Freelance SEO Writing: The Reality of Earning $100/Day Writing for Content Mills

I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993. In 2007, I discovered SEO writing and went on to specialize in this niche. I receive a lot of questions from aspiring freelance writers about how to start, and I’d have to say, hands down, the number one thing that keeps many from starting a freelance career is crippling insecurity.

The #1 Fear Many Aspiring Freelance SEO Writers Have

They worry that their writing skills are not good enough, or that they don’t know enough (anything) about how to write SEO copy – which is what many clients want these days – to please clients. I get it; I had some of these same insecurities when I first started out. After I got the hang of it though, I was like, “That’s all there is to it? Really?!

Free Ecourse: Become a SEO WriterHow to Start a Freelance SEO Writing Business

One way to beat these insecurities is to start off in what I call the “sweat shops” of online writing – content mills and certain content marketing agencies. They can help you build the confidence you need to quickly move on to securing your own higher-paying clients. Getting work from these types of companies is pretty straightforward, and you can easily earn $50 to $100 per day – even with very little or no experience. Proof?

About a month and a half ago, I went on a marketing blitz and applied for 150+ freelance writing jobs in a short period of time. It was revealing on a lot of levels.  One of the things that stuck out to me was how simple it is to earn $50-100/day, if you know how to write SEO content.

Why $50 to $100 Per Day as an Earnings Marker?

I chose this amount because it’s what many need to replace a part-time (in some cases) a full-time job; not including benefits, of course; but to replace a baseline, hourly salary. It’s also a marker I used for myself when I first started writing SEO content back in 2007. I figured, if I can’t earn this much, then I need to be doing something else.

As I combed through hundreds of listings, I found that it’s easier than ever to earn this much per day. And there are a couple of ways to go about it: writing for content mills and marketing agencies, or finding your own private clients (where the real money in freelance writing is to be made).

This week, we’re going to delve into what it really takes to make $100 per day writing for content mills and marketing agencies. In next week’s post, we’ll delve into the private client route, ok? So, here we go.

How to Make Money Writing for Content Mills & Agencies

5 Reasons Many Freelancers Write for Content Mills

You might as well know up front that anytime you say “I write for a content mill,” it’s going to cause a ruckus in freelance writing circles, as the comments section of this post prove. However, if you’re a newbie to freelance writing and …

  • Don’t have the confidence (yet) to pursue your own gigs;
  • Don’t have the time or desire to market for your own gigs;
  • Like writing and just want to make some extra money using your skill;
  • Want to learn a new form of online writing (SEO content); and/or
  • Earn a little while you learn a new trade …

Then writing for content mills can fit the bill. But realize, it is a lot – A LOT – of work.

How Much Content Mills & Content Marketing Agencies Pay

Anywhere from mere pennies (eg, $3 for a 500-word article), on up to a “high” of around $20-$30 per 400 to 600-word article. And yes, $20-$30/per article are the “good-paying” assignments.

53 Content Mills & Agencies that Pay You to Write

So the key is to sign up for a few of them to keep yourself busy. Here is a list of eight, with feedback. Here’s a generic list of 35 (some may overlap with the first list). And here’s yet another list of 10 that I ran across. These should be enough to get you started.

How to Get Hired by Content Mills & Content Marketing Agencies

The sign-up process can be as simple as entering an email address and taking a simple grammar test, to submitting writing samples and crafting article pitches. Some get back to you almost immediately; others take weeks, or even a few months.

Plan to spend a few days or a full week signing up with as many as you feel will allow you to hit your income goals. Then as soon as you’ve been accepted, get to selecting assignments and writing.

Note: Before you start with any content mill/agency, do some research. Look for first-hand accounts from other freelancers about what it was like to write for them, then make your decision.

How Many Hours Per Day You Have to Work to Earn $100?

I’ve worked for a few content mills in my day; mostly when I first started out, ie: (i) the now-defunct AssociatedContent.com (it was bought by Yahoo); (ii) eHow (Demand Media); (iii) Media Shower; and (iv) BloggMutt.

Writing for AssociatedContent

I loved AssociatedContent because I essentially got paid to promote my own products and services. I used this site to promote my ebooks and classes. They used to accept pre-published content, so I’d submit the same article I’d published on my blog to them. Any money I earned there was just gravy. Those days are long gone though.

Writing for eHow

This was another site I loved writing for. Basically an editor would assign me articles and pay me a flat fee for each one – anywhere from $15 to $25 per article. My “specialty” with them was freelance writing, so I could write an article in about half an hour. It was some of the easiest writing I’ve ever done.

Writing for BlogMutt

I wrote four articles for them. Sold three of them and never wrote another one. The clients are too picky there for me. For $8 per post (even though it’s only 250-300 words), people expect changes. Really?!

It wasn’t worth it for me, but they do have a ton of assignments and you can earn more than $8 per post. They have payscales that move up once you reach certain levels. It’s explained in the link just above.

Writing for Media Shower

I actually liked writing for them too. The pay is a straightforward $25 per article for 400 to 600 words. But they recently switched to a mostly “pitch” platform, which means you have to pitch clients an idea in order to maybe get an assignment. You’re not the only one pitching, so that’s why I say maybe get an assignment.

I hate pitching — even for high-paying assignments. It’s one reason I never wrote for magazines. If you know anything about crafting pitches, you know that it can take almost as long to put together a good one as it does to write a 400 to 600-word article.

For me, to have to pitch first in order to get a $25 per article assignment is not the best use of my time, so I don’t do it.

To be fair, you can name your rate on some of the assignments, but still, it’s just not how I like to work as a freelance writer. If an editor contacts me with a straightforward assignment and I’m not too busy and it’s something I can knock out pretty easily, then I’ll accept. I don’t bother with pitching first though. I have never liked to do it, so this pretty much killed most of my chances of getting work from them.

I signed up with several others mills/agencies that I did no work for because I was simultaneously marketing for (and landing) my own, higher-paying clients. And FYI, if you want to earn a good, full-time living as a freelance writer, this should be your goal.

The Worst Part about Working for Content Mills & Agencies

Burnout is a real factor, so don’t make this your end-goal; use it as a training ground and as soon as you can, move on.

As for how many hours you’re gonna have to put in, in my opinion – and experience – you should plan on working at least 8-12 hours per day at a minimum if you want to consistently hit the $100 per day mark.

That long, really?  Yes, and the reason is, you’ll have to sift through writing assignments to find something you can and/or want to write on that doesn’t require a lot of time and research. Some of the assignments available require a lot of research; some don’t. And the competition for the “easy” assignments is usually very stiff and they go quickly.

So if you’re earning an average of $10 per article, you’d have to write 10 articles in one day! If you spend an hour on each one, that’s 10 hours right there. So yeah, it’s a grind – and that’s why burnout is real and why should always be looking for your own private clients as a freelance writer.

You’ll earn more and work less; although, you’ll spend a lot of time marketing – especially in the beginning.

If you’re thinking, “Well, I’ll just take the higher-paying assignments (eg, $25).” Not so fast — many times, those aren’t available.

Types of Content You’ll Be Writing

Content marketing companies and mills have a lot of clients, which is why they have writing assignments on everything from how to file bankruptcy (for bankruptcy lawyers), to the best way to remove a tree stump from your front yard (tree-cutting service), to cloud computing (technology company).

This is what made it fun for me. And, you learn a lot. My friends don’t like to watch game shows or play word games with me because I know so many oddball facts – and it’s all because I’ve written on and researched so many topics as a freelance writer.

Conclusion

To sum up, to earn $50 to $100 per day as a freelance SEO writer working for a content mill or content marketing agency:

(i) Sign up with a few mills/agencies to have options;

(ii) Try to select topics/assignments that you have experience in/with/on and/or that don’t in-depth research; and

(iii) Plan to put in a solid day’s work (8-12 hours per day).

It’s not rocket science. It really is as simple as this. Notice I said simple, not easy.

As soon as you feel confident in your abilities, branch out and look for your own clients. This is where the real money is as a freelance SEO writer, and this shouldn’t take long at all – a couple of months at the most.

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Get the exact knowledge that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

Hey Yuwanda,

I hope all is well! I just wanted to let you know that this month marked the first month that my writing income surpassed that of my day job.

Thanks to your help and inspiration, I have more work than I know what to do with and have successfully landed a number of clients that give me recurring work. Thanks again for your advice!

SEO writing changed the trajectory of my freelance writing career. It can do the same for you!