Friday, May 20, 2016

Things You'll Learn While Writing for a Content Mill

Writing for a content mill is the quickest way to start earning a few bucks from home with your writing, but at 1.3 cents a word, it’s not very lucrative. If you’re a perfectionist like I am, you’ll find yourself going over an article again and again, which makes for a quality piece but decreases your hourly pay rate.

Necessary Skills

The good news is that you will gain experience as a writer, which will hopefully lead to landing better paying gigs. Writing on your own blog is much different than writing in “AP Style” and to a client’s specifications, but those things are easier than they sound. Including the client’s requested “keywords” in a natural way is pretty much a no brainer that I was nailing from day one, so I won’t even go into that in this post. If you have good grammar and punctuation skills and a knack for wording things, you’ll probably just need to fine tune a few weak areas.

Comma Rules

It was easy for me to adjust to not using the Oxford comma when writing articles for Textbroker, since I had read early on that they had that preference. They just want you to leave off the final comma before the “and” in a series. That was easy enough, but when they gave me feedback on my first five articles, I learned that I was making a few actual comma mistakes, which had to do with coordinating conjunctions, subordinate conjunctions, adverbial clauses, and non-essential clauses. 

Basically, I had a bad habit of not putting a comma before “so” and “which,” which apparently both need one. The word “because” IS NOT preceded by a comma. The exception is when “because” is the first word of a dependent clause at the beginning of a sentence. In that case, a comma IS used after the introductory clause. That’s it. I got feedback on five articles that pretty much all said the same thing. And I’ve corrected the problem.

Preferred Format for Articles

I have found that most clients prefer the same general format for articles. They want an introduction, several “subheads,” and a conclusion. I personally prefer to give my conclusion a title as if it was another one of the subheadings. To me, labeling the conclusion with the word “conclusion,” sounds a little too academic for articles written in a more casual tone. But if you don’t give the conclusion any subheading, it will look like it's part of the previous point.
Edited to Add: Apparently, I was wrong about this. I got dinged by another company for using a subhead on my conclusion--another example of a lesson learned.

Research is Time Consuming

Although I can type around 60 w.p.m., it can sometimes take me two hours to finish a 400-word document. I lose a lot of time toggling back and forth to and from the source articles as I write. A possible solution for this would be buying a dual screen computer for my desk or using my phone or a second laptop to reference my sources. I’ve also tried pasting the source information into the top of the page and then deleting it once I’m finished writing my article below it. It doesn’t seem like anything works to speed me up, though, when I'm working on an articles requiring extensive research.

When I write about a subject I’m already knowledgeable about, I work a little faster. The information is flowing from my head, and I’m just typing it up. I go the fastest when I make each section longer than it needs to be during the initial draft. It’s a lot easier to cut things out to make a paragraph more concise than to try to come up with more information later to fluff it up.

I enjoy writing, and at a few more cents per word, any necessary research wouldn't seem as grueling. I just want to feel like I can take my time and produce quality work. Perhaps over time I’ll get faster, but I refuse to sacrifice quality for quantity.

Switching Gears Can Slow You Down

The assignments I’m doing are about random topics and different clients have different specifications, so I’m constantly having to mentally switch gears. Writing posts for the same client for an ongoing blog seems like it would be easier as one could quickly get a feel for the client’s preferred style and become an expert in the particular niche.

Writing for a content mill is a great way to get some constructive criticism and learn more about the business of writing online content. Don’t think of it as working for below minimum wage. Think of it as a free education that will prepare you for bigger and better things—like writing guest posts.

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