We’ve all heard the complaints — content sites (or content mills) are screwing up the industry. Content sites provide poor content. There’s no money to be made writing for content sites. Google all but killed content sites.
Blah blah blah…yadda yadda yadda.
Now, I’m not a fan of content sites, but I also don’t believe in biting the hand that fed me, and for several years, that’s exactly what they did. If it weren’t for some of the articles I wrote for content sites, (And I wrote some damn fine articles, I might add!), I would not be in the position I’m in now.
(Yes, it’s a good position, more about that in a future post.)
Even though the Google Panda has stripped much of the leaves from the content mill eucalyptus tree, you can still make money writing for content sites. Here are a couple of tips to help you out.
1. Focus on what you know. Choose topics you can write about in your sleep. Take full advantage of the search feature each site has, and find titles that are easy for you. It will take less time to write the article and since it’s a topic with which you are familiar, you’ll enjoy it more. If you run into a bunch of articles on the same topic, grab as many as you can. [There is an art to doing several articles on the same subject without tripping the plagiarism flag. I’ll come back to that.]
2. Branch away from your comfort zone. This may seem to counter what I said above, but it doesn’t. While writing what you know will bring in the bulk of your writing income, picking up one or two titles out of your comfort zone will help you in the long term. I mean, you weren’t always an expert in your main topic, were you? Of course not. So pick a title or two that you are interested in learning about more, and do the research and write about it. After a few articles, your comfort level with the topic will increase (and if you’re like me, you’ll read about it every time you get a chance). Before you know it, you’ll have TWO topics that fit the “Focus on what you know” category.
3. Share your work. Some people who write for content sites don’t like to admit they write for content sites. Sometimes it’s because of the reputation of the site, or maybe an editor screwed up an article and the writer doesn’t want to be associated with it. Well, that’s nonsense. Here’s the thing about the writing/publishing industry: Everyone knows that writers are edited, and everyone knows not every editor should be an editor. A few bad articles are not worth burying your byline and losing the exposure, especially when you’re starting out. So share your articles with your friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Post links to them on your blog. But if you’re that concerned about the quality of your articles, write a post explaining that the errors were introduced through an “editing oversight”. Of course, my solution would be to not write for the content site, which leads me to…
4. Choose your sites carefully. I know that when the economy is bad, you have to do things you normally wouldn’t do to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head and clothes on your back. However, you have to think long-term here. If you plan to build a career as a writer, you want your clips to be respected, and sometimes you have to consider the source. Some sites have better reputations than others, and some sites have NO reputation. Before you agree to lend a site your byline, take a careful look at the content that is already there. Is it stuff you would read, or did you cringe during the first sentence? Does the site present itself well? Take these factors into consideration before you publish with them.
5. Take your work seriously. You might “just write for a content mill,” but you never know when an article will attract someone’s attention. I have landed several well-paying gigs because someone was surfing through eHow or BrightHub and happened across one of my articles. I’ve also had people contact me for work because a friend of a friend of a friend saw an article I wrote shared on Facebook. Don’t devalue your work by just throwing up crappy content. Take pride in it. Do your best, because you never know who’s watching.
Now, about that plag flag. Here’s how I used to write 10 different articles on the same subject, using the same sources and never NEVER got a plag flag:
1. Write article #1. Save as a draft.
2. Write articles #2 – #10, saving each as a draft.
3. Submit each article, one at a time, an hour or two apart. If you’re writing for a site with quick approvals (such as how DMS used to be and how Textbroker can be), wait for the approval before submitting the next one.
Or if you have the time to spare, submit one or two a day over several days.
So, there you have it — how to make money writing for content sites. Do you have anything to add? Questions? Comments? Let me have ’em.