The Slow Death of the Content Mill

If you’re a freelance writer, and you hoped that content mills would be the key to a future and a wonderful career path, you’re probably starting to feel a little bummed out at the moment. Why? Because content mills are dying. It’s been a slow death, but it’s been a death that most freelancers and industry analysts have predicted for a long time. Content mills, like Textbroker, Zerys, and others, seem like a great idea. You can take jobs off the job board and get paid. Simple, right?

The problem, though, as anyone who’s ever worked for a content mill knows all to well, is that they pay the writer almost nothing to do these articles. If you’re looking for an extra hundred bucks a month, fine. But if you want to make a viable income, content mills are not the place to be. Why? Because they’re dying. And for good reason.

Content Mills Were Founded on Bad SEO

Remember those days not so long ago when searching the internet for a cabinet made with cherry wood that had brass accents forced you to write things like “cabinet wood brass cherry”. Yeah, those days led to some pretty uncomfortable searches. And not only that, but you would never get a list of like…cherry wood cabinets with brass accents. You got…God only knew what. If it was remotely linked to wood, cabinets, cherries, or brass, well…you get my drift.

Yeah, those days are gone for a reason. Because people don’t talk like that, and search engine algorithm makers figured that shit out. So now if we want to find cherry wood cabinets with brass accents…that’s what we write. And that’s usually what we find.

What does this have to do with content mills? Well, let’s just say that most content mills were created at or around the time that all this nonsense psychobabble SEO wizardry was going on. They were created when SEO became a buzz word and people were still writing in white on a white background on their websites in a string of keywords because it actually freaking worked.

It doesn’t work anymore. But content mills…they haven’t really picked up on that. Their entire business plan was based on churning out keyword-laden content that would bring in traffic. The clients you’ll find there still function under that idea, too. You can tell because one client will have 200 listings that ask writers to spew out a 500-word article about “dentist porcelain implant dentures Phoenix”, and they really want 200 of those articles. It wasn’t a glitch. You can probably write about anything and as long as you included those keywords,it’s fine. You could write about a gorilla escaping the damn zoo and if somehow it visited a porcelain dentist with dentures and implant services in Phoenix, you’re golden.

Sadly, for all these 500 words, they’re willing to pay you, oh, $2.00. Why? Because they’re buying 200 f***ing articles, that’s why. And because they’re still in the SEO stone age, they’re probably broke as shit and can’t actually pay you what you deserve.

This, freelancing friends, is one reason why content mills are dying. Because nobody buys that crap anymore, it’s not helpful for the search engines, and everyone is starting to get the idea.

Content Mills Do Not Specialize in Custom Content

Oh, sure, they might say they do, but in reality content mills really aren’t set up that way. If you’re going to provide freelance writing services to a client, you want to make sure you’re taking a deep look into the culture of the company, the way they present information, their branding, and a million other things before you try to write content for them. It’s a long, professional process, and now more than ever it requires writers to take a concierge and consultative approach.

Content mills are the midnight urgent care, not the concierge care. They’re carbon copy, cookie-cutter content that’s kinda sorta written for a specific client but that’s mainly a general article with some specific keywords thrown in. This model isn’t working anymore. Clients expect better. And those who can afford to pay writers what they deserve are also aware that content mills are not the place to find freelancers.

Content Mills Benefit the Mill

This, above all, is the giant problem with content mills. Their business plan is not set up to benefit you as a writer. Their business plan is to pay you as little as possible, sit back, and make money off of a wildly popular trend in content. Whatever they can do to maximize their own profit, that’s what they’ll do. However, there’s a problem.

The Content Mill Business Plan is Doomed to Fail

The business model of content mills was a sinking ship from day one, it was just a slow submergence. Why? Because their business model revolves entirely around a trend. A trend in SEO that no longer exists because a better way has been found. However, their business structure is extremely inflexible. There’s no way to facilitate customized, high-quality content on most content mill platforms. You can’t do it. It’s designed for burn and churn, quickly-crafted, keyword-stuffed content that can be easily requested and delivered over a job board-style platform. And it’s failing. Because that’s not how it works anymore.

The Signs

Don’t take my word for it. If you still think content mills are a good option, just try grabbing some jobs off of them. Three years ago when I started out there were hundreds of jobs available at all times on these content mills. Today, there are fewer and fewer jobs available (I’m currently looking at a dashboard with zero jobs), and the jobs that do exist are paying less and less. The rise of the independent freelancer and the ever-growing success of those who build their own, professional, consultative freelance business is proof that content marketing has reached a new era, and content mills are simply not a part of that brave new world.

The Exception

The only exception I’ve found is Constant Content, and while I’m not thrilled with some of the support functions, I still think it’s a nice place to throw some articles and see if they sell. Again, this is not a place where you want to build an entire business. However, you can demand higher prices, you set the prices yourself, and you can write about whatever you want with no deadlines or quotas to meet. That’s pretty cool, and it’s a nice place to put some articles if you’re looking for a little extra income.

However, there will come a day when even the likes of CC become unnecessary. We’re entering the first stages of a world in which the freelance will rule, and the employee will be the minority and not the norm. Stop clinging to existing frameworks and building your business on someone else’s turf. It’s. Not. Worth it. It doesn’t set you up for longevity, growth, or success, and it’s doomed to fail.

Now is a great time to get out there, build your own business, self-publish, find clients, and do what you have to do in order to build your readership and clientele. So jump off the sinking ship, and start building on solid ground.


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