The worst part about writing fiction is realizing that you can’t survive purely off of it. A select few do, but the rest of us need to pursue additional income streams to survive. Heck, I didn’t know what an income stream was until I researched additional ways to make money by writing. That’s when I decided to dabble in freelance writing.
I knew that I lacked the experience to get a real gig out of the gate, so I joined a content mill instead. A content mill is essentially an arena where everyone’s fighting for scraps. The scraps aren’t great, but you could exchange one for a whole lot of Top Ramen so you fight for them anyway. Eventually, that fighting wears you down until you question your love for writing and your decision-making skills.
If that sounds bad, it’s because it is. There are countless horror stories surrounding those evil things and how little you actually make by working at one. I’d read those stories, but I didn’t heed their warnings because I wanted a start. I wasn’t knowledgeable or experienced enough to find a real gig yet. We all start at the bottom, right?
I eventually found a mill that paid more than the average one. I wrote consistently on it for a few months and I didn’t become the subject of a horror story, so I guess it wasn’t that bad. In fact, it taught me a lot about the world of nonfiction writing.
It taught me that I’m not a fan of freelance writing.
I don’t mean to diss freelance writing in general because I’ve yet to land an actual gig. I don’t have any experience in that area. Everything I say applies to content mills and them alone.
Writing extremely specific articles for low pay is all right, but each assignment comes with a whole lot of asterisks. The clients ranged from pleasant to impossible to work with. Whenever my articles were rejected, I didn’t feel like I’d received meaningful feedback on why. The reasons essentially boiled down to “Get a better hang of this platform or get left behind.”
Is it hard to believe that I’m currently on a break from using that platform? I haven’t written on it in months. Especially not since I’ve found something else to satisfy my need to write.
I got into blogging shortly after I took a break from freelancing. I needed something that would lift me up from the hole that the content mill had trapped me in. That’s why I was happy to discover 4 things that made blogging so much better than freelancing.
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I once read someone claim that writing for a content mill had spiced up their life. They said that they liked writing about random topics because it’d always give them something to talk about over dinner. It was the most positive way of describing what it’s like to write whole articles about subjects that you know nothing about.
Real freelance writers get specific assignments from clients that they seek out. Therefore, they may not have this problem. Unfortunately, content mill writers have to deal with whatever crazy requests that they can get. Remember what I said about scraps.
I’ve written articles about dental care, hearing aids, pet health, compensating employees, and more. How much do I know about any of those topics? Not much. I would usually stick to assignments on dental care because…at least I have teeth. It was the easiest one to research.
My lack of knowledge about the other topics ate away at me. I did as much research as I could, but there’s only so much you can learn about using drone surveillance for construction on the Internet.
Blogging is so much better for this kind of thing because it lets me write about whatever I want. I could write ten different blog posts about how to construct a novel and no one can tell me to knock it off (besides the comments section).
The ability to write whatever I want and make it work for me is liberating. It’s more than enough to get me into the writing mood, which is why I’ve already made way more blog posts than those low-paying articles about toothpaste that I used to do.
Feeling passion for the subject you’re writing about is the easiest way to produce quality content.
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When you write for the newspaper or an online publication, they’ll give you what’s known as a “byline.” That’s just when they include your name below the article’s title. It’s there to give you credit for writing the article.
That’s not guaranteed in a content mill. Most of the time, you’re a ghostwriter. You’re expected to finish the assignments, not receive credit for them.
I never outright had a problem with this. I wrote for the experience and for the pay. I wasn’t interested in the credit. I’m still not super concerned over the work that I’ll never be credited for (because who’s going to follow me over my dental articles?), but it is important that people know your name.
Blogging is all about writing around your brand. People go to certain people for certain topics and advice. It’s rare that a blogger gets popular off of writing about something new every day. You know that person you go to for writing advice? Have they ever posted about theoretical physics? How weird would it be if they did?
People need to associate your articles with you. It’s the best way to grow as a brand. If you ghostwrote every single thing you wrote, you’d never build an audience.
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Freelancing means writing content to help grow a business that you don’t own.
Of course, you’re doing it for money so you still gain something. If you have a close relationship with your client then you might actually want to grow their business. After all, you only make a profit as long as they stay afloat.
Real freelance writers do grow by producing articles. They grow their portfolio. That has more in common with blogging than it does with content mill writing, so it serves the point that I’m trying to make.
Every writer should focus on growing their own business or brand. Even if they don’t consider themselves to be one. Heck, I barely consider myself one, but I am. Anyone who earns money by writing runs a business.
Creating blog posts is great for this. You start off by writing fun little stories about your day or by educating others, but every post grows your blog. Once your blog grows enough, you can successfully monetize it, which is when the business portion kicks in.
I try to write a new story every day, and even if it doesn’t get as many views as I’d like, it always gets something. Therefore, every post contributes to my overall growth.
Growth is a magical word, especially to writers. Everything we do is to grow in some way. We grow our audiences, our email lists, our platforms. We grow as people every time we improve our skills. No matter what your ultimate goal is, you can’t get there without growing.
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This won’t apply for everyone, but it will with enough time.
We’ve all heard about the content mills who pay anywhere from $2 to $5 bucks for an article. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to write for them, so forget they exist. I was writing for a mill that offered around $10 to $20 per article. That was more enticing. It’s still not ideal, but it could build up over time.
When you write for a platform like that, you could earn $100 in 5 articles (which is harder than it sounds). When you write blog posts, you’ll be lucky to earn $1 with your first 5 articles. So then, why would you blog instead of going to a content mill? A simple reason: the potential.
Content mill articles come with a fixed amount of money to be made. Blog posts do not. Due to the many ways that you can monetize a post, there’s no limit to your profit.
That’s not to say that any of your posts will earn you $100 right away. It’ll probably take years to reach that point, but it’ll be worth it. Imagine an army of posts that’ll earn you passive income for the rest of your life. Doesn’t that sound fantastic?
Even if it does, it isn’t set in stone. There’s no guarantee that you’ll ever get there. There’s just the chance that you will. You can grow that chance through determination. Write as much as you can and consistently publish your best work. There’s no way that you’ll end up with $0 if you spend years pushing out quality content.
- Blogging allows you the freedom that content mills never will.
- When you publish your own content, you get all the credit.
- You can grow your platform through blogging about your passions.
- Blogging could potentially earn you far more money than content mills.
I’m not saying that you should only blog and never write a single article for another business. If you have the time to do both, then go ahead. I’m merely stating my thoughts about the subject.
I love blogging, but it’s not easy. Total control means that the fate of your business is solely determined by your decisions. It means that sometimes, it really is easier to write for someone else.
But isn’t being a writer all about being your own boss? Even when you write for a client, you’re the one negotiating your own pay. That’s an attitude that you should carry into whatever profession you choose.