Content mills are back. They’ve never really left, but most freelancers who actually want to establish a real career in this professon turned their backs on these mills.
However, they’ve returned. Rebranded as agencies that provide content to help small companies grow.
Perhaps some of them actually do this. But the ones I’ve researched thus far (because it sounded like they were legitimately hiring freelance writers for a variety of interesting projects) have this in common:
They GROSSLY underpay writers.
One of them gave me a per-piece quote. The price seemed low unless it was a REALLY short piece. So I asked about word count. They wanted a word count that turned the per-word rate for the piece into .03/word.
They also wanted a commitment of 5-6 articles per week, at 1.5-3K/article.
At a rate that works out to .03/word.
Oh, there’s more: they have to approve a certain number of sources per article. Which, to me, echoes a publication I quit when they told me I could only mention ad buyers in my articles.
That’s not how it works, people.
Article sources aren’t tied to the advertising budget of the publication. Sources are relevant to the veracity of the article.
Then there’s the agency supposedly “hiring” freelancers. Yet when they put out a call for an assignment, they will “submit” you (but only if you have project specific samples) and then you have to do the negotiation with the client. Why do I need someone to submit me if the rate we discussed and agreed upon for me to come and work under your company’s banner has nothing to do with any of the assignments?
“You have to work your way up to our agreed rates through a series of client-managed assignments.”
No, actually, I don’t.
I can pitch directly to clients with whom I think I’d be a good fit. Cut out the middle man. No worries about the agreed-upon rate being changed.
Many of these companies have slick websites that look and sound good until you break down the market-speak. One of these even made one of the local lists about being a one of the top local companies. Yet when you strip away Adobe Flash, it’s still a content mill.
Needless to say, run for the hills when they try to lure in the business by saying they provide content at low rates. Red flag. Right there.
Be careful. Beware. Trust your instincts. Go directly to the companies that need writers. Avoid “agencies” who want to pimp you out cheaply while they profit.
UPDATE: There’s a a problem with the reCaptcha — my host is working on it. In the meantime, freelancer Paula Hendrickson had this to add: