Content written for a Mill is often shallow click-bait for new or failing websites. While it isn’t typically beneficial long-term, and can actually hinder writers, Writing for content mills is great for writers who have never written for the internet. Working for a content mill is practice, while, in the meantime, learning SEO, blogging, or something. It can help with compiling a portfolio, finding a niche, and sometimes, building a network.
For anyone interested in working for a content mill or learning more, the following are some of the most popular mills right now:
Content mills are modern sweatshops. By definition, a content mill is “a company, website or organization designed to provide cheap website content, usually at a significant profit to themselves, and usually by paying very low rates to writers.” Most of them pay to the lowest bidder and constrict creativity. Your average content mill is littered with authors who can hardly speak English, much less write it. Shady clients and companies look to content mills for some cheap, cheap content for blogs and websites.
I can’t jeer them too much because I started freelance writing, myself, by working for a content mill. I’ve tried only a handful, but two that I’ve worked consistently through are Textbroker and Constant Content. I showed up too late for Upwork and Fiverr just isn’t my cup of tea.
Working for Textbroker is labeled as an “internship,” which is a good synonym for “content mill,” consiering you’re basically an intern at any of them…plus, it might provide a nice little fib to put on your resume…erm..kidding, of course…
Ive been writing for Textbroker, on and off, for about 6 months. Registration started simple enough. By submitting a short writing sample, I was approved as a three-star author. I also had to submit a clear selfie, in which I held my driver’s license, as well as a hand-signed W-9 form. A digital signature was no good; it had to be printed out, hand-signed, photographed then sent in.
I wrote product and travel reviews and descriptions, viral news articles, Buzzfeed-esque “top-10” lists, press releases, blog posts, mobile app pages, and even a script for Youtube. It was all decent writing practice, considering how many restrictions a client may put on an order, their sometimes outlandish criteria, confusing briefings and illegible quanitity of keywords to implant. Nonetheless, I learned a lot by experimenting with AP style, topic research, and writing for the internet in general. Content mills are especially helpful for writers with no prior experience with outside editing and reviews.
Speaking of which, Textbroker does have pretty good editors for user-submitted articles, but once you get the hang of it, you can bullshit your way to four stars quite easily.
You’ll get an email. I got mine when TB took on their supposed “biggest order to date.” They promoted a ton of authors up to four stars, in order to include them in teams assigned to break down that large order. This is when I started building my portfolio.
At four stars, more open orders are available, under different categories. I had a better chance of writing something passionate. Whenever I happened to produce something of worth, I would save it, then revise it later to add to my online portfolio, which was nothing fancy. It was, in fact, a rudementary WordPress site, which hosted several of my better pieces. I categorized each sample, or “clip,” by subject matter, much like Textbroker.
Starting out, I would write for any general topic, including things I knew nothing about. Thoroughly researching subjects, which I had zero interest in, quickly burned me out (however, I do recognize more obscure brand names now, like the logos you see on air-conditioners or spatulas). I did some work I actually enjoyed, but I wasted more time on bullshit.
Eventually, I managed to catch an open assignment on something that I was really familiar with. Afterwards, the client sent me a personal message praising my work and inquiring about direct order prices for future articles for the same site. This has happened three times since I’ve joined TB, so it isn’t all bad.
Gradually, I gravitated towards more subjects I actually enjoyed writing about, like music and politics. This not only strengthened my content and attracted specific clients, but also allowed me to build a better portfolio and find clients outside of the content mill who more closely matched my niches. After a while, this lead me to the blog youre reading today.
There are certainly better ways to build a beneficial network of clients and contacts. Hardly anyone outside of new or failing businesses buy content from mills, and TB really goes the extra mile ensuring clients and authors do not associate outside of the mill. You’re honestly better off writing your own killer content to showcase.
Constant Content, if it can be considered a content mill, is a bit different. Opposing Textbroker’s mass production scheme, Constant Content is slower. You’ll submit an article, either for request or to add to your content collection. Then one day, possibly months later, you’ll get paid a portion of the price set on your work. Neato. It doesn’t pay consistently enough to be significantly lucrative, although I’ve watched Textbroker change a lot in a short amount of time, so I’m hoping Constant Content will get better, likewise. It has potential, if only it were updated, better maintained, and more widely known.
I’ll still do some content mill work on occasion, having reached five stars on Textbroker and been accepted into a handful of managed teams. It’s an alright method of producing a bit of quick cash; I’ve made hundreds working for Textbroker and Constant Content. I can’t really complain too much. Working for content mills has brought me some humility, some money, practice, a portfolio, and even a few connections.