You scan through all the low-paying work in the content mills, and it makes you feel sick.
Ever done that?
Spend much time in the content mills, and you’ll soon feel the need to wash your hands, lather up with hand sanitizer, and spray your computer with Lysol, or you’ll spew disgust all over the place.
It’s not a healthy place to find clients or make a living writing.
Maybe you’ve already sold your soul and several hours of your life to write a blog post for five bucks. No doubt, the kind of mind-wasting gigs content mills are infested with.
When one writer I talked to told me he did this 399 times, I threw up in my mouth a little.
If you want to be a successful freelance writer, you can’t hang around the content mills. It’s a toxic environment that will siphon creativity, confidence, your bank account…and make you feel like blowing chunks.
Sick of content mills? Take these four healthy writing income remedies:
The fight against content mills disease
In 2010, Steve Maurer needed some extra cash. So, he wrote his first article for a content mill. It paid $5 and took him six hours to write. And he was stricken with content mills disease.
He then slaved to sell 399 more articles and scraped in $2,000. The next year he did the same.
But in 2012, something amazing happened. A cure for content mills disease?
Steve escaped the content mills, wrote fewer articles and doubled his writing income. And it just keeps doubling.
He brought home an extra $40,000. And—here’s the kicker—he only wrote 50 projects to do it.
Did you catch that?
He completed 350 fewer jobs than when he wrote for content mills yet made 20 times as much money. He still writes part-time, and he still writes from home.
So, what did he do after kicking the mills to make such a huge difference?
Well, a few things, actually. And he isn’t the only successful freelance writer doing them.
I interviewed three other writers and asked them how they make mega moolah without using content mills or job boards. Not surprisingly, their answers shared a few common threads.
If you’re sick of content mills, dose up on these healthy writing income remedies:
1. Move to a better neighborhood
“If a talented lawyer sets up shop on the poor side of town, then he can’t expect that he’s going to do very well,” says Peter Bowerman, copywriter and creator of The Well-Fed Craft.
The same goes for writers. Only, you don’t need to change your physical address to get better pay. You need to move away from low paying clients.
- For example: “The local dentist will pay $10 for a blog post about what should go in a teenager’s room, but a large credit card company will pay $300 for that post,” says Bethany Johnson, B2C content marketing writer.
So, why not go after the better clients?
That’s what B2B copywriter and writing coach Andrea Emerson recommends.
“Pursue quality prospects,” she says. “You want to find clients who crave content and already have a budget for it, as opposed to those who must be educated on the benefits of your service.”
2. Choose lucrative projects
“If you’re looking to maximize your income,” says Bowerman, “Consider expanding your skills to include commercial copywriting projects.”
- What are commercial copywriting projects? They’re marketing materials such as case studies, white papers, and e-mail sequences.
- Why do these projects pay better? Because they have a stellar track record for bringing in leads and customers.
- What do they pay? It varies. But, case studies—basically long form testimonials written like reported articles—are worth about $1,500 for 800 words.
Learn to write just one of these copywriting projects, and you’ll give yourself a hefty raise. But here’s a word of caution from Steve:
Learning new skills should be a spare time activity. Don’t stop earning while you’re learning.
3. Price according to your value
“It doesn’t often make sense to charge per hour or per word,” says Emerson. “Those are poor measures of your effort, expertise and the value you deliver.”
- For example: As you gain experience you’ll write faster, so charging per hour actually punishes you for getting better at your craft. Charge per project instead. And anchor your fees to the value the project will bring your client.
If you’re still a little fuzzy on how to do that, maybe this will help: Steve Maurer wrote two product descriptions, a total of 250 words, to help a company sell $4,000 industrial-grade fire alarms. He charged a $700 flat fee. The company happily paid that, because if those descriptions sell just one alarm they will more than recoup their investment.
4. Market yourself
Imagine being so booked that you were turning down work, like Bethany Johnson: “I just told a client—who’s paying $800 per post—I don’t want to take on any more work.”
- How did she become so in demand that she can turn down such a great paying gig? Simple. She put herself out there.
That’s all marketing is—making sure the right people know who you are and how you can help them.
Some writers pitch, some writers frequent LinkedIn, others network. Most use a combination of tactics.
And guess what? Some lucky freelancer who’s been marketing their business has already snagged the work Bethany turned down.
Healthy marketing habits for freelance writers
When you get out of the toxic environment of content mills and focus on healthy marketing habits, you’ll feel a lot better, work on more interesting projects, and make more money.
Holly Hughes-Barnes creates the magnetic stories marketers crave to power their content marketing strategy—when they don’t have the time or bandwidth to do it in-house