Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work for a content mill?
Well, I’m going to share something I found while tidying up my computer files.
It’s a short piece that I wrote when I was working for one particular content mill, which shall remain nameless. It was written some time back and never intended for publication, so it ain’t perfect.
But that’s not the point.
As freelancers, we all have times when our calendar is looking emptier than an executioner’s tip jar.
And during these times, when you’ve got bills to pay and kids to feed, content mills can look like an easy way to make a bit of extra pocket money.
I can only speak from my experience, but if I had to describe what it was like working for one, ‘easy’ is not the first word that springs to mind.
Life at the Content Mill
My whole life at that time was defined by numbers and the relentless ticking of an unseen clock.
It was as if my life was being spliced into sections that were measured by word counts, project numbers and the pitiful amount of money I earned.
- Days I worked per week = 3
- Projects completed per day = 6
- Number of words per project = 500
- Number of words per day = 3000
- Number of projects per week = 18
- Number of words per week = 9000
- Earnings per project = £6.50
- Earnings per day = £39.00
- Earnings per week = £117
- Days until I blow my brains out = Probably some time around Christmas
If there was such a thing as a ‘creative well’, then by working for these people, I was taking a metaphorical piss in it.
You can make of that what you will.
But I will say this — at that point, I didn’t even care that the money wasn’t great. I was just happy to have regular work and make money from writing, even if it was a pittance.
Because hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere, right?
I am Not a Number, I’m a Free Woman!
The thing that really bothered me was how badly they treated their writers.
Every day the job remit changed, so each project would take longer to complete. But as their expectations grew, the rate of pay never increased, and neither did the time we were given to complete each project.
We had to write, edit and optimise each 500 word article in less than an hour. And god help you if you made a mistake because they weren’t exactly the forgiving types.
I remember one of their editors angrily sending an article back to me because I had made one typo. I’d written 3000 words that day.
She made me feel like I was the worst writer in the world. And then laid a guilt trip on me about how my sloppy attitude was making her job more difficult. Even though logically I knew she was being unfair, I was so tired and jaded from the workload that I obsessed over what she said for days.
Brace Yourselves for Some Wisdom
The problem with content mills is that their business model is based on greed and exploitation. They treat their writers like robots instead of human beings.
So, if you were thinking about selling your soul to the writing equivalent of a Victorian workhouse, then I’d suggest that you think again.
Writing for peanuts is not good for the industry. It’s a depressing race to the bottom and brings rates down for us all.
If you’re going to make it as a freelancer, or in any industry for that matter, it’s important to know your worth.
Start from the bottom? If you have to.
Pay your dues? Sure.
Perform a skilled job for less than minimum wage? Absolutely not.
That’s my opinion, and you can take it or leave it. But if you do end up signing up to a writing sweatshop, be sure to give them the middle finger from me.
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