Before I became a full-fledged freelance writer with clips and clients of my own, I wrote for content sites. I wrote how-to articles, recipes, product copy, and more, all without a byline or any other type of public recognition.
I stumbled into content writing purely by accident; I saw a post on Reddit suggesting that people who knew how to write could make decent money working for Crowdsource. I knew how to write and I needed money, so I applied.
If you know how to write and you need money, you too can make $600 a week or more writing for content sites. Be forewarned: you have to write a lot to earn $600 a week, but it is not difficult. All you have to do is put one word after another, over and over again.
What are Content Sites?
The term “content site” refers to any company that hires a large number of freelance writers to generate content — anything from 400-word articles to 200-word product descriptions. Because these sites use a large number of writers to churn out an enormous amount of content on a daily basis, content sites are often pejoratively dubbed “content mills.”
Wait, What’s Content?
Some kinds of writing are designed to showcase the writer’s personality and expertise. The person doing the writing is at least as important as the information being conveyed. As you get to know me, for example, you’re going to seek out my posts on The Penny Hoarder simply because you know I have something interesting to share.
Content, on the other hand, is meant to be anonymous. These sites pay for information but not personality, and you need to write in such a way that you are indistinguishable from any other content writer.
You often have to follow extremely strict style guides, which are harder on your writing than the grammar questions on the SAT. Take, for example, the light cotton-poly shirt you might be wearing right now. Is that shirt called:
- A t-shirt
- A T-shirt
- A tee-shirt
- A teeshirt
Only one of those answers is right, and as a content writer, you’ll need to know which of those answers is right, every time. (Answer: T-shirt!)
How to Use Content Sites to Earn Money
So how do you earn money off these sites? The first step is to get accepted by a content site. The best-paying sites are very picky about the writers they choose, and require you to submit a writing sample that follows their style guide to the letter.
Some types of content sites have fewer hoops to jump through, but those are the ones that are likely to pay only 1 or 2 cents a word. As a general rule, if you’re not earning at least 3 cents a word, you’re wasting your time.
The second step is to choose assignments that you can write quickly, without a lot of additional research. Content sites often want articles on everything from beauty tips to auto care. If you know a lot about how to choose the best lipstick for your skin tone but don’t know anything about how to change a flat tire, it’s pretty obvious which assignment you should pick first.
The third step is to write a lot of content. At 3 cents a word, you need to write 5,000 words a day to earn $150 a day and $750 a week. That’s a full-time job, of course. You can easily earn an extra $100 or $200 a week by writing a few articles every evening, but if you need to earn a full-time living writing content, you need to be prepared to write a lot of it.
You should also make sure you are signed up for three or four different content sites, so you can quickly tab between them and choose the assignments that are easiest to complete.
Which Content Sites are the Best?
This is a tricky question because new content sites seem to spring up every day, and I haven’t explored them all.
I have had a lot of success with Crowdsource, and I still regularly write content for them when I am between other freelance clients. They are very particular about their writers, so make sure you study their style guide thoroughly before applying.
WritersDomain recently changed their article requirements to make them better for writers. It’s worth applying to their site too — and they are nearly as particular as Crowdsource, so pay attention to their rubrics as you complete your initial application.
As for the rest: there are plenty of opportunities out there. Use your spidey sense. Stay away from anything that asks you to fabricate product reviews (in fact, stay away from anything that asks you to fabricate any kind of information). Try to work for at least 3 cents a word.
And then get ready to write more than you’ve ever written before.
Your Turn: Have you written for a content site, or would you? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
Nicole Dieker is a freelance copywriter and essayist. She writes regularly for The Billfold on the intersection of freelance writing and personal finance, and her work has also appeared in The Toast, Yearbook Office, and Boing Boing.