How I Scored Great Clients Off My Low Paid Content Mill Gig

Editor

Freelance writers need stepping stonesBy Angie Mansfield

We all know how Carol feels about freelance writing content mills, and I absolutely agree with her.

They’re not a way to make a good living.

But can you ever make a mill job work for you? I did.

Here’s how.

Find the “right” mill

I worked for Demand Studios years ago, but I escaped and never looked back.

Earlier this year, though, someone in the Freelance Writers Den asked a question about a mill called Media Shower. I’d never heard of it, so I decided to go through the application process, just to report back to the Den.

I found out that MS uses a guest blogging model to get its clients’ links all over the web. Writers get a bio with a link to their Google Plus profiles in order to establish Google Authorship. Pay is $25 per 500-word post.

I got accepted, then didn’t do anything with them for awhile because I didn’t want to get sucked into another mill. But the more I thought about it, the more I started to wonder: Could I make that bio work for me?

Use it as a marketing platform

Specifically, I wondered if I could turn my posts into a marketing tool for my freelancing business. By writing high-quality posts and including my G+ link, I’d give potential clients a showcase of my skills and a way to track me down. I made sure to link to my regular website from my Google profile, and then I waited.

It took a couple of months, but then the emails started trickling in. One day, I even got three emails, all from different clients who’d read my MS posts on websites they visited.

Those posts turned out to be a decent marketing tool. They landed me two ongoing gigs (both for blog ghostwriting), along with a special request to write an article for the digital edition of Business Review Australia.

Not a bad return for my experiment. And I got paid for marketing my services!

Learn from it

I should make a disclaimer here: I still do not recommend writing for content mills. At all. $25/post works out to about $25 an hour (you don’t get to pick your topics at MS, so you’ll have to do some research). As Carol has mentioned, that’s not a livable wage for a freelancer.

But if you’re going to write for a mill anyway, here are a few lessons I’ve learned:

  • Pick a mill that gives you a byline, and try to stick with mills that give readers a way to find you directly.
  • Always do high-quality work. You never know who’s reading those quick, piecemeal posts.
  • Keep marketing to real clients. Your goal should be to move up and not have to use the mill anymore.

Content mills aren’t a viable long-term option for freelancers. But with a little strategy, I managed to turn a mill gig into a decent marketing tool.

Angie Mansfield is a freelance copywriter, moderator-in-chief of the Freelance Writers Den, and “mom” to a chatty bird, a bratty cat, and a bouncing baby goldendoodle.

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45 Comments

  1. Sorilbran

    This is super helpful. It’s not just me. Over the weekend, I picked up Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid. Reading the book really helped me to identify who it is I’m targeting, who my customers are and how to better position myself to pursue the clients with whom I want to work, not just the ones who accept my low bid. Makes all the difference in the world.

    In the past, I worked with content mills for a variety of reasons – as a newbie to build my portfolio and feedback, to learn new skills (one mill trained me in SEO), even recently to increase my writing and research speeds. But in the end, it always grates on me something awful. When I think about the dozens of books I’ve ghostwritten and the hundreds of articles I’ve penned to which I have no rights and no byline, it makes me sick. I now know better. I now do better.

  2. Mary

    I’ve sent out a few queries to some magazines recently. I’m trying to get away from the content mills as well. One problem I have is that when you’ve never written for a magazine, they naturally want some samples of your published work. However, most of my best content was ghost written. I’m afraid the few that were published in my name aren’t good enough to get the job. Would it be appropiate to give some links to articles that I did ghost write and explain that to the editor?

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