Can We Talk About Content Mills?

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If you’ve been blogging for at least a hot minute, or if you’ve been looking for remote writing jobs, you’ve probably come across mention of content mills. They’re also referred to as content farms on Wikipedia, but no matter what nomenclature some website assigns them, they mean the same thing.

Content writing mills, or content farms, are companies that either produce content for the clicks, or they’re companies where you can buy content for whatever at a low price.

You may have come across job postings for remote writing jobs couched in vague terms, but describing a substantial amount of work. It’s very rare for job postings from these companies to quote a pay rate in the description. However, I found one company dumb enough to admit to their pay rate in the listing several months ago. The listing wasn’t up long, though.

Big shocker.

Sometimes they may even have super-lengthy job descriptions, where their wish list (and yes, this is what it is: a wish list) will include advanced degrees, speaking multiple languages, the ability to read at least three times as many other languages, multiple professional licenses, with preferences for additional advanced degrees. For instance, they may want someone who’s got an M.D. (or M.B.B.S) degree and a law degree in addition to undergraduate education.

Other times, they may want someone with portfolios full of clips large enough to take up multiple flash drives, but only a college (or university) undergraduate degree, if they must.

My job search has taken me to a couple of companies that turned out to be content mills. I won’t name them, because at this point, they know what they’re doing, and they don’t care. I’m not giving them the publicity or the clicks, either. Both companies sent me packets of information outlining next steps, telling me to fill them out and return them at my earliest convenience.

Their information packets included writing exercises involving 500-1000 word posts, just like what the rest of the job description they conveniently forgot to list in on the job boards I found them at. One wanted at least 1o of these posts, at least 1000 words each, per week. They didn’t specify whether or not graphics would need to be included, but I’m going out on a limb and guessing that they may have been.

At least that’s the cynical side of me talking. I’m hoping they wouldn’t ask that, but if the baseline workload’s like this, then I wouldn’t put it past them to do so. I’ve heard that other content farms will require graphics with their posts, so to be fair to this company, we’ll leave it in the air.

The pay rate was 20 dollars per 1000 word post for one company. The other one was not only pay-per-click, the compensation was only after a certain amount of clicks, at 20 dollars, and if it met their criteria.

To be fair, the last one wasn’t specifically calling itself a content farm, but the similarities between it and the first one (a confirmed mill) are too many to overlook. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and if it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

I wasn’t moving forward with either of these companies. I’m already doing this blog for free, so why should I basically do the same for a company that assigns their freelancers workloads big enough to give a med school student a run for their money at a compensation rate of mere pennies?

Nope. My time’s more valuable than that, and so is yours. Seriously, you can do better, and you deserve better than what companies like this have to offer. Any content mill with the audacity to believe there’s someone out there with the intellect of Stephen Hawking, the publication track record of Edward Said, and also happens to be a 5-star general and polyglot willing to come write for them and get compensated for the pittance they dish out is delusional af.

So, are there any content mills that pay well? What content mills should I write for? To answer the first question, I’ve yet to find or hear of a single content mill that pays well. Maybe there’s an outlier somewhere out there, to play devil’s advocate.

Hey, stranger things have happened, I guess.

But, from what I’ve gathered, the terms “content mill” and “pays well” are mutually exclusive. In other words, you have other options besides these content mills. Not only is the pay rate pathetic for the abusive workload they dish out, by taking the job, you’re legitimizing what they’re doing, and you’re telling them that what they’re doing is ok.

Skip them, and move on to greener pastures.

If you didn’t know they were a content mill when you applied, you can back out of any interviews. If you never heard back from them, consider it a huge blessing, and keep your job hunt moving.

But what if I want content for my blog or website, and I absolutely have to buy from a content mill?

Another great question. I can’t make that decision for you, but I would encourage you to write the content yourself. The way I figure it, if you’re creative enough to set up a blog or website, then you’re creative enough to come up with your own work instead.

But what if I don’t have the time to write it myself? That’s why I NEED a content mill!

Fair enough. You’re reading this right now, amirite or amirite? Anyways, in all seriousness, make the time to write it yourself, even if it’s in pieces or a paragraph a day. You probably won’t be able to post it on the timeline you would have if you’d gone the route of a content mill to do the work for you, but in the long run, you’ll be better off.

By doing the writing yourself, you’re doing yourself a favor in terms of web search results and site rankings like the Wikipedia article touches on. It mentions how a content from a mill can have a negative impact on rankings, and that’s the last thing anyone wants, imo.

You’ll be saving whatever money you’d have spent on something from the content mill for other things. One content mill (that actually rejected me, lol!) charges near-giveaway prices for what they consider five-star rated content, and it’s still so far below a fair market rate it’s not even funny. Whatever these companies will charge you, it will (almost) never be anything close to a fair market rate.

Your writer may or may not know your topic, and also may or may not speak your language. If they do, their ability in writing it may vary. Regardless of the writer’s linguistic abilities, their work is unlikely to be anything worthy of publication in the New Yorker, which is what these companies demand in their job postings. The reason being is that they’re probably working on at least a dozen other writings by the time you find them, and they (hopefully) have lives outside of these mills whether their Powers that Be like it or not.

And if your writer comes up with something New Yorker-worthy? Then you’re dealing with someone who has no idea what they’re worth.

Do you really want to gamble like that with your time and hard-earned money? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t, anyway.

Moreover, you’re also doing the majorly-overworked writer who would have worked with you a huge favor. Whatever you’d have paid the content mill for the site, the writer would’ve gotten nearly nothing. Most of the profit goes to the companies. Basically, these writers are being exploited, and they deserve better.

This site outlines three more reasons not to buy from a content mill. I would also add that because these content mills pay so abysmally low rates, they’re cheapening the writing industry as a whole, and diminishing its’ credibility.

I’d also add that by turning to a content mill to do the work for you, you’re telling these companies that what they’re doing to their writers is ok, and further reinforcing the message to them that there’s a market for it.

But I still need content! Where can I find a good content mill, and where can I find a ghostwriter to write my content?

Ok, ok. If you’re dead-set on wanting someone to write your content for you, and nothing I can say or link to will convince you to reconsider your plans to buy from a content mill, then I can’t stop you. Just know that you’ll get what you pay for, 9 times out of 10. Their money-back guarantees vary, so proceed with caution. (And for the love of all that’s holy, treat your writer with respect!)

However, if you’re now off the whole idea, then yay. I’ve succeeded! But don’t worry, you’ve still got options.

You can throw an ad up on LinkedIn or Indeed for a freelance writer. Hell, you may luck out even posting to Craigslist or Kijiji while we’re on the subject.

Or, if nothing else, I’ll write your content for you. I’m dead serious. Just hit me up through the Contact form off to the side, and we’ll talk. As a heads-up, my rates will definitely be more than what you’d have paid the content mill you found.

However, we’ll be cutting out the middleman, and I’ll be working with you on something you can feel good about posting, with nobody the wiser.

Better yet, you’re telling these companies that there’s no market for their services, which will eventually hit them where it hurts.

I’d love to know how the people who run these content mills sleep at night. If I could say one thing to them, I’d ask them how much they’d expect to be paid for the kind of workload they slam their freelancers with, day in and day out. Whatever they expect to be paid, they need to multiply it by a thousand. That’s what they need to pay their freelancers, and anything less than that is an insult and a waste of their freelancers’ time.

Over to you, readers. Have you bought from a content mill before? Have you written for one before? Know someone who has? I’d love to hear your thoughts and takeaways, so drop ’em like they’re hot below, and let’s talk.

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