Who writes for content mills?

Nov 23, 2015

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Content mills are considered the fast food of the freelance writing industry, vast machines employing an army of low-paid writers to churn out an unending stream of vapid clickbait.

Despite being excoriated from causing everything from the decline in writers' incomes and the lamentable quality of web journalism to the rise in childhood obesity and the approach of the apocalypse, the dark Satanic mills of the content creation industry have enduring appeal for certain types of writers.

Commitment Phobes:

You like writing. You also like other things. The possibilities are infinite: bartending, veterinary school, ski instructor, web design, entrepreneurship, owning a guest house, driving for Uber ....

You don't want to get trapped in the wrong career. So many of your friends are locked into jobs they don't truly love because they made a firm commitment far too early.

Writing for content mills is like speed dating. It keeps your options open. Even better, you parents' basement comes with free food and laundry service.

Disgruntled, Underemployed PhDs:

You did not spend four years as an undergraduate and eight years in graduate school, taking out $123,724.53 of student loans, to end up writing product descriptions, listicles, and other clickbait, but teaching two sections of remedial composition per term only pays $1500 per course and your expertise in applying postcolonial diaspora Africana feminism to Goliardic poetics just doesn't seem to translate into other paying jobs.

Hermits, Recluses, and Crazy Cat People:

You can select titles, write them, submit them, and get paid without ever leaving your home or dealing with a live human being.

You like that. Even better, while you work, you can enjoy quality time with your cat, or cats, or -- just how many cats do you have?


Someone likes your work! They accepted it! They paid you! OMG! You are a real published author! That $3.00 you made for ten 500-word articles will almost cover your Starbucks bill for the afternoon!

Monkey around with other freelancers (it's free!)

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Serious Stoners:

You live in Colorado. You have your beer. You have your bong. Three product descriptions will pay for pizza for dinner and breadsticks for breakfast. Life is good.

Silver Foxes:

After fifty years of correcting your family's speech and manners for free, you have found a place where your gimlet eye for grammar is truly appreciated.

Whether you are using the extra cash to spoil the grandkids with extravagant Christmas gifts or saving up for gear to get the most out of the senior discounts at the local ski resorts, content mills are far more fun than shuffleboard or bingo.

Spare Changers:

You have a regular job with a decent income, but you will need to repair or replace the roof and HVAC system of your house soon, and the kids will need money for college if they can ever get off their cell phones long enough to study, and besides, if you are actually "working" on your laptop, maybe your spouse will stop nagging you to do the dishes and cut the grass.

Carol Poster has published three books of commercial nonfiction and numerous articles in print and web venues. She recently retired from a university teaching career to focus on freelance writing and photography.

Carol Poster

Carol Poster is a freelance writer and photographer who had published three books of nonfiction and numerous articles in print and web venues.