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Avoiding the Content Mill Trap: Content Mills and Your Career

Posted by Charles Gray on June 21, 2014

One of the greatest battles actors ever faced in Hollywood was becoming independent from the big studios. Until the late 1930s, an actor basically functioned at the behest of the studio having very little real independence. That state of affairs should sound very familiar to many content mill writers.


Not all content mills post masses of articles to their own website. Content mills such as Textbroker and Crowd Content provide content for individual clients. For the client, getting unique content is especially important due to the way that Google penalizes duplicate content. The content mill enjoys the fact that by generating unique content, it is less likely to be penalized by changes in the various search engines. Even if an individual article gets pinged for being to “spammy” the business itself won’t be impacted.


However, if you work for this type of content mill, you’ll almost always find that they don’t want you to talk to the client outside of “work.” In fact, you’re usually not even allowed to tell the client your real name or any identifying information that may allow him or her to find you outside of the content mill. No matter how lousy the editors are at any other part of their job, they will be good at this and they will prevent you from getting contact information. If you push it, you won’t be working for the content mill anymore.


Why is this?


Because the last thing the content mill wants is for their writers to gain independent access to the client base. Consider that a content mill isn’t charging the client what they are paying you. The client is getting charged more—usually considerably more. So if a client could get in direct contact with a writer, he or she could pay the writer more (getting better service) while still paying less than the content mill’s price. For a content mill, letting writers and clients talk is a deadly threat to their entire business model.


For you as a writer, this state of affairs has two very negative effects.


First of all, you cannot build up your own customer base. This not only deprives you of the ability to take your work elsewhere, but also deprives you of the ability to obtain good word of mouth advertising for your services. Remember, the client also doesn’t know who you are. They’re not getting an article from Michael or June; they’re getting it from the content mill. If you get fired or simply decide to move on, all that work you’ve spent getting loyal direct order clients, all those hours you’ve spent sweating over a team assignment…


…Has been a total waste of your time.


So in terms of being able to prove that you’re a decent writer, working for a content mill is absolutely useless. It doesn’t matter how much writing you’ve done if your future clients can’t see it.


In fact, you cannot even use work you’ve done for a content mill as a part of your portfolio to show off to later clients. It is important to remember that any article you’ve written for a client is no longer your article— if you use one of those articles in your portfolio, you could find yourself facing serious legal consequences.


This makes these types of services very much the writing equivalent of working at a fast food joint. You’ll get paid, but in terms of your future career? It’s barely better than not being employed at all.


Worst of all, it’s easy to get caught in a trap of spending most of your time writing for these sites. Every Internet freelance site has stories of people who spend most of their time working for these companies when they could be making far more by seeking out their own clients. In many cases, these individuals find themselves starting over again at the bottom of the ladder when they are fired or simply burn out. Ultimately, if you’re good enough for a content mill on a long-term basis, you are almost certainly good enough to become a freelance writer with your own clients.



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