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Definition: A content mill or writers mill is a slang
term used by freelance writers and given to 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.
Content mills are not interested in the quality of your
writing. They are more interested in things like keywords and anchor text which
will help the content rank better in search engines.
Since writing for bots is different from writing for humans,
these articles are of an inferior quality and any Tom, Dick, and Harry can
sign-up and start making money as a writer.
I haven’t written for content mills but I have written for
SEO companies which is more or less the same thing.
However be aware that if you’re looking for a personal
account of a writer experienced with content mill writing then this article is
not for you.
The pros of
content mill writing
You can get a lot of
Writers who write for content mills claim there is a lot of
work available there. Though the pay rates are meager, if you are prepared to
put in lots of hours every day you can generate a decent income because the
total ads up.
Although the exact rates depend on your writing skills (they
have editors who’ll evaluate your writing style from time to time and appraise
you accordingly), you can expect to get $5 per article.
Having said that, I’ve also seen writers claiming they have
made up to $25 per article. But these are the exceptions, not the rule.
Also, $5 per article is considered a pittance by many
Americans but for us Indians is that really too bad? It’s up to you to judge.
You can practice a
How many times you must have heard the advice that in order
to become a writer you should read a lot and
write a lot.
Content mills allow you to do the latter i.e. write a lot
and earn some money in the process.
I feel it’s much better to write and get paid for it, even
if it’s a meager sum, than write tons of material for practice and then junk it
You’ll get disciplined
One of the biggest issues for me when I started freelance
writing was a lack of discipline. Working from home and being your own boss is
not free from its disadvantages.
Some of the things I kept doing again and again were
checking Facebook, watching YouTube videos, reading an article online and then
following an external link in it, then reading that new article then following
more links, … you get the picture.
However when you are given assignments to complete and there
is a virtual boss siting on the other end expecting you to deliver on a
deadline, you can’t waste your time like that.
Working when you’re answerable to somebody inculcates
“Writing at its best is a lonely life” said Hemingway and
you need to be very disciplined to pull it off.
Content mills will help you achieve that.
The cons of
content mill writing
The rates are poor
I said that above but it’s important enough to be mentioned
again. Content mills don’t pay you much.
Many newbie writers start working with content mills because
of the reasons I mentioned above. But they’re only able to garner a proper
income if they write too much.
What I’ll advise is there’s nothing wrong in working with
content mills when you are starting out. But keep trying to build your
portfolio by contributing to some reputed publications.
Once you start getting better clients from other sources you
can leave the mill and graduate to better rates.
Most of the writing a content mill will ask you to do will
be ghostwriting which means your name will not be published along with the
article. Thus you can’t add it to your writing portfolio.
However this feature may also be an advantage, if you think
about it. As I said above these are very poor quality articles and some
freelancers churn out three such articles in two hours.
So will you really want to put your name on something as
terrible as that? I won’t.
In my early months of freelance writing I was working with
an SEO company. They gave me a lot of work and though the rates per article were
inadequate, it certainly added up to a total.
I had plans to do guest posts on popular blogs, read good
books on writing, write a
book myself, shift my blog to a better platform, but all of it kept pushing
down in my To-do list. Why? Because after writing so many articles per day for
that SEO firm, I was left too exhausted to focus on anything else.
And since I was able to pay the bills with the money I was
making, I didn’t ever feel an urgent need to shift gears.
I have read similar accounts of many other freelance writers
who kept working for content mills for months or even years before they
realized they could have done something better with their time.
So what’s the verdict, you ask?
I feel if you are a new writer just starting out into
freelance writing—give content mills a try. But treat it as a crash course.
Don’t allow yourself to get addicted with them and keep
doing other better things on the side like learning new skills, marketing your
freelancing business, etc.
And then when high paying clients start to approach you
directly, you can quit the mill and focus on better quality writing.
What do you think about content writing mills? Have you ever
worked with them? What has been your experience? Come tell me on Twitter (@majorjournal).