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In the course of starting a career as a freelance writer many look to content mills as a steady source of work. One such provider is Textbroker, an online content provider based in Las Vegas. If your clients aren't calling and you are out of leads, Textbroker is a place where you can earn money rather than twiddling your thumbs. It is a controversial content mill, and there seem to be as many people who love it as there are that hate it. It uses a large volume of writers to compete finite pool of assignments, and competition can be fierce for low-end assignments that just do not pay all that much while higher paying work lays unclaimed. It is truly a better-than-nothing option for a writer at the end of their rope.

What Textbroker does right

Textbroker is a way to make some quick cash. How much cash depends how you have been evaluated on your previous assignments. This has the effect of holding writers accountable for their performance and ensures that clients can ask for top quality work from top quality writers. From a writer's point of view, it is also a fair to have your work evaluated and be paid based on your performance (although setting your own rate and letting clients decide if you are worth it would be better). You will be presented with an open job board where you will be able to see all the assignments for the various star ratings, but you will only be able to select ones of your star rating or below.

There are several things that may or may not happen to improve your experience. You may be offered direct assignments, which are usually better paying and better personalized to your knowledge base than open board assignments. If you are able to establish relationships with clients on Textbroker your experience will be a much better one. If you are rated 4-5 stars you can join Expert Teams and get some very steady work. You have the freedom to pick articles that interest you and the ability to reject unwanted assignments. If you edit your work closely, carefully pick articles on subjects you are knowledgeable about and only submit your best work it can pay big dividends when it comes time to be rated.

If you write the article, chances are that you will be paid. I have yet to have an article rejected and rarely have requests for revisions. All that you need to do is earn 10 dollars or more and you can request payment, and the payments are processed quickly even when compared to other mills. As far as pay rate, the rate for 1-3 star writers is miserable. Level 1-2 writers earn a fraction of a cent per word while level 3 writers toil for a cent per word. Level 4 writers command 1.4 cents a word and level 5 writers can earn 5 cents a word. Only the top two tiers of writers can join expert teams, where they can receive assignments not allocated to the open assignment board. The takeaway is that in order to make Textbroker worth your time for a first-world standard of living you have to be a level 4 or 5 writer. The gap in pay between the haves and have-nots is incredibly wide.

What Textbroker needs to improve

The biggest problem with Textbroker is its editorial practices. You are initially evaluated based on a writing sample that you submit and are only accepted as a probationary writer. You may be rated at 3 stars or below and need to toil for less than a cent per word on your first five articles. Once you complete those articles, you are locked out of the system and cannot accept any more articles. Yes, you read that right. Two things will happen to your articles after you write them. First, they will be approved and you will be able to withdraw the money you made for writing them (if you made more than 10 dollars). This does not take too long, perhaps a week at most. Then you have to wait for the editorial rating on all five articles to be able to accept more work. This seems to take forever. If they come down as averaging three stars or less, you will weep tears made out of pure poverty.

The bad news is that it only gets worse from there. While you will get feedback on those first articles on how you can improve, they will be incredibly vague (such as stating grammatical rules or style guide mistakes you made without giving you the specific text where you made the mistake). Don't expect any further help in this regard, because from that point forward you will get a mute star rating that rarely communicates any justification for the rating. This is the biggest problem with the site: the writers are incredibly accountable and the editors are completely unaccountable editors in name only. They should more correctly be called evaluators, graders, or crushers of dreams.

At this point - hard as it may be to believe - it only get worse. The faceless editors can take months to grade your assignments. To make matters worse still, occasionally Textbroker will purge your past assignments from consideration and reassign you a star rating based on your most recent articles. If you got 4-5 star ratings in the past, they will cease to exist. If your average star rating falls below four stars you can look at all those plum 4-5 star assignments on the open assignment board, but you can't touch them. Textbroker's editors have decided that it is better to have no one write them than to let you try, even if you were rated 4-5 stars in the past. The only valid reason they could possibly to do this is to punish writers who have not written an article for them in a while.

There is also an incongruity in the entire system of payment and evaluation. It begs the question: should you be paid a five star rate for turning in a five star piece of writing? No. If the client asked for a two star writer they will pay a two star rate even if the two star article in question is rated at five stars. That is why you are paid, then evaluated. Why is this an unfair practice? Because writers must expend maximum effort for minimal pay. If they get two star ratings on two star assignments they will never have the opportunity to earn a decent rate. Textbroker wants to have its cake and eat it too, getting five star work for two star pay.

Summing it up

Taking the good with the bad, and there are much worse ones out there, Textbroker is a deeply mediocre content mill. It has its good points, but it makes it clear that it does not value its writers as a human resource. It has editors that don't edit, clients that ask for perfect English in broken English, and countless unclaimed assignments because it doesn't have enough writers that meet its editors standards that are willing to work for its low rates.

You cannot know how satisfying it is to rate Textbroker three stars until you have written for them for a while.

Do you want to know if there is a better option than Textbroker? Read this review of Copify USA to find out how to make more money writing copy.

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