[Author’s Note: This was originally published on my former blog some time ago. As I re-post it here, I am also making a few modifications to the content. The basic message, however, remains the same.]
I have been a successful freelance writer for four years. I use the word “successful” because I no longer have a “day job,” earn all my income solely from writing, and spend a few hours a day, a few days a week doing it. I use two online sites for my writing; one is a somewhat popular content mill that has, recently, become extremely tedious to work with due to increasingly anti-writer changes they’ve made over time. The other site is Constant Content.
The Content Mill Site (My Introduction to Freelance Writing)
Despite my growing disenchantment with the content mill site, I’ve had a very good track record. I have completed and sold over 4,000 pieces of content in the past four years and my rejection rate is less than two percent. I have provided content for over 180 different clients on a variety of topics ranging from blogging to wire cloth, and a senior staff member of this content mill site informed me recently that I am perhaps the site’s most prolific and successful writer (relating to the quantity and quality of work).
The content mill site was much more enjoyable to use a few years ago, when I first began my journey into freelance writing. The number of jobs available through the site has dwindled down from several hundred at any given time to less than a dozen, most of which are undesirable for whatever reason (pay rate, topic, length, etc.). The writer’s forum is so over-moderated that it is a useless ghost town of outdated information, when it used to be a vibrant and engaging platform for writer discussion and creative debate.
A more significant and recent change has also made it harder for writers to actually WRITE, mandating instead that writers provide an ‘audition’ of their work before completing a full length writing assignment. While that may sound like a good idea, there are many clients who reject the audition piece (thus not paying for the writer’s efforts) and then ask that writer to create full length content. Some writers do so, but I do not for one simple reason…if my work was acceptable to them (and clearly it was, since the client now wants full length content), they could have at least paid for the audition piece that introduced them to my writing style and ability in the first place.
Unfortunately, I cannot explain much more about this site lest I identify it completely – and I’ve read on other blogs that those who do end up getting banned from the site for posting negative comments about it (and they allegedly disavow these writers with no warning, no explanation, and no response to inquiries about “why” it happened). [Edit: At this point, I no longer write through, and rarely visit, the content mill site – so if I were to identify it and subsequently get banned from using it, it would be no loss to me whatsoever. The site ceased to be a candidate for ‘loss’ about two years ago, actually.]
Getting Started on Constant Content – My Journey
When I initially started submitting content to Constant Content, I was using the “other” site as my primary source of income because it was actually quite lucrative. I was regularly earning over $1,000 a month – from a content mill, for part-time work. The Constant Content submissions were the infrequent rejections from the content mill, for the most part. I gradually started creating more work specifically for inclusion in Constant Content’s catalog for three main reasons:
- I can write about whatever I want.
- I can choose any word count.
- I set the price for my efforts.
Unlike the “content mill” where writers are restricted on all three points, plus many others, Constant Content allows me to write freely about any subject under the sun. I can create my own title, format the body of the piece however I wish, make it 100 words or 10,000 words long if I want to, and when I’m done writing – I decide what it’s worth. For example, an 800-word piece on Constant Content can sell for $50 to $100. On the content mill, I’d be lucky to earn $10 for the same content.
The Difference Between Contract Writers & Freelance Writers
In reality, I consider the writers (including myself) who provide work through that unnamed content mill site to be “contract writers” rather than “freelance writers.” I believe there is a big difference between the two.
Contract writers are told what to write about, how long it needs to be, when it needs to be completed, what keywords must be included and how frequently, and how much they will be paid for it. Freelance writers, on the other hand, have no such restrictions unless they are providing content for a specific client where the details of what, when, how much, and so on have been prearranged.
Another primary difference between the two is that contract writers (especially those who write through the unnamed mill) do not have work to do until a client creates a job for them. Freelance writers write when they want, without waiting for someone to let them know that a particular piece of content might be valuable. This means that a “mill” writer could possibly be waiting days or weeks before a writing job is created by a client that they would be able to complete. No work means no money.
Three Types of Writing for Constant Content
There are three main types of writing that can be done for Constant Content. The first is private requests, which means that a particular client has asked you to write a specific piece of content for them. They will likely choose the topic and general length, and assign a pay range for that content (which is always going to be substantially more than the same work would earn through a mill).
The second type of writing is public requests, where clients ask for writing focusing on a certain subject. The client often restricts the word count and sets a pay range for the writing they are looking for. Public requests are accessible to all writers on Constant Content.
The last type of writing consists of catalog submissions. Constant Content maintains an expansive catalog of writing that covers a large variety of subjects from astronomy to zoology, which is accessible and available to anyone who is looking for a piece of content about a specific subject.
Writing done through the content mill site consists of private requests and semi-private requests. There are no ‘public’ requests and no catalog of content through which clients can browse to find material that fits their needs. With the content mill, private requests are direct assignments, issued to a specific writer by a client (with all the details of the content predetermined by the client). Semi-private requests appear on an ‘open’ writing assignment list but are not visible to all writers. Clients can set parameters for the assignment that restrict it to writers with certain subject matter expertise, a specific writer rating, a certain geographic location, and so on. If a writer does not meet the criteria set by the client, the assignment will not be visible to the writer in the ‘open’ assignment list; thus the ‘semi-private request’ status.
All of the writing I have done through Constant Content has been catalog submissions. I find it easier to create content on my time rather than working to a deadline, simply because I have other things going on in my life on a daily basis. Watching the clock, in my opinion, means my work will suffer in terms of quality. I can take a few hours, days, or weeks to create a specific piece of content; my ‘deadline’ is only what I set for myself. On the content mill site, writers are given a deadline that typically ranges from 24 to 72 hours depending on the desired length of the content to be written.
Pre-Editing Before Client Access
Speaking of quality – the editing team, albeit outsourced, at Constant Content is perhaps one of the primary reasons why the site is so successful. Submissions must be reviewed, edited, and approved by an editor before they will be accepted and made available for sale, and the editors are good at their job and strict in their editing.
A large chunk of the writing done through the content mill site is embarrassing, in my opinion. Stilted use of English, awkward phrasing, terrible grammar, spelling errors, incomplete sentences… those are some of the characteristics of a lot of the writing I’ve seen come through the mill – and sell. That’s the shocking part, that a client would actually pay for such horrid writing, or that the mill would allow such low quality work to get to a client in the first place, especially when they boldly advertise a client’s access to professional writers. I also find it surprising that the writers themselves tout their superior skills, or at least they used to when the forum could actually be used for communicating thoughts and ideas, despite the substandard quality of their work.
While I sometimes do not agree with certain editing decisions made by Constant Content’s editors (example to follow), I appreciate their time and input. They do catch things I didn’t when I was reviewing the content before submission; things that I’d be displeased about having included in my work.
There is a slight lack of consistency with the editing process, however, that I’ve encountered. I recently had a submission to Constant Content “rejected” solely because it included an ampersand. The ampersand was in the title, which is required to be included at the beginning of the content body (thus placing the ampersand in the ‘body’ of the content, even though it was in the title and not in the actual content itself). Titular ampersands are common and accepted across all writing styles, although the Chicago Manual of Style recommends that the word ‘and’ be used for consistency’s sake. After changing the ampersand and resubmitting, my content was accepted and placed in the catalog for sale.
In the mean time, I looked back through my previously submitted – and accepted – work and found half a dozen items with ampersands in the title. Other writers have also submitted (and had accepted) content that included titular ampersands – MANY of them. Be that as it may, it didn’t kill me to change an ampersand to the word “and,” even though the editing inconsistency was very mildly irksome.
Quite honestly, a lot of the work I’ve seen by other writers at the content mill would literally get killed by the Constant Content editors. If red pens were to be used for editing notes, it’d look like a horrific mass murder had occurred on the pages. I’m pleased to say that I’ve had very few pieces rejected by the editing team for various and very minor reasons, even though my portfolio of content isn’t very large yet.
My Sales Through the Constant Content Catalog
Constant Content states somewhere on their website that 87% of all catalog content eventually sells, with 70% of it selling within three months. I spent a bit of time this morning reading about Celeste Stewart, who is one of the top writers through Constant Content. At the time of this writing [previous publication date for this blog post], she is listed at #6 on the Most Prolific Writers list, with over 5,500 pieces written, and holds the same position on the Top Selling Writers list, as well (both of these writers’ lists are found here, on the same page).
Celeste Stewart states in a five-page write-up about succeeding on Constant Content that she has a 58% sale rate for catalog submissions (page 3). Her public request sale rate was given as 74% and private request sale rate at 100%. This prompted me to take a look at my own “track record” with Constant Content submissions. While I’m nowhere near the caliber of Ms. Stewart in terms of being a prolific writer (with 87 submissions compared to her 5,500+), I was still able to break down my submission/sales rate to determine where I stand.
As of today, I have 87 catalog submissions on Constant Content. Five of those have yet to be approved by the editing team. Twenty-two of those, including the ones awaiting editing, were submitted in the past two or three weeks. With the approval process taking nearly a week for each piece, I decided to calculate my submission/sales percentage for all content I had submitted through June 19, 2016, which totaled 65 items. As a side note, I’ve submitted more work to Constant Content in the past year than I had altogether in the three years prior.
Out of my 65 submissions, 13 of those have not sold yet. This leaves me with an 80% sale rate – for catalog submissions. In other words, 8 out of every 10 articles I’ve submitted to the Constant Content catalog has sold. (I do not do private or public request writing through Constant Content at this time.) I would say that approximately 80% of those catalog submissions that have been purchased were sold within two weeks of being listed in the Constant Content catalog, as well.
I generally write in two main categories for Constant Content’s catalog – Business Marketing and Home Improvement. Roughly 90% of my submissions center around those two subjects, with the content focusing on online marketing and SEO for the Business Marketing category and energy efficiency for the Home Improvement category.
Drawbacks to Constant Content? Very Few!
There are really very few drawbacks to writing through Constant Content, in my opinion. It may not suit everyone’s own style and personal preferences, however, and if you aren’t a very good writer don’t expect to do well at all (you probably won’t make it past the editing team, in all honesty).
While not really a drawback, the length of time it takes the editors to approve a submission has grown over the past few years. When I first started writing through Constant Content, my submissions were always approved within 2 or 3 days, at the most. I am now seeing approval times take at least 5 days or more. The Constant Content website states that they generally try to get submissions approved within 3 to 5 days, and that submissions for private requests always have priority.
I have noticed that submissions for the catalog that fall under a category with a large number of existing items (such as Business Marketing) take longer – most likely due to the fact that there are more submissions for those categories than any other.
Again, not a drawback, but Constant Content takes a 35% cut of your sales price for any work you submit and sell through their site. It is a hefty commission, to be sure, but they provide you with a platform where you can truly be a freelance writer and you get a top-notch editing team along with it. From what I’ve read on their writer’s forum, Constant Content also does not dilly-dally around with substandard writers for long. If you have consistent rejections by the editors, you’ll eventually lose the ability to provide content at all.
Lastly – and again (!), not a drawback really, and beyond Constant Content’s control – it may sometimes take a while for your work to sell. If you provide content to the catalog about an obscure topic with little relevance outside a specific niche, you may have to wait a while for it to sell unless you already have a client lined up. Material that is trending, evergreen, relevant, and popular will sell quickly. For example, I have an article in the Constant Content catalog about banning incandescent light bulbs that has been sitting there for two and a half years. It has been viewed 13 times, and is my oldest unsold piece. I have written other content that has sold within a couple of hours of being approved by the editing team and listed in the catalog for sale.
Edit: Constant Content is headquartered in Canada, which means that you may have to wait through one of the many Canadian holiday periods to receive payment for writing you have sold through their site. Payment is always promptly delivered on the date promised (1st and 15th, if you have chosen a twice-monthly disbursal of your earnings), or on the following day if the payment date is a holiday (they never pay out earnings early).
Viewed 13 Times? What Does That Mean?
When your Constant Content catalog submission has passed the scrutiny of the editing team and made it to the catalog, you can view your content list on their website. You’ll see the title, date submitted, category, status (view/review/rejected/resubmitted/waiting), number of sales, and number of hits (or views). The “hits” information is interesting and useful if you want to see what content is popular among your catalog portfolio items.
Approved submissions with a large number of hits are obviously popular. Lots of people are looking at it. If it hasn’t sold, however, then there’s something wrong with it. Perhaps the price is too high or the content isn’t long enough (or too long). You always have the option of editing any of your submissions (AFTER they’ve been approved) provided they haven’t been bought by anyone yet. If you have a 500-word evergreen piece about social media marketing strategies, it’s going to be popular, but if you have it priced at $100, it probably won’t sell regardless of how amazing it is.
Constant Content provides a pricing guideline on their submission page to give you an idea of the range of prices generally considered acceptable for different word counts. The great thing to see is one hit and one sale. That means the first person that looked at your article loved it so much they immediately bought it. This is even better when the hit and sale occurs within a day or two of your article being accepted by the editing team.
The highest number of hits I’ve gotten on an unsold piece is 39 as of the date of this writing (an article about home winterization tips), and 38 for a sold piece before someone finally bought it (staying productive while working from home). Most of my sales have occurred within the first 10 hits.
The conclusion is simple – I truly love writing through Constant Content. I can do so on my own terms and in my own time, without deadlines or picky clients, restrictive word counts or awkward (but required) keywords and phrases, or the requirement of audition pieces, and I can put a price tag on my work that I believe represents the value of my content and my efforts, rather than getting a few pennies per word for hours of research, writing, proofreading, and re-writing.