Is It Time to Stop Working with a Freelancing Content Mill?

posted in: Freelancing Tips, The Blog | 22

There comes a time in every freelance career when you need to step off the seemingly safe (yet very restrictive) platform provided to you by content mills.  Is it that time?  How do you know?

I created this website to share the knowledge I am gaining as I move through my freelancing career.  It is my hope that you can take something of value from my mistakes and my learning experiences to enrich your own freelancing experience.  If I’m honest, I think waiting as long as I have to finally move off the content mill platform has been one of those mistakes.  But late is better than never.

I’ve partially moved into working one-on-one with clients and will explain some of what I learned through those experiences in other posts.  I’ll also talk about what else I’m learning along the way and try to share as many resources as I come across.  For now, though, let’s look at why it is important to move off these platforms and when to know it’s time.

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Knowing You’re Worth More than You’re Getting

Recently, I too faced this issue.  After a few issues with Upwork (my content mill of choice up until this point) I asked myself, “What the hell am I doing?  Aren’t I worth more than this?”

The truth is, I’ve not only been greatly disrespected by potential (and actual) clients on that content mill platform but I’ve even been shrugged off as unimportant by the staff at Upwork itself.  I’ve always known that, to get proper respectful treatment on these websites we need to be our own advocates and have to, for lack of a better phrase, cut through the bullshit of clients who just trying to take advantage of people who don’t yet know how to value themselves.  “I can get someone to do it for cheaper,” they say, trying to intimidate me into working for less than minimum wage.  “Go for it,” became my response.

Before I go too far, here, I want to say a few things.  I still think that a content mill can be a great way to get started in this industry.  You have to make a name for yourself somehow and picking up clients with semi-low bids off the hop is a good way to do just that without spending hours building a portfolio with cold calls and by slowly filling up your own blog.  That being said, for most freelancers there comes a point where they hit a wall where growing their career suddenly doesn’t seem possible on a content mill.

Check out this video (from a Live broadcast on the Freelancing Advice for Beginners Facebook group) where I talk about my own experience in more detail:

You’re Bored

Do you feel stuck?  Does your career feel like it’s going nowhere?  Maybe you’ve done well for yourself, like I did, and managed to make some good money on your content mill of choice.  And it was probably fun when you first started, right?  You had that exhilarating feeling of making money doing something you love.  That feeling when you landed that first job.  Then the second.  Then the third.  But it wore off, didn’t it?

At some point along the way you realized that the challenge was gone.  And, for those of us who are passionate enough about something to quit our day jobs in favor of creating our own business, boring just isn’t good enough.  We aren’t cut out for that life of “I did good enough.”  We are the type of people who have ever-elevating goals.

It doesn’t matter what those elevating goals are.  Maybe you want to see just how much money you can make.  Maybe you want to move out of basic content creation and become the person doing the hiring instead of the person being hired.  Maybe you want to be able to land bigger clients and build a more impressive portfolio.  Whatever your bigger goals are, if you realize that it just isn’t possible to reach them on your content mill, it may be time to cut your ties.

I will be talking more about taking those first few steps off the content mill platforms in future blogs and on my YouTube channel, so please check back for live links to those posts!

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Have you made a move off of a content mill?  What prompted you to make that move?  How do you feel about?  Share your experiences and ask questions below!

22 Responses

    • amylynn

      Yes it can. I’ve even sourced out through content mills in the past for one website I was working on. As our careers grow and we step out of freelancing and into building our own websites and blogs for profit it can be a great resource for us in a completely different way.

      What is it that you do in podcasts and youtube?

  1. Shadlyn

    I just finished watching your video and you gave out some great points. You’re not alone I had my second client and it was not the best at all.

    • amylynn

      I’m all for content mills at the right place and time, even with those inevitable bad clients, but I really feel that there comes a point when, to grow your career, you have to spread your wings and take the plunge off that platform, ya know?

      Are you just starting out in the freelancing world?

  2. Stephanie Jeannot

    Writing is one of my favorite things to do. And so, I pursued it as a collegiate study. I am now exploring the many ways to implement what I got my degree to do in my professional life. This is a great post. Thank you!

  3. Alicia Taylor

    I haven’t ever worked in a freelance mill before. Thankfully, all of my clients treat me with a great deal of respect and appreciation.

  4. erica ardali

    I’m still in my first year and I really fill like I might not have the numbers for bigger campaigns, but I am worth way more than a free Product, especially when said free product doesn’t have a value equal to or greater than the time and work I put into a review post.

    • amylynn

      It sounds like you’re facing a challenge. I’m sorry that I don’t fully follow what you’re saying. What is the free product you’re referring to?

  5. Ayana Nell

    I’ve never heard of a content mill, interesting!! I’m glad you’re sticking up for yourself and moving on the better things, and people who will treat you with respect!

  6. Amber Stanfield

    I’ve never heard of content mills before, so this was very interesting reading. It is very tiring, and overwhelming at times to write a steady flow of content for my blog though. I am going to share this article with my sister, who does a lot of freelance work and consulting. Great article!

    • amylynn

      It can be quite tiring to keep up the flow on a blog. Have you tried recycling content into different forms and using a scheduler so you can write multiple pieces at once? Thank you for sharing it with your sister, I hope she finds it helpful.

  7. Kelley Farrell

    Following! I used to be a published writer when print was The Thing but stopped years ago when businesses began flocking to Associated Content (and other, similar mills) paying $5 to save money on articles and settling for poor writing. How could I get excited about working my butt off producing an article and only getting paid $5? People told me to stop putting in so much effort and just crank out easy stuff that fit. It felt like I was selling my soul so I just stopped.

    Anyway, I’m really looking forward to reading this!

    • amylynn

      Yeah it’s hard to swallow THAT pill. I found that I had to take on some jobs I wasn’t entirely passionate about, but working up the ladder is a real thing in any industry in my opinion. $5 an article is a little outrageous, though. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about getting paid in “exposure” and I won’t lie, I’ve offered that to willing writers before on my volunteer mental health website (it was all volunteer, though, I didn’t make any money like a lot of these other people who offer to pay in exposure). I once even took an exposure gig myself, writing an entire book under someone’s guidance and supervision just to get my name on the cover with a respected name beside it. It was a ton of work but did pay off in helping me land those high-paying jobs. I think it comes down to knowing when you can accept that low rate and promising yourself you’ll only do it a few times. I also think a lot more writers need to remember that we aren’t the golden children who are going to get paid $300 an article in our first few years of working. Anything requires patience, time, and building a portfolio. Try not to get too discouraged. Know your boundaries, know your worth, always work to improve yourself, and try to get contracts with clients that allow you to overtly state the work you’ve done in your resume/portfolio.

      Also, stay tuned because I have a lot more coming along these lines that you may find helpful. Feel free to join my mailing list or our facebook group

      You may also like this post:

  8. Elizabeth O

    I am new to content mills but what you are saying sounds interesting. I hope your journey to help others come away from content mills goes will 🙂

    • amylynn

      Thank you. I’m not really trying to lure people away from content mills. I certainly think they have their time and their place and can be a great stepping stone and introduction point to the freelancing world. I just believe that, in order to grow our careers, we eventually need to walk away from those websites.

  9. Amy

    I am also new to the phrase content mills, but it definitely sounds like it’s worth spreading your wings and moving beyond that eventually. It does sound like a good place to start for freelancers.

  10. Tiffany Yong

    Perhaps my goals being a blogger wasn’t just to blog from the start, it was to supplement my acting gigs, hence it was difficult to think in that way… but it’s a good food-for-thought for those who have been doing that!

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