Private Freelance Clients vs Content Mills vs Marketplaces

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you'll know I have several private clients (who I appreciate and love to bits - thank you all!), but I also work on a content mill to help bring in some extra cash flow, as well as write articles to offer for sale on an article marketplace.

(I should clarify here that I don't bother with 'bidding' sites, like get-a-freelancer or e-lance, so they're not included in this post)

Keeping up with all of these things means I can pay my mortgage every month and comfortably pay all my bills without any other form of income coming into the household.

However, here are some pros and cons to each type of writing activity as I see them.

Private Freelance Clients - Pros

There are so many benefits to having your own private freelance clients that you should always remember to treat them like gold. Not only do they email you directly to place article orders, but they generally pay into your account at the time of the order. Some clients pay 50% up-front and 50% on completion, while others are happy to pay the full amount in advance when they place the order.

Either way, this means cash flow coming into your account on a semi-regular basis that can help with those unforeseen bills that arrive throughout the month.

Another big benefit to working with private clients is that you begin to develop a rapport with them. You can start to understand their needs and tailor your own writing to suit their preferences. This makes them appreciate your writing efforts even more, because you always just seem to know what they want.

You also have the freedom to dictate your own prices. Your clients come to you initially based on your price and some samples. If you set your price too low, you will receive plenty of clients who are only price-shopping. If you set your price higher to cover your time and effort, you weed out those bargain-hunting clients and in return you get much nicer clients who value your writing efforts.

Private Frelance Clients - Cons

The only difficulty I can think of with accepting work from private clients is that you don't always get a choice of topics to write about. You're bound by what topics they need to suit their sites and this can sometimes make research difficult.

Perhaps another minor downside to private clients is the unpredictability of when they'll order next. I have clients who order a month's worth of work at the beginning of each month like clockwork. I also have clients who order whenever they need something written. This can sometimes make it difficult to know how much time to keep aside during each working week (but I still love all my clients...). It can also make it a little scary when they all place orders at the same time and even scarier again when they don't order for a couple of weeks in a row.

Content Mills - Pros

I still work for a couple of content mills on a semi-regular basis because of the ease of available work. When I've caught up with any outstanding private orders, I'll log into a content mill and pick up work I think I can complete quickly.

The good part about the content mill system is that you only have to accept topics you know something about, or that you're familiar with. Most of them also pay either weekly or fortnightly, so the extra cash flow is handy.

Content Mills - Cons

Unfortunately, in order to remain 'competitive', many content mills pay pittance - generally $5-$7 per article (and even less again if you're with TextBroker). This is the primary reason I'll only pick up orders where I know something about the topic and don't have to waste time researching. The clients also seem to expect miracles for a few bucks. They haven't grasped the concept of paying a writer adequately for their time and effort (yet).

The other downside is the lack of flexibility. In most cases, you're discouraged from contacting the client directly, even if you want to ask questions about the topic or the client's preference for format. This means the writer is left guessing as to the type of article the client really wanted.

Article Marketplaces - Pros

The biggest pros to uploading your own articles to article marketplaces (like Constant Content or Daily Article) is the freedom to write what you enjoy. You're not limited to the client's word counts and you're not constricted to anyone else's keywords.

You also have the benefit of being able to set your own prices, which can be great if you write in really popular niches.

Article Marketplaces - Cons

Unfortunately, while marketplaces are excellent for the freedom of writing whatever you like, there are plenty of negative aspects. The majority of marketplaces pay monthly. If you rely on your freelance income to pay the bills, this can be a long time between checks.

The fees are also outrageous. For example: Constant Content takes 35% of your sale price as their fee. This eats into your profits and reduces you income.

Perhaps the biggest downside to uploading your articles to marketplaces is waiting for a buyer to find your articles. While I've had some great luck with most of my work being picked up relatively quickly, there are plenty of horror-stories around from writers who have waited months for their articles to sell.

So there you have it. My take on the benefits and draw-backs of some ways to derive a freelance income. I'd love to hear of any pros and cons you can think of that I might have missed...


Freelancing as an International Writer

The amount of freelance writing sites around these days wanting writers to submit W9 forms is increasing. This can make it difficult for international writers (like me!) to compete with US writers and earn a decent income.

If you haven't been asked to fill in a W9 form before, it's a form available from the IRS website that's basically a declaration that you're an American citizen, paying tax in the USA. Many content creation sites are asking their writers to fill in these forms to be sure they're only hiring Americans.

So where does this leave international writers?

You have a couple of options available to you. One is relatively easy and the other is a bit of a nightmare.

While there are still places around that will accept submissions from non-US writers, many of them are beginning to ask for W8 forms from any writer who can't submit a W9. A W8 form is basically a declaration that you're an international writer who is responsible for paying tax on your earnings in your own country. You simply fill it in and either fax it or snail-mail it to the company paying you.

That's the easy option and it's the one I'll choose whenever I can.

The not so easy option is applying for an ITIN and electing to pay tax on your US income to the IRS. This isn't fun. It's not always easy to co-ordinate with your own local tax laws and the paper work can be an exercise in torture.

An ITIN is an International Tax Identification Number and if you elect to pay tax on your US income directly to the IRS, you'll need to be familiar with the taxation laws in the USA or you'll need to hire a tax agent familiar with handling international clients.

For me personally, I get to file my taxes in the US three months before I'm required to file more taxes here in Australia. The ATO (Australian Taxation Office) will take into consideration any income I've already declared and paid tax on in the US before deciding to tax everything else I earn right here in Australia. Sigh.

My accountant has put two kids through college, bought a lovely Mercedes sports model and upgraded her computer and office furniture twice from the fees she charges international writers like me :(

I hope this makes it a little easier for any international writers out there.