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An Alternative to Content Farms: Applying and Writing for Contently

An Alternative to Content Farms: Applying and Writing for Contently

Picture of Angilee Shah

Contently bills itself as the antidote to content farms. The service takes applications from journalists and then matches their accepted writers with companies giving "real assignments for fair pay." While most companies prefer not to disclose that they are using Contently, others such as the finance management site Mint.com are among clients who use the service.

The company launched its beta service in December and secured $335,000 from the venture capital fund Founder Collective in July. Contently founder Shane Snow then told TechCrunch that "writers who blog full-time for Contently can make make more than $50K a year."

Contently editorial director Mitch Lipka - who also runs The Consumer Chronicle and writes a column for Thomson Reuters - started working with the startup in May to recruit and retain writers. He answered Career GPS's questions about writing for Contently by email. The transcript is edited for length and clarity.

Angilee Shah: How many writers and clients do you have?

Mitch Lipka

Mitch Lipka: The company is relatively new and we haven't yet disclosed that. So, the best I can tell you is a lot of writers and a lot more (and bigger) clients than there were three months ago.

Are any companies that you work with looking for health-related content?

Yes. We have a couple of sites that have a health focus.

How many journalists apply to work with Contently and how many do you accept?

We've had about 700 applications in the past month. About one in 10 are approved, but another group is in a holding pattern until there are projects that are a good fit for their skills.

How many writers are in that holding pattern? Do you let them know that you like their work but don't have appropriate clients yet?

I haven't really counted. A couple of dozen is my best guess. We've just reached this issue for the first time. The number of applicants swelled recently and I wasn't really expecting that. If someone reaches out to me, I do tell them that, but there's no mechanism other than an email from me, so I don't connect with as many of them as I ought to.

I really do my best to connect with as many prospective writers as I can, but the pool has gotten so large. It's a nice problem to have, but we recognize that we need to address it since our need for writers will just keep growing. Thankfully, we have some really big clients coming on soon and we'll be able to bring on more writers. Our success is their success.

It sounds a bit like you have more writers than you need right now. Are you looking for writers with health experience now, or planning ahead for future assignments? When will be the best time for health journalists to apply?

Our needs are changing constantly. So, there's no way to know in advance when is the best time. Sometimes it seems like we have plenty of writers and two days later we need another 20. Put in a good application, and if you can write about more than just one thing, your chances will improve.

How are applications evaluated and what makes a good application to Contently?

I read every application - some sooner than others due to time constraints and our needs - and appreciate someone who fills in the blanks. It's a simple application and it reflects poorly on a writer who can't take the 5 minutes needed to do it right. Most important is to present links to stories or blog posts that support the areas you'd like to write about. If you say you're a health writer and all your stories are about gas station maintenance, you're not going to get through the approvals. I'll look beyond some applications if it appears the writer has exceptional skills, but mostly there are too many to make me do the applicant's work.

What kind of pay can writers expect?

Way more than the content farms and a lot less than writing for a magazine. What writers seem to like about it is you can do as much or as little as you want to. Everyone has to decide, "at what rate is that job for me?" I found that when there was a topic I was comfortable with and the project was a blog, I could write a story in 30 minutes that fit the bill. That made the client happy and it got me quick cash (we pay on acceptance through PayPal) for something I did in my spare time.

Would you consider the work you assign journalism?

Some is [journalism] and some is just straight content. More often, sites are looking for information and explanation (rather) than pure reporting. Some want to see more nuanced, more journalistic pieces - and those do pay better - but the majority are writing blogs for the various sites. If the work is in area you're familiar with, it's a great opportunity.

Do writers get to choose which assignments they take? Can they, for example, turn down the more commercial assignments and still be offered more journalistic ones (or vice versa)?

Writers only take the work they want. That's one of the best parts of Contently for writers. See a story you want to do, claim it before someone else does. If you're not interested, see what else is there.

How do bylines work? Can writers choose when they want and do not want bylines?

Some clients give bylines. Some don't. The assignment discloses that. Typically, you'll get a byline for the ones you would want one on, such as on Mint.com. For informational content on a real estate company's website, for instance, you probably wouldn't want one and they probably wouldn't want to offer one. If there's some reason why someone would not want a byline when they would get one, we can address that.

More from Career GPS on getting gigs and jobs: 

Sell Your Work: Tips from a webinar for freelancers

Digital Content That Makes Money: Health in the paidContent 50

Churning out Content, or Ways to Make a Buck

How to Pitch to HealthyCal.org

Getting the Job: What a startup journalist looks for in new hires

Applying for the Job: Tips from an online editor

 

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