April 23rd, 2014 by Bob Bly
Subscriber SJ asks: “Can you give us your take on the
advisability of writing for the content farms like Demand Media
A content farm is a business that hires multiple writers to
churn out articles that clients post on their web sites to
improve their search engine rankings.
In my experience, the writers who write for content farms are
for the most part minimally skilled. Often English is not their
native language, which shows in their writing.
Articles from content farms are typically produced by writers
who are not experts in the subject. They just go on Google and
cobble together an article on the topic from 5 or 6 other
articles they find online – frequently without giving credit to
Content farms are famous for the miserable fees they pay
writers. One I saw offered $5 per article. How good are those $5
per article writers? Not very.
And I know that from experience: I stupidly hired a content farm
writer to write content for my chemistry web site at
In an article on careers in chemistry, she actually wrote
“People interested in a career in chemistry should study
Unbelievably, she also wrote in the same article “Chemistry is a
good career for those who are fond of atoms.” I am not kidding.
This at least gave me a good laugh.
Writers have a long tradition of getting started in their
freelance careers by writing for low pay or no pay.
Back in the day, it was mainly for small magazines that paid
writers in contributor’s copies. Today, the articles are for web
sites, and they are written more for search engines than human
readers. The content farms seem not to care much what’s in the
article or how well it is written as long as it contains the
right key words.
Subscriber MZ, a freelance writer, notes, “An infinite supply
of low, low, insultingly low paying outlets have cropped up like
an unkillable fungus. It’s made a lot of writers very angry. Not
only do we refuse to work for these absurdly low rates, we feel
deeply offended that our work could be valued so poorly.”
“But I am a beginner,” you object, “I need to get some writing
samples to launch my business.” However, if the samples are
articles published by content farms, good clients are unlikely
to be impressed.
A better option than working for peanuts for content farms is to
get hired by real clients for smaller, noncritical assignments
until they get to know you well enough to try you on a bigger
For instance, a newsletter publisher might not hire an untested
writer to write a full-length promotion for them. But they might
hire you to write an article for their free e-newsletter, a
special report used as a subscription premium, or some banner
ads. And they will pay you a fair rate for the work.
So my advice to SJ and all other freelance writers is to avoid
content farms like the plague. They are truly the cesspool of
the freelance writing profession.