious.
- Sometimes it’s hard to find work on topics you’re knowledgable about.
- Content mill editors can be notoriously fussy.
- Work is usually ghost written, so you can’t use it to help you build a writing portfolio.
Five Content Mills Hiring Now
WriterAccess is a US-based content mill that used to only accept American writers. However, since late 2018 it’s been accepting writers from several other countries too.
WriterAccess writers produce content for all kinds of companies. The entry test is quite strict, but at higher levels this content mill does seem to pay more than most others.
We have a full review of WriterAccess here, from a writer who has written dozens of articles for the site.
Textbroker is one of the most well-known names in the content mill world. Like all such services it has its fair share of detractors in the online reviews sections, but it’s a company that’s been in the game since 2007.
Textbroker hires writers from the US and UK, and rates range from a very low 0.7 cents per word to a far more respectable five cents per word, depending on the “level” you reach. There’s generally a fairly consistent flow of work.
HomeWorkingClub writer Heather has written over 150 articles for Textbroker, so it something of an expert on working on the platform. She’s written a detailed review here.
Copify is a UK-based content mill, but the sign-up screen allows you to sign up from other countries. It’s not a huge payer; One job our reviewer saw was paying £6 ($7.81) for 400 words – just under two cents per word.
The pros and cons almost exactly mirror those earlier in the article – repetitive topics, low rates and fussy guidelines, balanced by flexible work and a place to gain writing experience.
If Copify is of interest, you can see what our reviewer thought here.
Constant Content is another player that’s been in the content mill game for many years. It differs from the other sites here, because while clients can request pitches for articles, writers can also upload articles “for sale” at a price of their choice. Many claim a good level of success doing this, though your mileage could vary.
Last time I investigated Constant Content, they only accepted articles “for sale” from US-writers, but there is not longer any mention of this on the site. I am seeking clarification on this at the time of writing, and will update the article when I have it.
The usual criticism of content mills is around article rates. With Constant Content, it’s more related to how much commission the company takes, some 35% of what the client pays.
I’ve recently signed up to Constant Content personally to have a deeper delve, and will post a link to the review once it’s ready.
Another content mill with no shortage of mixed reviews, Crowd Content works on all kinds of content for clients, but online reports suggest product description work is the norm. The site states that they sometimes recruit writers to write descriptions for Bloomingdales.
It’s a well-put-together and approachable platform, complete with live chat and staff representatives who join in on discussions on Reddit threads. This is definitely a good content mill to join if you want to be part of a very active online community, as there are plenty of online discussions.
I’ve yet to personally try this service out as a writer, so please contact me if you’ve worked on it – I may even pay you to write a review!
Are there “Secret” Content Mills?
I don’t want to get you too excited, but there are content mills out there that don’t advertise their existence to anyone and everyone. I know this because I belong to a couple of them.
Typically these pay (slightly) higher rates to more experienced writers, have more big-name clients, and expect higher standards. One that I have worked for in the past pays in the region of $30 for 500 words – not mega money, but a more respectable six cents per word.
There’s nothing shadowy or suspect about these companies. They simply tend to find their writers on recommendation from other writers, or via old-fashioned networking, rather than by advertising publicly.
If you work hard on a content mill and rise up to the highest levels, you may also find you start to learn of some opportunities that aren’t made public. In the distant past I ended up doing some jobs that weren’t advertised, with the content mill management approaching me directly after I’ve proved myself.
Content mill writing is not for everyone. You’ll almost certainly find online criticism and vitriol around all of the companies mentioned here. But they are genuine.
Nobody’s suggesting that you try to turn writing for content mills into a full-time career. That said, you will find forum threads where writers claim to be able to turn out the content so fast that they earn very impressive hourly rates.
It IS possible to get to that stage with a lot of persistence and determination. Whether you’d want to is another matter entirely. Many years ago, I wrote for a (now defunct) content mill called Demand Studios. It was mind-numbing work, but there was plenty of it. If I wanted to graft for an entire weekend and make enough to go on holiday with the money, I could do it.
So, don’t dismiss content mills entirely. They’re not a dream job, as I said at the start. But that’s not really the point.
For more about finding success as a freelance writer:
- Check out the step by step guide to how I established myself as a writer.
- Find some sites that list gigs for experienced writers.
- Read my honest article on how likely you really are to succeed as a writer with no experience.
If you want some other ways to make small amounts of money, why not:
- Have a look at Swagbucks or PrizeRebel.
- Test websites with UserTesting or UserCrowd.
- Test out the feasibility of starting your own affiliate business with Wealthy Affiliate.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben is a long-established freelancer with a passion for helping other people take control of their destiny and break away from “working for the man.” Prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.