What Are Content Mills … and Why Should Freelancers Avoid Them?

If you’ve been around freelance writing world, you’ve probably heard the phrase “content mills”.

So what the heck is a content mill?

It’s a large website that offers lots of low-paid writing gigs – either writing for the website itself or with third-party clients.

“Content mill” is a somewhat pejorative term, so you won’t hear sites proudly proclaiming “we’re a content mill – come and work with us!”

I don’t imagine any new freelancer starts out thinking that they’d love to write for peanuts … but sadly, many fall into that trap. They look for writing jobs online, and they come across a content mill; they sign up, with the promise of easy, regular writing work … and they end up making an incredibly low rate, like $5/hour.

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Getting Out of a Writing Slump – Part Two: Re-entering the Writing Zone

Last week, we looked at some of the practical things you can do to clear some space in your life for writing.

Simply having the time and energy to write, though, isn’t enough. You need the desire to write too … and that’s what today’s post is all about.

When you’ve not been writing for a while, you may feel unsure whether you even want to write. I know I felt this way back in mid-2008: I was exciting about making a living writing non-fiction (I’d just left my day job) … but I was set to start an MA degree in creative writing! I felt like I’d lost all interest in writing fiction.

Nine years on (and with two novels out there, a third soon to come, and a novella at first-draft stage) … you can probably guess I got out of that fiction slump. 😉

For me, the cure was – in retrospect – a bit obvious. I needed to start surrounding myself with fiction writers and with material on fiction writing again. From day one of my Masters course, that urge to write fiction was back!

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Getting Out of Your Writing Slump: Part #1 – Get Re-Energised to Write

This is the first of two posts about writing slumps; in this post, we’ll be tackling some of the non-writing things you can do to get out of a slump … and in the second post, next Monday, we’ll take a look at getting back into the writing zone again.

Are you writing?

Do you want to be writing?

Every writer I’ve ever known has gone through some sort of “slump” at some point, when they do want to write but they simply don’t seem to have the time, energy or focus to do so.

Writing slumps are normal. Going through a slump doesn’t say anything about your ability to do the work, and I firmly believe that you’re still a writer when you’re not currently writing.

Your writing slump might come after a long period when you have been writing – or maybe you’ve never written much at all, even though you want to: you’ve started off in a slump.

Slumps are often linked to a particularly busy or difficult period in your life, a time when a lot of your energy and focus is being used up by other things.


  • You’ve started university and you’re living away from home for the first time
  • You’ve started a full time job and you’re commuting to work
  • You’ve had your first child (congratulations!)
  • You’ve had a second (or third, or fourth) baby
  • You’re going through a period of ill health (physical, mental, or both)
  • Your day job has been particularly hectic
  • You’re grieving the loss of a friend or family member

It might be that you’ve come out of a very busy or difficult period, but you’re still not writing. That’s normal too: it can be hard to pick up where you left off, if you’ve not written for months (or even years).

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Why Repetition Can Be Powerful … and How to Get it Right

Is it ever okay to repeat the same word or phrase in your writing?

Unintentional repetition is something that authors are (quite rightly) warned to watch out for, particularly in fiction.

Intentional repetition, however, is a powerful tool: it can be used to make your points more memorable in non-fiction or to emphasise a particular motif in fiction. (And of course you can probably think of plenty of poems, or even children’s books, that use repetition.)

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Why Novel Series Are So Popular With Indie Authors … and Readers


Book series – whether trilogies or longer – have been around for a good long while.

They’re especially popular, though, with indie authors (who self-publish their own work), and over the past few years, I’ve seen lots of great indie authors focusing or coming to series writing.

So why are series so popular?

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How to Create a Free Blog or Website: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers

Most writers, at some point, will want a website.

You might use your website:

  • As a way to promote your writing services (e.g. copywriting, freelance writing, editing, or proofreading).
  • As a resource for a creative writing group (e.g. letting members / new members know about meetings).
  • As a place to let readers know more about you and your novels, and perhaps to encourage them to join your email list.
  • As a blog where you write about writing … or about another topic altogether.
  • As a place to publish your work or other people’s work, like an online journal or literary magazine.
  • … or perhaps you have a different idea altogether!

Whatever you want a website for, there’s a good chance that:

  • You’d ideally like it to be free (especially if it’s more like a hobby than part of your business).
  • You want it to be simple to set up and to maintain.

Why I Recommend WordPress.Com for Your Website or Blog

I’ve been creating websites for 16 years now, and I remember the days when I had to hand-code everything in HTML. For the past nine years, I’ve been using WordPress for almost all my websites.

Whether you’re new to websites or already have one (or more!), WordPress is a great option. Many, many websites run on WordPress – including lots of big ones like ProBlogger and Copyblogger.

While WordPress is a great tool for blogging, your website doesn’t have to have a blog. You can use WordPress to make a “static” site (one that’s only updated occasionally, without a blog/news section) if you want.

You may already know that there are two types of WordPress to choose from … and I know this is where a lot of writers get a bit stuck!

Your options are:

  • WordPress.COM – your website is hosted for you (you don’t have to pay for web hosting) but your options are a bit more limited.
  • WordPress.ORG – you have full flexibility, but you need to pay for your own hosting and there’s a bit more of a learning curve when it comes to setting up and maintaining your site.

You may have heard that it’s best to use WordPress.org because it’s more professional and you get full control over everything.

Personally, I think WordPress.com is fine for the vast majority of writers creating a straightforward website … and anyway, you can transfer over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org in the future, if you feel the need to.

Here’s how to set up your website on WordPress:

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Choosing Viewpoint Characters: What’s Right for Your Story?

Sometimes, it’s obvious who the viewpoint character(s) will be for a particular story. Maybe you’re writing a first-person romance novella, for instance, with the heroine as the only viewpoint character.

Often, though, there isn’t a completely clear-cut choice. You might have multiple characters playing a large-ish role in the story: chances are, your protagonist will be a viewpoint character, but you may well have others too.

When you sit down to write any new story, viewpoint is pretty much the first decision you have to make. Who will begin your story? What other voices will you bring in? The decisions you make will shape the whole of your narrative … and they’ll shape the reader’s experience of it.

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The Confident Writer Webinar: Thursday 27th April, 8pm – 9pm (UK time)

Do you ever wonder if you should be writing at all?


  • You secretly think you’re not really any good at writing
  • You doubt anyone will ever pay you for what you write
  • You’re afraid of receiving rejections or negative feedback
  • You feel guilty about spending time writing because it seems “self-indulgent”

All of these are problems faced by many, many writers. In fact, I think every writer I know has struggled with at least one of the above worries!

For years, I believed that the main problem most writers face is having enough time to write.

And while I agree that time is a big issue (particularly now I’m a parent to two small children!), it’s very tied up with confidence.

After all, if you feel like your writing’s no good … and you worry you’re never going to make any money from it … and you’re convinced that people will leave you nasty comments or reviews if you do publish … and anyway, you think you’re being self-indulgent just by writing in the first place…

… then it’s not exactly a surprise that you find it hard to make time to write!

This Thursday (27th), I’m running a webinar titled The Confident Writer: Ditching Guilt, Beating Fears, and Making Time to Write.

It’ll cover:

  • Guilt about writing … and guilt about not writing!
  • The underlying problem that “I don’t have time to write” might be masking
  • How to carry on despite common writing fears
  • Practical ways to boost both your confidence AND your time to write
  • Ways to focus when you’re writing (instead of worrying about everything else)
  • Getting support and encouragement with your writing

Date: Thursday 27th April

Time: 8pm – 9pm UK (3pm – 4pm EST; 12 noon – 1pm PST)

Register: attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7985567517154892802

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Three All-Too-Common Writing Fears Holding You Back … and How to Beat Them


I never like to admit that I’m afraid.

But as a writer, fear comes with the territory. I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer who wasn’t, at least sometimes, afraid … and for many writers, that fear can block progress.

Here are three very common fears (I’d go as far as to say that every writer experiences these at some point) … and what you can do about them:

  • Fear of Rejection
  • Fear of Negative Feedback
  • Fear of Failure

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Why Your Self-Published Book Needs a Professional Cover


One of the two crucial things that indie / self-publishing authors should pay for is cover design. (The other is editing.)

Here are six different covers.

Which ones do you think are self-published?


(All of these are taken from the September 2016 and October 2016 editions of Joel Friedlander’s e-Book Cover Design Awards. I decided to use covers from these Awards as the authors or designers had already submitted them for critique, and I chose Awards from last year so that if those authors had wanted to make changes based on Joel’s comments, they’ve had a chance to do so!)

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