Among freelance writers, 23 percent spend at least 7 hours a week looking for work. I can’t always afford to put in that much unpaid time, so I put together a list of the best content mills that can help me – and you – fill in the gaps this year.
A Brief Disclaimer…
Content mills can be a great way to make ends meet when times are lean or get your foot in the door of freelance writing. For most people, though, it’s just a stepping stone, often at a lower pay rate. The real money is in pitching projects to editors and negotiating compensation directly.
That said, it’s difficult if not impossible to get a pitch accepted if you’ve never written professionally before. That’s where content mills come in – they help you pay the bills while you get started, when you’re building up your portfolio and learning what editors want.
Here’s how to make that strategy work for you without getting stuck writing for peanuts.
The Five Best Content Mills For Beginners
Writers don’t always have the best impression of content mills, but some actually pay fairly and offer good opportunities. Here are five of those.
Constant Content is a marketplace where you can fulfill an article request from one of the platform’s clients or write an article of your choice and offer it for sale.
If you choose the second option, you have the freedom to choose your purchase price. You get 65 percent of that amount if the article sells. Constant Content takes the other 35 percent.
There is a minimum purchase price of $7, but most articles are priced at around 10 cents per word. That’s high compared to many other content mills. Textbroker, for example, pays no more than 5 cents per word on its OpenOrder platform and as little as 0.7 cents per word to lower-tier writers.
Scripted is a competitive platform that hires only 2% of applicants. Accepted writers are free to set their own rates, the average being around 10 cents per word.
You get work on Scripted when clients post project requests with basic descriptions and you respond with a proposal. The client can approve more than one proposal, each of which is accepted, rejected, or returned for edits. You get paid after the article is accepted.
The client does have the option to reject an article, in which case you can receive partial payment. Scripted doesn’t post details of this stipulation publicly.
One caveat: Scripted charges a non-refundable fee to apply – $19 at the moment – which goes to the company’s “testing partner” and employees who evaluate applications. This is rare for a content mill. However, they do promise a one-time bonus of $50.
CrowdContent markets itself to writers of all levels, from beginner to experienced, so it makes a good jumping-off point for new freelancers.
There are two channels for getting work, the Freelance Writing Marketplace and the Managed Content platform. Writers on the Marketplace work directly with clients and those in Managed Content work with in-house editors and project managers.
There are opportunities on both platforms for writers of all levels. Some newcomers might feel more comfortable with Managed Content since in-house people will see your work before the client does.
The pay on CrowdContent is decent by content mill standards. Base rates are 1.2 cents for one-star writers up to 6.6 cents for four-star writers. Writers who submit quality content in a timely fashion can qualify for bonus rates, which range from 1.4 cents per word to 7.6 cents per word.
WriterAccess divides applicants into two categories. You start out in the Basic Marketplace, where you earn between 3 and 8 cents per word. Your pay level depends on a star rating that is determined by the quality of your work.
If you reliably produce high-quality content for WriterAccess, you can work your way up to the Pro Marketplace, where you can make 11 cents per word up to $2 per word depending on the project and your experience. This is at the higher end of most beginner content mills.
Clients who are impressed by your work can add you to their “love lists,” at which point you can get offers that a company only sends to writers on that list. Clients may even send you solo orders when they want you and only you to work on a particular project. The better you do, the more project offers you receive and the more you get paid.
Like Constant Content, ContentGather lets you offer a pre-written article for sale or claim a custom job. ContentGather does have a leg up on those pre-written article sales, however, since they pay an advance when you first post your offering, something that’s rare among traditional content mills. When your article is accepted, whether it’s pre-written or custom, you’ll earn between 2 cents and 12 cents per word.
Higher-priced articles typically go to writers at higher levels. ContentGather classifies writers into Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond categories. Your classification depends on your
- Article ratings from clients
- Article approval rate
- Number of transactions completed
- Level of experience on the platform
The top 5 percent of ContentGather’s writers qualify for Elite status. If you apply and get approved, your minimum payment will automatically be 10 cents per word. You can apply at any time, but you’ll probably have to submit samples if you’re new to the platform.
The Top Five High-End Content Mills
High-end content mills are a new breed of marketplace. Compared to their traditional counterparts, they pay better and they tend to be more selective in their acceptance process, making them more suitable for experienced writers. Here are five of the best.
Contently works a little bit differently than other content mills. It doesn’t have a job board and you can’t claim gigs. Instead, you create an internal portfolio that editors can search when a client needs content.
Contently’s clients are high-end and the pay reflects that – it’s even perhaps a little unfair to describe it as a content mill, because there’s direct negotiation. Rates are worked out between the freelancer and the client so it’s hard to predict how much you’ll get, but you can search Contently’s rates database to see what different clients have paid out recently. You can also see writers’ notes about working with a particular client, including whether they pay on time or not.
ClearVoice works a lot like Contently. You set up a portfolio on the site and get added to a talent network, which clients can view and select the freelancers they want to work with.
Unlike most content mills, ClearVoice lets freelance writers pitch to clients, which Contently doesn’t. It also lets you specify the role you prefer, offering options such as Content Strategist, Ghost Writer, and Copy Writer, and invites you to enhance your submissions with descriptions.
Freedom With Writing calls eByline “the best paying writing platform on the internet.” Its clients include the LA Times, the Miami Herald, and other top periodicals, as well as high-end copywriting clients. We get the feeling they’d hate to be described as a content mill, in fact…
Freedom With Writing describes a complex application process for eByline, but I was able to sign up instantly with my email address. That said, like ClearVoice and Contently, having a profile doesn’t guarantee work, so there is still quality control. Perhaps more so, since the clients are particularly prestigious here.
An eByline writer can browse topics that are open for pitches on the eByline Pitch Board, but some clients choose to browse the talent network and contact writers directly instead. You can even write on spec and post your article for purchase, as with Constant Content.
Compose.ly is an elite content platform that operates as a job board. You fill out a profile indicating your areas of expertise and the platform sends you projects that fit with your qualifications. You claim the ones you want and work directly with the client or through the Managed Service platform.
Compose.ly writers earn an average of 10 cents to 14 cents per word, which is much more than you’ll see on most job boards and content mills. Of course, not everyone gets approved – actually, more than 99 percent of applicants don’t, according to the company’s blog post here.
UpWork (Special Mention)
UpWork isn’t a content mill so much as a general freelance marketplace, but many writers get their start there (including yours truly).
You can set your own rate every time you apply for a job on UpWork, so it can be great for freelancers who are just getting their feet wet.
You can browse Entry, Intermediate, and Expert level jobs. As you might guess, clients looking for higher-level freelancers tend to have bigger budgets.
UpWork is definitely a bidding site, which is great for some people but not great for others. If you know how to pitch and negotiate, it can be lucrative for freelance writers. But there’s a lot more junk on there than the other content mills we’ve listed, and many more people who expect an awful lot for less than they’d pay a traditional content mill. So, treat with caution.
What do you think?
What have been the best content mills in your experience? If there are some unfamiliar ones here, we hope that it saved you the time of researching them all yourself. Remember, the faster you choose a mill or two and get signed up, the more time you have to make money and pitch clients. Learning to pitch is the core skill most freelance writers need to master in order to build a sustainable income stream without relying on content mills, so it’s in your interest to get practising as soon as you can!
If you did find this article useful, please share with anyone who wants to boost their freelance career or make some extra money writing.
Ellie is a full-time freelance writer with a background in playwriting, theater, and dance. She especially loves writing articles that help creatives and freelancers manage their time, talent, and money.