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Freelance Writing Tips: Branching Out, Moving Past Content Mills

Updated on October 15, 2012

If you have ever written for companies such as Demand Media Studios, Bright Hub or Break Studios, it is very likely that you have experienced a considerable lull and lag in available work since Google's algorithm switch in early 2011. Several companies have folded or are in process of changing the way in which they operate, thereby increasing the need for unique, quality content. Many of us are facing questions about how we plan to deal with this demand and most importantly, how do we move beyond working for such companies which offer the writer so little in exchange for the work that we do?

1. Specialize

Have you developed a writing niche yet? If you have not, now is probably a good time to begin thinking about subjects which particularly interests you. One way you could do this is by looking at past work you've created for your clients or companies. Think about what intrigued you most, and what particularly about the topic inspired you. Having just one area of expertise is not enough; it will be necessary in the future for all of us to have two, three or more. The importance of developing a certain area of knowledge is that you become the expert, which makes you a credible source of information outright. Specializations can be used to create blogs, niche sites and information products where you make the money generated by your writing work instead of foregoing rights to others, allowing them to reap all the benefits of your hard work.

Something to consider: As a writer you can specialize in a certain type of writing such as press releases, SEO or producing sales copy. You can also specialize in a niche or particular subject matter like medicine, computers or machinery for example, which is the type of specialization I'm referring to here. You'll want to know all you can about a given topic that you can stand to live with for quite some time.

2. Construct Your Writing Platform

In the simplest of terms, a writer's platform includes a set of actions which allows you to create a need for your services. It also makes you noticeable to the community of writers as well as potential clients who will likely benefit from your services in the future. It's like making the announcement, "Here I am and this is what I do." If you are like most writers, including myself, marketing your business is something that you would rather not do as it has the ability to take all the fun out of writing. However, if we are to move beyond the content mill lull and have more control of our business then its a necessary...evil.

I suppose another way to look at this which has helped me get it in gear is to realize that if I have a service that could help someone, then it is important that I let them know I exist. If I am a writer and I have knowledge that could possibly be of benefit then I need to take action to let others know I am capable of supplying the information they need.

You can create podcasts in your topic, do an e-course for free or pay, write free articles or for residual sites like Hubpages and Wizzley. Writing an e-book, forming an organization, using social networks such as Twitter to produce a following are more ideas you could consider to build your platform as a writer.

3. Realize Content Mills Uses

Content mill writing is a very controversial topic among writers. We all have our take. Some feel we should NEVER under any circumstances do it, while others take the stance that it's a viable source of income and a starting place, which is where I stand. I think we all have to make our own decisions about what is best for us and our writing careers, however I do not hesitate to pass on information to help us move on to bigger and better solutions. My thing is this: if you want to do it - do it. I certainly have no qualms about it, but work to move beyond that, being sure to utilize not just one but several different methods of generating business for yourself. Diversifying is just plain sound sense, no matter what business or industry you're in.

Something to Check Out: Content Mill Alternatives & Other Freelancing Jobs, a very helpful blog written by Janis Bennett.

4. Don't Be Afraid to Pitch

I think that by now most of us realize that to increase our visibility to possible clients, pitching directly to them is a good way to do this. While it may not always result in a business relationship, they will know that you are available and are able to do the job. View it as extending your network of contacts and part of maintaining your platform. Pay attention to who is producing periodicals in your knowledge area both in print and online. Notice who is using your free articles (this is important) on their blogs and sites. These are useful leads, as each one creates a purpose for a direct pitch so that you can let them know there is more where that came from.

Getting Started Now: Why It's So Important

It takes time to do this stuff. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme by far and it is hard work indeed which is the reason to start right now implementing these tips. Now while there is no magic formula, you will get results, but it does take discipline, persistence and time. Don't wait until all of your content mill work dries up, because it's not just a question of if, but when.

Happy Writing!

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    • AuniceReed profile imageAUTHOR

      Aunice Yvonne Reed 

      6 years ago from Southern California

      Glad it was helpful! It can just be a vicious, crash-n-burn cycle can't it? One (content mill) starts up, hires a bunch of people, then they plunge and die, then another takes its place and the whole thing starts over again.

    • dagny roth profile image

      dagny roth 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      Thanks for this article! I find myself in the content lull loop and although in some ways I feel I could do so much more I am plugging away at trying to build my knowledge base as well as hone in on my niche.

    • Ashleymckinnon profile image


      6 years ago from Coleman, WI

      Great idea. Can't wait to read more.

    • Kadmiels profile image


      6 years ago from Florida

      this is a great article.. of course content mills have there place it is easy to become bored with them and the idea of writing is to constantly keep yourself challanged

    • Naima Manal profile image

      Naima Manal 

      6 years ago from NY

      The advice presented is clear and concise, and now writers have to find their footings in the field to venture out on their own from content-mill sites. Thank you.


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