Hi, my name is Tiffany and I used to write for content mills. I know, I know. I should be ashamed of myself.
However, while content mills have a dirtied reputation, I don’t regret my time spent writing for them. I learned a lot, and I would recommend that any beginning writer struggling to gather the nerve to get started hit content mills first.
Demand Studios was my first paying job, and though I see now that the pay was terrible, back then, it was such an ego boost to see my wallet fattening up on account of my writing. Through DS, I also learned about SEO, writing with a specific word count to set guidelines under a deadline, working with an editor, and matching relevant photos to my articles.
It also showed me that my writing was good enough to earn an income. With this new-found confidence, I began pitching other publications. And, thanks to DS, I had clips to pitch with.
I mixed my DS efforts with free writing for non-profits and eventually made my way to publication in magazines and newspapers, all of which pay more than three times what I got from DS. Then I discovered paid blogging and creating web content. Soon it became clear that I was wasting my time on content mills.
My main reason for holding onto my “job” at DS was because of my position. I’m an American living in the Netherlands. With that being the case, I run into a few problems most freelancers don’t have.
For one, my Dutch is not good enough that I can get work writing for Dutch companies. This means I’m stuck with English language publications, and there aren’t too many of those. I write for almost all of them and it’s simply not enough to make a living.
My Dutch is good enough for Dutch-to-English translations, though, so my next step was to try to captialize that skill.
Freelance powerhouse Carol Tice often recommends cold-calling small businesses to get work writing for them. But the majority of small businesses here are Dutch-speaking and don’t need or want English content. The larger companies hire professional translators and expat entrepreneurs don’t typically have the budget to pay writers for content, so my opportunities are slim.
As a result, I’ve found a market writing for magazines. I freelance for publications in the Netherlands, the UK, and the US.
When you’re a writer living overseas, you need to really market yourself and exhaust all your resources. My first step is to use my connections from publications I already write for. I always ask fellow contributors about their writing careers and they’ve been more than willing to share the other markets they dabbled in. Editors have been extremely helpful in passing along names of other editors and publications, often recommending me to them as a writer.
I also subscribe to newsletters like Funds for Writers, Writers Weekly, and European Writer, and do frequent job searches on MediaBistro. The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook, published annually, also covers agents and publications in Australia, the UK, and the US.
Most of my work comes from interest generated via LinkedIn, Twitter, and my blogs. Social media networking is by far the best way to find writing opportunities no matter where you are based. A strong social media presence has gotten me and my writing noticed and I’ve forged very valuable relationships via each of those outlets.
The most valuable lesson I learned from Demand Studios is that I can get paid more for my writing than $15 per article. Much more.
These days, I don’t write for less than $50/€50. Have I been offered less? Sure. Lots less.
When those offers come, I make sure to be very clear as to what my rates are and that I will not settle for less. Typically, the inquirer will agree to my rates. And, if not, I move on to someone who does.
Because if I’m going to settle for low pay, I might as well go back to the content mills. But with so many markets paying such excellent money, why on earth would I do that?
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