How to Dig Out of the Content Mill Hole and Land a Client — Fast

Carol Tice

How to Dig Out of the Content Mill Hole and Land a Client -- Fast. Makealivingwriting.comBy Elaine Yue

“You’re an idiot.”

That’s what I told myself after I spent three hours writing a 500-word article for a content mill.

What did it pay?

A whopping $5.

When I had decided I would do some freelance writing to “make some extra cash,” I had no idea that writing a 500-word article would take hours.

There was no way I would make money like this.

I start to dig

By luck, I came across the Make a Living Writing blog. My entire perception changed.

I could actually make money writing!

I joined the Freelance Writer’s Den and read everything. I was sure these tips would bring me a high-paying gig immediately.

Information overload

But I quickly realized I had a problem.

I had no idea where to begin.

All of these tips were great, but they were coming from veteran writers who already had a marketing plan in place. They already had prestigious clips and connections. One tweet and the gigs would roll in.

I had no clips.

I had no connections.

How was a newbie writer supposed to start?

Mind-mapping a marketing plan

I decided to mind-map a specific plan:

1. I answered:

  • Who am I serving?
  • What do they want?
  • What fears keep them up at night?
  • What problems can I solve for them?
  • Where can I find them?

My mind map helped me organize my thoughts so I had a cohesive plan. Otherwise, I was left thinking, “I’ll try this technique” or “I should try that technique.” This process gave me a more concrete road map to follow.

2.  I built a prospect list using Manta, Linkedin, Jigsaw, and Google. Using Manta’s data, I identified health supplement companies with $1 million-$5 million in annual revenue — my target audience.

3.  I created a website with a blog to use as samples.

4.  Using tips from the Den and Ed Gandia’s Warm Email Prospecting class (yes, I did find it through this blog, and that is Carol’s affiliate link), and working with the answers to my questions about customers’ needs (getting more customers, educating shoppers about health concerns), I created this email:


Congrats on becoming an Authorized Distributor of [Vendor] → trigger event


I read a press release that [Company] has become an Authorized Distributor of [Vendor] – congrats! → trigger event

I’m contacting you because I help nutritional supplement companies write newsletters, blogs, and marketing material that help convey their messages clearly and effectively to customers. And I have some ideas on how you can convey your message to your very specific and special target audience. → value statement

Let me know if you’re interested in discussing further. No sales pitch — just seeing if we might have a good fit. → call to action

Finally, a client!

When a client called me, I realized how great timing and an effective pitch were instrumental in landing me the gig.

He had been thinking about creating better content for his customers and increasing his Google ranking.

So when I said that I was a health writer who could write effective content, it was a no-brainer.

The gig: four blog posts and two landing pages for $1,000. Every month.

Tweaking my plan

I am by no means on easy street — yet. My marketing plan is still a work in progress. But for us newbies trying to escape the content mill trap, any plan is better than no plan.

So take all of the tips from the Den and other sources, create a plan, and I guarantee you will get your first client.

Elaine Yue is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in the health supplement and insurance industries. 

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  1. Max R.

    Congratulations on your success, Elaine–and thanks for sharing it w/Carol’s readers!

    I just attempted to visit your site, as I’m in the process of building mine. I was met w/this:

    Is this intentional? Or are you in the process of updating your site?

    Since there was no other way to enter your site WITHOUT first tweeting for you…..I left. Forgive me and my confusion…but are you asking that people tweet about your information BEFORE they even see it…..?

    I’m sorry if I misunderstood your intent (or visited at a time when you were in the process of an update)….I look forward to being able to visit your site sometime soon!

    • Max R.

      If I click on your name (from comment posts), I can enter your full site. So I guess I found another way in. 🙂 Sorry for the confusion.

    • Elaine Yue

      Hey Max! Sorry about that, that’s actually a feature of the landing page that is supposed to encourage readers to tweet or share it first before reading the content. But you can actually get around it by just clicking the “x” in the upper right hand corner. I guess this is a flaw in this type of page!

      If you didn’t get a chance to view the page itself (rather than my general site), try it again and just close the share box. It will still give you a link to get into the page.


    • Max R.

      Hi Elaine–
      Thanks for responding–I’m so sorry for my cluelessness.
      I was SO eager to see the information that led to your success…I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I’m still a relative newbie to twitter and had a total mental disconnect as to why I was getting that page instead of your information….(lol…duh max).

      I see now that I really need to commend your creativity in linking a landing page in a way that will encourage your visitors to get traffic back to your site–how very smart (and social media savvy) of you….!

      Thanks for being so patient and kind toward me–I certainly appreciate it!


      Again, *great* blog post and so glad you shared!

  2. Rob Schneider

    What an inspiring article and thanks for including your actual LOI, which is brilliant. I’m happy to hear that Demand Studios hasn’t prospered from their attempts to take advantage of writers.

    One thing I think deserves emphasis is that you targeted businesses with a million + in annual revenue. Clients will only pay what they can afford to pay.

    When I recently felt comfortable enough to review my rates and ask all my clients for a raise, only one was unable to oblige. He was hit by Penguin and was experiencing a drastic downturn in traffic. We worked out an interim solution – less assignments per month at better pay while he uses more of his budget to revamp his sites. That’s just one more reason to find real people to work with instead of content mills – you can establish working relationships and find solutions that work for everyone.

    • Elaine Yue

      Rob, great point – being able to communicate and work with clients is key. It really is all about relationships. And of course, finding those clients who can afford you. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      I’m always saying, if you have the kind of clients where you can’t ASK for a raise — because it’s a mill platform where that’s the rate, take it or leave it — you know you have the wrong kind of clients. Rates should always rise over time, as you learn more about a client and become more valuable.

  3. Steve Maurer

    Great post, Elaine.

    I love your Letter of Introduction. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    I’ve written for Textbroker, a type of content mill that’s a little different from Demand Studio and the like. Even though it’s got good support, the pay is still way too low. Breaking out of that mold is priority one.

    Writers who come from “the mills” often have problems putting a good value on their writing. They’ve written for so low for so long that it seems hard to charge a good fee. I can remember my first article paid (drum roll, please) $4.95. While it did give me a good feeling that I could write and someone would pay for it, I know that my work is much better than that.

    Thanks again for the great post.
    Maurer Copywriting

    • Elaine Yue

      Steve, you’re a Textbroker convert too?? I wrote for TB because I had heard that DS was “picky” about the writers they selected. Isn’t that funny and oh so ironic? Anyway, part of me is still glad I started out with the mills because now I appreciate the alternative.

    • Steve Maurer

      Hi, Elaine.

      Yeah, they were pretty good to write for and it was pretty steady. I still check out the site to keep up with trends. I’ve found some interesting things:

      1. When I started in 2010, there were more requests for lower-level writers. Now, the class 4 writers get the lion’s share of the orders by a HUGE margin.
      2. Some clients are looking for better ways of getting writers. In fact, I’ve had 3 clients that I used to write for on TB that are now coming to me personally, away from the site. All think working directly with me is a much easier way to go.
      3. In fact, one former TB client, a website developer, asked me if I would work personally with him. I wrote about 50% of his own site content when ‘milling about.’ Now that we are working directly, one-on-one, he is contracting me to write the copy for his own clients.

      Shameless Plug for Freelance Writers Den: New folks, you cannot go wrong with the Den,that is, unless you don’t join! You will be hanging around with other writers, people who understand what you are doing, the problems and challenges you are having and who are willing to help you succeed. The courses offered will teach you some good skills and force you to grow without knowing it. Since taking J-school, I’ve contacted more people on the phone than ever before. And really enjoyed it too!

      Elaine, thanks again so much for your post. It’s stuff like this that will help new writers get a great start!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Steve — great to hear your positive feedback on the Den! Just to clarify 4-Week J-School is one of the few courses I do that are NOT included in Den membership. It has everything except J-School and the Blast-Off class, just because those are small-group coaching environments, and everything for the Den has to be something hundreds can attend at once.

  4. Kathy Kramer

    Thank you for this post! I write for one content mill, which I’m trying to get out of. It’s not Demand Studios. In fact, I’ve never heard of it until I came here. I actually view my time doing this as an “internship”. Right now, I’m working on clips, because I don’t have many.

    I love this post because I’m in this position right now. It’s part inspiration/part kick in the pants. 🙂

    • Elaine Yue

      Hey Kathy! Keep a blog related to your niche – this will give you better clips than you could get from content mills because they are specific to your niche. As much as I wish my content mill article about cloud computing would impress my health clients, they didn’t really help much!

  5. Anita

    Good for you, Elaine. Thanks for a bit of specific, concrete inspiration.

    Here’s to many more successes.

    • Elaine Yue

      Thanks Elana and Anita! I’m happy to hear that this post helped you. I actually have even more specifics (including a list of resources that have helped me a lot) on my page. Click on my link in the author box if you want to know even more!

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