Should Freelance Bloggers Work For Content Mills?
I recently read a post over at Be a Freelance Blogger by Razwana Wahid rather controversially entitled Deception Revealed: 6 Bullshit Blogging Myths Created by Famous Bloggers.
When I look back at the advice I have doled out over the years, I found that I had avoided all but one of Razwana’s ‘bullshit blogging myths’. The one piece of advice mentioned in the post that I have supported in the past is not to work for content mills. With that in mind, I was interested to read about the author’s reasons as to why one might consider working for content mills.
In this post I want to explore the author’s reasoning as well as my own, and then open the topic up to discussion for you in the comments section below.
What is a Content Mill?
But before that, perhaps I should first clarify what I mean by a ‘content mill’ (or ‘content farm’ as they are sometimes known).
This is the definition of a content mill according to Wikipedia:
…a company that employs large numbers of freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines.
I can go along with that broad definition. We’re talking about the likes of Text Broker and Demand Media. You can work for these companies and get paid a few bucks to write an article on just about any topic imaginable.
Why You Shouldn’t Work for a Content Mill
My advice in the past has typically been to avoid content mills like the plague. My reasoning was twofold:
- You can get paid more for even the lowest-paying jobs sourced independently (i.e. from job boards).
- Because you are ghostwriting, you can’t use the material you write as samples.
To put it another way, it’s far better to be paid $5 to write a published article under your own name that you can link to than $5 for a mystery piece of content that you’ll never see ‘in the flesh’.
My reasoning historically started and finished there, because it seemed pretty bulletproof to me.
However, over the years I have heard arguments for content mills from freelance bloggers, and the BafB article I recently read piqued my interest to the extent that I am now writing this post.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the reasons as to why you might choose to work for a content mill.
Why You Should Work for a Content Mill
The writers over at Be a Freelance Blogger have already done the work for me on this front.
Razwana skimmed the surface of the argument for content mills in her post:
As well has having the opportunity to write about a variety of topics, content mills also teach you discipline. You write to strict criteria, and to a deadline – two crucial skills to build early on.
And what’s more? Content mills are great for your skin – a thick skin, that is. Because their requirements are so specific, they’ll take no time to ruthlessly reject you. Rejection early on toughens you up and makes you realise these are the rules of the game.
But that’s not all. Her post linked to another article on BaFB by Shannon Cutts in which no less than six different benefits to writing for content mills are explored. I’ll summarize my four favorites here:
- You’re expected to research and write about a huge number of topics (giving you confidence to do so in the ‘real world’).
- It requires discipline and organization (two of the most important assets for becoming a successful freelance blogger).
- It teaches you to act on instructions and react to criticism constructively.
- You can get paid to write!
There’s something missing here though – alluded to in the article but not explicitly stated – writing for content mills can give you confidence. And there is no understating the importance of confidence as a freelance writer. It can be the difference between sending a pitch and not, or reacting positively to client feedback or giving up.
What Do You Think About Content Mills?
As you may have guessed by now, my attitude towards content mills has changed. That change has been taking place over the past year or two; ever since someone made the point that while working for content mills will not earn you much, it can do a lot in terms of building confidence.
So from now on, my advice is that you should consider working for content mills if you feel that you are not ready to work directly with clients and will benefit from a more ‘sterile’ working arrangement. You’ll never earn enough from content mills to make a decent living (unless you work yourself into the ground), and you should always be looking to take the next step up when it seems feasible, but perhaps content mills would be a good way for you to get on the ladder.
But what do you think? I’d love to hear from people who are both for and against content mills. Fire away in the comments section below!
Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar