I’ve spent the past 8 years of my life helping writers move up from content mills to better pay.
So what I have to say now may shock you.
I’m no longer advising writers to avoid all online platforms that sign up loads of writers.
What the what?
See, I recently had a chance to peek behind the curtain at one emerging platform that recruited me to write for them — and I liked what I saw.
Here’s why I’ve changed my tune on online writer sites…
A better content mill?
There’s an emerging trend on the mass-content development scene that offers better pay than the old $5-$10 a post mills ever did. In some cases, way better.
I’m still gathering info, but in the past year, I’ve heard a steady stream of anecdotal stories about better pay from mass platforms, many from writers in my Den 2X Income Accelerator program. One writer earned $500 per post on a lengthy, multi-post gig they got assigned through Contently, for example. Another got $300 assignments from eByline. Skyword and HubSpot are others I’ve heard mentioned in this class.
At first, I thought these were freak, one-off situations. And there are definitely lowball fee offers on all these platforms, too.
But increasingly, I think these types of sites may represent a major new opportunity for writers to connect with some terrific, brand-name clients, name pro rates — and get them.
I call these sites ‘move-up’ mills. They bring hundreds of writers together, but don’t offer the rock-bottom rates of old.
That’s because these sites operate on more of an agency model — putting hand-selected creatives together with their clients — rather than the old mill model of pitting writers against each other to create a bidding war and drive prices to the floor.
My ‘move-up’ content mill experience
I was actively recruited to join ClearVoice for a particular assignment…and went along in part to bring you a spy report on how this platform works. This 3-year-old platform is based in Phoenix, and only accepts about 10 percent of applicants, says managing editor Megan Krause. They have about 100 big-name customers they create content for, including 24 Hour Fitness (and declined to say how many writers have been accepted into their stable).
Here’s my story:
ClearVoice contacted me via email. They had a name-brand financial-services client that needed blog posts:
I threw out big numbers, thinking they’d scurry away fast once they heard my rates.
“I’ve been getting $400-$500 a post,” I said.
They said they could go $400 on an assignment they had me in mind for. By now, I was intrigued and said I’d entertain it.
They encouraged me to go set up a profile so I could bid on the gig, which was a pretty easy process.
My ClearVoice editor assured me this was not a cattle-call — their editorial team reached out to a handful of writers for assignments like this, and then let the client decide. They actually call it a ‘casting call,’ reflective of their more selective approach.
I threw my hat in the ring, through a simple application process on their platform. Your profile already has your details, so it’s as easy as clicking ‘yes’ that you’re interested.
Next thing I knew, I had a $400 ghost-blogging assignment for Intuit. Sweet! You compose right in ClearVoice’s WordPress-like dashboard, which is a snap if you’re already blogging. ClearVoice paid very promptly, too, via PayPal.
The no-bidding model
The big difference between this and many traditional content mills is that there was no race to the bottom, with the company taking the lowest bidder. ClearVoice doesn’t drive writers to undercut each other, a setup I despise.
The price of each assignment on ClearVoice is pre-set. Then, the editorial team selects a handful of best-qualified writers and offers them a chance to do the gig. Those interested apply, and the client chooses a writer.
On ClearVoice, there is no wide-open dashboard of scores of assignments you can browse. There are only the opportunities they select you for and ‘push’ out to you.
It’s notable that this is a completely different business model than the old content-mill setup, which is based around driving writing prices down in order to please the hiring companies.
A steady stream of real-money assignments
I kept my ClearVoice profile up to see if they’d ever have any other post assignments in my price range, or if that had been a total fluke.
To my surprise, more emails with the subject line: “We found an opportunity you might be interested in” continued to arrive in my inbox, ranging from $250-$350 per post or so. I’ve been seeing several each month.
I ended up applying to one other gig, and writing one post in that range for ClearVoice’s own blog. Both gigs I took, my first draft was quickly accepted and no rewrites were needed.
This gives me a good rating on their system, I gather:
Who doesn’t want to hang around a platform that thinks you’re 100 perfect?
There are more lucrative gigs on ClearVoice, too. Recently, I was sent a couple of $675 longform blog-post offers, one of which you can see below. (It’s expired now, so please don’t call ClearVoice to try to bid on this!) I was thrilled to see such a good rate for a longer blog post.
The bottom line: I ended up making nearly $700 with ClearVoice, fairly easily. I’m keeping my eye on this, and if a good gig came along again, I’d definitely do it.
My sense was that ClearVoice isn’t lying about only putting gigs in front of just a few writers, given how easy it was to snag the two gigs I got.
Tips for move-up mill success
To sum up, I think move-up mills are a great opportunity for:
- Established writers with strong portfolios
- Trained journalists
- Bloggers with a track record of driving traffic and shares
- Experienced business bloggers
- Writers with defined niches
For writers with little experience and without strong clips, these platforms may work out not much better than old-style content mills, as the gigs you’ll be invited to apply for will pay much less.
What I loved best: At ClearVoice, you set your rates and let them know only to send you gigs above your floor. No more wading through mountains of garbage to find the one pro gig!
Of course, the catch is that you’re at the mercy of the platform’s gatekeepers on whether or not they think you’re qualified for a gig, and send you the listing. So write a strong profile on the platform. With this model, that is your calling card for gigs — there’s no opportunity to write a cover letter.
Have you written for a ‘move-up mill’? Share your experience in the comments.