What is a Content Mill?

Just about all freelance writers - especially new ones - have heard the term 'content mill.'  What does it mean, though?  What qualifies a site as a content mill?

Think of a content mill this way:

A content mill is a place full of a surplus of goods (in this case, content) where people can go get it. 

It can also be a place that's absolutely flooded with content - and it's put there by writers willing to produce that content for fees below market average.

People have different reasons for writing for content mills - and if content mills are not your cup of tea, you don't have to shout about it to the world or brag about how much money you make in comparison.

Sites that warehouse large numbers of articles, whether or not they are subject to editorial review, are generally considered content mills.

Content mills are sites like:

  • Helium
  • Associated Content
  • Demand Media Studios (eHow, LiveStrong, et cetera)

Pay at Content Mills

Generally, the pay at content mills isn't as high as a freelance writer can command from private clients.  Some sites pay based on pageviews (especially when they receive money by running ads) and some sites pay a low, flat fee.

The Market for Content Mills

Many content mills are out to grab as much search engine traffic as possible.  As a result, some allow any writers to contribute, while others require previous publication or a sample article graded by in-house editors.

What's Wrong with Content Mills?

This question is so subjective that it doesn't make sense for me to answer it for you.  If the pay is something you're willing to accept and the work is something you enjoy, go for it.  If you feel like you're toiling away for nothing, close your account and find some private freelance writing clients.

It's as simple as that - and it's nobody's business to tell you otherwise.  If it works for you, write away.

Are People Writing for Content Mills Real Writers?

Sometimes.  Some people who write for content mills can't actually write, but they are paid to do so - so I suppose that makes them writers.  When I say they can't actually write, that spans the spectrum from sucking to just not having the skill or talent to produce high-quality stuff.  Some people who write for content mills are actually really good writers, though.

Don't let anyone make you choose to (or choose not to) write for a content mill - it's nobody's business.  And if your bank account is hovering where you want it because you're happily writing for money, I say go for it.

Why do People Write for Content Mills?

There are hundreds of reasons people write for content mills.  Here are a couple of good ones:

  • Writers in-between private clients might write for content mills to pay the bills.
  • Writers just starting out might write for content mills to pay the bills.
  • Writers who only write because it's their passion might write for content mills.
  • Writers who wish to supplement their income might write for content mills.
  • Writers having difficulty getting private clients or paying gigs might write for content mills.

Tips for Content Mill Writers

  • Use a pen name, especially if final editorial control isn't up to you.
  • Diversify yourself as much as possible so you're not left hanging if one of your content mills doesn't pay.
  • Continue to look for private clients when you have time.
  • Market your freelance writing services so you can progressively earn more money.
  • Don't waste time on content mill message boards when you could be writing for money or advertising your services.

Avoid the Content Mill Drama

Freelance writers love to argue about content mills - but the bottom line is that if it works for you, makes you happy and brings you the amount of money you need, it's nobody's business but your own.

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© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on FreeFreelanceWritingTips.Blogspot.com, it's stolen.