Breaking 100k a year writing for content mills: fact or fiction?

Couple of years back I remember stumbling across this gem over at the Freelance Writing Jobs website. The crux of the story is quite simple, really. Two writers from opposite ends of the spectrum made a bet: a traditional journalist who viewed content mills as the “scourge of the writing industry” bet a counterpart working for content mills as to who would make more money in 2009. The trade writer (journalist) assumed that she would make more because she viewed content mills as “low paying havens” for “no talent writers”.

At the end of the year the content mill writer made $52,000 dollars while the trade publication writer working as a journalist only made $37,000 dollars. The response of the journalist? “Well, it doesn’t really matter that you made more money than me. That wasn’t the point. The point is that content mills aren’t good places to work, because the quality of their content is far below mine.”

I’m paraphrasing a little here, as you can see from reading the original post, but here’s the concept I want to drive home to you:

Content writing for content mills is not low paying, nor is it demeaning. Anyone trying to tell you otherwise is simply jealous of your profits, doesn’t understand how to write for content mills, and/or is terrified that the new model is shutting down the old way of doing things.

I actually talked about this in greater detail two years ago in E-Envy, delving into the real reasons why so many writers of yesteryear are in a panic over content mills and a new way of doing things, but the cold hard truth is that when it comes right down to it, it has nothing to do with the quality of writing. Artistic integrity is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills, and any level-headed, sane individual out there realizes that at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is putting food on the table for you and yours, and when you look at the vast amount of content being pushed out by content mills, sure; it’s fast food content meant for a fast food generation. But it’s never going to truly replace journalism or “gourmet” content; it’s simply one of many, many ways to make a check as a writer.

The Reality of Content Mills

For those of you who have purchased my Content Writing 101: How to make a minimum of $50 per hour writing for content mills, or who have already been breaking that sweet spot on your own, you already know the truth behind content mills: they are in no way, shape or form low paying havens for no talent hack writers. For those of you who haven’t purchased your copy yet, now is the perfect time to get on the bandwagon and start making a minimum of $50 per hour writing for content mills, transforming your famine cycles into history.

Around the same time that article came out, I wrote a post about breaking 100k a year writing for content mills. It’s been about a year and a half since then, and I’ve written a lot more content for content mills, and over the time since I initially wrote that post I’ve only found my beliefs strengthened given my continual results, day in and day out, when utilizing content mills as part of my everyday routine.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”~ Steve Jobs

The key to being successful writing for content mills is to ignore the naysayers and focus on one thing: success. Treat it like any other business venture, with seriousness. If you walk into writing for content mills and only do it a couple hours here and there, in your spare time, or as a hobby, and you never take it seriously, you will never see serious results. But if you walk in there like the champion that you are, grab it by the horns and dominate it from the very moment you arrive, you are sure to see numbers that others can only dream about.

Buy Now

Some Simple Math

Let’s assume, for a moment, that you are the Regular, Everyday Normal Guy (WARNING: ADULT LYRICS).

You work a traditional 9-to-5 job, or you are already a writer working freelance. You are part of the average median in the United States. According to the PDF for 2009, the 2009 median earnings of all working men aged 15 and older, regardless of work experience, was $36,331. Divided against 52 weeks in a year that comes out to $698.7 per week, or  $17.5 per hour. That’s the average median income. Some make more, some make less; this is the average.

$17.5 an hour. That’s down from $18.5 an hour in 2008, and $22 an hour back in 2006. But I digress. The point here is that this is the gross hourly median income across the United States. 36k a year, or 17.5 dollars per hour, working a traditional 9-t0-5 job where you put in 40 hours a week.

Now, taking the methods described within my eBook, you can easily break $50 per hour writing for content mills. Let’s do some more simple math, shall we? $50 per hour @ 40 hours per week is $2,000 per week. That’s $8,000 per month, or $96,000 per year. If you look back to my Content Writing Experiment from 2010, you will see that I averaged out at $53 per hour using several different mills combined. Using a 40 hour work week example, that comes out to $101,760 dollars in a year.

That’s over 100k in a year, writing only for content mills using the methods described within my eBook. But in order to hit that number you have to treat writing for content mills just like you would treat any other job: seriously. If you aren’t willing to work 40 hour work weeks, you won’t break 100k a year.

Therein Lies the Rub

Let’s be honest. Working a 40 hour work week is a pain in the ass. I sure as hell don’t work those kind of hours, and I haven’t since I last worked in construction back in 2007. Since then, I’ve transitioned into a location independent digital nomad who uses countries and cities around the world as my bases of operations, taking advantage of a drastically lowered cost of living in comparison to what most people in the United States have to deal with on a daily basis. What this translates to for me is the simple fact that I don’t have to work 40 hour work weeks in order to live like a king. In fact, my average work day is 2-3 hours, 4 at most, depending on the project I’m working on and how motivated I am by additional wants. My average cost of living and how I do what I do is something I talk about more at Marginal Boundaries, but suffice to say, I’m debt free and I don’t need 2-3k a month to cover my basic costs.

But here’s the thing: look at any traditional job and what do you see? A person sitting behind a desk working the same 9-to-5 shift day in and day out, repeating the exact same routine over and over and over and over and over. Yet they are doing it for a paltry $17.5 per hour, according to the U.S. Government. Why would anyone in their right mind want to do something like that for a meager 17 dollars an hour? But doing it for $50 an hour (minimum)? That’s a whole ‘nother story!

Money is a motivating factor for all of us. How much motivation we have dictates how many hours in the office we spend. Our goals, dreams, bills and otherwise all work towards coercing us to remain in the office for X amount of hours per day. If you were to take the same amount of discipline you apply to your 9-to-5 job now and transfer that over to a job where you make $50+ per hour, breaking 100k in a year becomes not only a possibility, but also a realistic goal.

However, it does take considerable dedication to be willing to sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and reliably crank out the amount of content required to be that profitable. Not to mention constitution. But when the motivation is your family, your dreams, your goals and your freedom, I think dedication and seriousness is a small price to pay for being able to break 100k in a year without ever needing a college education, a degree or any previous writing experience.

The short answer to anyone who claims that writing for content mills is low paying or demeaning is this: you must be joking, right? After all, there are thousands of writers out there who are making bank working for content mills, and they are absolutely viable as one of the many, many ways you can make a great paycheck writing around the world, and as long as you take it seriously and are willing to put forth the same time and effort you put into your traditional 9-to-5, the profits are waiting for you.

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions, and is a freelance writer specializing in travel writing, website content, interior design and home improvement, green-related topics, as well as anything else potential clients need him to be.

Posted in Freelance Writing 101, Freelance Writing Resources, Freelance Writing Tips Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
6 comments on “Breaking 100k a year writing for content mills: fact or fiction?
  1. Lynn says:

    How do you get started?

  2. Lynn:

    The first thing you can do is sign up for our free newsletter, which comes out twice a month and is jam-packed with targeted, concentrated information regarding how to be profitable as a freelance writer in the modern era. The second thing you can do is read through the various topics presented here at the website offering advise on writing such as The Myth of Feast or Famine, When Productivity Trumps Quality or Another Look at Content Mills.

    The third thing you can do is pick up a copy of the Content Writing 101: How to make a minimum of $50 an hour writing for content mills eBook, filled with information on how you can walk into writing for content mills with no degree and relatively little/no experience and make $50 an hour, along with screenshots of my paystubs, Camtasia video footage of me putting the methods described within the book into practice, plus generalized freelance writing information that can help anyone, new or veteran, transform their famine periods into year-round feasts.

    Above and beyond that, you can also order a custom consultation depending on your personal budget, fully customizable depending on how much help you think you need in terms of jump-starting your writing career.

    Don’t forget that until April 18th members of the newsletter receive a 50% off discount off the price of the eBook, as well as a special consultation rate that is only available to members who pick up a copy of the book before the 18th. All the relevant details are included in the Welcome letter that gets sent out 24 hours after you sign up for the newsletter.

    Feel free to browse around and read through the various topics presented here, as there are a few year’s worth of posts to browse through. Otherwise, welcome aboard and I look forward to seeing you take part in some of the many discussions that go on here :)

  3. Nice alternative to sitting at a desk in an office: a laptop on the deck! Just be sure to set aside one-third of your freelance income for taxes when you get paid, and send in your estimated federal and state taxes quarterly. Better to do that as you go than owe big money and underpayment penalties next April. The government likes to have your taxes in hand as you earn, not wait until the end.

  4. Sound advice if you are someone living and working in the United States. Back when I was running my construction company in Colorado I just hired an accountant to do my payroll and quarterlies for me….all I did was write the checks :)

    These days, however, it’s a bit different for me, but that’s because I’ve been living internationally for going on four years, and with residency in different countries, as well as foreign income from various sources, not to mention a company base that isn’t in the United States, I’m on a different tax system than most freelancers in the States. For example, I am exempt from paying state taxes. However, it’s a very complicated system and definitely a topic for another time…plus I always recommend people hire a tax professional for their own unique circumstances.

    I never estimated 1/3, but then again I used to live in Colorado, which wasn’t horribly high for state taxes. When I was setting aside 25% of my paychecks for taxes I always came out with more than enough on my quarterlies. But the nice thing about setting up a domicile in another country and staying out of the States is that you no longer owe state taxes, which makes things easier when you only need to worry about the 15.30% self employment tax…but again, people should always hire a tax professional for their unique situation, not rely on my advice :)

    Consequently, working remotely is one of the advantages to freelancing. As a location independent digital nomad, I write from whatever city in the world is my home in the moment. For example, the Content Writing 101 eBook was written from a combination of cafes, my bed and the public beaches of Cancun.

    Another benefit of doing what I do (traveling the world and writing travel guides is part of my job. In the past I was writing for other clients, but as of now I actually have my own company set up and will be selling the first two guides in June, with a third coming out in September or October) is that since the various places I live are for business…i.e., investigating and researching for future travel guides…all of my travel expenses are deductible, Considering the cost of plane flights, this works in my advantage. Plus, since I am only on the ground for 3-6 months in a given location, my rent is deductible because I am only in a destination for a temporary period of time. In short, as per the Business Travel Expenses section of I can claim all of the following:

    –Travel by airplane, train, bus, or car between your home and your business destination. If you are provided with a ticket or you are riding free as a result of a frequent traveler or similar program, your cost is zero.

    –Using your car while at your business destination,

    –Fares for taxis or other types of transportation between the airport or train station and your hotel, the hotel and the work location, and from one customer to another, or from one place of business to another

    –Meals and lodging

    –Tips you pay for services related to any of these expenses.

    –Dry cleaning and laundry.

    –Business calls while on your business trip. This includes business communications by fax machine or other communication devices.

    –Other similar ordinary and necessary expenses related to your business travel. These expenses might include transportation to and from a business meal, public stenographer’s fees, computer rental fees, and operating and maintaining a house trailer.

    In short…almost 100% of my living expenses are deductible, because my life is my business. I’m mostly a travel writer these days. I don’t own a car, I rely on public transportation, I rent furnished apartments, I pay for laundry and dry cleaning, and I am continually traveling via air, train and otherwise :)

  5. Cathy says:

    Gosh Tim, this is so very interesting. So glad for you. Don’t know if I ever signed up for writing sol. news letter or not and if I did I would have no doubt forgotten my pass word.
    Let me know how you are doing. Sounds great!

  6. Hola, gran :)

    I’ll send you info on Facebook…you’ll likely find the Marginal Boundaries information more valuable, since I know you are keen on following travels and such :) Thanks for dropping me a line here!

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