Subscriber SJ asks, “Can you give us your take on the advisability of writing for the content farms like Demand Media Studios (Ehow)?”
A content farm is a business that hires multiple writers to churn out articles that clients post on their web sites to improve their search engine rankings.
In my experience, the writers who write for content farms are for the most part minimally skilled. Often English is not their native language, which shows in their writing.
Articles from content farms are typically produced by writers who are not experts in the subject. They just go on Google and cobble together an article on the topic from 5 or 6 other articles they find online—frequently without giving credit to these sources.
Content farms are famous for the miserable fees they pay writers. One I saw offered $5 per article. How good are those $5 per article writers? Not very.
And I know that from experience: I stupidly hired a content farm writer to write content for my chemistry website.
In an article on careers in chemistry, she actually wrote “People interested in a career in chemistry should study chemistry.” Duh.
Unbelievably, she also wrote in the same article “Chemistry is a good career for those who are fond of atoms.” I am not kidding. This at least gave me a good laugh.
Writers have a long tradition of getting started in their freelance careers by writing for low pay or no pay.
Back in the day, it was mainly for small magazines that paid writers in contributor’s copies. Today, the articles are for websites, and they are written more for search engines than human readers. The content farms seem not to care much what’s in the article or how well it is written as long as it contains the right key words.
Subscriber MZ, a freelance writer, notes, “An infinite supply of low, low, insultingly low paying outlets have cropped up like an unkillable fungus. It’s made a lot of writers very angry. Not only do we refuse to work for these absurdly low rates, we feel deeply offended that our work could be valued so poorly.”
“But I am a beginner,” you object, “I need to get some writing samples to launch my business.” However, if the samples are articles published by content farms, good clients are unlikely to be impressed.
A better option than working for peanuts for content farms is to get hired by real clients for smaller, noncritical assignments until they get to know you well enough to try you on a bigger project.
For instance, a newsletter publisher might not hire an untested writer to write a full-length promotion for them. But they might hire you to write an article for their free e-newsletter, a special report used as a subscription premium, or some banner ads. And they will pay you a fair rate for the work.
So my advice to SJ and all other freelance writers is to avoid content farms like the plague. They are truly the cesspool of the freelance writing profession.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.