If you’re freelance writer who’s spent time writing for content mills like Demand Studios, Wise Geek or Mahola, you may have experienced a slowdown from your usual workload. It all started with Google’s now infamous Panda update.
Long story short, the Panda Update is essentially Google’s way of penalizing lower quality content creators generating mass quantities of content strategically in hopes of dominating the search engine results. Companies, or content mills, attempting to mass produce content for their clients cheaply often outsource the project to freelance writers. Many of these writers have come to depend on mill work to manage monthly expenses. For many, it’s an easy way to break into freelance writing while working at home. They appreciated the business model – all they had to do was write. There was no marketing or self-promotion. The writers write based on titles or keywords supplied by the company. Unfortunately for many of these writers, the content mill business model can’t stand up against Google’s Panda Update.
Website Magazines’ May 2011 issue revealed that Mahalo, a well-known member of the content farming community, was forced to reduce its writer workforce by 10-percent following Google’s Panda Update. And other farms are feeling the pressure as well. Several Demand Media Studios writers are now facing reduced income as the company drastically reduced the number of articles available to its writers, and significantly thinned its workforce.
Tips for Freelancers: Getting Better Writing Gigs
So what can writers do when a content mill shuts down or restructures, eliminating the income they’ve come to rely on? These tips can help freelancers take what they’ve learned and move on to bigger and better writing gigs:
Remember You’re a Freelance Writer, Not an Employee
Never get too comfortable with only one or two clients, because losing them will feel as if the rug has been pulled from under you. Unlike employees, freelance writers don’t receive financial compensation if they are unexpectedly let go. Having four or more regular projects in place makes losing one much less painful.
Use Writing for Mills as a Stepping Stone to Higher Paying Gigs
I would never argue with someone’s decision to write for content mills. I wrote for a couple when I first started working on my own while I worked to build up a client-base. These companies can provide a steady source of income and allow you to focus your efforts on finding clients willing to pay for your services, or print/online publications willing to publish your articles. Don’t rely on mill writing as a full-time, permanent solution.
Never get so comfortable that you stop looking for work – even when you’re busy. Marketing for writing opportunities is a big part of the freelance writing business model. Cold calling, mailing business collateral (brochures, postcards, building a website/blog, etc.) and emails are just a few examples of marketing strategies you can use. If you detest marketing, you may want to rethink pursuing freelance writing. You’ll need to market frequently to keep paid projects in the pipeline.
What I mean by diversify is set up more than one income stream for your freelancing business. For instance, if you specialize in blogging for benefits insurance companies, you could write and sell a report about the benefits of blogging, and market it to Human Resource Managers. If you have a blog, you can monetize it. You could add consulting to your list of services.
If you currently write for a content mill, have you personally been affected by company changes as a result of the Google Panda Update? Please share your experience by leaving a comment below.
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