A few years ago, I found myself in a bind. I graduated with my MPS in Publishing and had big plans of earning a full-time income from some sort of writing and publishing. As a single mother who has worked from home for over a decade, returning to the traditional workforce was not an option. I had no bylines, no real experience, and a goal to fulfill.
It wasn’t long before my search for a writing opportunity led me to Crowd Content. As far as content mills go, it seemed to be midlevel. I created a writer profile, took a skill level test and started claiming jobs. The general rules are that a writer may accept four jobs at a time, the deadlines are ridiculously tight and inflexible, and gaining “favorite” status from clients is important. If a deadline is missed or a client complains, the writer is demoted.
I quickly accepted jobs of all kinds. I wrote product descriptions for online vape stores, press releases for Las Vegas lingerie parties, and fin tech and legal blog posts. I wrote until 1AM and woke up at 5AM to write some more. Meeting the insane deadlines was an act of futility. But, my skill level was “4 Star” and I was earning 6 to 7 cents per word, so it added up. After a couple of months, I was consistently making $1800/month. Not a full-time salary, but a start.
It didn’t take me long to figure out that even if I worked for eight full hours each day, I would never make more than $3,000/month and that fell remarkably short of my goal. I would have to work smarter, not harder. So, here is what I did:
1. Identify the Big Fish
A few of my content mill clients stood out and with a bit of research, I had a list of seven clients that I would love to work for outside of the content mill.
2. Focus on Relationships
Content mills desperately try to limit contact between writers and clients to preserve their profitable workflow. I worked within their system to build strong relationships based on reliability and high quality work with my seven clients. These clients expressed frustration with the rigidity of the platform and so we had that in common.
With some research, I contacted my list of seven through either email or social media. (If the content mill knows that you are usurping their platform, they will ban you, so make sure that you are prepared.) My pitch looked something like this:
“I have been writing for your company for a few months. I plan to leave Crowd Content because of the inflexibility of their platform, but would like to continue writing for your company. I am guessing that you pay 12 to 15 cents per word for my blog posts. If you are interested in hiring me outside of Crowd Content, pricing will only be 10 cents per word for future blog posts.”
Five of the seven clients replied and hired me outside of Crowd Content. They are now paying less, and I am making more in fewer hours. I complete complex projects that were not supported by Crowd Content. My income quickly rose to $2600/month writing for my select five clients. Today, I still write for three of the five, but my rate has increased and they are happy to pay it. Since my experience, a new breed of writer friendly content mills have emerged, but when content mills gave me lemons I decided to drink expensive lemonade.
Julie Wilson is a serial entrepreneur and regular contributor to several publications, including the “How To Start Up Business Blog,” Golf Car Advisor, and Mobile Cuisine. In addition, she puts brands on the map with content-centric marketing plans.