Using content mills in order to generate income is pretty controversial in the world of freelance writing. Some people will tell you to never use them no matter what, and I can see where they’re coming from. They pay ridiculously insulting rates, you can’t ever get a raise, and the clients on there are usually pretty bad. They want articles stuffed with keywords because they don’t understand how SEO has evolved, and most of the time what you earn for the article isn’t even worth your time.
Unless you know how to work the system a bit.
I only have experience with Textbroker. I tried Demand Studios, but they want you to have crazy credentials and degrees for $15 articles and I wasn’t “accepted” because of that. Even though I have a Bachelor’s Degree, they wanted 5 years of work experience in areas I had a lot of writing experience in, and I wasn’t going to jump through their hoops when I had income from other clients that were, you know, real people. So I’m just going to do a quick tutorial on Textbroker. By tutorial I don’t mean teach you how to use it. I mean teach you how to benefit from it.
So here are the things you want to keep in mind when you (if you) use Textbroker.
Write What You Know
In almost every other area of writing, I never follow this rule. If you only write what you know, you never grow as a writer, you never learn new things, and you’ll get bored pretty quick. Your opportunity to earn is also diminished if you stick to only what you know right now. But when it comes to Textbroker, I only write what I know. If you can’t explain it in your sleep, don’t take the article. You’ll waste too much time researching and the pay won’t be worth it.
Never Do Long Revisions
If you missed a comma or something and a client asks for a short revision, fine. But if a client comes back and essentially wants you to rewrite all or a good portion of the article, click cancel process and move on. I know, I know “But Courtney, I spent time writing that article, I’m going to lose money!” Wrong. If you’re being asked to rewrite an article, your pay gets cut in half. So you essentially wrote 2 articles for $5 instead of one. Or whatever the price is. If I ever find out you wrote 1,000 words for $5 I’ll come find you and steal your coffee and glare at you. I’ll do it. Don’t make me. Okay I won’t, but now you’ll think of it if you’re ever tempted.
Long revisions waste your time. In the half hour it takes you to rewrite it, you could be writing another article. It might feel like throwing money away, but trust me, it’s saving you money in the long run. Need proof?
Once upon a time I did a Textbroker article. The client came back and asked for a revision. I did it. The client came back again and asked for yet another revision. SEVEN revisions later – seven, folks – I was finally done. For $7. In the amount of time it took me to do their continual revisions, I could have earned at least $30-$40 working on other articles.
Another reason you don’t want to waste time with revisions is that if your client is already being picky, they can reject your article if they don’t like your revisions. You won’t get dinged in Textbroker’s book for cancelling process on an order, but you will if it’s rejected. I have a 0 percent rejection rate, and I plan to keep it that way.
Check the Revision Rate
Speaking of revisions, you can check the revision rate of every client. When you open an order and you’re looking at it, just right click and “open in new tap” the client’s identification number. That will take you to their profile. If you’re looking at a revision rate higher than 6%, don’t take it. I can’t explain why 6% is the magic number, but it just is. Most reasonable clients that won’t give you trouble have revision rates of about 2% or less. So 6% is being really generous.
That guy that had me revise his article 7 times? 146% revision rate. Clearly I hadn’t realized you could check revision rates when I took it. But he’s on my blacklist now. That means that he has multiple revisions for every single order.
Get Direct Orders
You can’t demand too much for direct orders – this is Textbroker, after all – but set your direct order price to at least 2-2.5 cents per word. You get a portion of that, but it actually makes a big difference in the price you get for an article. Any time someone rates your work with an Excellent rating, click on their client number, send them a message, and say something like “I wanted to thank you for the ‘Excellent’ rating you awarded me on (article name). I really enjoyed working on this article, and would be happy to fill any direct orders you might have.” That’s what I do, and it got me a couple of repeat clients that send me about $40 worth of work per week. It’s not much, but it’s better than $0, and they’re easy because I know the client and what they want. Still low paying, but in my genre wheelhouse, so it doesn’t take much research. Direct orders are worth it if you just need some quick cash, and it’s better than wasting time looking through the available articles.
Know the Signs of a Horrible Order
After being on Textbroker for awhile, I’ve started to realize what makes a good order, and what makes a bad one. I’m going to break down the basics for you, but avoiding the bad ones is way more important than seeking out the good ones, if that makes sense. A mediocre client won’t kill your day, but a bad client will suck your time and make you crazy. Especially on Textbroker.
Signs of a Good Order
- Short descriptions
- 1-3 keywords required per 500 words (so a 1,000 word article could have 4 or 5 and be fine)
- Friendly demeanor used in the description text
- No crazy deadlines other than the one built into the order – usually 1-2 days.
Signs of a Really Bad Order
- Long, several paragraph descriptions that take you a lunch break to read.
- A huge list of keywords (I’ve seen as many as 20) – these people just want crap articles that stuff keywords and will probably ask for revisions and usually don’t know what they’re even asking for, since SEO doesn’t work that way anymore.
- Rude or haughty tone. (Look for things like threats to put you on a blacklist, threats to reject articles that aren’t ‘perfect’, text in all caps, and overall text that talks to you like you’re five.)
- People who ask for their article in an hour or less or have other deadlines other than the 1 day minimum you would normally get.
I can usually tell within 3 seconds if an article is something I want to take, but it took practice and experience with bad clients and orders to spot the patterns. The best articles I’ve ever done have had a short paragraph for a description, provided a title, had a good idea of what they wanted, asked for no more than 2 keywords, and said “Thank you” at the end of the description.
Check for Orders Frequently
I’m not suggesting you sit all day hitting the fresh button, but check a few times a day for orders in your field of interest or orders that you think are worth doing. I try not to do orders that are over 500 words, because they usually end up taking longer than they’re worth. But once I did a 12,000 word piece. I don’t know that I would do it again, but hey. You live and learn. Orders come and go all day long, so keep checking.
If Textbroker is All You Have
I understand there are situations in which a freelancer is pretty much forced to work for content mills until they can get “real clients”. If this is you, I’ve been where you are, and every once in awhile when things are slow I turn to Textbroker again for work. I don’t recommend you spending years only writing for Textbroker. But if it’s really all you have right now, you can still make it work and it can be a great experience. But some of the above tips don’t really apply if you’re depending on Textbroker for a living. Most of them do, except for write what you know and don’t do articles over 500 words. Here’s what I do when I’m relying on Textbroker for more than 25% of my income.
- Sort by price. If you click the check boxes on the “Show All Orders” page so it only shows your level (like Level 4), you’ll see a list of all the available orders. Click on the orange title above Price twice – once will categorize it least paying to highest, twice will do the opposite. Work on orders (unless they look like horrible orders) from highest paying to lowest paying. Yes it usually means you’re working on longer projects, but you have fewer to do per day in order to make ends meet, and you spend less time doing research.
- Get Textbroker out of the way early. It’s draining. So do it while you’re drinking your first cup (or few cups) of coffee. Sometimes I literally work straight through until I hit my income goal for the day. Then I take a nice long break, and then I market, blog, and do other things that will bring in higher paying work. That way, I know my bills are covered and I won’t be begging on the street corner, and I can market, write e-books, etc. in peace.
- Pay attention to the subjects being asked for on Textbroker. A lot of clients go to more than one place to find their work, and I’ve noticed that I’ll see requests for the same types of orders on several sites. How to capitalize on this? Easy. Write similar articles, or articles on similar subjects, for places like Constant Content and Yahoo! Voices. Chances are this is what people are searching for,and you’ll get more sales and hits, respectively, by following the trends.
- Take care of business, then move on. In other words, only use Textbroker for what you really need in terms of money. Pay your bills with it, and then move on to other things. You can do this two ways. One is to work all week on Textbroker until you hit your weekly income goal, and then market, write ebooks, send query letters, etc. the rest of the week. OR, you can work on Textbroker during the day until you hit your daily income goal, and then work on other things. The former option will keep you safe, the latter option will keep you sane. *shrug*
I see Textbroker like a prescription. Use it when you are financially struggling or need to get ahead quickly with reliable money you can cash in on weekly. It will cure the problem quickly, you can spend time focusing on marketing and other things, and it shouldn’t be used for long periods of time because it can be addictive. And by addictive I mean it can take over your life.
This is why some people will tell you never to use content mills: you spend so much time writing for so few dollars that you almost have to do it continuously in order to meet your income goals, and then you have no time to market, and then you end up doing content mill articles forever and ever, world without end, amen.
That’s why I wanted to talk about how to use Textbroker effectively. If you use it effectively, you can escape the black hole of dependence on it, stay financially ahead, and grow your business. I think to swear off Textbroker can be a mistake. It’s not a permanent solution, but it is a solution when you haven’t started seeing the harvest (work) from your seeds (marketing) yet.
That’s my two cents on it. Hopefully that helps you out. 🙂
Until next time (which will be later today, because I have a post on finding clients I want to write), happy writing!