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? And what if you took a gig and found out later it was one of those content mills? How do you break free?
A Five-Step Plan for Breaking Free from Content Mills
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?
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.
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.
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