non-fiction writing organizing writing Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

The Content Mill as Crime: A Look at Urban Writers

May 12, 2023 Update: If you’re really desperate to work for these fools, try using the A/I tool ChatGPT to produce your content. You’ll get nicely done writing in literally seconds on any topic imaginable. If they say it’s A/I generated, e-mail me and I’ll give you a hint to defeating the latest detection schemes, principally the method used by Good luck.

Original article:

One cent a word. Going up to two cents a word.

I once did a number of writing jobs for They’re a content mill and I was paid $25.00 to $35.00 an article, depending on if I supplied photographs. Articles were about 750 words.

Although that was the lowest I had ever been paid for my writing (I think my best was 73 cents a word for American Heritage), I accepted it because I could pick the work, I got a byline, and it was resume building while I did other things.

Today I got an automated invitation to apply to Urban Writers. (external link) Another content mill. Fine.

The application started out well because they preferred a knowledge of SEO, CMOS or other style guides, and whether one had recently finished an MS of at least 20,000 words. All that meant decent skills which implied decent wages.

Totally wrong. A penny a word, advancing to two pennies a word.

Outrageous, disgusting, and totally disrespectful to the writing community. My cat can’t live on a penny a word.

In my years of editing, I found the fastest writers could complete 750 words in about two and a half to three hours. That includes simple research. Other writers might take six to eight hours if the subject was complex.

Given that time, a penny a word means $7.50 for three hours of work. That’s $2.50 an hour provided the text doesn’t have to be rewritten and if it passes Copyscape. That’s not poverty wages, that’s prison pay.

Send out query letters instead, apply to other employers, volunteer to write articles for a local newspaper, do anything but buy into this built in misery. I’ve written on this before (internal link).

Oh, and they need an editor:

“Are you willing to working [sic] directly with an Editor?”

Nice. I doubt I would capitalize the word editor, either. But I’m sure they want perfect copy for that one cent a word. Not only are these people criminal, they’re illiterate idiots. The rest of their pitch was as pockmarked with grammatical errors and poor English as was their opening. Enough said.

editing writing job application tips revising writing Uncategorized Review

Updated on May 25, 2022

Sorry for not updating in a while but everything remains the same. Apply directly at an employer’s website and not Indeed, and focus on what search engines want, the kind that rate and rank your resume first. That’s what Indeed does and all the major Fortune 1,000 companies do. First read is always done by a robot and not a human. Also, try my trick which is outlined down below in the text.

As for me, I have totally given up on securing editing and writing work online. I’m something of a developing digital artist and although I may starve to death before making any money at it, my mental health cannot tolerate being ignored by employers whose positions I am totally qualified for. Watch 30 seconds of this video and then tell me what task is so complicated that I can’t figure it out.

I’m convinced that in the writing and editing field, any American applicant is immediately disqualified since they will want more money than a contract worker from the Philippines or India. The world is all about money and it always will be. I have had two good bosses in forty years of work and I hope that eventually you find your two. Good luck.

Updated on January 27, 2022

Finally! The resume business is now explaining what applicant tracking systems do with a job seeker’s resume and how to optimize a resume for ATS.

I’ve long known that most big companies dump a resume into a giant database rather than having people read them all. Only those resumes matching certain ATS criteria get sent on to HR where they might be read by a real human. But how do you make your resume friendly to these proprietary algorithm?

Look around the web for information on ATS and get educated on how to write for it. I’m using a resume building service called Jobscan. Upload a resume to get a numerical score on how your application matches up to a job posting. It looks promising but it will be a few weeks before I can review it. (Unsponsored external link)

Until then, remember nouns, not verbs, and to always call out quantities. You didn’t do a large amount of writing, you did 123 posts or pages. (Make up a number.) Indulge in Geek Speak to the max, knowing that ATS keys on abbreviations and acronyms that you would otherwise never use in regular writing.

Update: I used their service once or twice then quit after I got familiar with what these internal job search engines want to see. A good company.

Good luck!


Updated on September 20, 2021 — Total Fail

NB: Full Article Below This Update released a video several weeks ago which stated there was a worker shortage. Nonsense. What’s lacking are employers willing (or perhaps able) to pay a decent rate. Raise wages and qualified people appear from everywhere. Truck driver shortage? Pay truckers twice as much today and driving schools will fill tomorrow. Exceptions exist where lengthy training and education are required like vets and car mechanics.

Confirming my opinion was a business consultant on local Las Vegas television yesterday. He was commenting on employers bemoaning a lack of workers in nearby Henderson. The consultant said that a healthy business futre was only possible with better jobs and much, much higher wages. Exactly,

Employers always claim they can’t afford to pay more. To whom? Sometimes it’s more about delivering a dividend to their stockholders than paying a janitor at their hotel chain. Like Bezos.

Bezos thinks building rockets is more important than paying his Amazon workers another dollar an hour. He admitted as much last week when he thanked workers and customers for subsidizing his space program. Well, we all have hobbies.

If an employer was truly concerned about their employers then they would pay the so called living wage. They would lead their industry instead of paying the bare minimum now required by law. This is what the Justice Department asked AT&T to do back in the 1970s regarding equal employment hiring. Lead your industry by going beyond our rules instead of following what we have on paper now. With apologies to their stockholders for diminished returns due to overhauling their practices, AT&T complied and moved all of America toward more equality in hiring.

As I describe below, your greatest obstacle to getting interviewed is by asking for a decent wage. Forget that. Ask instead for a ridiculously low wage just to get someone to respond. Once you get an interview, state that your low rate was based on expectations of quick advancement, profit sharing, a 401K or whatever.

When the employer says they don’t offer squat, say you’ll have to ask for more money. But get in the door. This is a rigged, liars’ game from the start so don’t feel bad about fudging a single part of your application. Be completely honest with the rest of your app but watch out for the obstacles I write about below.

Bottom Line is a waste of time by itself but it may provide enough information for you to contact an employer directly. That might improve your chances. See how I did that below.

First Things First

First things first. Do not apply to any company at that hides their website or company information. See the graphic below. If the “Company Info” field is blank, run away. That’s a sure sign of scammers and con artists and the lowest paying employers. Any good company will proudly describe itself.

If you try to find this missing company info on your own, you may find that no website exists and that the company posting may be operating for unknown and possibly scurrilous reasons. Some are linked to money launderers or thieves who may put you on their payroll temporarily just to get your banking information. Do not give these so called employers personal information like your resume. Don’t.

And don’t expect to root out scammers. They don’t. They get paid by the employer, including bad employers and crooks. In fact, in their latest Terms of Service, puts the following in bold type:

“Indeed does not guarantee the validity of a job offer and cautions Job Seekers to verify the validity of a job offer before taking an adverse action regarding their current employment situations. Job Seekers are solely responsible for verifying the accuracy of any Employer or job offer.”

Wow. That’s how little they care.


Do Employers Look at Indeed Applications? is a total fail. Since I was qualified for every job I recently applied for, it must be that I was overqualified or asking for too much money. I suspect the latter. requires that you state the hourly rate you are seeking in your profile. That rate or amount then gets put into all the applications you submit unless an employer asks otherwise. In my case, I wrote down what I started at with my present company five years ago. I think that’s where most of my job applications ended.

Even when an employer says they pay $20 to $30 an hour (internal link), they are probably rejecting everyone who asks for, let’s use a number, $15.00 an hour or more. That would explain why and how an employer can reject applications without ever looking at them. Backing that up, my writing website traffic is near zero except for the unusual but consistent bot hits from China. Obviously, no one is or was looking a my portfolio website.

I was rejected for 17 jobs. I received only two notices which said I was not selected and only three notices that an employer had viewed my application. I asked customer support how I can be rejected when an employer never views my application. The answer was astounding.

Customer support says a viewed application notice gets sent only if an employer clicks a button on their dashboard. It’s not required by Indeed. You will never know whether an employer actually looked at your application unless you get that rare viewed application notice.

Do People Really Get Jobs Through Indeed?

Probably not. Indeed won’t say; they have never stated how many people get hired through them. They probably don’t care since it is the employer who pays them. Indeed thus requires little from the employer since the employer pays the bills.

As I have written before, Indeed leaves their site open to scam artists and to employers that pay writers as little as one cent a word. The applicant isn’t top of mind. Indeed does have excellent customer support for applicants but all of their answers dead end with the employer deciding the rules.

In The Old Days you’d send off dozens of resumes in the mail, never to hear back. Oh, you’d get a form letter rejection now and then but never more than two or three.  Back then, I kind of understood. To send rejection notices, an employer had to pay a secretary to stuff envelopes, label them up, and then pay postage.

Today, all an employer has to do is to click a button to send a rejection notice. Yet they don’t. Thanks.

To recap, Indeed’s main mission is to get more employers onboard and not to help find you a job. They don’t advertise to job applicants, they advertise to employers. Your success is not their success. You don’t pay them. Or, do you?

I’ve yet to determine this but it is possible makes money by selling demographic information about applicants to various groups. Not personal info, I hope, but as much information as they legally can. That would provide these greedheads more money and explain why there are so many steps to doing things at Indeed.

Why is Indeed So Bad?

I became so frustrated with Indeed that I went outside their system. I was rejected for a job through that matched the exact skill set I have. This job was was at a content creation company for law firms, just like the company I worked for at the time.

I looked at that employers’ website and found a client listed as a customer. (Companies love to list important clients.) I then looked at that client’s website and picked a page at random. Yikes! It had typos and misspellings and bad syntax. No SEO optimization apparent in the text or headings. There was absolutely no way I would have accepted this from any of my writers. I emailed my corrections and suggestions for that page to the person who ran this content creation website.

The owner responded quickly but was mainly interested in how I found his client. He said his hiring team would contact me if they thought I was a good fit and of course they never did. I did see web traffic to my site increase immediately after contacting him so I know some people visited.

This is probably the best approach: use to see who is hiring and then hunt down the email of someone who owns or operates the company. Send in some work tailored to that employer. Linkedin may help to find contact info but it gets crazy expensive if you want to message through them.

Full disclosure. The law firm featured by this content creation firm was a bankruptcy outfit. Those law offices tend to be mills and they don’t have much money. Not enough to afford my old company and we we certainly wouldn’t have put them on our home page as clients. Perhaps my effort was doomed from the beginning but at least I got a response from the company I actually targeted.

Is There Anything Else Going On?

Many companies must publicly post job openings even if they have someone in mind for a job. This is typical. We want to give the job to Marvin who has worked with us for five years in another department but our corporation demands we post the job opening to satisfy equal rights requirements. This is a huge and hidden part of hiring and employers will never admit it. Posting to gives these companies a way to fulfill corporate dictates. Yes, it’s a rigged game and it has been that way for forever.

How do I get Hired Through Indeed?

You’ll never get someone to review your application if they don’t want to pay the decent rate you are asking. Then again, do you want to work for a dirtbag company that doesn’t pay what you are worth? Keep looking at if desperation forces you. Or isolate hiring companies through them and then contact those companies directly. Better yet, use a different job board. Common among them all? None of them will ever say how many people get jobs through them. None of them. Again, is a total fail.

Who’s Hiring You?

This makes a big difference but I don’t know how you can easily determine this. If an outside contractor is hiring people then you shouldn’t worry. If the hiring team is two or three people tasked with the chore within a company then I would be uncomfortable. If you are too smart the job may go to a dullard who won’t eventually take over their job. Which you should be planning to do. Fear of competition is rampant among poorly led groups.

There’s a scene in A Bridge Too Far in which a superior officer tells a young soldier, “You happen to be somewhat brighter than most of us. Tends to make us nervous.” Indeed. We all rank each other on intelligence on first meeting. An outstanding team leader will hire people smarter than they are. Most team leaders are not outstanding.

If you do get into an interview, keep up! If you can’t keep up, fake it. Faking it, after all, is a vital part of keeping up. I’ve written on this here, (internal link.) The accompanying video shows two master showmen battling to lead the conversation with each keeping up.

Here’s a Really Wild Idea

I didn’t try this. Put down a really, really low rate of pay to see if someone interviews you. Get in the door. Then announce you were only planning to accept that rate because you assumed numerous valuable benefits like medical and a generous 401K plan were included.  If they say no such benefits exists, then say you will have to ask for more money. I don’t know, that’s just me speculating.

Another wild one? Set yourself up as employer to find out how this racket works. I put so much good faith time into exploring their job board that I sometimes pondered if I should approach their system as an employer. Of, course, I wouldn’t want anyone to think I am offering a legitimate job. Still, I think I might gain more insight as an applicant if I offered a job as an employer. But, again, one can’t fraud.

Side Note for Newcomers to Online Job Hunting

You are competing against the entire world for much online work. Overseas workers with a good command of English drive down the wage floor to levels impossible for Americans to live on. I have nothing against foreign workers, simply realize that this is a major part of your competition. I know a writer in the Philippines who is a fine, hardworking man who supports himself and his wife on wages that wouldn’t pay my rent. And I don’t live big. He has a right to earn. Just understand that your pay scale may be fixed at the rate of the world, not necessarily America.

Truth be told, many American employers are already on foreign worker job boards and may not be on at all. At times I have been asked to look for new writers through job boards in the Philippines. Sigh.

What About Those Skill Tests?

The tests are odd and I don’t know if they improve your chances. Indeed’s advertising says they allow an applicant to show off what they know. Maybe. Maybe not. The writing test is so crippled that it certainly won’t help.

The writing test at Indeed had no relation to real world online writing under deadline (internal link) and I did poorly. Sorry, Indeed, I’m the expert here and you know nothing about how freelance online editing and writing works. Indeed says you can’t retest so a poor score will dog all your applications. Great. Still, I think there is a way since I stumbled into a retest opportunity just as I was leaving for good. Excuse me but I can’t remember the path I took to get there. Should be hackable.

The SEO test was more realistic and I scored extremely high. Still, the questions were out of date and written by someone who isn’t working in the field. Even though I only know about SEO on the front end, the written page, what I can do studying ahrefs, I knew enough. But it is always disturbing when you know more about a subject than the person who wrote the test.

Should You Have A Work Website?

A portfolio website showing your best work is a good idea. It’s less messy than attaching files to emails if someone is interested in you. Actually, everyone needs a simple work website to look professional, even if few people look at it. What you are really interested in are the statistics a website provides, to see if you get traffic from any of your applications. It was very depressing, however, to go through the entire hiring process to see almost zero hits to my website.

What Should You Concentrate on Now?

I would look at how you get your information to stand out when it is dumped into a searchable database which focuses on keywords. Your lovingly crafted resume is just another text file to these employer databases which use bots to ferret out a likely candidate. This article looks pretty good on this vital subject. It’s to an external, non-sponsored site:

P.S. Anything you know about SEO will help building a real world resume. Remember, nouns, not verbs.

I’m Desperate!

Aren’t we all? My brother has spent the last several years delivering letters for the United States Post Office. It’s hard work out of doors when the weather is severe, but it was steady work while he completed his doctorate. Yes, he finally got his degree but he continues to work for them.

USPS has been constantly advertising for help for over a year. Here is a link:

Last Word!

Good luck to you. Unfortunately, finding even part-time work is now a full time job. Job searching is insanely frustrating and yet we have few choices.

For background, my first paying job was at 16. This was part time during high school. I’m 63 and my last job was also part time and that job lasted five years. During those 47 years of full time and part time work I had two good employers, one of them actually great. That’s it. A total of ten good years and two good employers over 47 years. I think that correlates with what most people experience.

Next to Next Last Word

NB: Are you an employer who has used If so, I would really like your opinion.  Thanks in advance:

non-fiction writing organizing writing revising writing Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing by others Writing tips

Insane Expectations and Lies

Insane Expectations and Lies

Express Writers’ current job post at expresses the complete and unrealistic expectations of every content mill, as well as the lie about pay. $20 to $30 an hour? Not a chance.

Express points to this page as a great writing example:

That guide is well done, however, it is also 3,222 words and involved researching 29 separate web pages. This would be exhausting work under deadline, with the quickest writer finishing a well polished guide like that in no less than 13 hours. That’s at 500 words every two hours.

Mind you, it’s not so much the writing but the reading and research one must do before any writing comes together. You need to understand something before you can write about it. You also need to figure out the right SEO tweaks. All of that takes time. Still, the example article represents an assignment with a potential of $390 based on $30 an hour.

Express later shifts gears in their job description, however, moving from their initial salary listing of $20 to $30 an hour to $20 to $25 for each 500 words. “This is not a salary position.” At $25 for each 500 words, that pay rate drops to $162.50. You’re working for $12.50 an hour if you’re the quickest writer out there. And if Express doesn’t kick back the piece to you for revising. Which will be on your dime.

Realistically, I’d expect a writer to take at least two days or 16 hours to complete the example given. You’re now at $10.00 an hour. Quite a distance from $30.00. And totally consistent with the false expectations and the lie about pay from every content mill.

Of course, the content mills know exactly how long quality writing takes, they just don’t want to pay for it. You can expect $25 or so from these employers for a 500 to 750 word article. That’s it. That’s common. If they’re paying less, they should advertise on a Philippine job board and you should not participate in their low rent hustle. No professional American writer deserves Philippine wages. And to think, you need years of writing experience to get hired at Express. Get lost.

I come to this post with a hard background. As a writer, I produced many 750 word articles for at a flat rate of $25 to $30. As an editor, I see our writers taking from two hours, exceedingly rare, to seven hours, also exceedingly rare, to complete a 650 to 1,000 word assignment.

If you want to dispute what I’ve written, tell me about your experience both as a writer and an editor. If you don’t have that experience, don’t tell me about how long it takes to complete online writing. You can stay in that alternate world the content mills occupy, with their insane expectations and lies.

Thoughts on writing Uncategorized Writing tips

A Content Mill Example

I enjoy writing for Some derisively call such sites content mills. But as a writer they are an opportunity to take on a variety of interesting and challenging work. Below is a recent article of mine. The assignment required certain key words and a link to the featured merchant but nothing more. The article title was “Creative ways to decorate with museum replicas.”

This article took two to two and a half hours to write from scratch. It may not be perfect but that’s not what I was aiming for. I want the piece to be in “substantial compliance” with what the editor wants. And I want to be efficient with my time with respect to what I am getting paid. The less time the better, unless the writing suffers.

Creative Ways To Decorate With Museum Replicas

Decorate with museum replicas to enhance your home or office. Well curated pieces bring a style and élan no local import store can match. Classic jewelry, sculpture, mobiles and more, will make an impression on you and your guests. But don’t limit looking to yourself. Think about a handsome gift for a friend. Or just a bracelet to brighten their day.

Stunning sculpture demands the right presentation. If you have a grand piano to place a Beethoven bust, great. If you don’t, think about a stand. An import store might have something appropriate but don’t stop there. The proper stand takes some looking for but that’s part of a process, a fun one, that matches your collectible to found items. Besides flea markets and thrift stores, consignment stores often have odds and ends that might work. You say the kids will knock over a stand? What about a different approach?

Does your home or office have any wall niches or alcoves? They’re not terribly difficult for a cabinet maker or a skilled handyman to make. Basically, you remove the drywall between studs, leaving a 16″ to 24″ gap in the wall. At this point a decorative shelf can be installed, with a backing of whatever material you think would make the alcove attractive. A rounded top to the alcove is a fine touch, instead of simply squaring up the opening. Small doors can be added to really bring attention to your alcove and your artwork.

Of course, no house altering work is required if you are thinking of photographs, prints, or posters. Hanging most artwork is fairly straightforward unless you have a heavy piece or are attaching art to something like a brick wall. Then, a knowledge of anchors is essential. You still have that handyman (or handylady) around, don’t you?

To decorate with museum replicas means thinking like a museum and using any and all spaces. Hang a mobile from the ceiling to float and twirl above your guests, giving movement to an otherwise static room. Pick a theme like art exhibitions do. Perhaps a room dedicated to a hobby like aviation or horses. And then start assembling your collection over time.

You don’t need a room of pieces, of course. Sometimes just one thing will do. Like a large table globe for the study or office. A scale model of a helicopter to grace a work desk. Perhaps a classic, ornate chess set sitting on a simple table. Or a peaceful Buddha resting on the third shelf of a bookcase.

Speaking of cases, presentation cases can be found through certain dealers. Sometimes jewelry fairs have people selling exhibition boxes to the trade. You can buy these to show off your museum replica necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. A lighted display box with a mirrored interior would be a spectacular case to encase your treasures. And what fun lighting it up for your guests!

You are limited only by your imagination once you start thinking of possibilities. You can begin with the house entrance and work inward. Does the door itself need a detail? Or would a pair of lions, sitting like bookends, one on either side of the door, perform a welcome for your guests? While a standard import store will provide only limited choices, and many bland at that, a museum company store is well worth checking out for the fun, the unusual, and the well-considered piece.

Good article on content mills here: