Are You Addicted to the Heroin of Freelancing?

Carol Tice

Doing heroin

It started innocently enough.

“I need a little money, and I want to get a byline,” you might have thought. “I’ll just write a couple articles for this content mill.”

The pay was miniscule.

But there it was. Your name. You were published.

And you were hooked.

The low pay meant you were flat broke again soon, so you needed to get another fix.

It’s so easy to do. Your drug of choice is legal and readily available.

Just sign into that dashboard, grab a few titles.

Or maybe you bid against thousands of other writers all over the world on places like Elance, to get gigs for a few quick bucks.

Or answered Craigslist ads that got hundreds of resumes, and paid a pittance.

You maybe felt a little scuzzy after you wrote low-paid articles that you knew were mostly for search-engine robots, not people, to read.

But you started to hang out with other mill or bid-site writers on chat forums. They shared your pain.

“This is what rates are now,” they told you.

That made it seem normal to live this way. As if really, there wasn’t any other way to earn from writing, anyway.

Then, the thrill wore off

Sometimes you had to get up at 2 a.m. to get any assignments. The mills got more and more competitive. Some mills went bust and cut off your supply of quick, low-paying writing work. Others cut their number of assignments or their pay rates.

You’d end up feeling strung out after an 18-hour day of writing mind-numbing topics in 20 minutes apiece.

Drained. Out of it.

Good for nothing else except to get up and find your next hit. More of the same.

Soon, you realized this was a dead-end lifestyle. You’d never make enough money to be comfortable. Or have enough free time to enjoy life.

The clips you got weren’t good for moving your writing career forward, either.

Also, the editors at these sites often weren’t fun to deal with.

Like any hardcore junkie, you probably ended up with some bruises…only yours were to your ego.

Maybe that’s when it dawned on you…

Low-paid writing is a dangerous addiction

It’s not like work you do for free, like that novel you write for the sheer joy of it. Where you never imagine it’s going to pay your bills.

Trying to make a living off $15 articles (or $5 ones) both starves your wallet and impoverishes your soul.

I didn’t come up with this drug analogy myself…I’ve heard scores of writers over the years refer to their attempts to move up from content mills as “kicking the content mill habit.”

Everyone who’s spent any time down this low-pay hole knows it’s a bad situation, and wants to climb out of the content-mill trap.

But when you’re broke…how do you break the cycle?

How to kick the habit: The 1-month challenge

Once you know you want out of the low-pay trap, you’ve got to make an escape plan.

We all know the best solution for beating any addiction is to go cold turkey — leave the mills and bid-sites and lowball Craigslist ad trolling behind.

Deal with the withdrawal, and in a short time, you’re over it.

That’s why my key advice for writers looking to kick the content mills is this:

For one month, don’t go on any mill sites. Don’t bid on Elance. Don’t check Craigslist.

Instead, use your new-found free time to proactively market your business to find your own, quality clients.

Publications with advertisers, and readers.

Companies that sell a real product or service, in the real world.

I have yet to meet a writer who’s tried this who didn’t end up making more money very shortly.

Once you break the habit of turning to these low paying markets for a quick cash fix and find a decent client or three, you’ll quickly wonder why you ever lived the mill-junkie life.

Of all the writers I’ve mentored to get off of content mills, not one of them has ever told me they want to go back.

But…if you can’t go a couple months without your mill money, you have to do it another way.

The alternative: Weaning yourself off

Start laying the groundwork for your departure.

Get a day job if need be, or lower your expenses to save up a little cash.

Then, start gradually scaling back the number of hours a week you’re willing to spend on content mill and other low-paid work.

Use all your free time for marketing. As you find better clients, taper off more.

This method is harder because your self-esteem keeps taking a hit from how little you’re paid and how you’re treated.

But keep at it and one day, you look back and realize you don’t write for mills anymore.

You’re clean.

Have you kicked the low-pay writing habit? Leave a comment and tell your story.






  1. Pankaj

    I know whenever you bid on elance and other bidding sites, your bid only accepted when you bid low. That means no matter how valuable you’re you have to offer your service at lower cost else you won’t get any project and won’t earn anything.

  2. Amandah

    Hi Carol,

    I kicked the low-paying writing habit a while ago. But, I admit that I sometimes check Craigslist to see if there are companies I could send an LOI to; however, I look for a legit company email address and name. I don’t do this often. Actually, it could serve as a reminder to freelancers that it’s not the best place to find writing clients. Use this tactic wisely. 🙂

    I prefer connecting on LinkedIn or looking through the postings on Writer’s Market. I’ll also look at trade magazine websites. Twitter’s not bad either. Of course, I always welcome referrals.

    • Carol Tice

      There’s always the occasional clueless business owner who wanders onto Craigslist and posts a real job because they don’t know its reputation. That kept me checking Craigslist for a long time.

      But then in 2010, I did an analysis of how I spent my marketing time and what clients it got me, and had to conclude that checking Craigslist was very time-consuming, and had only brought me lower-quality clients. Once I looked at my hard data of where my clients came from, and of how much time each marketing method took, I had to stop checking Craigslist!

  3. Marisa Swanson

    The BEST thing that ever happened to me was getting canned from DMS or as they liked to put it “sorry, we just ran out of articles for our rather arbitrary measurement of your qualifications.” I went straight from there to Elance, because I knew my clips weren’t going to get me published in Vanity Fair, lol. And I knew NOTHING about pitching stories (as Carol warns is a downside of content mill writing), journalism, I mean nothing.

    Slowly but surely, I built a portfolio that included some print work and got into copywriting within my niche, via Elance. But I had to deal with some unsavory clients and a lot of people who don’t seem to respect the expertise of freelancers and who bizarrely want to re-create a boss/employee relationship, from remote locations. Though they’re not paying you a salary, or providing benefits.

    I do think Elance has opportunities, but finding them is about knowing how to qualify prospects. For example, I don’t give any potential client whose budget is listed as “not sure” the time of day. And I don’t enter into a long term situation outside of the guaranteed Elance payment scheme without a contract. The fees Elance charges are ridiculous too, btw.

    Having said that, the day when my clients no longer come from Elance is the day when I will have considered myself a real freelancer. I’m dropping two people next month to focus that free time on what Carol says. And I’m going to NY next week to network for myself, having set up a couple of opportunities and meetings.

    Carol, I wouldn’t have known how to start or doing any of it without stumbling onto your blog. Which I actually found in a content mill chat forum (the good thing to come out of it). The first post I saw was “why I won’t write a blog post for under $50.” I was like “!!??!!??” You’re doing such a huge service by sharing this information.

  4. Lisa

    Love this! It’s such an accurate analogy…and you describe it so well. You understand the pain of those of us you’re mentoring! 🙂

    I’ve been “clean” of the mills for several months now. Every time my bank account gets low, I’m tempted to dip back in. Just a couple of articles. Just some extra cash. So far, I’ve had more real work come in — or a client pay an invoice — to tide me over and keep me from needing to do that. So far, so good!

  5. Jenny

    I quit accepting low paying and no paying jobs about a year ago. The hardest thing for me is turning down work that is almost worth it- but I’ve set concrete pay limits for myself and don’t go under them. And yes, now I much more money writing for fewer clients. Yay!!!

  6. Amandah

    @Carol… You make a good point.

    I forgot to mention that I decided to kick the habit of looking at freelance writing job boards. I’ll check because there are reputable companies on it, but I’ve noticed that most freelance writing job boards post mostly Craigslist ads. How does this help freelance writers kick the habit?

  7. Neil Heater

    “Cold sweats”…”jittery hands”…”eyes going all over the place.” what heroin cold-turkey? This is a freelance writer following the guidelines established The Den to seek better results for pay.

    Thank you Carol for the “tough love” and making us face the demons of our career. Better get back to the marketing before the stray of elance hits again.

  8. Kevin Carlton

    Yep. And while you’re at it (on cold turkey that is) all you content mill junkies out there should take time out to learn something new every day.

    A little bit more knowledge about writing, marketing, social media, SEO and stuff will complement your search for better clients and help you kick the Craigslist habit for good.

    • Carol Tice

      Good advice, Kevin! I once did a post called “Writers who want to earn more take time to learn more.”

      • Kevin Carlton

        Carol, I can totally relate to that blog headline.

        But, of course, if you don’t have the confidence to go out and then get clients who appreciate this knowledge then you might as well not bother learning.

        After all, with low-grade clients ignorance is bliss sometimes!

        • Carol Tice

          I think you mean with low-grade writers, Kevin. I think there is a category of writers who work on mills because it’s possible they couldn’t really move up to better clients…at least not without upgrading their skills.

          • Kevin Carlton

            It’s funny, Carol, because I did actually mean low-grade clients rather than low-grade writers.

            Here’s what I mean:

            Sometimes I’ve found myself doing a job for a client, where I’ve carefully done my keyword research, thoroughly checked out competitors, made suggestions on how to market the content, etc. etc.

            But to the client, all I’ve done is to write a few hundred words. I could’ve written any old rubbish and they would’ve been none the wiser.

            If only I’d not known too much. I should’ve ignored my professional pride and just written a load of rubbish in the first place.

            In other words, with low-grade clients, ignorance is bliss sometimes!

          • Carol Tice

            You know, we have this discussion in the Den a lot. “They’re only paying $75 a blog post, but they take me 3 hours to write!”

            The question is, why? They’re only paying for one hour…so deliver it in that.

            We have a tendency to have our own super-high standards and want to over-achieve on everything. But sometimes it’s more appropriate to scale our expectations to the client’s budget. 😉

          • Kevin Carlton

            Carol, I somehow had the feeling you were going to say that. And I’m so glad you did!

  9. Cheryl Rhodes

    Good article!

    I’ve never gone to bidding sites, signed up for a content mill content, or trolled Craigslist, but I’ve heard about them – nothing good. I didn’t realize what a problem it was until a recent post in the Writer’s Den from someone who was writing for a content mill and done several rewrites, spending about 5 hours on the article, for $4. Amazing. I can’t wrap my head around that still. The morning I read that I had just received an assignment of a short article for $225 on a trade magazine I’d sent an LOI to the day before. You are so right when you say people should take the time they’d spend on content mill writing and use it for marketing better paying clients.

    The closest I got to a content mill was back in the late 90’s when I wrote a column about dogs for Suite 101 for about one year. I wrote one article a month for $25, about 300 – 500 words. Mostly it was a byline for me to use as a writing credit when I sent out queries. Suite 101 was located in Vancouver and there were investors and about a dozen people who worked in the Vancouver office. They held a BBQ in the summer about a half hour drive from my house and invited all local authors to come out. I had a really nice afternoon, good food, met some nice people, and came home with a couple of goody bags worth probably $50 or so of gifts. A few months later Suite 101 laid off all the office staff except one person and sent emails to all the writers saying they would no longer pay us but feel free to keep writing and providing them with content. That would be a big no thanks from me. A lot of their writers quit. Then they became a pay per view site so the authors maybe got a small stipend for their hard work. Then they were offering online classes because I remember something about Suite 101 University. Something to stay clear of I’m sure! They’re still around but I’m not sure what their current agenda is. And no, I do not mention them at all in my writing credits because I think they turned to some slimy reputation in the 2000’s. I probably made out better than most of their authors due to that BBQ though!

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, I know Suite 101…interesting story about their pay model switch! I’ve encountered that before. When Lending Tree’s launched they were paying $100 a post for a few months, then told us all we were free to continue posting our highly knowledgeable personal finance, college finance, and retirement posts for free for the great exposure.

      Buh-bye! Best of luck with that…

  10. Diana Bisares

    Ms. Carol, you hit the bull’s eye again! I feel more terrible after I read your post. haha!

    I’ve been taking the drug for a year now. I can’t give it up for some reasons. Bills. My writing skills may not be enough to meet the standards of high-paying clients. Fear of rejection.

    But, just last week, I quit oDesk. Though, I haven’t left my one (low-paying) client (who is actually a middleman) because I see the potential of the team to move away from content mills. Staying up until dawn and being groggy the whole day, there could be a way to make things better, right?

    So, I decided to get a day job and use my free time for my blog site. I’m scared, but determined to make a living writing. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Congrats on kicking oDesk, Diana!

      Sounds like you’re proceeding with the ‘weaning off’ strategy… 😉

  11. Jawad

    Hi Carol,
    After reading your blog post today, just thought of sharing my ‘success story’ with all your readers.
    I too started off with Elance, oDesk and similar freelance websites and was lucky to get writing gigs in no time. But at the same time, I must say that I was equally fortunate to stumble upon your blog and in no time at all, started to devote much more time on marketing as well looking for high-paying clients.
    With only 3 months of starting my ‘writing career’ (I still do have a full time job) and earning $12 an article, I jumped on to get some excellent writing gigs, each piece paying me $1,500!! 🙂
    Then, I started to spend some more time marketing my published work (articles mostly, but videos also) and looking for other high-paying clients. I ended up landing with many more writing projects. Would you believe, only within ONE Year, I have earned TWICE from my part-time writing income than from my full-time day job?
    I did had my share of trials and tribulations, but also took the courage to say NO to low-ball clients and other cheapstakes! 😉
    And if all this is not enough, the TOP publisher in my field of expertise approached me to write a book (based on all the publications she had seen as well as spoke to industry experts). Now, I have signed a book deal, slated for release later this year (2013)! 🙂 Recently, I had to regret another book (ebook) publisher as I have much more in my writing plate than I can manage.
    Your blog, your advices, your guidance and everything else has been huge sources of inspiration and motivation to me, that now on every writer’s forum (where I participate), I advice them to check your blog out!
    If I can do all this within one year of starting my writing career, I find it absolutely hard to imagine when I see writers with years of experience struggling or getting confused on how to get started.
    As a token of my appreciation, please do feel to let me know if there’s anything I can do for you or for your readers!
    Thanks for making this world a beautiful place to live and share!

    • Carol Tice

      Wow! Thanks for sharing your terrific story of what can happen when you kick the low-pay habit. Great stuff! All the best on the book.

      Honestly, I have yet to work with anyone who spends 3 months actively marketing who does not end up earning a ton more.

      What people don’t see is it only takes one or two good paying clients. You don’t need a lot of yesses. And suddenly, you have a LIFE. You can pay your bills and live comfortably without having to write 100 articles a week or something crazy like that.

  12. Joyce

    Great post. I understand the fear of “the unknown” I also agree about weaning off the content mills and I am working on that. That is my goal for 2013. However, I don’t waste my time bidding anymore; I just wait for them to contact me, which is how I’m slowly getting some good paying clients.
    I just got an awesome paying client that way who will most likely provide me even more work. This may not sound like much to some people but it’s for $40 an hour. Considering I’m still stuck in a job I hate besides freelancing at $15 an hour, that is a gold mine.
    Which brings me to the reason I haven’t completely given up the content mills yet. I am more determined to give up my other job that I dread going to every day. And finally, after almost two years of learning about this freelance writing business, I now earn enough that I am giving my two weeks’ notice on March 1st. Right now, I have a combination of work from the mills and other clients, but most of those are decent paying jobs. I regularly average around $30-40 an hour, so I’m happy with that until I have more free time to market.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Joyce — Congrats on giving notice!

      And on using a strategy I like to call “Lurk, don’t work” — just have profiles on bid sites, but don’t bid. I once got an interview to ghost a book for CEO based on a profile I left on once. Never wrote anything there, just left my info.

      Sounds like you’re well on your way to weaning yourself off the mills!

      I have a post coming up about why $40 an hour won’t make you happy in the end…so stay tuned for that.

  13. Tiffany

    For me it wasn’t an addiction, it was simply not knowing any better. With both of the content mills I worked for, I was ecstatic because I was being paid, so that made me a pro. Oh, what a sad, naive case I was!

    But I see exactly what you describe here happening to so many writers. And the crazy thing is, they CONSTANTLY make excuses for the mills. “But the exposure they give you makes it worth it!” “The skills and perks make up for the lack of pay.” “But now I’ll be considered an expert in this field because of all the content I’m putting out on this subject.” “There are some content mills out there that treat their writers really well.” The most oft heard, though, is that there is nothing else… the mills are as good as it gets these days.

    Content mills are for people looking to promote a book or a business or for those who have no desire to make money from their writing.

    I will admit that I learned a tremendous amount from my mill work, but I could have learned those some things AND made some nice dough working for a client who appreciates me. Knowing that makes me sick to my stomach that I wasted all that time.

  14. Sophie Lizard

    That’s funny, I was just blogging about this earlier! I think of it like being stuck in the Matrix – every low paying job you take makes it harder to see reality.

    I’m thankful that I’ve never worked for a content mill, but I’ve researched them in detail for an upcoming report and the truth is, I couldn’t make a living writing for them. It’s so unrewarding and dehumanising that I would’ve quit within days!

    • Carol Tice

      Love that analogy Sophie! And it’s so apt, because the writers really ARE the little batteries powering that mill’s success…while all you get is drained.

  15. Rob Schneider

    I was never a content mill junky, but I was caught in the trap for a year. I simply depended on a weekly income and couldn’t afford to actively look for better paying work. I knew it was out there – had written for print publications before and made up to $1500/1200 words, but had to wait 2 or 3 months for payment. I also didn’t have confidence that I could get enough of those to make a steady income.

    I managed to escape after getting 1 client who paid me reasonably well on a weekly basis. Then I went cold turkey and stopped bidding. It just seemed ridiculous to spend 30 extra hours a week making less than I was making in 10. Some of my bidding site clients stuck with me even after I tripled my rates and all of them were as happy to leave the bidding sites as I was. They had used them because they needed a writer fast and no one was applying. The moral: The jobs are out there. We just need to know the right way to find them.

    • Carol Tice

      There are quite a few businesses out there that have had bad mill experiences and are ready to pay more to not have to worry about flakes and crappy work, as your story shows.

  16. Anita

    I started out at a mill out of ignorance. And stayed there longer than I should have because it’s easier to stay there if you hate marketing. Stick with those predictable article and rates, and you don’t have to cold call. You don’t have to craft LOIs or queries that may lead to rejection or simply get ignored. You don’t have to create a writer web site and other marketing materials. You don’t have to worry about someone confirming the fear that’s lurking in the back of your mind, the fear that maybe you really don’t have what it takes to be a writer.

    • Carol Tice

      Of course it’s easy to stay there – and that’s what the mill owners are counting on…just what you said. They feed off the will of writers with low self-esteem.

      But also, the mills themselves don’t consider what they’re offering an opportunity to earn a living. Read their marketing, and you’ll never find them promising you a way to pay all your bills.

      In interview after interview, the head of Demand said their concept was that this was a great way for someone like a stay-at-home farm wife to make a little extra money on the side, inbetween milking cows! It’s the writers who try to make it a living, and then get angry and frustrated when that doesn’t work.

      • Rob S

        I remember reading “The $60,000 Challenge” on the Demand Studios blog. Someone was upset that none of his friends considered freelancing a real job, so he was going to make $60,000 that year to prove it was. That’s 4000 articles @ $15 each (Demand’s rate) or nearly 11 a day for 365 days – no days off. Needlessly to say, I never saw the follow-up at the end of the year.

  17. Glori Surban

    I can say that I’m on the weaning of process. I’m getting there and what’s great is that everything seems a lot better when I began distancing myself away from low-paying clients.

    True, I have more time to write (paid) guest posts and market my skills at the same time.

    And I just won Tom’s book and free mentoring with Sophie! Talk about stars aligning!

    • Carol Tice

      Well good for you Glori — and congrats on the useful resources you’ve won!

  18. Sheila Bergquist

    Carol, I had to laugh when I read this because it is so true! I started there too, but eventually got fed up enough to drop them. I’m still not a “successful” writer financially, but at least what I do write now is satisfying in a creative way. Hopefully, the more I progress and learn the ins and outs of this business from helpful people like you, the more I will earn! Great article!

  19. art williams

    Yeah, I’m still getting less than I’m probably worth but I have made some progress. I’d just like to know when the Writers Den is going to open again. Is it ever?

    (the WanderingSalsero)

    • Carol Tice

      Art, we are working on a couple of technical issues we want to resolve before we try to take on more new members.

      One more nag about it in blog comments and I promise to remove you from the waitlist, OK? It’ll open when it can.

  20. Christina

    Hey Carol,
    Thankfully, I’ve never been sucked into the horror of content mills, but I’m wondering if it pays to still have a profile on the big ones even though I’m not bidding for jobs. Does that help more prospects find you when they search your name/keywords?

    • Carol Tice

      I think it can…I once got a very high-level nibble off my profile. As I think I’ve said elsewhere in this thread (or maybe another recent one?) I call that strategy “Lurk, don’t work.” As long as you stay off there and don’t get sucked into bidding on these $3 an hour projects, I think it can be useful, as these are big sites so they tend to rank high in search. And I think clients do sometimes use them just as a search engine to find writers they want to work with off the platform.

      • Christina

        I remember you called it “Lurk, don’t work”! So the big ones to have a profile on would be Elance, Guru, Odesk…any others?

        • Carol Tice

          I don’t know that I’d do Odesk…it seems like their reputation is heavy on 3rd World crazy-low wage gigs. I got on Guru at one point because I’d heard it would somehow be different from all the others…which it wasn’t, of course. Then I couldn’t figure out how to delete it…which is why it’s still on there!

          And then I actually got a lead off it, so I sort of discovered this method by accident. 😉 Which is why I’m always telling people to do a lot of marketing and experiment more…

  21. Jamie Alexander

    I only make about $20 per hour and I would probably shoot myself if I wasn’t living in Thailand. Luckily that affords me a pretty great life on a few grand a month.

    I do like the people I work for and I enjoy the job, but if I was living in Scotland it would feel like a road to nowhere.

    I’m not trying to find any work, but instead trying to make money with my own blog.

    I think taking low paying jobs isn’t so bad for people who are trying to build their own business in their spare time, so it’s just another idea for people instead of trying to become a professional freelancer.

  22. Howard Baldwin

    When I saw the headline, I thought this was going to be a completely different story. I started firing low-paying clients years ago, and have never regretted it. But at the same time, I feel that a big part of the value I bring to freelancing is responsiveness. That’s why I’m sitting in a Hawaiian resort checking e-mail at 6:15 in the morning. That to me is the heroin of freelancing — when you get successful serving clients, it’s really hard to give it up, even for a week, and even though I told them all where I was going. (Rationalization: I do have a three-month project that requires daily, though minimal work, and that’s why I brought the computer.)

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like you’re addicted to the good heroin of freelancing — the thrill of earning well, being your own boss, and being able to work from anywhere!

      I’m hooked on that one as well. 😉 Hopefully we can get more people off the bad heroin of low wages and low self-esteem and over to our neighborhood.

  23. Jean Marie Bauhaus

    Well, this is certainly timely — I’m actually taking a break from writing DMS articles right now and I came here to look for tips on how to graduate to “real” freelance writing and get myself off of this treadmill. I had actually managed to break away from them last year, but then they lured me back with higher rates and the fact that I was between web design clients and desperate for work.

    I think part of my problem is that I primarily consider myself a fiction writer, so I lack confidence in my non-fiction article and copy writing abilities. Also, DMS seemed like a good way to get some bylines and clips that I naively thought would help me get better jobs. As mentioned, I also do freelance web and graphic design, so at least the content mill isn’t my only job, but I’m getting ready to add copy writing services to my design website, thanks mainly to advice I’ve read on this blog.

    Anyway, thanks for the kick in the rear I needed to start weaning myself off of the Demand Studios teat. 🙂

  24. Matt Rowland

    I realize that I am coming to this conversation years late, but I am curious. The $15 articles was for how many words?

    I have been dabbling in this online writing for years, and have recently decided to go it full-time. I generally stick to 250 to 500 word articles, blog posts, and website content (usually pages describing services).

    I recently joined on of those “mill” sites and was quickly promoted to a “Featured” and “Top Seller” writer. I offer 250 blog posts of “1 topic and 2 keywords”. I make about $4. Its annoying at times, the excessive demands and “extras” that people make for this small fee. So, I have closed down my gigs temporarily.

    I have other outside clients that pay $10 for 250 blogs posts, and they order 100-200 per month on topics like “SEO Tips” or “Hypnosis as a Cure for….:etc. I can basically write “at will”, writing about 4 of these per hour.

    Of course, on the “mill” site, I am make much less per hour, but it does come with some security. I open the gigs and they fill up. Easy-Peasy!

    But I do go through “burnout” big time! Any advice?

    • Carol Tice

      Matt, before I can give you much advice, I’d need to know — what is your goal for your writing? How much do you need to earn? Is this a full-time thing for you or a side gig?

      And could you see yourself writing 4 of these short articles you don’t care about per hour, week after week and year after year?

      It’s not a question of whether a $15 article has too many words in it — it’s that $15 is too little for an article of any size. Even when I was new at this, I never made less than about $75-$100 a piece! It’s exploitation, in my view.

      Most mill writers I know quickly concluded that while they could eke out a subsistence living on the mills, it was not a sustainable or enjoyable way to earn a living over time. As you note, burnout is epidemic.

      Meanwhile, I have outside clients that pay $1 a word for what I write, and more, and have for years, including straight through the economic downturn.

      If you’re interested in making a good living as a writer, you learn to find those types of clients. Lots of materials on here (see the “New here?” sidebar) and in Freelance Writers Den on how to do that. And of course in my Marketing 101 for Freelance Writers series subscribers get here.

      You can learn a lot about why mills are the bad situation they are, and how to escape that trap here:

      • Matt Rowland

        Well, I guess the rest of us are just silly idiots for taking less money for starting out? lol $75 per article right off the bat? Really? I find that impossible to believe. How long were the articles?

        • Carol Tice

          Well, you said it, I didn’t. 😉 And on the impossible part, you should probably read this: Can You Really Make a Living as a Freelance Writer?

          I should add when I started out it was about 20 years ago…with inflation, how should writing a short article pay so much LESS now than it did then? You can see that makes no sense, right?

          The only reason is the Internet has allowed desperate writers to be ensnared by SEO-seeking websites whose business model is a failure, so they can’t pay much. Fortunately for me, the Internet and its scams didn’t exist at the time.

          It isn’t how long the articles were that was different — they were maybe 300 – 500 words at most. The point is they were an entirely different type — the kind people want to read, as opposed to the kind robots read online to index search rankings. Your definition of an ‘article’ and mine I’m sure are different.

          But the bottom line is, if $15 articles work for your lifestyle, then that’s great! I’m here for the people who want a totally different, way higher level of pay. Which is totally doable for those willing to learn how to market their business.

  25. Matt Rowland

    Try this. It takes you thru blogs from start to finish, at your own pace. It’s awesome.

  26. Steve

    I think Content Mills actually do a great service to aspiring writers.

    Aspiring writers need to realize that they, and their hopes and their dreams, DO NOT MATTER.

    • Carol Tice

      Not sure where you’re coming from with this statement, Steve, but I believe writers’ hopes and dreams matter to THEM, for sure.

      I think content mills often do writers a service because after writing for mills, writers realize they want to write something more meaningful, challenging, and lucrative than they’ll ever get at a mill. And so they move on.

  27. Dave Megan

    Writing is always healthy to the brain. But when we are tortured by not being paid fair, it’s unhealthy anymore.


  1. Does Crowdsourcing Pay?Making A Living With Your Online Writing - [...] an article by Carol Tice of ‘Making A Living Writing’ fame about being addicted to the ‘Heroin of Freelancing’…

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