Researching Your Freelance Articles

I received an email from a reader saying "In a previous post you mentioned being able to churn out 5 or 6 short articles in an hour. How? I have the hardest time because I have to research the articles. I do find myself spending about an hour or two for a $5.00 article. It doesn't seem worth it."

Freelance writing really can be a very lucrative career. It's possible to earn a great income from the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately it's also possible to reduce your income drastically by accepting the wrong types of assignments or by not organizing your day or your writing assignments for maximum efficiency.

Let's look at some ways to increase your income and reduce the amount of time you spend researching and writing.

Researching for Assignments from Content Mills

Content mills are those sites that offer writers with a steady stream of article work. They don't pay very highly - generally between $5-$15 per article - but they are a nice inclusion for any online freelancer needing a bit of consistency with cash flow.

When you accept writing assignments from content mills like Text-Broker or Demand Studios or even from Need-An-Article then you're not always going to be thrilled about the subject matter. You may need to search around on Google or through Wikipedia to find enough information to write a logical article.

If you find yourself spending an hour or 2 researching to find enough information to write a $5 article, then you need to ask whether you should have accepted that assignment in the first place.

Understanding What Content Mills Want

The biggest difference between an assignment from a content mill and an assignment from a private freelance client is the level of quality they expect. The people who order articles written through content mills are mostly seeking keyword-focused articles that center around the general topic they requested. These articles are only to fill up websites and attract search engines. This means they're not after in-depth articles. They want information that covers a topic.

To understand a little more on how I write according to the differences between content mill work and my own work for private clients, check out this post from last year:


Cutting Down On Research

One option I use to reduce my research time in these situations is to verify how many articles on the same or similar topics are available. If I can see more than 5 articles available then I'll happily spend 10 or 15 minutes researching for enough topic points to talk about. Obviously I'm going to need 5 topic points for 5 intended articles.

(tip: if you can't limit your research quickly, then set an alarm and stop when it rings)

Remember - if this research is for an assignment with a content mill only paying a few dollars then you can't afford to be spending hours looking up the information you need. Find a few pointers to write about and get writing.

Writing 5 or 6 Articles an Hour

If you've accepted an assignment for 5 articles, then research the basics before you begin writing. Write the article topics one beneath the next. Then make notes about your research as you work beneath each title.

For my own style, I tend to write all 5 at once, making notes I want to remember about each subject title. When your research is done, go back through your notes and add sentences to expand on your meaning and say what you want to say.

By the time you've expanded on your notes and clarified your meanings, you should easily have several hundred words. You're almost there.

Re-Use Your Own Research

After you've written the article you needed to write, ALWAYS save your articles to a separate folder. Because content mills buy all the rights to those articles, you can't sell them again anyway - but you can re-use the research within those articles whenever you want. Make sure you label the article according to the topic it covers so you can find specific topics easily.

Hint: NEVER re-use the same words you've already used. Someone else has already paid you for the use of those words. You can re-write, re-slant, re-hash and re-edit your original work all you like - just be sure you never use the same words twice or your favorite content mill will suddenly decide they have no more work to offer you.

Don't Take It Too Seriously

While it is still important to write legible, logical articles for content mill assignments, they're not masterpieces and they're not being entered into the category for a literary award. These articles are web content.

Of course you should still be careful to keep your spelling and grammar correct. Your facts should also be correct and your writing should convey the information you want the reader to know.

Then you need to learn to save the file to your separate folder, close the word processing program you're working on and begin the next assignment. Immediately.

Don't be tempted to go back through every word painstakingly editing each sentence until it gleams. Save this kind of attitude for the high paying markets who are paying for your time and effort.

Content mills provide much-needed cash flow for freelancers needing a bit of extra cash in between waiting for the bigger markets to send out their checks. Keep this in mind next time you're tempted to spend any longer than 15 or 20 minutes writing an article for $5 or $10

I hope this helps


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Gayze said...

Wow, Bianca, really good article and very helpful. Coming from a fiction-writing background, I am one who is having an "issue" letting go of the urge to edit and revamp everything to perfection. "Good enough" wasn't in my vocabulary till I started researching the trend of web-writing and writing SEO content. It's a whole new world, isn't it? Fortunately, I'm having fun!

Text-broker: It looks like a cool "low pay with the potential of medium pay" market, but I'd been mulling over how to make it worth while, since you start out only earning a buck or two per article. This blog entry really puts it into perspective.

Thank you so much for all you do. Girl, you must write 25 hours out of every day just to fill your paying jobs and keep up with your blog! :-)


Bianca Raven said...

I'm a big believer in spending as much time as possible going over and re-editing every single word in a fiction story. You need to polish fiction until every word gleams before you submit it anywhere. The same is definitely true for any assignment going to a high-paying magazine market.

Web content is a little different. While it's still important to learn to monitor your own spelling and grammar as you write, it's not vital that you go back through. Write it, be sure you're writing correctly as you go, submit it, save the file to a folder and move onto the next.

Different worlds!

Michael Rivers said...

Great post! I haven't tried the content mill writing, but after reading this post, I'm going to give it a shot.


twinid90 said...

Let me repeat that you are a wonderful professional. You are also correct. I shouldn't worry about creating a work of art when writing web content.

Last night I spent a little time on the Digital Point forum. Some of the writers that are offering their services are horrible. However, they are still getting plenty of article orders. The buyers are not concerned with quality. Amazing!

Bianca Raven said...

Jen, allow me to direct you to this blog post from last year:


It's my way of saying 'keep away from job boards just like Digital Point'. You can do better than to throw in your lot with the writers on there.

Tiff Ever Learning said...

Hello Bianca, I came across your blog through a google search for freelance writing blogs. I enjoy reading yours a lot. It's very informative and engaging. I will be frequenting your blog in the future, as I see I have a lot of catching up to do with your past entries. :) Keep up the awesome work.
-Tiffany from Los Angeles