**Updated January 16, 2015.**
How do you start a writing career?

Everyone will define what it means to be a real, bonafide writer in a different way. Some of the more seasoned writers can’t help but roll eyes at the teenager who, after writing a three-page short story for their high school English class, starts calling him or herself a writer and dreams of being the next Carrie Bradshaw. And then there are those who say that it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve written, the real writers are the ones who have made a career out of it.

In that case, what constitutes making writing a job or career? Does it mean you sit at home writing erotic fan-fiction while your spouse or significant other works a nine-to-fiver that pays the bills? By definition, you can’t call writing your job until it brings you some level of income.

And that brings me to the next question: How can we writers monetize our craft?

Check back to this post regularly as I’ll continue to update the content mill descriptions with my own experiences with the application and review processes, and what to expect once you’re actually writing for and getting paid by the content mills.

A simple Google search for ‘freelance writing jobs’ yields a ton of results (I got almost 2.5 million), but a lot of them say something different, give different resources, and otherwise contradict each other. I once read something that amounted to saying “If you build it, they will come”; it said I should just start a blog, write fantastic content, and eventually people will find me and I might get offers to guest write or write for pay based on my expertise. To me, that feels too passive. Some of us want to monetize our writing sooner rather than later.

So for the benefit of other writers looking to turn their passion into a career like myself, I’ve scoured the World Wide Web for the best resources it has to offer and put together an easy, useful guide to starting your money-making career as a freelance writer.

Job Boards

You’re probably already a member to sites like CareerBuilder, Monster, and LinkedIn, which might yield a few results for paid writing positions if you live in a more populated metro area. LinkedIn has a little more potential than the other two, at least in my experience, because of the groups you can join such as The Freelance Writers’ Connection, which will sometimes post available writing positions to all members.

FreelanceWritingGigs.com

I’ve recently stumbled across a decent job board for freelance writers simply called Freelance Writing Jobs (FWJ) — but the URL is different than the site’s name so be aware of that. The site is somewhat rudimentary and seems to compile job postings from a variety of nationwide sources, the primary of which is Craigslist.

When you navigate to the site, you’ll see a few links at the top for jobs posted posted today or over the past couple days. If you click on one of the links, it’ll take you to a simple list of writing jobs broken down into the following groups: content writing jobs, blogging jobs, copywriting jobs, proofreading/editing jobs, journalism jobs, plan/proposal/grant writing jobs, technical writing jobs, general and miscellaneous freelance jobs, and magazine writing gigs. In parenthesis after a job listing’s name, you’ll see whether the job is for applicants of a specific area or region, or whether it’s a national listing for which you could work remotely.

Though this site is very basic and probably is somewhat limited in its sources, I find that there’s a decent selection of freelance jobs posted here. On any given day, there are at least a handful that meet my qualifications and I’ve actually already found a paid writing job using this site. When you click onto a job, it’ll take you to that job’s actual posting where you can contact the person who posted the position and send them a résumé, cover letter, writing samples, or whatever that particular position requires to be considered. As basic and rudimentary as it may be, FWJ is definitely worth bookmarking and keeping an eye on.

BloggingPro

I stumbled across BloggingPro when I was perusing Google for job board alternatives to CareerBuilder and Monster. As the name would suggest, BloggingPro is up the casual blogger’s alley. If you already blog in a particular area, whether it be the medical field or tech reviews or almost anything else, there are tons of listings here to which bloggers can apply. And unlike many other niche job boards, it’s completely free to use BloggingPro.

When you click a listing on BloggingPro, you usually see several things. First, the site will almost always be identified so you can read about their content, what they do, and even navigate there and check it out for yourself. You’ll also see a description of the type of writer they’re looking for, what they require you to send in order to be considered for the position, usually the rate of pay, and whether it’s a writing job you can do remotely or whether you need to live in a particular area. Further, the instructions for how to apply are always very clear, whether it’s an email to which you need to send writing samples or if they have their own online form to use. BloggingPro is also worthy of a bookmark.

ProBlogger

Very similar to BloggingPro both in look and content, ProBlogger is a site with a very adequate writing job board with positions broken down by category, such as Corporate/Business, Blog Networks, and Miscellaneous. Though the jobs listed here are a little more competitive and high-profile, if you already have experience as a content writer and a solid résumé you’ll definitely find some openings for which you qualify.

When you click on a listing, you’ll notice that all the information for that listing or very organized. At the top you’ll see the site that has the opening available and a link directly to that site, a description of the site including its content, a description of the position and the content they are looking for, and how to apply is down at the bottom.

Content Mills

Freelance writers have a love-hate relationship with content mills. By definition, a content mill (also called a content farm) is a company that hoards writers and pays them (usually at a low per-word rate) to write large amounts of content, and usually that content is designed with the purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) so that the sites who post that content will get more exposure. They serve as a middle man between companies who are trying to attract more viewers and writers who will write SEO-optimized content for them. They make money with ad revenue with the amount of additional page views they get their paying clients.

Pretty much anyone can write for a content mill, and there’s many of them out there. Some are more exclusive (and better paying) than others, requiring you to create an in-depth author profile and provide several samples with which they can approximate your skill and adjust your pay rate. There are too many mills out there to include all of them, so here I’m compiling what I believe for one reason or another to be the best of them.

Textbroker

The first site that many think of when they hear the words “content mill” is Textbroker. Some freelancers love it, and some hate it. Those who have a problem with Textbroker usually site the pay as their main gripe, and even though the pay isn’t anything to brag about, the ease of use, weekly pay periods, and steady flow of jobs make Textbroker a good mill for first-time content writers.

When you sign up for Textbroker, they will send you an email requesting that you either email or mail them a picture or photocopy of your government ID. Textbroker is only for writers living in the US and apparently there’s been an influx of international writers trying to sign up (there’s a separate version of Textbroker for residents of the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and Canada) to make nontaxable American money. Once your account is verified and they’ve assessed your writing sample (which you’ll have to write on the fly at the time of signup), you’ll be given a rating — one to five stars — that will determine which content you’re qualified to write and how much you’ll get paid for those jobs. I received a 4-star rating, which I’m told is respectable; 5-star ratings for new applicants is only possible if they then pass a proofreading test, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get the highest rating. Most of the posted jobs are for 4-star writers anyway, and you can write any jobs at your star level and lower.

If you’re going to write for Textbroker, you should familiarize yourself with the terminology. Each job on Textbroker — whether an article, blog post, product description, or otherwise — is referred to as an order. There are three types of orders. An open order (OO) is one that’s posted for any writer of a specific level. All four-star writers can access four-star open orders; there’s no other criteria other than rating. However, a writer rated at four stars can also take two and three-star open orders. Then there are team orders (TO), which are separate from the open orders. When you click on the Assignments tab, you’ll see a like beneath it for Team Orders, which is where you can see all the teams that exist on Textbroker and apply for any for which you feel you could write. Only members of a team can take that team’s order, and team orders typically pay a bit better than open orders. Finally, there are direct orders (DO), which are orders sent directly to a writer from a client. The pay rate is based on the per-word rate that every writer can set on her or her profile; therefore, there’s much better earning potential for direct orders, but they’re also harder to get. You have to do your time taking open and team orders and showing clients your writing skill before you come across clients that will want to send orders to you directly.

The OOs on Textbroker usually pay between $5 and $15 for between 300 and 1,100 words. When you submit an order, it’s sent to the client who then has the choice to accept, return for revision, or reject altogether. With each order you submit, Textbroker will review them and adjust your star rating so that prospective clients can can see an up-to-date representation of the quality of your writing. As I mentioned, you can set your per-word rate for clients who contact you directly (instead of simply posting an open order for any writer to claim), but keep in mind that Textbroker adds 35% for their cut, so the price a client sees is higher than the one you set. Although the open order pay rate is kind of low, there’s no cap for how much you can earn, and with most of the open orders being around 400 to 500 words or so, a decent writer could probably write at least a few in a day.

And here’s something worth noting: When you submit an order on Textbroker, the client has three days to accept it, return it for revision, or reject it. If the order isn’t rejected after four days, or 96 hours, the order gets auto-accepted and you’ll payment is added to your account. There was a period where many of the orders I submitted got auto-accepted; however, Textbroker managed teams, which are managed by Textbroker representatives on behalf of a client, have unlimited time to accept an order, so there are some cases when an order will not be auto-accepted in four days. Then there’s the rating of orders: Textbroker can take several months to review and rate each order, which is how they keep your star rating up to date. When you’re a brand new author and you’ve submitted your first five orders, they will block you from taking anymore orders until they can review and rate those first five so they can reevaluate and possibly adjust your star rating. This process could take up to two weeks they say, but you can also email them once you’ve had five orders accepted for them review your submissions manually and your account will be unlocked that same day.

As for how writers are paid, Textbroker pays via PayPal; once you submit a picture of your ID and your W-9 to them with your PayPal account information, Textbroker releases payment every Friday as long as you request payout the night before (by Thursday at midnight PST), but you must have at least $10 earned on your account in order to request payout. From that point, it usually takes about three days to transfer the funds from your PayPal account to your bank account.

Tip: Since most content mills pay via PayPal, you might consider getting the PayPal prepaid MasterCard. You can easily link it to your PayPal account so that, instead of waiting several business days for the funds to transfer to your bank, you can pull payments directly off your PayPal account using the PayPal MasterCard. It’s very convenient, and anyone can get one.

TextMaster

If you’re familiar with content mills, TextMaster is another you’ve probably heard of. Though it’s somewhat new, it’s gotten a reputation for treating and paying writers fairly, although the application process involves jumping quite a few hoops. But that’s just the way it is for several of them.

Starting your TextMaster account begins with giving them your email address, making a password, and then confirming your account by email. After that, you log into TextMaster and will see options to apply for three jobs: Copywriting, Proofreading, and Translating. Most of us will just apply for the Copywriting position; it’ll give you a writing prompt in the form of an image and ask you to write 150 to 250 words inspired by that image. You can describe it, elaborate a description from it, turn it into a story, or whatever you like, but it has to be based on the image they provide. For me, it was a butterfly perched and feeding on a flower, so I described what you see in the image and some of the symbolic implications. Approval can take between a few hours to a couple days, which is pretty fast compared to some of the other sites. If you’re denied, you have one more chance to apply, but you can only apply for each position twice.

Note: For Proofreading, they give you text and you have to correct all the grammatical and punctuation errors you see and send it back to them. Translation is available if you told them you’re fluent in more than one language while setting up your account; they give you a paragraph in one language, and you simply translate into the other. 

Like the other sites, there’s a rating system that will determine your pay rate and the types of articles available to you. It seems kind of complicated at first, but TextMaster’s system actually makes a lot of sense. There are two separate systems, one for your quantity, or how much you’ve written, and one for your writing quality. When you start, you’ll be at the New level, which means you’ve written less than 100,000 words. As you write more, you’ll work your way to the Master level, which means you’ve written 100,000 words or more.

There’s a second rating system too. Based on the quality of your writing sample you provided with your application, you’ll be considered Basic or Premium. Someone with a New account is unable to receive an Enterprise rating, which is the highest TextMaster rating and is reserved for professional writers with a proven, verifiable history of publication and a ton of industry experience. Don’t be disappointed if you start out with a Basic rating. Basic is by far the most common for new applicants and still means you’ve demonstrated decent writing skill in a variety of subjects or you can proofread short, simple texts. If you couldn’t demonstrate to them that you have skill as a writer, your application would’ve been rejected, so even though Basic is the bottom rung, it’s still something to be proud of. If they review your application and decide you’re a Premium writer, that means you’ve showed them not only Basic-level skill, but also that you’re an experienced editorial writer, can write marketing materials, and also high-quality pieces requiring research and a superior style in a timely manner. Most people who receive a Premium, either after the initial application review or after consistently writing high-quality articles, will likely stay there. As I’ve said, though it’s not impossible to become an Enterprise writer, it’s very, very difficult.

When my application was reviewed, I was categorized as a New Premium writer. As a New Premium, your initial pay rate will be 3.9 cents per word, which is far from the worst I’ve seen from a content mill, until you become a Master Premium, which is when you’ll start earning 4.29 cents per word. If I receive a bump to Enterprise level, I’ll be getting paid a whopping 19.5 cents per word, and eventually could be making 21.45 cents per word as a Master Enterprise writer. With a per-word rate as high as that, it’s definitely worth aspiring to be Enterprise level.

When you setup your account, it allows you to pick up to seven categories that you rate between one and three stars depending on your level of expertise, and based on those categories that you’ve chosen you will see jobs listed that TextMaster deems to be jobs that would be good fits for you and your background. It may take some tweaking of your personal profile before you start to steadily see the jobs you would like to do, but if you ask me, TextMaster has a lot of potential. And once again, payment is through PayPal. Once you’ve earned $70 on your TextMaster account, you can request payout. From what I understand though, this can be done any time. Instead of only paying writers one day each week like Textbroker and many others or biweekly or once a month, you can request payout anytime after you’ve accrued the minimum, and your earnings will be credited to your PayPal account the following business day.

Tip: Again, having the prepaid PayPal MasterCard would be very convenient for you so that you can use or withdraw your pay instead of waiting several business days for it to get deposited into your bank account.

WriterAccess

Based out of Boston, WriterAccess gets compared a lot to Textbroker and Demand Media Studio (which I’ll get to momentarily). According to the website, WriterAccess pays their writers anywhere from two cents up to two dollars per word, and 70% of what a client pays is paid straight to the writer. As a writer, it’s nice to feel like I’m making the majority of the money since I’m the one doing the writing. There’s also the possibility of attaining a high enough rating that clients will have to pay a premium because your name will be attached to the content you submit, which is unique because most content mills tell writers that their work could be posted under someone else’s name; it’s nice to know that we may get credit for some of the content we sell. And unlike sites like CopyPress (which I do not recommend for various reasons), a writer doesn’t have to start at the very bottom level of pay; samples submitted with your application materials are evaluated, much like for the above sites, and they start you at a rate that’s more consistent with your skill level.

The application process for WriterAccess is somewhat lengthy — you’ll probably want to carve out a good hour or two for when you apply. They ask for all the standard information like name, address, email, etc. Interestingly, they have a section in the application called ‘Public Persona’ where they ask for links to your online portfolio, your blog, and your LinkedIn account if you have them. Then they ask for your education and employment background and ask that you copy and paste your text-only résumé into a text box. Asking for an actual résumé was something I hadn’t yet seen in any of the applications I’ve submitted for content mills.

As for the sample, they ask you to write something on the spot and you can choose one of four things: a press release (subject provided), a news or fact-based article of 500-600 words, a blog-style piece of 350-400 words (for my application it was a travel blog for either a major city or my hometown), or a product description (they provide a link to the product they want you to review) of 125-175 words.

Once you submit your application, you’re informed that it could take a few days to receive your approval and your rating. Beyond that point, you’re required to create your author profile and submit it for review, and they are very thorough. They ask you to write (in the third person, which is odd at first) about your education and work background, every single paid writing job you’ve every written broken down by category, like science and entertainment. And for each part, they want a third-person description of your experience in that industry and a relevant writing sample. You are required to have every single field completely for acceptance and there can’t be any identifying information there. Expect to get an email with revisions for your profile, but once it’s accepted, you’ll finally get to take some writing jobs.

I completely understand why they are so particular with author profiles — clearly, this is the primary way you will be receiving direct orders, so they see this as a crucial part to your success at WriterAccess — but it seems to me like they nitpick excessively sometimes. Not to mention many of the samples they require aren’t even accessible by clients who view your page, so having to go and track down all those samples can be a bit irksome because they will never even show up on your profile. I suppose WA asks for them in order to verify the experience you claim to have, but it just makes the author profile a lot of week and it involves at least two additional weeks of emails back and forth with a WA representative who will nitpick the hell out of your profile and continue finding areas where it’s imperfect. This could be super frustrating to people who simply want to just get it finished and start taking jobs.

WriterAccess ratings start at level 2 and go to level 5. Level 2 writers will earn an measly 1.13 cents per word. Writers at levels 3 and 4 will earn 2.14 and 3.53 cents per word, respectively. At level 5, you’ll earn at least 4.60 cents per word with the potential for increase. Oh, and you won’t know what your star rating (and, therefore, what your per-word rate) will be until they’ve reviewed and approved your author’s profile, which, again, will take at least two weeks.

According to users, the main gripes with WriterAccess is that there seem to be very few jobs available at any given time, those jobs posted are snatched up very quickly, and there’s little to no communication between writers and clients. With contact between clients and writers being minimal to nonexistent, clients aren’t easily able to tell writers how they need articles to be revised. And each time an article is rejected, it will decrease a writer’s acceptance rate. The problem is that a lot of the time a rejection could be avoided with a quick, simple revision; but instead of being able to revise, the article gets rejected altogether, and this is an issue that’s holding many writers back from getting direct job offers and pay advancements.

Despite WriterAccess being somewhat new and not having quite as many jobs available as some of the others, it would be worth it for a writer to partake in the lengthy application process in order to add WriterAccess to their repertoire of paid writing gigs. The more the merrier, right? Plus, the pay rate is decent, so even though right now they only pay (via PayPal of course) once a month around the 10th for the previous month’s earnings, there’s the potential for steady earning with this one.

Update: (Jan. 16, 2015) Since applying and getting approved for WriterAccess, I’ve only completed one assignment. Getting writing jobs on WriterAccess is incredibly competitive; they’re posted around the same time each weekday and most people sit at their computers refreshing the page until they pop up. It’s further complicated by the fact that most of the best-paying content requires you to apply for a ‘Casting Call’ and be accepted into a clients list of favorite writers, and that’s on top of the rigorous application and profile-writing processes. I’ll probably come back to WriterAccess and give it another shot, but I found it too difficult to get good-paying assignments on WriterAccess and have made decent money elsewhere without such competition.

BlogMutt

This one is new and maybe unfamiliar to some, but it has quite a few interesting features. BlogMutt is different from other content mills in that it seems to be tailored to the casual or niche bloggers. Although they do post opportunities for writers to peruse, BlogMutt is unique in that writers post in whatever areas they have expertise or they can post for a particular client. When an article is submitted, it’s placed in a sort of review queue while clients browse them and decide if they want to use the post(s) on their blog or website. If they do, they purchase it from BlogMutt and the writer will make a flat $8 for each post bought from them. One of the few requirements is that posts be a minimum of 250 words; however, they do explain that some clients may prefer posts of a certain or predetermined length.

When you apply, you submit a writing sample for approval to gain access to the pool of jobs. Unlike what you see from some of the other content mills, instead of individual jobs you’ll see the clients and their individual criteria they look for in posts such as which keywords they want used, topics appropriate for their blog or page, and sometimes links to some of their other posts to use as a reference. The actual post title and topic is up to you as the writer, which is a lot more freedom than you get at the other content mills where you are given the complete parameters of the assignment and must right exactly what’s asked of you. At BlogMutt, you simply write what you want–so long as it’s a topic relevant to the client to whom you’ll offer it–and the client decides whether or not to buy it. There are also no deadlines, no formal rejections, and there’s no team of editors judging and rating your work. Either the client likes it and wants it and you get paid, or they/you don’t. And you write whenever you want. The only deadline is revisions–if a client likes your post but wants changes done to it, you’ll usually get 48 hours to make those changes or risk either rejection or losing your prime spot in the client’s queue.

Another nice feature of BlogMutt is their forum. The owner communicates regularly with the writers on the writers’ forum, offering tips and helpful ways to maximize their experience and earnings on BlogMutt. And though $8 per post may not seem like much at first glance, considering that the posts only have a 250 word minimum and they claim to pay every week on Mondays no matter how much you’ve earned, there’s definitely the potential to earn a substantial amount of extra money. Also, clients can give writers feedback, which is helpful if a writer finds that the clients aren’t biting on any of the posts they’ve written. All client feedback will go up at the bottom of your BlogMutt author profile to be seen by any prospective clients, which could make you more desirable and get you more direct orders. So BlogMutt is, in my opinion, definitely worth visiting regularly. For me, BlogMutt is going to be where I go when I don’t find any good better-paying orders at OnlineWritingJobs and WriterAccess, just to churn out a few blog posts that I think clients might like and want to publish.

Update: (Jan. 16, 2015) In the months since my approval, I’ve mostly not used BlogMutt. I wrote two short-ish blog posts on there — one containing easy raw food recipes and another about brand identity — that were both accepted by the respective clients for whom I wrote them, and I was paid the standard $8 each. While I like the idea of BlogMutt, I don’t find that it has a very high earning potential. If your other content mills are having slow days, then I might suggest coming over to BlogMutt and churn out a couple short posts for clients that need content, but otherwise you can definitely make better money elsewhere.

WritersDomain

But wait, there’s more! WritersDomain is another solid content mill for fair writers. Like most, you must be a resident of one of their approved countries (currently US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and France), submit a 400-word sample, and pass a timed grammar test. If you fail, either due to a poor quality sample or failing their grammar test, you must wait six months to reapply. Applications generally take two to three days to be reviewed, which is a decent turnaround considering many content mills will have you waiting upward of a week or longer before you ever get acknowledged.

Once you’ve turned in your application and sample, then passed the grammar test, you’ll be put on their wait list. From what they’ve told me, you can be wait-listed for as little as a couple weeks or as long as a few months. Due to the limited number of clients, and therefore limited number of jobs, they don’t take on so many writers that most of them can’t even take on a job. Instead, they take on writers in proportion to the amount of jobs they have available. Although it’s frustrating to be on a wait list for an undetermined amount of time, it’s nice to know that once I’m actually able to start writing, I probably won’t have a problem finding work there. And considering the fact that WritersDomain is one of the better paying mills out there, that’s definitely nice to know. Just keep checking your email when you get wait-listed; they said they’ll email you as soon as you’ve been pulled from waiting and into their pool of writers.

One of the nicest things about WritersDomain is the pricing tiers. In short, they pay their writers pretty respectably for what they ask. They classify the jobs as either being Standard or Premium. Standard articles are shorter with less parameters and strict criteria, whereas Premium articles will probably require more research, more time, and more words. There’s also a star rating; 3, 4 or 5 stars for Standard, and either 4 or 5 stars for Premium. A 3-star Standard article will earn you $15 while 4- or 5-star Standards will get you $17.50. For Premium, you’ll earn $34 for a 4-star article and $38 for a 5-star article.

From what I’ve read, you must essentially earn the right to write Premiums, or “preemies” as they’re called by WD Premium writers. One of the benefits of writing Premium articles is that, due to the content being higher, they only offer them to writers capable of delivering quality content, so rewrites and revisions are less frequent. On the other hand, the turnaround time is a lot more narrow, sometimes even as little as eight hours between taking the assignment and the final being due, so you probably won’t be able to take many preemies unless you freelance full-time. Otherwise, WritersDomain, which I believe is an affiliate of WriterAccess, is another one that’s worth a bookmark.

Demand Studios

If you’re a freelance writer, you’ve heard of Demand Media Studios. Called Demand Studios for short, this is a favorite among writers for many reasons. One reason is that once you’re approved to write, they’re a reliable site if you’ve got decent skill due to the fact that there’s an admirable range of subjects to write about and the pay is generally between $7 and $25 per article.

When you sign up on the site, they give you the option to apply for one of several positions: Writer, Editor, Translator, Translation Reviewer, Photographer, Photo Editor, or Content Reviewer. Along with a description of the position, they tell you what exactly you’ll be expected to provide with your application; in this case, they ask for a writing sample, a résumé, and tell you that they’re looking for some combination of education and writing experience.

When you click to apply, you’ll move to a page where you select Sections for which you’d like to write. Sections include Arts & Crafts, Basic Health, Business & Finance, Careers, Culture & Society, Education, etc. You can apply for as many as you are qualified, and each Section describes sites for which you could be writing, a brief description of topics you could be assigned, and its own set of criteria for which you must qualify. For example, if you want to write for the Business & Finance Section (sites like eHow Business & Personal Finance and Synonym.com), you’re an ideal applicant if you have two years of experience writing in business and finance, have been a business or financial consultant for at least one year, or have a degree in a related field and are a strong writer. Demand Studios is very thorough about their selection, so you’ll only want to apply for Sections in which you can demonstrate proficiency.

After you select Sections for which you meet their qualifications, it’s very easy to apply. You simply upload a file or submit a link for a sample relevant to the Section to which you’re applying, attach your résumé, and submit. It could take up to a week to hear back, but so long as they deem your experience sufficient, you’ll start seeing jobs available in your account. And the nice thing about Demand Studios is that their clients are some of the most visited websites out there, so they expect high quality articles in exchange for almost guaranteeing that you’ll get assignments within your field. Some have complained that they nitpick over style, and they actually do rate your writing on both content and your writing style. Some have even said they’ve been asked to revise three or four times, sometimes adding something at one editor’s request and then having to remove it at the request of another. But aside from this logistical issue, once you’re “in” with Demand Studios, I’m sure they’ll be one of your first stops when you want to churn out some writing jobs.

OnlineWritingJobs

The name may not be creative, but this is one that would appear to promise very respectable income. The OnlineWritingJobs signup is relatively simple: It asks for your name and contact information, then asks what sort of content you’d like to write and asks for either sample files or links to relevant samples–if you have a blog and have written quality content with reference links, you’ll be able to use that.

Then you submit that, and interestingly, it then tells you that you can earn up to $27 per article if you apply for a general content-writing position, which is apparently different and separate from the niche content you’ve just applied for. They ask you to write 500 words on a given prompt. For me, they provided a link to a website that sold the New York State flag in varying sizes and asked that I write them a 500-word piece giving information about the seal, the flag, and anything about the website that would entice the reader to buy from them. They also asked that I use certain keywords 2-4 times each (such as “NY flag” and “New York State flag”) and also cite at least three links in the body of the article that can’t be Wikipedia or sources like that. It actually took me a little bit of time, mostly to find the sources, but the cool thing is that if your application is approved–and as long as you meet all the requirements and it isn’t crap, it should be–they pay you $10 just for that 500-word sample.

According to the helpful FAQ, they pay an average of $18 per article, which is actually pretty good considering rates you’ll see at other content mills like Textbroker. They also pay via check or, like pretty much all the others, via PayPal. I’m not sure why some (although not many) dislike being paid through PayPal; I find it to be a little more reliable, and if the site is based on the opposite side of the country from where you live, it could take upward of a week to get the check in the mail if not longer. Submit your invoice by 3 P.M. EST on Thursdays for payment on Fridays. And amazingly, they say if you turn in all your application materials at the same time as you send them your photo ID (oh yeah, they require your photo ID, which you can fax or send by email) and your W-9 form (which they also allow you to email), then you’ll get a decision on your content application next business day. So that is damn good turnaround for an application.

The $18 average seems to be a bit low according to what I’ve seen. I’ve just taken four jobs that, assuming I get an A rating on them once they’re submitted, will earn me $27 each. It seems to be that articles written for OnlineWritingJobs are more intensive when it comes to things like keyword use and SEO, such as meta-such-and-such and all that. And it’s things like that that really take some time. However, once you get into the swing of SEO, there’s definitely money to be made at OnlineWritingJobs. You’ll probably want to check their job pool earlier in the day as it seems like they usually post orders before noon. Sometimes you might get lucky and find one that’s been released by another writer back into the pool, but generally I’d say you should check earlier in the day.

Update: (Jan. 16, 2015) For the first couple months after getting my approval, I was actually writing a few articles for OnlineWritingJobs each week. I really liked the set rates; for a 750-word article — which is the most common length — an A rating would make you $27, a B rating would get you $20, and a C rating would get you $10. Anything below a C would mean rejection. I started with A’s and B’s, then just B’s, and then I started getting C’s. The feedback I was getting said that my links weren’t good enough. I’d write articles that required 20 links, and then I’d read that most of them were unusable. At one point I had an article that was rejected. One day I received an email that said my account was being monitored to make sure that I was writing quality content, otherwise my account would be deactivated. The next day I got an email that said my account was deactivated. Good riddance, I say. I spent way too much time trying to find accepting links that met their unreasonable requirements just to have the articles rejected and my time wasted. I suppose it’s possible to make decent money here, but there actually weren’t that many orders each week. OnlineWritingJobs is a good additional content mill to check, but I wouldn’t rely only on this one.

Write Content Solutions

I only recently stumbled across this one, but it looks very promising. Write appears to have some higher-profile clientele, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Yahoo!, Staples, Lowe’s, and Overstock.com. They refer to their writers as “experts” and offer clients “quality content” such as highly targeted blog posts, articles, buying and product guides, how-to guides, and the like.

There’s some helpful info in the Writer FAQs. According to their site, they won’t have unreasonable keyword or link requests, and they wouldn’t, for example, post an order for a 500-word product description of a ceiling fan that has 20 required keywords. This is nice to know because I’ve had similar issues with other sites — I’m looking at you, OnlineWritingJobs!

When you sign up, they ask for your name, email, and phone number. They then tell you that once you’ve submitted your sample, it’ll take two to three business days for it to be reviewed, which isn’t a bad turnaround.

There are several parts to the application sample they require. The first part involves selecting a question, then providing a brief, concise answer. They allow you to choose from a selection of questions; I chose “Are dogs colorblind?” Then there are two text boxes in which you much write a minimum of 50 words. In the first box, they want you to being with a basic answer to the question — “Dogs are not color blind…” and continue with your answer from there. In the second box, they want additional information to back up your answer. For the second part of the application, they’ll give you a list of products sold at Overstock.com. You choose a product, then using the description on Overstock as a reference, write a 100+ word product description that starts with a sentence that would “grab a customer’s attention.” For the third and final part, they provide a list of hotels from which you select whichever one you’d like, then write a 75+ word review highlighting at least three of the hotel’s amenities. Then in three corresponding boxes below, you provide three “Reasons to Stay” that highlight features of the hotel that distinguish it from competitors. Once you’ve completed these three tasks, your application is submitted for review.

CrowdSource

Until just recently, if you’d asked me how I found CrowdSource and how I applied, it would have completely baffled me. Last week when I was checking my email, I got a notification from this place that I was accepted as a writer and that I would get an email in a couple days with details about how to get started once they created my account and I could access their orders. I didn’t really think anything of it at first because, as you can see, I’ve applied for quite a few content mills, so I just assumed it was another one that I’d applied for and just didn’t remember doing it. Then I saw this.

The last content mill to which I applied was Write.com, which you just read right before CrowdSource. I went through the Write.com application process, and then a week later I get a response from CrowdSource that I was accepted. I never thought that Write.com and Crowdsource were connected until just now when I noticed that on the ‘About Us’ page for Write.com, CrowdSource is listed as one of their “Additional Solutions.” According to the website, it says:

CrowdSource.com provides enterprise clients with access to a skilled and scalable workforce on-demand. We manage cloud-based talent to deliver high-volume data management, content moderation and copywriting solutions to publishers, retailers and service providers.

CrowdSource.com | Workforce as a Solution.

What I’m taking from all this is that, for some unknown, ungodly reason, I applied to be a writer for Write.com — which I’m still assuming is its own separate content entity — and they decided I was, for whatever reason, ‘unworthy.’ So they decided to accept me into their program for bastard stepchildren, CrowdSource.com.

That sounds harsh when actually I shouldn’t be. I can’t complain about only having to do one application to be considered for three separate content mills (the third is called Transcribe, also one of their “Additional Solutions”). When I got my second email saying they were ready for me to sign in, I had to click a link from the email so that it would take me to their dashboard where I could create an account. But this was interesting because in the email they tell you to create your account using your PayPal login. I’m sure you’ve seen websites, like Goodreads for example, that will let you sign up or sign in with your Facebook account, right? This is like that, only you use your PayPal account to create your CrowdSource login.

My initial assumption was that this had something to do with the payment, which isn’t incorrect, but I believe there’s more to it than that. When you click the link from the email, you’ll also see an option to create an account and login using your Amazon account. If you’re familiar or have heard of mTurk, then you’ll know that it’s an affiliate of Amazon and allows you to get paid either in cash or as a credit to your Amazon account. CrowdSource seems to be, from what I can tell, related to that mTurk thing, but it’s like the somewhat better-paying, writer version of that.

As a newbie, right now all I’m authorized to do is menial tasks for cents each that are allotted three minutes for completion, or I can answer questions in 100-200 words. Answering questions pays between $5 and $8 per question and at any given time there’s at least 500 to choose from in a wide array of categories. If you’re familiar with Yahoo! Answers or the ChaCha text quesions service from a few years back, those are the kinds of questions that are there. For example, I took one just to get a feel for what the process entails, and my first question was “What happens if you damage your thalamus?” Much like the Write.com application, I have to give my main yes/no answer in the first 25-50 words, and then in the box below for additional information, I have to give… additional information. It asks for at least one source, but otherwise it’s not a very nit-picky task. On average it will probably take someone between twenty and thirty minutes to answer a question to their standards.

The way CrowdSource is setup is a little different from other content mills like Textbroker. With many of the content mills, you can check the order pool throughout the day to find orders that either pay well or strike your interests, which you can then accept and write later when you have the time. Textbroker, for example, has to give you a minimum of 24 hours to complete an order; some orders give you up to ten days, although you can turn it is whenever you want within that time. However, with CrowdSource, you’re not supposed to accept an order unless you’re sitting at your computer ready to work on it. From the moment I clicked accept on that thalamus question, I had only three hours to research and write the answer, then submit it. So unlike other mills, this isn’t the place to sit on high-paying orders until you have the time to write.

I couldn’t find much in the way of FAQs at first, but I eventually found the CrowdSource FAQs. Mostly, I wanted to know about payment. According to what I read, once you submit something you’ve written, it moves to “pending” in the Past Work tab of the writer dashboard. Once accepted, it moves to “owed.” Payments are sent out every single day at 9am PT (1pm ET), so whatever you have accepted will get paid to your PayPal account the next day at 9am. This is the only content mill I’ve seen that pays daily like this, which is kind of a nice change.

Scripted

I came across Scripted while I was browsing for information and, more specifically, reviews for one of the other content mills. At a glance, the site seems very sleek and well-made, which always gives off the impression of being more lucrative, although I couldn’t quite tell you why that is — especially since, according to my experience, that’s not always been the case.

One of the interesting things about Scripted is the “technology” they use to screen their writers and match writers to the most appropriate jobs, or content. According to their How It Works page, they have something called NLP, which stands for “natural language processing,” to categorize writers and find any possible “niche skills” based on their existing web content. I would assume this means that the Scripted “Powers That Be” thoroughly research a candidate as part of the application review process. They offer platform integration for clients so the content they purchase from Scripted is optimized for each individual server that runs a particular website or blog, and also advertise rigorous writer screening so that only the most talented writers make the cut.

For writers, Scripted’s application process is somewhat unique. When you first sign up to become a Scripted writer, they ask for the standard information like your name and contact information. They also ask for your highest level of education and whether you’ve written paid content for, whether you have just a little experience or are a full-time writing professional. Then, instead of requesting writing samples right out of the gate, they give you an online English language proficiency test. It’s actually been a while since I’ve taken the test, but I remember it having lots of trick questions, so make sure you really take your time with it. The test is designed to check one’s grasp of spelling, grammar, reading comprehension, knowledge of idioms and location collocations. You’re given fifteen minutes to take the test and cannot open any other windows or tabs in your browser unless you want to instantly fail. I scored at the 50th percentile, which is right in the middle of the bell curve — neither a low nor a high score.

After you’ve passed the exam, you’ll immediately have access to their writer’s area and be able to see all the orders they have available. You’ll probably wonder if being a writer for Scripted wasn’t simply as easy as taking the English test, but unfortunately the longest part of the process has yet to begin. Once you’re able to access the Scripted order system, you’ll be able to apply to individual industries. Not every Scripted writer can write any order; every client order is categorized into an industry depending on the order’s subject and although it can be seen by any writer, only writers who have been approved to write for that particular industry can accept that industry’s orders. The industries are:

  • Business
  • Entertainment
  • Food and Beverage
  • Internet/Software
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Tech Hardware
  • Science
  • Art and Design
  • Publishing/Journalism
  • Environmental
  • Government and Politics
  • Law
  • Religion and Philosophy
  • Lifestyle/Travel
  • Sports and Fitness

On November 15, I applied for the Entertainment, Lifestyle/Travel, Publishing/Journalism and Science industries. The editors grade your sample based on voice consistency, clarity, flow, and reader engagement. When you select the industry for which you want to apply, you’re given a few options, or prompts, for your sample. For example, to apply for the Environmental industry, you must create up to a 200-character Environmental tagline for yourself (i.e., “Tree-hugging environmentalist proficient in conservation law and renewable energy”) and choose one of several prompts. The current prompts for the Environmental industry are things like discussing a recent piece of environmental legislation and its effects on the country, discuss two ways individuals can slow the effects of global warming on a daily basis, and describing the essential components of a green business or a green home. They ask for 200 words for the prompt, and then they ask for a relevant sample of 200 words. If the relevant sample is something you’ve published online, they ask for the link. Then you submit and wait.

Completely an industry application can take anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour depending on your proficiency in the industry, the prompt you choose, and your focus. I submitted four applications, which took me roughly an hour and a half. Within a few days, I got rejections for Entertainment and Lifestyle/Travel. I was kind of shocked that I was rejected for the Lifestyle industry because I felt pretty good about that application in particular. I was then also rejected for the Publishing/Journalism industry a week later, which shocked me again. I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to be accepted for any of the industries, but a few days ago I finally got notification that I was accepted into the Science industry after waiting more than three weeks for a response.

Note: On your writer’s dashboard, you can click “Industries” and you’ll be shown all the industries you’ve applied for and whether they’re pending, accepted or rejected. You can also click “Apply to Industries,” which will take you to a drop-down list where you can select industries to apply for. However, if an application you’ve submitted is rejected, it will remain under your Industries, but it will show that it’s rejected; it will not show up in the list of industries you can apply for. I’m assuming you can only apply for an industry once every so often, maybe once every six months or a year, but I haven’t been able to find how long you’ll have to wait as there is no FAQ that I can see or anywhere on the site to tell you.

Once you have your industry acceptance, you’re ready to write. You can either take jobs that have been posted under Unclaimed Jobs, or you can create a pitch. When a client needs a certain type of content, you’ll see the sort of things they’re looking for by clicking Pitching > Available. After you’ve submitted your pitch, you can check its status by looking under Pitching >Accepted, Rejected or Pending.

As for the pay, I’ve not actually written any content for Scripted yet since I’ve only been approved for the Science industry for a couple days and wasn’t able to immediately take an assignment. However, I was looking at the pricing guide they have available for clients. For a standard 350-450 word blog post, a client will pay either $99 or $149 depending on whether the article is written by what Scripted considers one of their “industry experts.” Becoming an expert is an additional process and requires verification of one’s expertise, so I’m going to assume I’m not an expert for the time being. I’m also going to assume that Scripted makes a similar percentage to some of the other content mills, which is usually somewhere between 30% and 50%. This means that I will likely make something like $50-70 on a standard science blog post, which is very decent considering some of the other content mills. A longer blog post, which Scripted considers to be 550-650 words, will make me between 50% and 70% of $129, or somewhere between $65 and $90. Interestingly, Scripted also commissions writers to write things like Tweets and Facebook posts, which appear to be incredibly lucrative. For a Facebook post, which Scripted considers to be just one or two sentences, a regular writer will make between $75 and $105, which is 50-70% of $149.

About the author

My name is Dane. I'm a writer at Android Authority as well as a tech journalist in general. As well, I'm a marketing guru, designer, and a budding web developer. My passions include portmanteaus, artisanal coffees, jackets, and the smell of fresh technology in the morning.