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Making money online:
Writing for content farms

If you're looking to make your fortune as an online author by writing for content farms, you may be disappointed.

What is a content farm?

Content farms are web sites that contract large numbers of authors to write articles on a freelance basis. While quality can vary greatly, the main emphasis is on quantity and the creation of articles that target specific topics the company can generate revenue from through advertising related to the topic. 
Really, it's a similar approach that many sites take, just on a far larger scale and usually a content farm will cover multiple areas of interest.
Some content farms determine articles to be written through complex algorithms that calculate factors such as keyword popularity, competition and potential advertising revenue return.

Starting out writing vs. career path

Writing for content farms can be really valuable if you're just starting out. It can help build your confidence, help you build a following and give you the opportunity to refine your style while making a little cash at the same time.
I used to freelance for what was probably the first content farm on the web - ThemeStream. It operated on a model whereby authors were paid based on the popularity of the article. For various reasons, most content farms now pay a flat rate.

ThemeStream went under owing me money, but the experience it gave me was invaluable so I've never begrudged the debt.

Once you've gotten over your online publishing jitters though - move on and establish your own site. Content farm writing will not make you rich.

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Content farm pay rates

I was looking at a well known content farm the other day that lists topics it wants authors to write about. They were offering USD 20 bucks for an original 500 word piece! 

From what I can gather, this isn't unusual - the range is usually the 10 dollar to 50 dollar mark, with the latter being unusually high. 

If you can crank out a good 500 word article in an hour (taking into account submission time ) - 50 dollars is pretty good I guess. 10 dollars, not so. However, even 50 bucks for an excellent piece is not recognizing what it is truly worth; not anywhere close. The advertising associated with a good article can literally generate tens of thousands of dollars in ad revenue.

The other trap that authors who intend generating all their income writing for content farms often fall into is thinking they can produce X level of content forever. Some find that after a couple of months of producing articles, the pace becomes exhausting or ideas dry up - and the so too does the cash.

However, content farms will always attract writers - and not just those people looking to ease into online publishing. A dollar in some parts of the world is actually worth a lot of money. 10 bucks in the USA will buy far less than what it can in other places. 

Self-publish, make more

As mentioned, selling articles to content farms may provide some quick bucks, but what happens if your creative well runs dry - even for a short period? Even being spoon-fed a topic and points to cover can become quite mentally taxing if you're doing it for hours each day and constantly watching the clock to reach your desired hourly rate.

Instead of practically giving away your hard work, if you're knowledgeable on a particular topic, just write a series of articles, build a simple site around them and add a revenue generation stream through something like Google AdSense - and/or join various affiliate programs related to the topics you're writing about. 

You will likely make far more going about writing in this way if you also put in some effort with the initial promotion of your site and observe some basic search engine optimization techniques.

The catch is you may have to wait for a while for your site to gain some traction. Still, it will be your content and your site - an asset you may also be able to sell down the track; plus you'll be creating an ongoing revenue stream.

I worked out the average of each article and post I write has earned over the years - and was quite pleasantly surprised. Some pieces generate next to nothing, others a considerable amount; but the average shows it's certainly much better than what any major content farm will pay - and I write how I want, what I want and when I want.

For example, let's say you receive $2 a month from AdSense for ads associated with a 500 word piece you spent an hour on in total. It sounds like a pittance, but the work is up and making that 2 bucks each month. If it's "evergreen" material, that is, a topic that is timeless; you can expect it to keep generating income for years.

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Over 4 years, that $2 a month comes to nearly $100 - and you retain the exclusive rights. 
That article you write may also spur people on to read other articles you've written and  provide further opportunities for revenue generation.
Registering a domain name and creating a site isn't hard or expensive these days with all the great tools available such as user friendly web site building software.

Don't sell yourself short; many people have no idea how much a good article can generate in terms of ad revenue and your articles can also open other doors for you. 
View content farms as just a stepping stone, not your whole writing career.
Web site building software review
Search engine optimization tips

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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