Don’t Be a Sweatshop Writer

1 Dec

Don't make me write about camping toilets.

When I decided to become a writer, I fell into the same trap that many other writers do; I started writing for article mills, or writing sweatshops, as I prefer to call them. In fact, I used to have a blog post here about how I managed to earn $100 per day doing so when I needed money and it paid the bills, but I decided to take it down as I didn’t want to promote these awful companies.

Recently I’ve seen lots of comments online about people defending working for article mills, and many people claim it’s a valid way to begin a writing career.

Here’s why it’s a horrible thing to do:

  • You will never develop a real portfolio with article mills. No legitimate client looking to pay you a living wage will regard what you churned out at lightning speed for 0.5 cents a word as “writing.
  • In fact, what you are doing is not writing, it’s content filler regurgitation. If webmasters could simply use auto-generated garbage and throw keywords into it, they would, but decent Google ranking requires at least some coherence to the verbiage that surround those keywords, so they hire work-at-home monkeys to do it for them.

  • You will encounter dozens of PITA editors, and I’m not talking about editors who write for Turkish bread magazines (if there are any). Random rejections, massive inconsistencies, nonsensical style guides  and passive-aggressive emails grading your work are all standard activity for said PITA editors.  Before long, you’ll feel like you’re back working for your old boss. This is not what freelancing is about.
  • You will be so busy trying to make a living that you will have no time to develop real contacts. Article mills pay terribly, and many articles require some sort of background research before writing.
  • You will never develop as a writer. To improve your writing, you need real feedback, and you need to be challenged. Writing a 700 word article titled “camping toilets – accessories” will not help, and neither will feedback such as “run-on sentence. Keyword mentioned more than twice.”
  • It will become a crutch. People become sucked into being article mill monkeys because the work is always available. There’s no client to deal with, and payment is usually reliable. But they will never be more than reliable sweat shops.
  • Article mills are on their way out. Improved search engine optimization has already put a lot of them out of business, and their days are numbered. People are sick of reading garbage online and Google is very aware of this.

Here are 5 ways to get out of the article-mill stink:

  • Spend a little time each day creating articles that will generate passive income. Ghostbloogers.net and Constant Content  are sometimes classed as “article mills,” but in reality they are much better options and leave the writer with freedom, flexibility and reasonable pay for good work. There is no guarantee that your articles will sell on these sites, but when they do, they will be for whatever price you ask for. InfoBarrel and Hubpages offer revenue sharing that builds up over time, although these options require patience and perseverance to see any kind of meaningful financial gain.
  • Dedicate a portion of each day to marketing yourself, maintaining a blog and looking for real work. I’ll be posting about the best sites to do this soon.
  • Establish long-term goals with a business plan that helps you keep your eye on the big picture. Stick it somewhere within sight and look at it every day.
  • Follow the blogs of successful freelance writers and treat them as your mentors. Look at how they market themselves, the tools they use to communicate with thier clients, and the contents of their online portfolios.
  • Discover how to write persuasive queries.
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