Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Writer's Two Cents About the Content Mill Debate

If you don’t know already, Content Mills are agencies that herd in thousands of articles written by people who are paid a small amount per article (usually something between $2-$30), or are paid a small amount per word (usually something around $.01-$.40). You have heard the term before, I am certain, but if you need a re-fresher there is a more in-depth explanation of what a Content Mill is here.

There has been a lot of debate floating around the Internet surrounding the topic of Content Mills. There are those who disapprove of the Mills all together; feeling they do nothing but take advantage of writers. But, there are others who support Mills; believing they are a reasonable source of income.

It wasn’t until I came across several articles written by people who were either praising Content Mills or bashing them that I decided to take a moment to reflect on my own feelings towards Mills and offer my two cents.

The underlying inquiries I noted most often:

·         Are Content Mills a waste of a fledgling writer’s time, or are they stepping stones for writers wanting a foot in the door . . . any door?

·         Are the articles expected to be written worth the time and effort for the few pennies being offered as payment, or do writers not care and see the work as a chance to gain experience for future projects that will offer better payment?

I can speak from experience, I wrote for a few different Content Mills.

Truthfully, it didn’t take me long to realize that my heart wasn’t with writing for them. In fact, it was enough to make me sick every time I had to write a 300-500 word article on a topic that interested me very little.

It wasn’t long before I found myself in a position where I could continue to pour my time into writing for “search and claim assignment” sites, or sites that assign writers a list of relevant keywords to use for articles (usually themed: food, holiday parties).

I could continue to devote myself to searching and writing assignments (the few assignments) that at least invoked some sort of interest. I could continue to painstakingly take my time and thoroughly research every assignment in order to write an informative and interesting article, regardless if I had little interest in the subject and received a small payment for my hard work.

Then it dawned on me:

If I took this much time and effort into writing stuff that I could care less about, what would happen if I invest my time and effort into writing things I am passionate about, things that inflame my heart. Why can’t I make money writing about what interests me?

From that realization, I moved on to pursue other freelance writing projects. Do I regret the time I spent writing for Content Mills ~ searching for assignments, gathering sources for each article, and actually writing the article within the allotted time?

Absolutely not.

And I will tell you why.

When the first approval to write for a content mill came in my Inbox, I was ecstatic! Elated! Proud of myself! It was the boost of confidence I needed.

I was just beginning my on-line freelance writing career and was looking for a place to start. Seeing, “Congratulations you are approved as a Mill Writer” meant a lot to me. It meant I had a place to start.

To me, Mills are not a waste of time for a writer just beginning. I look at them as stepping stones that have the potential to provide freelance writers ~ those wanting to make money writing ~ with many valuable learning experiences.

In my experience:

Mills offered me a crash course in the operations of an on-line world.

·         They introduced me to PayPal which I have found to be a valuable resource. Being new to freelance writing and the on-line world I had no idea that a site like PayPal existed. The Mill I was writing for required all writers to have an account so payments could be made. I wanted my money, so I created an account and have since learned a great deal about the different services PayPal offers.

·         I learned how to navigate through websites; access my account, claiming assignments, submitting assignments and so forth. Each Content Mill has a different process for claiming, receiving and submitting assignments and each, in their own way, taught me a little more about the inner-workings of the on-line world.

·         I gained a great deal of knowledge about effective use of keywords and learning the importance of Search Engine Optimization and Latent Semantic Indexing. Not to mention learning a few SEO and LSI techniques.

·         It also exposed me to the inter-mingling of the on-line world: the forums and message boards, social media and the world of blogging.

Mills offered me the opportunity to search and discover more about myself.

·         It was while writing for Mills when I realized my likes and dislikes. I discovered things that really moved me. It was probably during this enlightening moment I realized that writing for Content Mills just wasn’t for me. Instead, I had a desire for bigger and better things. I will always appreciate the knowledge gained from writing for them, though.

·         I also learned – reluctantly – that I am a slow writer. It takes time selecting the right words, the right tone, and the right resources. I write and re-write a lot. It is my goal to make certain I have covered all the information and included some high points to be fondly remembered. That takes time, more time than many Mills allot. I found myself rushing to write a piece and always felt unsatisfied with the article I wrote, believing if I had more time I could have made it better.

It was the dawn of myself that woke me up to the vast opportunities I had as a writer other than writing for Content Mills. I wasn’t happy with the amount of work involved for the few pennies they paid. I wanted a bit more freedom with my writing. I learned from them. I grew from my experience and I set out on other paths.

Would I recommend writing for a Content Mill?

If you are just beginning as a writer, Yes. Yes, I would recommend writing for a Mill. The learning experience is priceless.

What have been your experience working with Content Mills? Was it positive? Do you regret the time you spent writing for them?

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