I recently signed up on a content site, Copify.
I was at a low point, where I had not been pitching or marketing and *surprise*
the work wasn’t just appearing like magic. I was broke. I railed at my own
carelessness and carried out an emergency marketing program to get back in
Signing up on Copify didn’t take long, and I soon got a notification:
"Congratulations! You are now approved as a standard level
writer!" I assume this is because they didn’t have any criteria for ‘phenomenal
genius’ writers. But with time and excellent feedback, I might be eligible for
promotion to ‘professional’ level, so there was that.
Content mills are a brilliant idea,
but they have come under fire from many professional writers and writing
industry unions. They say that being paid little more than a penny per word is
an insult, undermines the profession of writing, and encourages bad grammar and
the proliferation of misplaced apostrophes. I have to say, I agree.
For the fifteen minutes I spend researching and writing a two hundred word article for Copify on the glorious
benefits of rust-free garden furniture, I could send an email to two magazines
suggesting a fabulous feature on how best to encourage teenagers to spend more
time outdoors, or how to keep young children safe on the internet. A Copify job will pay a fairly instant
£2 or so. The magazine features may eventually, if I’m lucky, pay a hundred
times more. Paid
blogging that I’ve sourced myself will pay better than a content mill piece, and the job
itself is more flexible as what I may write. If the piece links back to my own
site, I have a good reason to provide better quality posts.
Writing is a business, and
any successful writer must also be a manager. But not all writers are good
managers. Not all writers are even decent writers. And sadly, the market is
okay with this. If a company wants to place words on a website, they generally couldn't care less if those words are creative, inspiring or even completely
factual. What they want is traffic to their website, so that when someone googles
‘my garden furniture is rusty’, they will land right on the company’s page
selling rustproof chairs and tables.
I suppose eventually someone will
invent a robot that can scan the web and write a passable SEO-optimized article
with apostrophes in all the right places. Google is constantly changing search
algorithms to discourage this type of activity anyway. But for now, the market
is open for writers who are willing to bang out uninspired paragraphs at 1p per
word. I can understand why writers might be happy to work for so little: before
I became a professional writer, I wrote thousands, millions of words, for free.
I wrote on my own blog, I wrote for charity, I wrote for parenting websites,
just for the experience and the pleasure of writing.
If there had been a decent
content mill or two available in those days, would I have stayed up all night
writing about garden furniture? Maybe. I can research and write two hundred
words in ten minutes. The math looks good.
But I would have missed out on writing
for the sake of writing, exploring my thoughts on paper. I would not have spent
hours researching the business of writing. I wouldn't have taken the courses,
shared inspiration with other writers, asked question after question, had
comment discussions, sketched, made up stories, written them down, and pitched
and pitched and been rejected and pitched again. More importantly, my own
website wouldn't have grown so successful. When writing
for a content site, your article is generally published without a byline. No
credit, and no link back to your own site.
The day I set up my Copify account,
decent work started pouring in from my marketing efforts, so I haven’t had to
resort to content mill writing. Hopefully I never will. But I’ll keep the
account open, as a reminder that if I don’t keep pitching, that’s where I’ll
Follow Nan: Facebook