Content Mills Make You Vomit? Remedies for a Healthy Writing Income


Sick of Content Mills Healthy Writing Income Remedies. 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.

Need help getting out of the content mills? Let’s discuss on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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


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  1. Steve Maurer

    Great advice, well-written, Holly! If more freelancers would take this to heart and escape the mills… even avoid them from the get-go… they would be much happier when the REAL paychecks start rolling in. One key to making more money is not to do more work, but do more profitable work for clients that have the deep pockets! You explained that quite well. 🙂

    Wishing you all the best of success, my friend!

  2. Derek Thompson

    A great post, and perfect for business spring cleaning!

    As we raise our expectations and treat our writing practice as a profession, we get serious about our client base and the way we work.
    My takeaways:
    1. Be consistent in your approach.
    2. Always consider where / how you want to be in the future.
    3. Value your talent.

  3. Firth McQuilliam

    After reading this simple, clear advice, I feel as if invisible golden coins are raining on me from Heaven. This will be the year! ^_^

  4. Emma

    If you are tempted to work for content mills, keep in mind that per hour, you’d probably make more money answering surveys online – and with a lot less work!

    If you are doing all that work, then by golly make sure you are getting paid for it!

    It’s hard not to puke at six hours of work for $5.

  5. Rachel

    Very true! I would add that it helps to point out to prospects how your content will help them. That could be money, but in the case of content like blog posts, it could be increased traffic or improved SEO.

    I like to use stats to prove my point if I don’t have any numbers of my own (for example, on work I’ve done that has converted well). Using stats is how I got one of my first steady jobs writing blog posts – I simply used stats to show him what the average increase in traffic to the site would be.

    He hired me on the spot.

    I’ve worked with him for several years… and now I’ll be moving on to a better-paying client.

  6. David Nelson

    Excellent presentation Carol.I love this stuff. It is the best cure for the rampant abuse going on on these rubbish and abuse sites.


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