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Content Mills: Beware the Test

Posted by Charles Gray on December 8, 2013

If you try to sign up to a content mill, you’ll often have to take a test to see if your grammar is any good.

And it’s very likely you won’t do very well at all on it.

Don’t worry. In fact, in many cases, a content mill grammar test is an example of everything that is wrong with content mills.

The first problem is that many of the best writers on the planet—not simply those individuals who are working at content mills, but major published authors are very likely to fail one of these tests. Not because they can’t write, but because it’s been years since they’ve thought of things like “subordinate clauses.”  Of course they use the concept, but a professional writer doesn’t always think of his or her writing in those terms.

So the first barrier is that you have a test written by English graduates (you hope), using a specialized vocabulary that not everyone will know, regardless of their level of writing skill.

The second problem is that most of these tests are in a multiple-choice format. Adding insult to injury, many content mill tests are timed.  A timed test makes very little sense for a freelance writer, as the entire point of freelance writing is to choose those assignments you can do in the time window given, which can range from hours to days.   In fact, this type of test goes directly against one of the core rules of freelance writing, which is that the writer should always review his or her work.

Consider this—the test you are given by many content mills prevents you from doing the single thing that every professional writer (and more importantly, editor) states is a vital part of producing an error free final product.

Last and not least is the fact that English is not an exact language.  Much of a writer’s job revolves around knowing when the laws need to be bent or even broken.  An assignment provided by a person looking for a chatty blog entry will have far different tonal requirements than those demanded for a formal legal blog entry.

Ultimately, if you want to work at a content mill, take the test, and if you fail it, move on.  These mills are not looking for good writers, but individuals who can check off a number of requirements for the mill, and their tests show it.


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