By Samar Owais
You hear it everywhere: Writing for content mills is bad business. If you do it, your freelance writing business won’t grow and you’ll forever be stuck in a rut.
Granted, writing for content mills is bad for business — in the long term. However, there is nothing wrong with writing for them in the beginning.
The secret to making content mills work for you
Content mills can give you samples, experience and your first few clients. The secret to writing for content mills is to have an exit plan. Take the time to mark out your strategy.
When I started freelancing, I wrote a few articles for Helium. Then I used those articles to get accepted into Bright Hub, which paid $10 an article at the time. From there, I used my Bright Hub articles as samples whenever I applied to writing jobs.
Proactively look for work
I didn’t want to write for content mills forever so my strategy was simple: Find client work – any work, even if it was low paying.
I blogged regularly to get more samples and would spend an hour every day scouring Craigslist and various other job boards. I applied to every job for which I was qualified. If I didn’t have a related sample, I wrote one tailored specifically for the job.
Another thing I was very careful about was not linking to my content-mill articles in the applications. I would either paste them in the email body or send them as Word, PDF or text documents, depending on the job specifications.
My first client was a small plumbing company that paid me $10/article. I applied to their ad on Craigslist with a sample written especially for them.
Don’t let low-paying clients define your freelance writing business
I’d like to tell you I was very business savvy. That once I got clients, I started raising my rates. The truth is, raising my rates didn’t even occur to me for six months! It wasn’t until I landed another gig (through Craigslist again) that paid $15/article that I realized I could earn more.
Raise your rates to attract the clients you want
Soon after, I applied for a blogging gig that asked for a quote. That’s when I realized I could be charging more instead of just accepting the rates clients set! I decided to double my article writing rates, quoted $30 and was accepted! I slowly raised my rates to $50/post.
My clientele changed with the change in my rates. Now instead of writing for plumbing companies, I was writing for solopreneurs and other freelancers who subcontracted their work.
One thing I always did was quote $15 above my rates so that even if the client negotiated, I could give them a ‘discount’ and not go below my actual rates.
Turn prospects into clients
With every job application, rejection and job I got, I learned the art of turning prospects into clients. I learned that for a prospect to think of you when they need a freelancer, you have to
- Stay in touch: Even if you’ve been rejected, stay in touch with the prospect so that the next time they need to hire a freelancer, they’ll think of you. I follow my prospects on Twitter and send occasional emails.
- Follow up: If you haven’t heard back from the prospect, follow up after a week. Quite a few times a client has told me that my application got lost in their inbox.
- Provide value: Every time you contact your prospect, go out of your way to provide value.
Writing for content mills gave me an entry in freelancing world and gave me a safety net while I searched for clients.
You can successfully use content mills to get started in freelance writing — as long as you have an exit plan.
Samar Owais is a freelance writer and blogger. She offers rock-solid tips for freelancing success at The Writing Base, along with a free 58-Page Guide to Turning Prospects into Clients.