A Five-Step Plan for Breaking Free from Content Mills

If you’re new to freelance writing you may have heard other writers warn you about content mills.

A Five-Step Plan for Breaking Free from Content Mills

But do you know how to spot them in order to steer clear? And what if you took a gig and found out later it was one of those content mills? How do you break free?

So, you want to be a freelance writer

For many new writers, the idea of making a living writing is an elusive dream.

They aren’t veterans with established credibility, they don’t have strong clippings from reputable sources, and they don’t have a network of colleagues to get advice from. They’re desperate for information but they hear conflicting advice and don’t know who to believe.

So they bid on jobs and take five dollars per article, all the while cold pitching blog after blog and freelance marketplace posting after freelance marketplace posting. Nothing is working.

They feel like frauds and wonder if it isn’t better to give up altogether.

Content mills AKA writers mills AKA content farms are all slang terms freelancers give to companies or websites that pump out cheap content intended to drive page views or profits and pay their writers next-to-nothing rates.

When you’re just starting out it’s easy to wind up in these content mills because they’re easy gigs to get and many new freelancers don’t know what a good rate is.

They’re so flattered and excited to get a job they take it without much consideration.

But wait. Doesn’t everyone start somewhere? And what if you’re already writing for content mills don’t even know it? Or what if you’re writing for content mills and you’re ready to make the break…what’s next?

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Five tips for breaking free from content mills

Get a website

If you’re hungry for work you need a website promoting your writing. It doesn’t have to be fancy but you do need to let prospective clients know what kind of writing you do, what kind of writing you have done, and how to get in touch.

Here are seven essential writer website elements if you’re wondering what you should put on your website.

Write a blog

Yes this is a lot of work but it’s also a great example of your writing style and voice. This fills in the gaps if you don’t have many good-quality clippings and demonstrates your dedication to the craft.

On the fence about blogging? Here are four reasons why I think freelancers should have a blog.

Create a marketing plan

Keep it simple at the beginning, but have a plan. Answer these questions: what type of writing do you want to do, what is your rate, what problems can you solve for your clients, and where are your ideal clients? Then make a plan to get your ideal client’s attention.

Here are some tips for marketing yourself as a writer without feeling sleazy or braggy.

Ask for help

This is hard. But in your circle there has got to be at least one person who is willing and able to help you by offering mentorship, advice, or introductions. But you do need to be vulnerable and reach out. If you don’t know where to start you can ask me.

Joining a writing group is an awesome way to find people who can help you escape content mills. Here are my best tips for finding good writing groups.

Practice pitching

There’s a whole psychology to pitching and it starts with mindset. If you believe you’re a fraud or you don’t deserve more than five dollars an article then your pitching will reflect that. Practice pitching and work on your confidence. Ask other writers what pitches have worked for them and make adjustments to your approach as necessary.

Wondering where to start with pitching? Learn how to write a query letter.

By following these five steps you will be on your way to creating a platform and landing clients. And with the support of fellow writers, you’ll pick up even more ways to reach your freelance writing goals.

If you're new to freelance writing you may have heard other writers warn you about content mills. But do you know how to spot them in order to steer clear?

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. There’s a writing section and a freelancing section I think you’ll get a lot out of.

I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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If you're new to freelance writing you may have heard other writers warn you about content mills. But do you know how to spot them in order to steer clear?
Content mills aka writers mills aka content farms are all slang terms freelancers give to companies or websites that pump out cheap content intended to drive page views or profits and pay their writers next-to-nothing rates. When you're just starting out freelance writing it's easy to wind up in these content mills because they're easy gigs to get and many new freelancers don't know what a good rate is. Want to break free? Here's your five-step plan for breaking free from content mills.

Why Prescriptive Non-Fiction is Worth Considering If You Don’t Know What to Write

The question, what is prescriptive non-fiction, isn’t the only question I received at a recent workshop I taught called Is It Time to Write Your Book. However, it’s one I have also asked so I thought it was an excellent topic to cover.

What is Prescriptive Non-Fiction

When I first started planning my book I thought there were two choices: fiction or non-fiction. But deciding on non-fiction is just the first step.

I outlined this a bit when I explained how word count changes based on book genre. Here is the TL;DR version.

Non-Fiction Genres

  • Devotional
  • Self-Help
  • Memoir
  • Narrative Non-Fiction
  • Biography
  • Prescriptive/How-To

And yes, there are more genres within non-fiction (personal development, practical non-fiction, general non-fiction). But that’s another topic for another day.

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What is prescriptive non-fiction?

Prescriptive non-fiction books are known as being strong topical guides or instructional how-to books. They help readers accomplish something or acquire a new skill.

Here are a few examples.

From these titles you know what you’re getting. First you’ll learn how to walk in high heels, then how to get great book reviews and finally how to write a first draft in 30 days.

What does it take to write prescriptive non-fiction?

In order to write a prescriptive non-fiction book the author has to know and understand the topic at a deep level. Deeper than the people who are learning the topic. An expert, if you will.

Another option, if the author is not an expert, is to curate interviews with experts and compile the information into a book.

Writing prescriptive non-fiction is a good option if you’re looking to write something but you don’t have an idea yet. Because chances are you’re an expert about something.

Think about what you know a lot about, what you have interest in and what you think you could spend a lot of time talking about without getting bored. The more specific you can get, the better.

If you’re looking for a challenge, read Nina Amir’s How to Blog a Prescriptive Nonfiction Book in 30 Days.

Of course you’ll need a tight writing schedule to accomplish that but I know you’re up for it.

Prescriptive non-fiction books are known as being strong topical guides or instructional how-to books. They help readers accomplish something or acquire a new skill.

One more thing. I think you’ll enjoy my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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Prescriptive non-fiction books are known as being strong topical guides or instructional how-to books. They help readers accomplish something or acquire a new skill.
Everyone is an expert in something so writing prescriptive non-fiction is a good option if you're looking to write something but you don't have an idea yet.

6 Helpful Services a Book Publicist Does for an Author

What does a book publicist do?

what does a book publicist do

In general, this is a broad name for a person who has direct and indirect influence on book sales. So it’s an interesting and important role.

But just how does a book publicist affect this positive influence? And what does a book publicist do for an author? And what does it take to be a book publicist?

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What does a publicist do, anyway?

Think of a publicist as both your biggest cheerleader and a teammate on your book marketing team.

He or she will champion your book to the media and sing about how wonderful it is. And my, how wonderful that feels.

They have one main goal: get positive press coverage for his or her client.

A book publicist gets involved in the process after your book goes to print but (in general) before it’s published.

You've decided to write a book tip sheet free download

By the way, are you thinking about writing a book? You are, aren’t you.

Read the post, How to Write a Book before you dive in. And when you’re ready, grab the complimentary worksheets that go along with the training. They’re in my resource library—just pop your email address in the form below for the password.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the writing section and look for “You’ve Decided to Write a Book Worksheet.”

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Here are a few things a book publicist does for an author

  1. Gets book reviews
  2. Gets articles written about the book or author
  3. Nominates book for awards
  4. Gets interviews for the author
  5. Sets up and promotes virtual book tours
  6. Schedules book talks and tours

These are all essential ingredients in the book marketing recipe for success.

Now if only you could look at marketing as a creative outlet instead of a thorn in your side we would all be singing to the bank.

But I digress

Of course an author can do his or her own marketing and if this is something you’re considering, here are some of the required skills.

Here are a few skills a book publicist should have in order to be successful

  • Ability to work with all kinds of different clients (every author is different and requires a different approach)
  • Strong writing and oral skills
  • Strong public relations skills
  • Knowledge of the journalism industry
  • Understanding of what journalists and book bloggers are looking for
  • Outgoing personality
  • Good at networking
  • Organized

Considering becoming a publicist? For extra credit, read So, You Want to Work in Publishing: The Role of a Publicist from Writer’s Digest

Your writer's statement worksheet free download

If you can get clear on why you’re writing, it will become a beacon of light showing you the way forward.

Download the Your Writer’s Statement worksheet from my resource library.

Pop your email address in the form below, confirm your subscription to my email list and I’ll send you the password to my free resource library. Once you’re in, navigate to the “writing” section and look for the worksheet titled, “Create a Writer’s Statement Worksheet.”

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There’s no question publicity (aka marketing) helps book sales. If people hear about a book they’re more likely to purchase it rather than one they’ve never heard of.

“If you write it they will come,” isn’t really a thing.

Before you get too worked up, I understand this isn’t your favourite thing but I still think you can rock your marketing. And when you need a boost, hire a book publicist.

Related posts

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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What does a book publicist do? It's a common question. In general, it is a broad name for a person who has direct and indirect influence on book sales.
What does a book publicist do? It's a common question. In general, it is a broad name for a person who has direct and indirect influence on book sales.
What does a book publicist do? It's a common question. In general, "book publicist" is a broad name for a person who has direct and indirect influence on book sales. So a book publicist is an interesting and important role. But just how does a book publicist affect this positive influence? And what does a book publicist do for a writer? And how long does it take?

3 Smart Questions to Ask to Discover Your Ideal Reader

No matter if you’re a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

Ideal Reader

What is an ideal reader?

This is a fictional persona to whom your writing will most appeal. While this is not a scientific process, creating a profile helps you write with purpose and enables you to craft elements into your writing that surprises and delights this person.

Your ideal reader represents who you are writing to. It’s one person, not many people. This is a specific process and if you do it right, your ideal reader will come alive in your mind.

What this means is you need to figure out who your ideal reader is, what his or her interests are, and why your ideal reader reads.

Your most important question is why will your ideal reader be interested in your book?

Whatever the why, all readers have one and it’s your job to discover it for your ideal reader.


Discover Your Ideal Readers Worksheet

Do you want the worksheet that goes with this training?

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Your ideal reader is your biggest fan

When you know who you’re writing to it gives your writing purpose and direction. This may seem like a strange exercise to go through but trust me, it’s a key step.

Even if it’s a loose definition, think about the person (real or fictional) who would most be interested in reading your work.

ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS

  • What does this person tend to focus on?
  • On social media, what does your ideal reader like sharing about?
  • From what you can gather, what does he/she most need/want/desire?

Once you know the answers to those initial questions answer this one: what problem are you solving for your ideal reader through your writing?

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Through thinking about your ideal reader you should have a few words and phrases jotted down. Take a look and add a few more words to the page.

This time, write down things about your ideal reader. Noting things like hopes, dreams, challenges or family dynamics can help you paint a picture.

It can be vague or specific, long or short. Just jot down as much as you can think of in a five-minute period.

Look at the list you came up with and compare it to your first one—are you seeing a character emerge? Write a biography for this person—whatever comes to mind with as much detail as you can include.

Remember, this is a creative exercise. You’re trying to imagine who the person is who can’t wait to read what you write. The more human you can make this person, the better.

No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

Here are a few marketing applications

In essence, marketing your writing is simple—put your writing in front of the people who will love it. If you have an idea of who your ideal reader is then finding those (real life) people is a lot easier. The more you know, the better.

  • What stores do they shop in? Now you know where to sell your work
  • Where do they hang out? Now you know where to hold workshops or readings
  • What is their favourite social media platform? Now you know where you need to be online
  • What are their biggest fears? Now you know how to help them
  • What do they care most about? Now you know how to relate to them
  • What type of marketing will they best respond to? Now you know what you need to do

There are a lot of ways you can find your ideal reader (or book buyer, or ideal client, etc.) so it’s important not just to parrot what you see others doing online but to find something that works for you and feels natural.

free fillable worksheet discover your ideal reader

Don’t forget to download your free worksheets for this training

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Other helpful articles

No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets (like the worksheet from today’s training!) and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.
No matter if you're a freelance writer or an author, knowing who your ideal reader is will make a huge difference to your writing career.

How to Find an Editor | 3 Tips

If you’re a writer wondering how to find an editor I’m here to tell you, you’re not alone. This is one of the most common questions I receive!

How to Find an Editor | 3 Tips

Yes, you should work with an editor

Now, you (the writer) might feel like hiring someone to edit your work is unnecessary.

The truth is, a good editor makes your writing better. And it’s in your best interest to work with one if you can.

They aren’t as close to your precious words and sentences (and commas and semi-colons) as you are and can give objective—not personal—advice on how to improve your work.

So consider it. Be open to it.

You've decided to write a book tip sheet

*Pause*

Are you thinking about writing a book? Read the post, How to Write a Book before you dive in. And when you’re ready, grab the complimentary worksheets that go along with the training. They’re in my resource library—just pop your email address in the form below for the password.

Once you’re in the library, navigate to the writing section and look for “You’ve Decided to Write a Book Worksheet.”

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Different types of editing

If you’re writing short-form pieces like articles, essays or blog posts, you’ll probably work with a copy editor or a proofreader.

If you’re writing long-form pieces like books then there are additional types of editing to consider.

  • Developmental editors takes a 30,000-foot view and look at the overall story and structure, ensuring the work flows from beginning to end
  • Copy editors go through material ensuring the work is suitable for the publication, check grammar, word usage, and punctuation, improve it for readability and organization and remove inconsistencies, errors and repetition
  • Proofreaders go through material in order to catch typos and fix formatting issues. At this stage there isn’t much (if any) reworking, just tweaks
How to find an editor | 3 tips

How to find an editor

Once you’ve decided what type of editing you require, here are a few things to consider when you’re looking to hire an editor.

  1. Ask people in your network for references. Use your network! They want to help you. If you don’t know any editors, ask someone who does. Get a referral then look at their website. If he or she seems like a good fit for you, reach out
  2. If you don’t have a network or you’re still looking, go to a professional editors association. Sure, you can look on freelance sites for an editor and you might find an awesome one but I recommend going to a professional association like Editors Canada first. In order to be accepted into an association like this editors need a track record, training and professional experience
  3. Choose an editor in your niche. Just like you have a specialty, individual editors specialize in their areas. Every genre and industry has different rules so you’ll benefit the most from an editor who understands your niche inside and out and can make sure your work conforms the way it needs to

During this process it’s a good idea to reach out to several editors and interview them.

This person will be working alongside you so you need to be confident in his or her work and abilities and you need to trust his or her judgment and advice.

And yes, it is acceptable to ask for a sample edit and to check references.

Would you like free writing tips? Sign up for my weekly tips & tricks, from one writer to another at robynroste.com/writing-tips.
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Final thoughts about how to find an editor

One other thing to keep in mind: if you’re not open to being edited there isn’t much your editor can do for you. Don’t hold on too tight.

Try and understand your editor wants to make your writing even better and isn’t attacking you or your person even though it can feel pretty unnerving at first.

If you can stick with it and trust your editor, you’ll learn a lot about writing…and yourself through the process.

If you're a writer wondering how to find an editor I'm here to tell you, you're not alone. This is one of the most common questions I receive! 

Now, you (the writer) might feel like hiring someone to edit your work is unnecessary. The truth is, a good editor makes your writing better and it's in your best interested to work with one if you can. They aren't as close to your precious words and sentences (and commas and semi-colons) as you are and can give objective—not personal—advice on how to improve your work.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
If you're a writer wondering how to find an editor I'm here to tell you, you're not alone. This is one of the most common questions I receive! 

Now, you (the writer) might feel like hiring someone to edit your work is unnecessary. The truth is, a good editor makes your writing better and it's in your best interested to work with one if you can. They aren't as close to your precious words and sentences (and commas and semi-colons) as you are and can give objective—not personal—advice on how to improve your work.
If you're a writer wondering how to find an editor I'm here to tell you, you're not alone. This is one of the most common questions I receive!