Content mills and bidding sites such as Upwork and Elance might seem like great options to break into the world of freelance writing. After all, they offer paid work that, on paper, seems like it will eventually pay well in addition to looking great on your portfolio. Many writers hope that these mills will offer them the much-needed leg up to freelance full time, but unfortunately it’s not very likely.
Why avoid content mills?
The biggest problem with content mills is that they pay writers really poorly, with one cent per word not being uncommon. If you extrapolate that, writing a 500-word article – one that’s sure to take you at least an hour – would net you a whopping $5. That’s below minimum wage in most countries. If you wanted to make $1,500 a month, you’re looking at writing 300 articles or 45,000 words – the length of a short novel. That works out to almost 10 articles per day, without weekends or vacations. There are, however, many writers willing to churn out content for this pitiful rate, which brings us to the next problem.
Due to the low payment of content mills, there is a profusion of quality content being sold very cheaply. Because of this, other similar websites are forced to lower their rates to compete. After all, why would a prospective client pay $50 for an article when they can get one of similar quality for one tenth of the price? This ultimately means it’s harder for writers to command the rates their work warrants.
Lastly, you’re not building a network or a portfolio you can draw upon later to impress and secure potential clients. The people you’re writing for are not publishing professionals, and the work you’re producing is more about keyword-choked ramblings rather than any kind of eloquent and well-informed article.
What’s the alternative?
If you find yourself working for content mills and are looking for a way out, or if you’re new to the game altogether, one of the best things you can do is start your own website. This isn’t as daunting as it sounds; there are a number of reputable hosting companies, like 1&1, where you can create custom and easy to use websites. The benefits of this are two-fold. Not only does it serve as an online portfolio but the SEO value it offers will help bring you to the attention of prospective clients utilizing Google to search for freelancers.
Once you have a website, start posting your highest quality work to it. You can then use this to directly pitch to clients for a fair price respective of your work. It allows them to see the quality of your writing in a professional setting and makes getting in touch a simple process.