Why Content Mills Don’t Work

mill (8043600_stocklib)Well, that title is actually a bit deceiving. Content mills do work because they are very successful when it comes to the bottom dollar. And, of course, you’ll certainly get an end product – but how that end product turns out is up for debate.

So, maybe the title should be something like Why Content Mills Don’t Work for You.

Defining the Competition
Freelance writers coined the term “content mills” to describe content companies they liken to sweat shops; their writers and editors work very hard for practically nothing. They’re surging in popularity because, quite frankly, they’ll provide a writing job to almost anyone and, in a struggling economy, work is work. And they have a lot of work to offer because they advertise lower client rates.

Success = $$$$
Content mills tend to pocket most of the funds their clients pay for the content, while shelling out very low pay rates to their writers and editors (that is, if they’ll even take on the cost of hiring editors in the first place – this task is often delegated to salaried staff members instead so there’s no additional payout). What that means is this: the content mill looks very successful on the outside. They have a budget to pay executives top dollar and market their services in every electronic nook and cranny available.

Sacrifices Made
However, that also means most content mills are unable to obtain the top-notch writers that you actually want working on your content. One cent per word isn’t much toward making a living, especially if the work requires research time. Many freelance writers have to write hundreds of articles in order to make a living, barely scraping by at minimum wage, when working for a content mill. Under these circumstances, writers work to produce as many articles in as little span of time as possible, resulting in poor quality work.

That also means that the quality of work produced by content mills suffers. Some of these companies outsource work overseas to countries where English is a second language – and that reveals itself in the content produced — so that they can pay less for the end product you receive and keep the company books at a happy black color.

Even when a content mill is lucky enough to nab a writer who is very skilled at what he does, the company can’t keep him for long. He soon finds himself doing much more work for much less pay. He’s usually under-appreciated and often taken advantage of – working on many projects at once because he is “the best writer” the company has. But there’s nothing in the way of compensation to make it worth his while. Content mills can be a great starting point for someone who needs to put experience behind his resume, but most great writers quickly outgrow them.

The Alternative
What I want you to come away with more than anything else is that the value of great content is not in the company — it’s in the writers that work for that company. If you have a small scale project (say only one or two articles), by all means, hire a talented freelance writer directly and take out the middle man.

However, if you have a large scale project (such as multiple blog posts a day, a full library of expert articles, or a need for 200 item descriptions plus sales copy), then you’ll want to go beyond the one-man-show.

You’ll want to enlist a company that stands behind it’s amazingly talented writers, paying them top dollar and appreciating their hard work by helping to build their individual portfolios (such as through securing by-lines). You’ll want to hire a company that can provide copy editors who scour every detail of an article for not only grammatical errors, but also tonal consistency and a voice that matches your brand. And you’ll want a company that seeks to raise the standard for online content overall, which begins with integrity.

(Originally posted on Ink’d Content)


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