As I get my feet wet in the world of freelance writing, I am trying out various content brokers while I build my portfolio and determine which brokers (if any) are the best fit for me. The idea behind a content broker (or “content mill,” in some cases) is that the broker finds the client, the writer claims and completes the writing job, and then both the broker and writer share the client’s payment to varying degrees. Instead of collecting a one-time finders’ fee, the content broker takes a percentage of the payment on an ongoing basis, as long as the client continues to utilize the broker’s and writer’s services. This means that it is in the broker’s best interest to prohibit direct content between the client and the writer, and content brokers will typically go to great lengths to ensure that this does not occur.
One content broker I have been working with recently is WriterAccess, and I would like to share my opinions on the experience thus far.
WriterAccess markets itself as a platform providing clients “great content created by U.S.-based writers.” The tagline is, “Our writers go through hell to get from us to you. They’re all US-based, tested, screened professionals.” Potential clients sign up for an account and then select an acceptable writing level, from two to six stars, that is priced accordingly. Currently, the pricing model is 2-star writing quality for 2 cents/word, 3-star quality for 4 cents/word, 4-star quality for 6 cents/word, 5-star quality for 8 cents/word, and 6-star quality for 10 cents to $2.00/word. This means, for example, that a 300-word article written by a 4-star writer would cost the client $18.70 for a pay-as-you-go, or free, account.
Clients then have the option to sign up for different accounts if their needs evolve beyond the pay-as-you-go model. Depending on the client’s needs and required support, they can opt for inclusive accounts costing between $500 and $10,000+ monthly.
WriterAccess is equally transparent with writers in terms of compensation. Pay increases as the writer’s quality level increases, with current compensation yields as follows:
- 2-star writers: 1.4 cents/word
- 3-star writers: 2.8 cents/word
- 4-star writers: 4.2 cents/word
- 5-star writers: 5.6 cents/word
- 6-star writers: 7 cents to $1.40/word
This means that a 4-star writer would receive $12.60 for a 300-word article, just over 67% of what the client pays. This is not bad for 4 or higher level writers when compared to payouts from some of the other major content brokers.
Payment is distributed bi-monthly via PayPal, and I’ve not experienced any issues with getting paid.
The hiring process for WriterAccess is pretty involved, as advertised. It is clear that they’re looking for quality writers. The first step is to create a Writer Account with typical resume, contact information, and social media profile information. The writer must then write a summary of experience, in the third person, of up to 500 words. This is followed by additional third person summaries for various industries and asset types that the writer has experience in. Once submitted, it takes a few days for WriterAccess to review the application, at which point they will email the writer with a yay or nay decision.
If approved, the writer then becomes part of the Reserve Directory which, as far as I can tell, really means there is minimal (if any) odds of actually receiving work. To become a part of the Rated Directory, the writer is instructed to complete their writer profile, including additional third person summaries for experience, specialties, interests, and finally including various writing samples. So yeah – it’s a lot of writing. PayPal payment information and a headshot are required, and then the writer is asked to complete a General Writing Test.
Being a longtime writer, I assumed that the test would be a breeze and honestly sped through it – but was surprised when I didn’t score as highly as expected. I scored 75% on the 44 question test, placing me in roughly the top 80-85th percentile of all tested writers per the handy-dandy graphic. At this point, I had completed the necessary steps to submit my Rated Directory application.
A few days later, I received an email congratulating me on my acceptance to the Rated Directory, and advising that my debut ranking was Star Level 4. At first I was a bit disappointed with the ranking until I was told that apparently 4 is the highest level a new writer can be assigned. The good news is that the debut ranking doesn’t remain static; rather it fluctuates over time based on the volume, speed, and quality of content developed as rated by platform editors and clients.
This is the fun part. Once accepted, you have a user-friendly dashboard available to you that lists all of your personal profile information, statistics, and job opportunities. There are two ways to find jobs on WriterAccess: the first is to search Available Content Orders (only those offered for your specific writing level and lower), and the second is to pitch for Available Casting Calls. Once you find a Content Order you are interested in, or are selected as the winning pitch for a Casting Call, you are able to claim the order which then prevents other writers from viewing/working on it. Each order will have an associated due date, and will list the total pay ray rate for the requested number of words.
Once you claim an order, you have an obligation to create quality content within the timeframe and guidelines specified (or risk a lowered writing level). Although there is a text editor included on the site, I prefer to draft my content in MS Word and then copy and paste into the editor, correcting any formatting issues as necessary. Once completed, you will be prompted to save the content and then the site will run it through Copyscape to identify any plagiarism issues. Once you approve a final version, it will be sent off to the site/editors and subsequently the client for review.
Typically within a few days, you will receive either an email confirming acceptance of the content or requesting revisions. Fortunately I have not yet had any revision requests, so am not quite sure how many requests (if limited) can be made.
Upon approving an article, the client can send the writer comments via the platform’s messaging service and is asked to rate performance on the assignment either Below Expectations, Met Expectations, or Exceeds Expectations. This information is then maintained on your dashboard.
A great surprise that I didn’t initially realize is that the client can also opt to tip you for your work! So in addition to your regular rate, you can receive as much of a tip that the client feels appropriate (so far I’ve seen about 20%). A very nice and welcome feature that further encourages great work.
The client, if pleased, can then opt to add you to their Love List, which is a list of their preferred writers to approach directly for future assignments.
What I Like
- On-time payment via PayPal
- Transparent and fair compensation relative to other content brokers, with the opportunity to increase your rate
- Opportunity to receive tips at the client’s discretion!
- Interesting writing topics and opportunities
- Ability to apply for Casting Calls for additional work
- Opportunity to be added to Love Lists for more steady work from previous clients
- Fair deadlines (haven’t seen assignments with 2 hour turnarounds, for example)
- Community forums with general writing information shared amongst writers
What I Don’t Like
- Long (excessive) application process with many writing summaries and samples required, along with a more challenging than expected test
- Work opportunities seem sporadic at my writing level: feast or famine
- No writer attribution (standard with content brokers)
- Potential for writing level to be decreased if not every deadline is met, or if client is unhappy with the content
At this point, I consider WriterAccess a strong content broker in my freelance writing arsenal. Although the application process is long and tedious, it makes me feel confident that I am working in the company of strong writers. I enjoy the writing topics available, and love the fact that clients can tip me on top of my rate when they love my work.
On the flip side, I am unclear as to how and at what point I will be re-evaluated for a (hopefully) increased writer rating. It also concerns me that potential negative feedback from a client could impact my rating (what if the client was unreasonable, for example?) I do find that writing opportunities are sporadic, at least at Level 4, with either many or none being offered at any point in time.
That said, I see WriterAccess as a strong addition, albeit not primary, source of work for my writing portfolio. I would recommend WriterAccess to other freelance writers looking for interesting content opportunities, fair compensation, and the opportunity to pick up ongoing clients (albeit through the platform).