My Thoughts on Content Mills

Weeks after declaring my hatred of SEO content mills – during an anticipated state of question – my opinion was solidified when I received a handsome cheque of $300 from Black Belt magazine. I wrote an article called Forgotten Martial Arts of Great Britain way back in February 2013 – yes, over two years ago! Black Belt was the first magazine I approached.

When I initially queried the editor I had no print publications to my name and was naive to the process. It was a passion piece, so I never really expected to hear anything, but lo and behold, I received a reply within 24 hours. Shamefully, I hadn’t actually written the article, I merely had the idea (a white lie). I spent two days researching and crafting the text to the strongest of my abilities. After sending it out I checked my emails religiously for days… but heard nothing.

An entire year went by. During this time I proposed the article to a few other publications. While it received interest, I was reluctant to seal the deal as anything less than Black Belt would’ve been a huge disappointment. In October 2014, over a year and a half after the initial query, I received an email stating that it would be published in the following issue. There were a few hiccups along the way due to image copyright; however, the piece finally made it to the shelves in February 2015.

Two years… it took two whole years! But the reward was well worth the wait. I received the cheque in April, and while it wasn’t a particularly large payment, it dwarfed anything I’d received in the past from content mills with a similar word count. With ridiculous turnarounds, low pay and factory-like production schedules, the mills really do make a mockery of the writing profession.

Creative Burnout

When I tell people I’m a writer they always ask, “What do you write?” I hate this question. Why? Because I’m ashamed of the real answer. I tend to tell a half truth, “I write for specialist magazines, mainly martial arts, paranormal and film-related.” It’s not a lie, but it certainly doesn’t pay my wage. For the past fourteen months I’ve called myself a ‘writer,’ but in reality all I’ve done is sacrifice creative for financial freedom. A real writer has integrity…

When I look back on 2014 I see few accomplishments — I managed to finish editing a short film, but that’s about it. However, if I continue to look back another year I see many accomplishments; published articles, a poetry collection, a short film… even a novel. Not my best work, but it proves that I once had fire.

From now on I will give everything my very best, which inevitably means I’ll have to be more selective with my clientele. Whether it’s a spec script or piece of web copy, I will never again sacrifice creativity for money — it’s not worth my sanity. So to all past, present and future ‘professional’ clients, if you want a keyword stuffer who values links over quality, look elsewhere. I never want to hear the words ‘evergreen’ or ‘content’ again! It’s utter bullshit.