When I first started toying with the idea of writing full-time, I wasn't sure where to find paying markets. I have books written and planned and other ideas, but those won't happen if I can't pay the bills in the meantime.
One website I was reading for commercial writing ideas said to check out Craig's List. That sounded pretty crazy to me at first. I really despise Craig's List. I don't find the site user-friendly at all so I have generally avoided using it. But I decided to take a look at the jobs listing to see what I could find. I was pretty surprised to find listings for writing jobs. I applied for a few and sat back and waited.
I only heard back from a couple of the jobs I applied for, but they seemed legitimate. They had solid websites, paid through Paypal, and had specific writing outlines and goals.
They also paid 1 cent per word.
It seemed pretty low, but thought I would give it a shot. I actually started earning between fifty and a hundred dollars a week. But the problem was that these short articles (5-10, 250-word articles per day) were taking up a lot of my time. Between research, editing, formatting, and reediting I was spending 5+ hours per day only earning between $12 - $25. I also began reading more and more about the "evils" of content mills over at Make a Living Writing and other places. I realized I began writing for a content mill before I even knew what they were.
I began to ask myself what I should do. I need to make money, but these unscrupulous companies are underpaying writers for content to skew search results. I was feeling bad for playing into this rotten system. But I need the money. How am I supposed to make money in the mean time?
I just got back from holiday and had received another content mill assignment. I told the content mill that I needed them to reassign it because I knew I wouldn't get the work done on time since I had a lot of other things to get caught up on. I gave them several days notice so they could find someone else and the assignment wouldn't be late. Even though I thought I did the courteous thing by passing on work so that it wouldn't be late, I got a nasty email from the boss telling me that passing on work was "not an option" and that "most people are grateful for the work." I was actually kind of glad that she made my decision for me. I wrote back to her that I was disappointed that she didn't appreciate my courtesy or the fact that anyone was willing to work for her one-cent content mill. I told her that I enjoyed the writing practice, but that I couldn't allow my name to be associated with her company any more.
I know I did the right thing, but at the same time, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other staving writers out there willing to take my place. My choice to stand up for writer's fair pay won't end the business of writer exploitation, I just hope it pays off for me personally and I am able to redirect my writing efforts elsewhere.