Finding Cheap Content

A large chunk of the writing market has become commoditized, i.e. bought and sold based upon price like bananas or soap or widgets. I don’t operate on this basis for a variety of reasons, none of which will matter to someone deadheaded on cost. If you are one of these people, here are your options and what writers have to say about them:

Content Mills

Zerys

Zerys, owned by Interact Media, has been around since 2008. Zerys cites an article by David Shrauger as summing up its benefits to writers, but even David admits he used the site when “he began writing full-time” and now sees it as a place to pick up work between assignments. In other words, like other content marketplaces, Zerys is not a first choice for serious, established writers. This level of wannabe-ness is reinforced by a policy of strict anonymity and a high commission take, which leaves little incentive for writers.

Higher pay for writers means better writers delivering better quality work leading to an increase in orders and clients willing to pay more money. This policy would really be the rising tide that lifted all boats and would benefit Interact Media in the end. – David Shrauger

Writer Access

WA is pretty bad unless you like churning out stuff for 1c a word. Writer Access is terrible if you don’t manage to get four stars out of the gate. I got into WA in mid-September and I think I just did my tenth assignment about a week ago, and I think I’ve written less than five on Zerys. – Kazmeyer

Textbroker

Clients post assignments for X number of words,  which writers can then claim and write subject to approval. The best assignments pay 1.4 cents a word. Writers can build connections with clients, who may then invite the writer to be part of a smaller team. But writers still have to write an article on spec for a relatively small amount of money.

Writer Access

WA works along the same lines as Textbroker, except that writers can only claim one assignment from a given client until that client accepts an article. Like Textbroker, WA requires an application and plenty of fruitless effort churning out articles that go unsold. Writers content mills like Textbroker, Writer Access, and Zerys often produce second versions of their articles, which they sell on Constant Content.

CopyPress, Demand Studios, Helium, Suite 101

The bottom-feeders in the world of content mills were hit hard by Google’s Panda update. They are now struggling back into circulation by adopting the pay scales and structures used by Textbroker, et al. In fact, Demand Studios’s CEO and founder, Richard Rosenblatt, resigned abruptly in 2013 when Panda struck, no doubt enriched by the firm’s $77 million IPO two years earlier.

Content mills are a big part of my income at present times. It allows me the flexibility to hone my writing skills along with developing a strong marketing plan. I write for Textbroker, The Content Authority and a mill that was not mentioned in the piece, CrowdSource through the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. I can make a decent living while I pursue other goals, especially through CrowdSource. They pay $11.00 for a 300 word article where I can write two quality articles in one hour where I average around $22.00/hr. I work a traditional eight hour schedule and built a schedule that works for me. My point is, they work as a great supplement to your income while you try and build your client list and move up to professional writing status…I am trying to learn the marketing side of writing and the mills pay the bills while I do that. I have no intention of staying with mills for five years trying to grind out a living. I am trying to build plenty of irons in the fire. – Larry Phillips

Content Marketplaces

Constant Content

This storefront sells pre-written articles, with a 500-word article typically priced between $25 and $50. Buyers can also submit requests for custom articles at a set price. Before you buy, check the bios of the writers. Many are new to freelancing. The majority are blog-style writers.

I use the site for my writing ideas that I wouldn’t put on my own sites. (I don’t do pay-per-click.) That is, instead of making blog posts for ideas that have no relevance to my blogs, I’ll just write it up and submit to CC. I do not spend more than an hour on any one article, and I price high enough to be worth my while. (Usually $25-$85 for full rights.) But that’s me. I also use it as a way to say…”hey, I CAN write on this topic” without creating work for nothing. I’ve sold 9 articles out of 22, and that’s all been in the past 6 months and without marketing of any kind. – Lynnsawyze

But they take 35% of that $30+. Still better than $5, sure. And since I can typically pound out an article in a little under an hour, when I actually sell an article (as I did recently, because I went back for a bit after reading this thread and submitted to a request), I make about $20 an hour. The thing is, I only sell about 50% of the articles I submit, so we’re talking $10 an hour. Not horrible, but not good considering what I make as a freelance editor and writer for private clients. – Ralyks

Constant Content is a fantastic site to work for if you can get into one of the writer pools. Once you start writing regularly – at least 50+ articles a month, from what I can tell – you’ll probably get invited into a writer pool. The more you write, the more you’re going to sell. I figure that I’ll sell about 1/3 of the articles I write fairly quickly, so I base my rates off of that. It’s nice to have a website that will pay $30+ for a 500 word article, rather than some content sites that offer $5 for the same amount of work. – The Hungry Freelancer (note: the author does not recommend CC in her list of resources for writers)

Portfolio Marketplaces

Contently

Contently is arguably the biggest hit from startup accelerator Techstars NewYork. It is both a marketplace and a platform for managing freelance writers used by big brands like Anheuser-Busch. For Contently, the big money is on the SaS side, not the marketplace side, because it charges anyway from $5,000 to $25,000 a month for the full bells-and-whistles platform. On the marketplace side, Contently creates portfolios of a writer’s published clips (articles) and then pairs writers with clients in need of articles.  Writers pitch article ideas. If the pitch is accepted, the writer gets paid $5. The writer gets paid the full amount, usually around $100, after the finished story is accepted. The process and focus come from journalism, not the sort of writing you find on a business website or landing pages.

All in all, I only ever made $210 with Contently. I only ever had one client and they only needed the two articles I had written. I haven’t received a client in months. Now I can’t be sure what the reasoning for this is, but it may likely be that Contently has a low volume of clients in relation to writers. – Kayvon

Ebyline

Ebyline and its associated site, Content Hub, were started in 2009 by former Los Angeles Times employees. Like Contently, Ebyline is slanted toward article (content) writing, not copywriting. Like Contently, it offers a marketplace for writers to sell pre-written articles. And, again like Contently, it makes its big money as an SaS platform, not as a writing marketplace.  About the only way Ebyline can differentiate itself from Contently is by calling itself less brand-oriented and as having “sort of the world’s largest newsroom.” (Source) Freelancers complain that the platform is cumbersome and obtuse, which may explain the huge amount of crappy content published on Content Hub (provided by eByline writers) that swamps search engine results.

Behance

Behance is a true portfolio site. Sponsored by Adobe, makers of design software, the site showcases visual creators across a broad range of categories. Copywriting and content are not among the portfolio categories, so writers are left out.. Still, it is a good place to go for inspiration. I have a profile there simply because I like to be in good company.

Bidding And Auction Sites

eLance, Freelancer, Guru, oDesk

All of these sites work essentially the same way. You post a project and budget.  Freelancers submit proposals. You choose one and pay upon delivery. You can get super cheap website and software development, including HTML5, PHP, .NET, and Java coding for $20 per hour.. You can get a logo designed for $20. You can get 20 articles for $20.

Providers are global so you can get very cheap content from writers in India, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The most successful vendors are those who can produce the greatest amount of minimally acceptable content in the least amount of time.  Some sites charge providers to submit a proposal and some don’t.

There is no way to really evaluate vendors or their qualifications. Some sites include skills tests, but that is easy to circumvent – have someone else to take the test. You can see reviews from other buyers. These reviews are from people who care more about price than quality. If you fall in that group, it makes sense for you to use these services.

Thumbtack

Thumbtack works a little differently than bid sites like eLance and oDesk.  Vendors can include external information about themselves, such as a website URL or LinkedIn profile. You have more to go on than just reviews.   Thumbtack is supposed to be local, but of course all you have to do is open an account to get notifications of bid requests.  A vendor could be anywhere and often, such as in the case of web content, it may not matter if a vendor is non-local.  Vendors have to pay a pretty hefty fee to submit a quote. Vendors who work very cheaply usually get the work, which means that price trumps quality. It’s the nature of the beast.

Gigbucks

Gigbucks is a marketplace where you can buy a slew of services priced from $5 to $50.  You can buy social media followers or web content or guitar lessons. It doesn’t matter as long as there is a seller and buyer. Content is dirt cheap… around $5 for 1,000 words. You have no way of verifying information about providers or their past work. Anyone can post any service for a cheap price. Risky at best.

Craigslist

The granddaddy of cheapness is Craigslist and, as such, it deserves it own category. You can post an ad for a web content writer and people will apply. Craigslist doesn’t pretend to have any systems whatsoever in place to guarantee quality. I respect their honesty.

MycroBurst

MycroBurst is a design site, but if you want cheap web content you may also want a cheap website or logo. This site allows you to post a project and a price, and then designers submit their work for free. You buy the design you like best. It’s called a design contest but it’s really just good old-fashioned spec work.