I’m a Freelancer – Should I Look for Work on a Content Mill?

I’m a Freelancer – Should I Look for Work on a Content Mill?

freelancing advice for beginners | freelancing tip | content mills | should i work for a content mill | how to find jobs as a freelancer | what is a content millWhen we first start out, many of us aren’t sure where to begin.  Some of us stumble onto job posting boards, forever feeling like we’re bashing our heads off the wall with no real portfolios to help us nab the good jobs.  Some of us find content mill websites (like Upwork and Freelancer) and begin to make a name for ourselves on there, snapping up low-paying jobs and searching for the proverbial “white whale.”

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of negative things about content mills, so I wanted to take some time to identify their strengths and weaknesses and to help you understand how to best use them as a tool to push your new freelancing career to its next phase.

What is A Content Mill?

To really understand whether or not you should work for a content mill, it’s good to know what one is.  Based on my experience working with several content mills over the past few years here is my understanding of what they are.

  • A Content Mill Connects Freelancers and Clients (A website that connects writers and other kinds of freelancers with paying clients.)
  • A Service that Protects Freelancers (Sometimes an intermediary who ensures that freelancers get the pay they work for.)
  • A Service that Protects Clients (Sometimes an intermediary who ensures that clients get the work they pay for.)
  • A Company Looking to Make Money

What A Content Mill is Not

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about content mills.  I’ve come across a lot of negative opinions about them on the various forums I frequent and, for quite some time, I scratched my head wondering why people held these negative views.  I’ve had a great experience working for one content mill in particular (which I mention in other posts but won’t do here for the integrity of this article).

Here, I’d like to address some of the negative viewpoints I’ve come across that I simply do not agree with.

Content Mills Are (Not) A Scam

There might be some people out there who try to scam you through content mills but they would try to take advantage of you even without the mill involved.

Content Mills Are (Not) a Waste of Your Time

You may not be getting those high-paying jobs yet but we’ll get you there!  In fact, I will soon be releasing a post about how to land those high-paying clients (if clicking this link actually takes you to that article you are in luck and it’s already been released!)

Content Mills Are (Not) Only a Source of Low-Paying Jobs

Though some of the jobs certainly are low-paying and some of the clients are looking for people willing to work for nothing you CAN find good-paying jobs on these sites.

So, Should You Spend Your Time Looking for Work on Content Mills?

The short answer is, yes.  I believe that they are actually one of the best ways to get started in the freelancing industry.  That is, unless you have tons of spare time to spend setting up your own website, writing fantastic blog articles, cold calling and pitching to potential clients who may not even be looking for a freelancer, etc.  If you don’t have time to sit around doing those things, though, content mills are a great way to get started and to start making money so that you can afford to find the time to do all of those other things that will eventually remove the middleman.

What Do You Think?

Leave your comments and questions below.  I’d love to know about your experiences with content mills and what you think about using them as a new freelancer (or any freelancer for that matter).  Do you have any advice for fellow freelancers when it comes to using content mills?

30 Comments

  • Michelle Leslie

    January 15, 2018 at 3:13 pm Reply

    I’ve actually never heard of Content Mills before. Mmmmm looks like I need to start investigating the different options. I really want to start freelancing towards the middle of the year so I really appreciate you sharing this Amy-Lynn. Thank you

    • amylynn

      January 15, 2018 at 3:20 pm Reply

      Hey Michelle. A lot of people start out with content mills (i.e. – upwork, problogger, freelancer, etc.) and can make an OK start with those. There is definitely a point where you should step off those platforms but it can be a good way to get started. If you have the time, energy, and experience (already have a portfolio) cold pitches may be better for you, though. Seeing as you’re already established online with your own website, etc. it may be better for you to go that route. Content mills are best for people (like me) who start off trying to make enough extra money on evenings and weekends to quit their day jobs but who have no portfolios to speak of.

  • Holly

    January 15, 2018 at 4:50 pm Reply

    This is news to me, content mills! I’m going to do some more research on it but thank you for all the information!

    Holly
    @styledbyhollyblog
    http://www.styledbyholly.com

  • Joanna

    January 15, 2018 at 5:58 pm Reply

    I am not a freelancer but I do hire people on these websites that you call content mills on behalf of my company. I usually hire people when we need design jobs doing or videos. I think it’s a great way to find talented people and personally, I am not going for the cheapest bid. I look at portfolios first and I choose whoever I want to hire based on that.

    • amylynn

      January 15, 2018 at 7:05 pm Reply

      <3 Love to hear from the other side of the fence here! This is why I began my career with a content mill and worked with one for about 3 years. As long as we (as freelancers) are willing to find people like you who are willing to pay for the quality work we will provide we can actually make a good living through content mills. It's unfortunate that there are a lot of clients out there who try to price gouge us and give honest clients like you a bad name by association. Thank you for your valuable comment Joanna!

  • Hunter S. Jones

    January 15, 2018 at 7:08 pm Reply

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ve never had any luck with any of those sites, but it might be worth my time to try it one more time.

    • amylynn

      January 15, 2018 at 7:11 pm Reply

      I think it all depends how you approach it and how well you protect yourself. There are horror stories and stories of rags to riches. I was able to quit my job and work full time in freelancing thanks to content mills. i’ve also had bad experiences which made me very happy to step off the content mill platform once I had built a portfolio and secured a few great clients.

  • Tanvi Rastogi

    January 15, 2018 at 7:46 pm Reply

    I had no idea but this information is useful. While I have never though about freelancing but I use the help of a lot of freelancers. I will definitely check it out.

    ❥ tanvii.com

  • Ithfifi

    January 15, 2018 at 8:19 pm Reply

    This was so helpful to read, I had not heard of content mills until your post. I don’t really make the most of my blogging in terms of monetization but I do want to start considering it more while I have free time. This was super helpful, thank you for sharing!

    • amylynn

      January 15, 2018 at 8:45 pm Reply

      Glad this was helpful! Feel free to join my mailing list or facebook group http://facebook.com/groups/freelancingadviceforbeginners for more information like this. I’m planning a bunch of blog posts in the near future (and much more) about getting a freelancing career off the ground, using content mills, and eventually moving away from content mills as your career grows. Best of luck!

  • Josselyn Radillo

    January 16, 2018 at 12:03 am Reply

    looks like I need to start investigating the different options. this is the first time I read content mill and i’m so grateful you explain it here

    • amylynn

      January 16, 2018 at 7:18 am Reply

      Glad it was helpful Josselyn. I have more posts on the way that talk about content mills, how to work with them, how to know when it’s time to move on, what steps to take afterward, etc. If you want updates please join my mailing list or my facebook group http://facebook.com/groups/freelancingadviceforbeginners

  • Karrie Frost

    January 16, 2018 at 3:10 am Reply

    It’s such a catch 22 – you need the experience to get the job, but can’t get experience without having done the jobs first. Sometimes, it’s worth getting your name out there (even if temporarily) to get the experience to get the high paying jobs. I’ve never heard of content mills, as freelancing is not my niche, but this type of thing is done in most corporate gigs. It’s not ideal, but sometimes, you have to grin and bear it to work your way up.
    It does feel as though they are taking advantage of people.

    • amylynn

      January 16, 2018 at 7:22 am Reply

      Yes, it can be tough. I’ve caught a lot of flack on some of the facebook communities I’m involved in for taking those low-paying jobs off the hop. I even worked evenings and weekends to write a book that a client had laid out. Normally I would have charged her and done it as ghostwriting but I proposed that she put my name on it as a co-author and I did it for free. That was risky. It took a long time and I sacrificed a good paycheck for it. BUT, it’s hard to find clients who won’t ask you to sign a non-disclosure in this industry and having that book to use as a reference for my skills has paid on significantly. Would I do it again? Probably not. But it was necessary at the time. It’s funny, to me, that I catch such flack from people for making those decision, but I always have a full roster of clients and I was able to quit my regular job within 8 months of starting freelancing and now I make twice as much as I did before.

  • Rachna Parmar

    January 16, 2018 at 6:02 am Reply

    I actually have a slightly different experience. When I started out writing professionally, a few content mills approached me. But the prices they were offering were very low. Hence, I felt it was not worth my time. But I know of others who have done this work to build their portfolio and then moved on to more rewarding work. In that sense, it can be a stepping stone for some.

    • amylynn

      January 16, 2018 at 7:16 am Reply

      I agree that it is usually a stepping stone and rarely an end game. Although, for some people, if you’re happy to have a moderately successful career with little room to go – if you value consistency they are a great long-term option. I’ve never heard of anyone being approached by a content mill though. How did that work? Did someone from UpWork or Freelancer, etc. reach out to you and ask you to join their website or just a potential client who used a content mill for their hiring platform? I find that the rates can start as low as $1 per 1000 words (ridiculous) for writers, but I’ve also landed writing gigs for $125 per blog post.

  • Samantha

    January 16, 2018 at 7:30 am Reply

    I’ve never heard of content mills before. It sounds like it can be beneficial while building up your profile. Having someone make sure you get paid and paid fairly also sounds really helpful.

  • Bea

    January 16, 2018 at 1:04 pm Reply

    I have never heard of Content Mills until I read this post. I will definitely keep this in mind when I want to start doing some freelance job!

  • Sue Tanya McHorgh

    January 16, 2018 at 1:17 pm Reply

    This is the first time hearing about content mills but it sounds very interesting. i will have to check it out. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Melanie williams

    January 16, 2018 at 1:21 pm Reply

    I have never heard of content mills before, I will have to look into this further for sure – thanks x

  • Shell

    January 16, 2018 at 3:04 pm Reply

    I loved reading this because this is not something I had ever heard of before. I’m super excited to look into these now and I think it would be a huge blessing!! Thanks so much!!!

  • Preet

    January 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm Reply

    As most of the other fellow readers, this is a new concept and area which I have not explored before but working online and with marketing people, this is for sure something that I am interested to dig more into. Looking forward to more posts related to these.

  • Tania

    January 16, 2018 at 6:28 pm Reply

    Content mills provide great opportunities for starters, as freelancers can get experience and earn some money there. Also, beginners can learn how to work with clients and grow their skills creating their own business in future.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Shruti Arora

    January 17, 2018 at 6:53 am Reply

    Never heard of this before, thanks for sharing this great post, its going to help lot of freelancers 🙂

  • Shubhada Bhide

    January 17, 2018 at 10:55 am Reply

    I’ve never heard about Content Mill before and its new to me. and I am glad that you shared this with us.

  • Agnes Vazhure

    January 17, 2018 at 4:07 pm Reply

    This is my first time to hear about Content Mill. and I am really glad that you shared this with us. I think I need to give some research about it.

  • Nina

    January 17, 2018 at 9:31 pm Reply

    Do you mean a website like Upwork or Flexjobs? I do find them to be interesting and a good place to start. Overall, that kind of work seems to be all about networking.

  • Elizabeth O

    January 18, 2018 at 6:33 pm Reply

    I’d never heard of a content mill before, this was very interesting and easy to understand. Great post 🙂

    • amylynn

      January 18, 2018 at 6:35 pm Reply

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. Mostly, I’m glad it was informative! Are you a freelancer?

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