While visiting a popular forum for WAHMs recently, I followed a particular discussion with interest. An experienced labor and delivery nurse was interested in making a bit of extra money and asked for recommendations for content mills she could approach. Her goal was to make 5 cents per word, but she was having trouble finding a company to pay that amount.
Responses to this poster included statements such as the following:
Unfortunately, few content mills pay 5 cents a word. Many start out at about $1.50 for 400 words.
I only know of a handful of sites that pay 5 cents a word, but it takes time and effort to reach that point.
You would be hard pressed to find a content mill paying that much.
If you can afford it, you may want to consider writing for residual income sites. In this case you can be paid by ad clicks and/or affiliate links for the same articles over and over. This can result in pennies or be very lucrative depending on traffic, topic etc.
I recommend starting with Textbroker. They don't pay a lot starting out, but prove yourself and sign up for teams. Most of the teams I'm on pay at least 2 cents a word. Plus, you set your own rate for direct orders. I have mine set at 3 cents a word. I tried higher, but 3 cents seems to get the most work.
I agree with those who suggest giving the mills a try to get your feet wet. Your experience is worth a great deal, but you also need to learn the ropes of writing for pay. Some people find it tough to make the shift from writing for themselves to meeting a client's needs, and writing for a mill or bid site can ease that transition.I do not write this post to disparage anyone’s choices, or to say that people should not write for content mills if they truly want to.
My impression, though, is that many people do not understand the opportunities available to them, and this is why they look to content mills for what they perceive as an easy source of income.
As I mentioned in a recent post, I was pretty clueless when a magazine gave me my first paid assignment. Since I was writing for pleasure and did not even realize I would get paid, it came as a nice surprise to receive $120 (about 10 cents per word) on my first try. Since then, I’ve gone on to earn ten times that amount for a single article.
While I have built up my knowledge over the past several years and write in niches that are both comfortable and familiar, I worked hard to reach this point. People with ready-made niches like nursing, finance, law, and others should be able to capitalize on their professional expertise and dive right in to the world of high-paying markets.
Although you have to be a skilled writer, the idea that you need to “pay your dues” by writing for the mills is a fallacy.
I’d never heard of content mills when I started out and thus avoided them completely. Sure, I made some amateurish moves in the beginning, but no one rejected me or told me I’d have to stop writing due to my ignorance. I just kept trucking along and found that editors were generally okay with teaching me the ropes until I understood what I needed to do differently.
To be fair, some of the people in the above discussion recommended that the nurse skip the content mills and seek out private clients instead. These could include hospitals, clinics, doctors in private practice, and others. Some also said she should start her own website or write her own e-books, which will give her both a platform and a passive stream of income. I agree with this advice.
A quick search on the Internet showed me that nurses frequently become medical writers, a profession that paid an average of $82,232 in 2007. Medical writers might write for healthcare websites like WebMD (a market that pays $700 for articles of 800 to 1,000 words), contribute to medical textbooks, or write hospital newsletters. They might write for pharmaceutical companies or work on government-sponsored projects like creating healthcare brochures and posters.
Beyond that, there are several websites and magazines out there catering to nurses and other medical professionals. Nurse.com, for example, pays $200 to $800 for assigned articles. Other options might include health or pregnancy magazines, or even women’s magazines that publish first-person essays. In many cases, magazines like these pay up to $1 per word and more. I’m guessing that most nurses have gripping anecdotes to share that would be of interest to others. These could also find themselves in religious magazines and just about anywhere people seek inspiration.
As you can see, the opportunities for nurses and medical writers are numerous and varied, and it is a niche that pays quite well.
If you work in nursing or another profession, be wary of content mills seeking your expertise. Some of them shamelessly recruit nurses, doctors, lawyers, and others to write quality content for insultingly low rates. Take pride in your education and knowledge, and look for clients who understand your worth. If you believe that 5 cents per word is the best you can do, that is what you will achieve. If you believe that $1 per word is the norm in your niche, you will set better goals for yourself and soon become a high-earning writer who may even be tempted to leave your profession and start freelancing full-time instead.