Here’s the Escape Hatch for Writers Who Want to Leave the Low-Pay Grind

Carol Tice

If you’re writing for content mills or bidding against thousands of other writers for gigs, you’re stuck in a low-pay trap.

Mills don’t give raises. And pay is rarely great when it’s a race to the bottom and clients only care about price.

You need a way out.

But the big problem with mill writing or your typical quickie work off Elance and the like is this stuff doesn’t really train you up on how to get better-paying assignments.

You don’t learn how to develop story ideas — the mill dashboard hands those all to you.

You don’t learn how to write query letters and pitch editors.

You don’t learn how to find experts and conduct interviews.

And you don’t learn how to take that pile of notes and quotes and statistics and turn it into a compelling article editors will love and readers will devour.

You don’t know what writing mistakes could get you and your dream publication sued, either.

In the case of some mills, you don’t even end up with your byline on articles you could use in a portfolio.

All it really helps you do is — you guessed it — write more mill articles.

3 Ways to earn more

Despite all this, it is possible to leave content mills behind and move on to better-paying clients. I know because I regularly hear from writers who’ve used my tips to do just that.

There are just a few basic ways to move up and leave this writing underworld behind.

  1. You could start marketing your writing to better clients and bootstrap your way to better gigs. That’s what I did when I got started. You can flounder around, make a lotta mistakes, pitch publications, get a lot of rejections, learn on the job, gradually improve your writing, and slowly, slowly figure it all out over the course of many years.
  2. You could go to journalism school. I hear the connections you get combined with the training can give your career quite a boost. But it’s competitive to get in, and J-school takes a year or two and costs five figures. You probably don’t have the time or cash.
  3. You could take a short crash course where in just a few weeks, experienced pros give you all the journalism basics you need to move up and then critique your sample article.

One thing’s for sure — if you keep writing for mills, and don’t look for clients anywhere else, it won’t help pave the way to earning a better rate.

Got questions about breaking into better-paid article writing? Leave them here in the comments.

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17 Comments

  1. Laura

    Hi Carol,

    Wasn’t sure of the best place to ask this question, but really interested in your J-School course! Just wondering whether it is open internationally (I am England based) and whether the course is catered specifically towards US writers or would be relevant for UK writers too?

    Thanks very much and love the blog! 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Laura —

      I’ve had students from all over the world — I think magazine and newsletter articles are pretty much the same everywhere!

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