44 Posts That Will Help You Escape the Content Mills & Make a REAL Living as a Freelance Writer

escapes ... (86/365)Stuck writing for the content mills and struggling to pay your bills? Yeah, you and a TON of other writers!

Content mill owners and misinformed writers have been spreading the word that if you want to make a living as a freelance writer, you need to start out by writing for cheap-o content mills, bidding sites, and revenue share sites that pay you pennies for your hard work.

And even worse, after spouting this lame advice, they offer no tips on moving on up out of the mills to start earning some REAL money as a freelance writer! So too many writers keep slaving away at the mills for $5 per article, and they burn out before they can rack up a decent amount of pay.

Well, I’m here to change that. One of my passions is helping writers earn a decent living, so I scoured the web for 44 posts that will help you escape the content mills — from motivational posts to basic articles on how to break into more lucrative forms of writing.

So…let’s begin!

Not Convinced You Want to Leave the Mills?

Lots of writers are afraid that if they leave the content mills, they’ll be left with nothing at all — and even $5 per article is better than that, right?

Not so. I rounded up a bunch of posts that will convince you to kick the mills once and for all. They show why content mills aren’t a valid “step up” to real freelancing, how the numbers don’t add up, and more.

1. The Science of Undervaluing Yourself (And How To Overcome It)

Blog: Psychotactics

Author: Sean D’Souza

A cautionary take about undervaluing yourself as a businessperson…plus great stories about clients who complained about spending $250 on one of his products, only to go out and blow $2,500 on a vacation or $30,000 on a new car. You think you can’t command high rates? This post will make you think again.

2. Writers Explain What It’s Like Toiling on the Content Farm

Blog: MediaShift

Author: Corbin Hiar

A telling quote from this enlightening post: “‘I was completely aware that I was writing crap,’ she said. ‘I was like, I hope to God people don’t read my advice on how to make gin at home because they’ll probably poison themselves.’ […] ‘Never trust anything you read on eHow.com, she said, referring to one of Demand Media’s high-traffic websites, on which most of her clips appeared.” Be sure to read the comments!

3. Why You’ll Fail at Freelancing if You Suck at Math

Blog: Profitable Freelancer

Author: Jen Mattern

You may be thinking you can make the numbers work as a low-paid content mill writer, but they just don’t add up. Read this post and you’ll stop fooling yourself.

4. The High Cost of Earning Little

Blog: Ask MetaFilter

Not a blog post per se, but this thread will show how U.S. freelancers pay more in taxes than the employed — which makes writing for the content mills even less worth the effort than you thought!

5. The Reality of Writing for Content Mills: 14 Writers’ True Stories

Blog: Make a Living Writing

Author: Carol Tice

Carol put a ton of investigative work into this post, and the result is a real eye-opener. If you’re not quite sure the content mills are something you want to avoid, reading this will MAKE you sure.

6. Why You Shouldn’t Write for Content Mills

Blog: The Matador Network

Author: Michelle Schusterman

Michelle writes, “Still…work hard on queries and send them out daily on the off-chance of getting a response months from now, or write the toilet vent piece for a guaranteed, immediate $15? I went the mill route. Here’s why I shouldn’t have.”

7. Content Mills: Why Aspiring Writers Should Avoid Them

Blog: Make a Living Writing

Author: Carol Tice

Not only do content mills not give you the experience you need to become a better — and better paid — writer, but the whole content mill model is at risk of dying. Carol offers these and more reasons why you should steer clear of content mills.

8. 3 Things Writing for Content Mills Can Teach You About Freelance Writing

Blog: The Writing Base

Author: Samar Owais

One lesson learned from this post: “There’s nothing like earning $5 an article to make you realize you’re never going to achieve your goals if you keep writing for these rates.”

9. 6 Crucial Lessons from Writing for Content Mills

Blog: Be a Freelance Blogger

Author: Shannon Cutts

What writing for content mills has given you: You have a thick skin, good self discipline, and a warrior mentality. Now, Shannon wants you to use those winning traits to land decent paying work!

10. 5 Pros and 5 Cons Using Content Mills to Start Your Freelance Writing

Blog: Freelance Writers: Expertise for Newbies

Author: Melony Candea

One notable “con” of writing for the mills: “It is a plain, hard truth that you can’t use a lot of your content mill experiences to sell yourself to quality sites once you’re ready. It doesn’t matter how well written the pieces are, the sites themselves have a slight smear on them within the writing community.”

11. On Writing for Peanuts

Blog: The Renegade Writer Blog

Author: Linda Formichelli (That’s me!)

In this popular post, I bust the myths around writing for cheap — like “I’m building up my clip file” and “I can earn a lot by writing fast.”

So Now You’re Convinced…What to Do Next

Okay, so now you’re convinced that breaking free from the content mills is the right thing to do. Now, I have a load of posts on the basics of getting started as a freelance writers who earns a good living.

12. Quit Getting Paid Peanuts: 10 Tips for Freelance Writers

Blog: SuccessWorks

Author: Heather Lloyd-Martin

A big takeaway from this post is that if you don’t think your writing is worth much, clients won’t either. Here’s what to do about it.

13. So You Want To Make A Living Writing? 13 Harsh Truths.

Blog: Write on the River

Author: Bob Mayer

Think everyone’s doing better than you, and it makes you want to just give up and stick with the mills? Love this quote: “People lie. Writers are professional liars. I’ve listened to keynotes from writers and known they weren’t telling the truth. I’ve seen ‘deals’ posted in Publishers Marketplace and known the agent was grossly exaggerating the sale. No one blogs about ‘my career has gone down the crapper.’ Nope. People talk about good things. So don’t let it discourage you when everyone seems to be doing better than you.”

14. How I Make a Living as a Writer and You Can Too

Blog: James Altucher Confidential

Author: James Altucher

Learn the realities of writing for money, including Altucher’s revelations that platforms are shit and bookstores suck. An eye-opener!

15. The 7 Things Writers Need to Make a Living

Blog: Copyblogger

Author: Sonia Simone

Here are all the intangibles you need to make a living writing, from love to confidence to support. But don’t be fooled — this post goes beyond touchy-feely sentiments to share some key real-world insights.

16. How To Make A Living As An Author: Joanna Penn With Mark McGuinness

Blog: The Creative Penn

Author: Joanna Penn

Here’s how bestselling author went from writer to successful author-entrepreneur. My favorite line from this post: “Stop thinking like needy artists or freelancers living hand to mouth, and start thinking and acting like creative entrepreneurs.”

17. 3 Ways to Escape the Content Mills & Earn More as a Freelance Writer

Blog: The Renegade Writer

Author: Linda Formichelli

I think it’s important for writers to know there is a VAST, good-paying market in between content mills and hard-to-break-into magazines and businesses.

18. 8 Strategies to Building Your Freelance Writing Career

Blog: The Writer’s Dig at Writer’s Digest

Author: Brian Klems

Lots of good, solid nuts-and-bolts advice that will help you pitch your way to success in a market Brian says is getting easier to break into — thanks to email and the Internet.

19. So You Want to Be a Freelance Writer

Blog: Freelancers Union

Author: Kate Hamill

Kate, head of the Freelancers Union, gives the scoop on starting a freelance writing business.

20. Creating a Stronger Freelance Writing Business

Blog: Words on the Page

Author: Lori Widmer

A sample of the “why didn’t I think of that?” advice you’ll find in this post: “Look where others aren’t–right at the doorsteps of the companies and people you want to work with. Suppose you write about organic gardening. What associations cover that industry? Who are the experts? The PR firms? What publications support the growers, suppliers, manufacturers, or organic landscapers? Go to the sources themselves with your pitch. Do your homework, write your introductory letter, and follow up in a few weeks.”

21. To Become a Successful Freelance Writer, Start Here

Blog: Make a Living Writing

Author: Carol Tice

Are you one of those aspiring writers who says, “I’ll get started as soon as I determine my niche/decide on a business name/learn this fancy word processing program”? Carol tells you how and why you need to just take action NOW.

22. How to Stay Sane While Building Your Writing Career Part Time

Blog: The Write Life

Author: Ali Luke

Some core takeaways from this post: Be realistic, look into cutting down on your non-writing activities, and create systems that work for you.

23. 3 Secrets to Quickly Grow Your Freelance Writing Income

Blog: Make a Living Writing

Author: Carol Tice

Spoiler alert: Use your job and educational background to score gigs, even if these aren’t the topics you’re passionate about right now.

Yeah, But How Do I Actually GET These Lucrative Writing Assignments?

Somehow I knew you would ask that. 🙂 So I gathered posts that outline the very basics on breaking into several different kinds of writing that can pay well. If one type calls out to you, you can do some Google-fu to dig deeper into the details.

First, a couple posts that outline all your options for writing niches that are worth pursuing:

24. What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be?

Site: Writing-World.com

Author: Terje Johansen

Wow! Get all the details on 25 types of writing to choose from — from technical writing to resume writing to journalism.

25. 105 Ways to Make a Living Writing in 2015

Blog: All Indie Writers

Author: Jenn Mattern

From ad copy to write papers, this list offers 105 ways for writers to make money, well, writing. My fave quote: “If you aren’t sure where to start, or if you’re worried that there aren’t enough potential writing gigs to go around, consider this: Just about everything involves a writer in some way.”

And now, the newbie guides to breaking into better writing niches:

Copywriting 101

Freelance copywriters can earn $50, $100, and more per hour for writing ad copy, brochures, newsletters, product descriptions, and more.

26. How to Become a Master Copywriter in Just One Year

Blog: The Write Life

Author: James Chartrand

I love how this post doesn’t promise instant riches, and also delves into some of the mental aspects of becoming a copywriter.

27. How to Become a Freelance Copywriter

Blog: CopyHackers

Author: Joanna Wiebe

Solid details on how to build a portfolio, find clients, and more.

28. The Freelance Copywriter’s Unfair Marketing Advantage

Blog: Copyblogger

Author: Brian Clark

Being a successful copywriter is about a LOT more than knowing how to write well. Brian discusses how to differentiate yourself from all the other copywriters out there.

Online Writing 101

Basically any writing for an online market counts here: Web copy, online newsletters, articles, and other types of writing that appear on the web. Pay varies widely, but bigger businesses tend to pay more moolah.

29. How I Make My Living as an Online Writer (And How You Could Too)

Blog: Aliventures

Author: Ali Luke

Ali earns not just from her writing online, but from affiliated activities like coaching and running a membership site. Here’s the scoop on how, why, and how much each earns.

30. How to Make Money Writing for the Web

Blog: The Writer’s Dig at Writer’s Digest

Author: Brian Klems

Brian leaves nothing out of this informative post — from websites that list paying freelance jobs to tips on the craft of writing for the web.

Content Marketing 101

Content marketing is writing that’s meant to entertain and educate with an eye to garnering readers, loyalty, and sales — and can include blog posts, e-mail newsletters, and more. Pay varies, but many businesses are learning it’s worth it to pay more for good content.

31. How Freelancers Can Break Into Content Marketing Writing

Blog: WordCount: Freelancing in the Digital Age

Author: Jennifer Gregory

Jennifer outlines the steps to becoming a content marketing writer in this post that includes a load of great resource links.

32. Getting Started as a Content Marketer

Blog: The Content Marketing Institute Blog

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Not exactly a blog post, but a web page by industry pro Joe Pulizzi that offers up a list of resources for newbies who want to break into content marketing.

33. Epic Content Marketing: How Business Writers Can Profit From The
Content Megatrend

Blog: High-Income Business Writing with Ed Gandia

Author: Ed Gandia

Ed interviews content marketer extraordinaire Joe Pulizzi (does that name sound familiar? 🙂 to get the scoop on what content marketing is and why it’s a good market for freelance writers.

Magazine Writing 101

This is MY baby, and let me tell you: Some magazines pay zilch, while top markets can pay $2 per word and up. I’ve actually been paid well over $2,500 for a single article for a newsstand magazine. Other magazine markets that pay include trade publications, custom publications, and online magazines. If you’re interested in breaking into this market, you may want to check out Carol Tice’s and my upcoming Pitch Clinic class. We show you how to write a killer query or letter of introduction, and we two magazine editors on staff to critique your homework! The first lesson is live and free to the public.

34. How to Get Paid to Write for Magazines: The Ultimate Guide

Blog: Boost Blog Traffic

Author: Linda Formichelli (Who is that chick, anyway?)

I know this is one of mine, but it really is an ultimate guide! Get the details on who will buy your articles and how to pitch them.

35. How to Write for Major Magazines

Blog: AboutFreelance.com

Author: Allena Tapia

Allena has some great tips on which editors to pitch and how to flatter your way to success as a magazine writer.

Blogging 101

Want write blog posts for clients? Lots of businesses are realizing the value of maintaining an interesting updated blog, and they’re looking for writers who can make it happen. Pay varies, but $50-$75 per post is common, and you typically don’t have to do all the research and interviewing you’d do for a magazine article. You can also earn money from your own blog through selling products, running ads, and doing affiliate marketing.

36. How to Start Earning from Your Blog – Right Away

Blog: Write to Done

Author: Carol Tice

Carol lists a bunch of ways to attract blogging clients — but notes that if clients aren’t coming to you, you need to reach out to them. (And she has tips for that too!)

37. How to Become a Highly Paid Freelance Blogger

Blog: Writing Happiness

Author: Marya Jan

Choose a niche, gather testimonials, and blog your butt off! These and more tips will help you get started as a paid blogger.

38. How to Become a Freelance Blog Writer

Blog: Freelance Switch

Author: Leo Babauta

Lots of advice for the blogging newbie. One great tip: “Once you’ve got some subscribers (a couple hundred would be awesome), don’t submit your stuff to the social media — let your readers do it for you. And they will, if the article is worthy. If it’s not worthy, you don’t want to submit it anyway. The effect of a popular article — or more accurately, a few popular articles — is big, in terms of becoming a freelancer. It gets you noticed by other blogs, and they’re your real market.”

Self-Publishing E-books 101

Self-publishing is tough to earn a lot from, but even so it beats the hell out of the content mills. You own your content and can sell it wherever and however you like, and online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble make the selling process simple. My Amazon titles earn me a few thou in royalties every year.

39. How Can the Average Writer Make Money Self Publishing E-Books?

Blog: The Writer’s Dig at Writer’s Digest

Author: Brian Klems

A very thorough discussion of the ins and outs of publishing e-books, especially hitting that sweet spot with pricing.

40. Self Publishing Podcast 116: What We’d Do If We Were Just Starting Out

Blog: The Self-Publishing Podcast

Author: Jacob Tullos

This podcasts addresses such newbie questions as: Should I start a blog? What should I blog about? Should I write a full novel or focus on shorter books? Should I break in with a series or release a standalone title first?

41. How to Make Money on Ebooks

Blog: A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing

Author: JA Konrath

JA Konrath makes a living from self publishing, and in this post he gives an overview of what it takes — including a Q&A of common newbie questions and a pro/con list for traditional vs. self publishing.

Ghostwriting 101

Ghostwriters can make a mint penning books, articles, and blog posts under their clients’ names. I’ve ghostwritten a couple of small Chicken Soup books that paid $5,000 each, and know from experience that series like Idiot’s Guides and Dummies books (though you’re technically a “co-author,” not strictly a ghostwriter, because your name appears under the subject matter expert’s name on the cover) can pay $10,000 and up.

42. How I Ghostwrite Other Writers’ Books

Blog: The Write Practice

Author: Joe Bunting

Joe offers a thorough discussion on the ethics of ghostwriting, how to land gigs, and the process for ghostwriting a book.

43. How to Be a Ghostwriter

Blog: Standout Books

Author: Robert Wood

I love how this post outlines the different types of ghostwriting you can get into, and gives advice on breaking into this niche.

44. So You Want My Job: Ghostwriter

Blog: The Art of Manliness

Author: Brett & Kate McKay

The authors interview Dean Zatkowsky , who averages $150 per hour for ghostwriting. Lots of great info on what to expect if you want to get into this field.

And that’s 44 posts to help you break out of the content mills, say buh-bye to writing for peanuts, and make a good living as a freelance writer. If you enjoyed this post, please share with all your writer friends via email, on Twitter, and on Facebook!

Happy writing,

Linda Formichelli

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