UPDATED JULY 15, 2020: My fleet of content sources changes periodically. This is updated to reflect recent changes.
As a niche website publisher who uses content marketing for traffic, I have extensive web content needs.
Table of Contents
- My list of 18 content sources I’ve used over the years
- A. My Current Cadre of Content Sources (3 Favorite Services):
- B. Writing Agencies
- C. Non-Writing Agency Content Sources
- In-House Team vs. Writing Service vs. Fully Managed Service: What’s Best?
- How should you choose a writing service?
There’s no way I could publish all the content I want to publish each day on my own. Accordingly, I rely on several writing sources across my niche site portfolio and local marketing websites.
Over the years I’ve tried many writing agencies plus many other content sources.
This post sets out all the content sources and providers I’ve used.
Generally, results are decent. However, these days I’ve narrowed my list of content providers down to a few sources which I set out below.
For each content source listed below, I include a brief list of pros and cons of each.
With respect to the pros and cons I list, I focus on the features that are most important to me. I don’t list out every feature they offer since I only care about a few features which are:
- Article quality
- Template ordering system for efficient orders
- Ability to follow directions
Whether you’re just about to start a niche website or blog or have an established site, hopefully my list of content sources help you find the right option for you.
My list of 18 content sources I’ve used over the years
A. My Current Cadre of Content Sources (3 Favorite Services):
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Over the years I’ve tried and worked with many writing services. Some bad, some mediocre, some good and some amazing.
You’re here because you want to know my top 3 writing services.
Why do I use 3 services?
Because each service has its strengths for different types and quality of writing. Some content that I requisition is simple and can be produced by less capable writers who charge less. Other content is very important and must be excellent.
Here they are (in order of volume I’m currently ordering):
1. Content Refined (by Content Refined)
Recently (as in July 2020 after a test order placed and published in April 2020), I started using Content Surge for content because they also do keyword research and format content on the site. It’s an A to Z content provider. The rates are a tad higher than I pay on WriterAccess, but because I have many niche sites, being able to have the keyword research and topic brainstorming handled, is a huge time-saver. I wrote a Content Refined case study here.
2. Writer Access ($50 bonus credit via link – yes, it’s an affiliate link)
I’ve ordered hundreds and hundreds of articles from Writer Access. They aren’t the cheapest (nor the most expensive). They get content out quickly and it’s good; very good (assuming you pony up for higher level content). I usually pay $.04 to $.20 per word which is costly, but I reserve Writer Access for when I need really good content and am willing to pay accordingly.
They can cover pretty much any topic. Their customer support is good as well. Recently I had a problem where for some reason Textbroker authors refused to do a very important and lengthy article. I had submitted it 3 times, authors picked it up, held on to it, then let the deadline lapse. This wasted 2 weeks. I then submitted the same article with exact same instructions to Writer Access and it was done in 5 days (and done very, very well).
FYI, I still use Textbroker, but this is just one example where Writer Access is an important content source.
3. Text Broker
I use Text Broker for when I need basic content fast. It’s not often these days that I use TB, but once in a while it’s the best service for what I need. They have a huge army of writers who can turn a lot of content around very quickly. They can handle straight-forward content but if you need anything in-depth and eloquently written, it’s generally not the best option.
I strongly recommend ordering a 4 star quality which results in decent quality for the cost.
I also find Text Broker great for updating content. For example, if I need to add a few topics to an article, I can quickly place a 500 word order for those specific topics and have the content to update an article in a few days.
In 2019 I hired some in-house writers as well. I currently work with 4 in-house freelance writers, but each are part-time paid either per article or per word. They each have a particular expertise and write for one website where their expertise is necessary.
B. Writing Agencies
WriterAccess.com (get a $50 credit) is a writing agency. They have a large pool of content writers serving thousands of clients.
Like many article writing agencies, they offer various article qualities from 2 to 6 stars. The cost is based per word.
- Their 5 and 6 star writers will generate a very well written article. So good that it’s the only article writing service I’ve used for my law niche websites which requires carefully researched content. If you need well-researched and well written quality content and you’re prepared to pay a bit of a premium, WriterAccess.com is a good option.WriterAccess writers are truly talented. They can inject character and humor if you ask for it. They can be technical and professional. Frankly I’m impressed with the work they do.
- Able to provide huge volumes of articles quickly.
- Able to create order templates to for fast recurring orders. I often have similar formats and parameters within a particular niche or for a particular website.
- Native English writers.
- Their writers at the 4 to 6 star levels (I’ve never used 3 stars or lower) follow directions very well.
- Very easy writer interface.
- Nice search engine optimization control: You can specify keywords to cover and also specify exactly how many times those words show up in the content. This makes it easy to control for over-optimization which can hurt your website rank.
- Live chat so you can get help really fast.
- Will not upload and format articles in the backend of your website. FYI, unless otherwise arranged (i.e. pay for it with large orders, writing agencies will not typically upload and format articles in the backend of your website).
- Pricing is a tad bit higher than other agencies.
2. Content Surge (by ContentRefined.com)
Content Surge by Content Refined is a new service provided by Jon Haver. Actually, this is more of a blog content management service than merely an article service.
Jon and his team will do the following for you:
- Keyword research,
- Content planning,
- Write the content (native English speakers),
- Obtain images (within reason),
- Content goes through several quality controls, and
- Formats articles in your WordPress website.
Pricing: $.08 per word.
It’s designed to be a one-stop content shop. Actually, better than that, they basically manage the content production for your website.
I’ve gotten to know Jon in recent months and he’s one smart guy. He loves setting up systems and he’s amazing at running organizations. If you’re looking for full website management, check out this new content service.
Jon runs such a great organization and has had tremendous niche site success that I’m definitely using his service for product-oriented content.
3. Human Proof Designs
I gave Human Proof Designs (2 options: Article Packs or Monthly Content) a test drive for content at the end of April 2016. It didn’t take long for me to realize they are very good for certain types of content.
1. Low cost:
I’ve never paid this little for this quality of work.
2. Product reviews and product galleries
This type of content is in HPD’s wheelhouse. For the money, it doesn’t get much better. HPD builds these types of sites by the dozen so creating the content is a no-brainer.
3. No contract and no subscription. Buy chunks of content on an as-needed basis.
4. Decent writing quality. All content reviewed by native English writing editors. My editor will also assess their content with MarketMuse which should help ensure excellent content.
5. Flexible content types: I get them to write several types of content. You just need to provide clear instructions and examples/brief training videos help the training process.
You should review the work. I think also it’s a very good idea to add a personal touch to the content … relate whatever product oriented content it is to your personal life. Obviously no writing service can do this for you, but while it adds a bit to your plate, it can make a big difference.
Also, these days it’s best to use HPD for the product oriented content. That’s what they focus on and so that’s what you should order from them. I get my non-product content from other sources.
If you want low cost content and don’t care much about quality, iWriter.com is your content source.
I recently had a project where I didn’t care too much about quality but price was important. iWriter was the cheapest by far, but I did end up with 2 terrible articles. Fortunately I was able to flag it as spam and had 2 new articles available in 24 hours so iWriter handled the situation with no questions asked.
- Cost: it’s the least expensive content source I’ve ever used.
- Fast delivery: Large batches delivered within 48 hours.
- Junk articles were replaced within 24 hours.
- Template ordering system.
- User-friendly website: The user interface is really good and super easy to use. Easier than the other services here.
- I got lucky: It just turns out that I did order a batch of content some time back and I even left content topics to them. They provided me a piece of content that for nearly 3 years has generated thousands of visitors per month earning thousands of dollars since it was published. These things can happen.
- Quality: The quality isn’t the best. I’ve used 2 through 4 star writers and the content is not quite up the levels of other writing agencies. That said, and this is interesting, two articles I had done by 4 star writers rank really well on one site for decent volume keywords and have earned me thousands of dollars in ad revenue. And get this, I didn’t specify the keyword. I just said to write on a fairly broad topic and the writers chose 2 good topics that perform very well on my site.
- Won’t upload and format in the backend of my website.
TextBroker offers content at various quality levels as well. Their 4 and 5 star writers generate decent content.
- Amazing customer service. They offered me a rep who handled all the ordering details and delegating work to writers.
- Will upload and format in the backend of my website. Granted I placed a large order, but they are the only article writing service who took the time to let me train them on formatting articles directly in my website. I did pay extra, but the few extra dollars was totally worth it given the time it takes to upload and format articles. They even obtain images for the posts.
- Great quality: I’ve used 2 through 4 start writers and the content quality is good; in other words worth the money.
- The article ordering system is not as easy to use as iWriter and WriterAccess.com.
Constant Content’s unique offering that I appreciate is their review writing service, especially software reviews.
If you need software product reviews, Constant Content is one of a few article writing software services that will write product reviews.
Their review writers will go into the backend of the software, play around with, get screenshots and then write an informative review. This is not cheap, but the potential revenue is substantial.
- Very talented and capable product review writers.
- Difficult backend “customer area” for ordering content. They have a casting call system that I don’t really understand.
I’ve used ineedarticles.com extensively for years.
Outstanding article rewrite service. I hired them to do a great deal of rewrites of content I had written and need to use on a related niche site. They did a superb job for very reasonable rates.
No cons. For rewriting, which is what I used them for, they did a great job.
It’s been a while since I used Articlez.com so I can’t comment much about the service. The content was decent and it was written by native English writers, but I don’t recall it being extraordinary. It was fairly formulaic, but it did the job.
For the money, the content can’t be beat when you need really high quality content.
My initial concern was that WordAgents wouldn’t work in the backend of my site unless I paid extra. I didn’t want to pay extra so I use a nifty plugin called Mammoth .Docx Converter, which imports entire articles, including formatting and images with one click.
If you need some excellent content, I recommend Word Agents. They do a great job. As always, be sure your instructions are detailed. The time you invest in instructions will save you and your writing service a lot of headaches down the road.
About 1 year ago the folks over at Textun contacted me to give their writing services a shot.
Fast forward to today; I’ve received well over 1 million words of content from them.
Textun is my staple writing service. I receive 10 to 20 articles weekly from them which forms the foundation of my niche sites.
The founder is a terrific guy who offers incredible customer service. I’m talking same-day replies to questions and he’s been flexible to accommodate my specific needs.
I strongly recommend trying Textun for content.
11. Content Development Pros
Content Development Pros reached out to me suggesting I give their writing service a shot. I’m always up for trying something.
I gave them a topic to cover and within 24 hours they delivered the article. They went above and beyond. The article is excellent. You can read it here.
One very nice service they offer is they will format content and publish it on your WordPress website. They will also get up to 5 images for your content. There is an additional cost for this though.
I thought the writing and research was excellent. It’s not the lowest cost content provider, but the quality is quite good. I’m currently considering their concierge service for having them format and publish content for me, which would save me time.
Update: I’ve now ordered nearly $10,000 worth of content from this service. The order is huge and involves many different types of articles so training is ongoing, but it’s been fantastic having all content formatted in the backend of my sites leaving me to merely review and publish daily.
C. Non-Writing Agency Content Sources
You don’t necessarily need to use an online writing agency or service. With a little creativity and/or legwork, you can acquire excellent content from other places/sources.
The following options for content is really akin to building your own in-house team, which has it’s own benefits (and of course its own sets of problems).
12. Hire College Students
If you a custom article or articles on any topic, one of the best sources for content is hiring college students. They have access to incredible libraries for research, usually write reasonably well and are willing to work for very reasonable rates.
In fact, remote part time writing gigs are perfect for college students so they’re keen to get the work. When I post writing job listings with university/college career services, I get a lot of applicants.
Just be sure you screen for quality. Ask for a writing sample. Also once you have a shortlist of applicants, assign one to two articles to each, offer to pay the rate you promise and then assess the applicants on the work they provide you.
- Low cost: college students need work and love remote writing gigs.
- Quality content: If you hire the right people by doing some basic screening, you’ll get top-notch work for very reasonable cost.
- Turnover: They won’t stick around forever. You may also hire people who just up and quit all of a sudden.
- Inconsistent output: College students’ schedule changes throughout the semester (i.e. exams limit their time) and from semester to semester. You must be flexible as an employer with your demands.
Upwork is a freelancing website that brings employers and freelancers together. It’s formerly Odesk (I have no idea why they rebranded to Upwork).
I’ve hired some amazing people on Upwork. I’ve also hired people who happily took the job, wasted my time with training and then disappeared. It’s hit and miss.
I’m currently working with one person from Upwork and he’s wicked smart, hard working and super polite. He’s a delight and he handles much of my social media and video production on autopilot.
There are many excellent writers on Upwork too, but generally you’ll have to pay pretty good rates for quality writers. I find a lot of capable people create listings as freelancers there but aren’t all that desperate for work. They’re in demand and charge premium rates.
That said, if you want to pay less than full service VA services such as LongerDays and want a writer who will upload and format and publish content on your website, finding a writer on Upwork is your best bet.
- Quality: You can find amazing writers there with niche-specific expertise.
- Payment systems in place: Upwork handles all the payment aspects. You just input your credit card details and Upwork charges for the hours worked by the freelancer.
- Customized training: You can hire someone who will upload, format and publish directly on your website. This is a huge benefit of working with freelancers vs. article writing services.
- Screening: You must screen applicants. It’s a tedious, but important process. The worst part is even if you have a screening process in place you can still make a bad hire.
- Expensive: Quality writers on Upwork charge pretty high rates. Don’t expect a bargain. But the plus side is you can find very talented writers.
- Turnover: With article writing services, you don’t worry about your work not being completed. They have plenty of writers available 24/7. However, if you work with freelancers, you’re vulnerable to their schedule and they may up and quit. You then must go through the hiring and training process again.
For more info about Upwork, these folks wrote a really good Upwork review.
14. Guest Posts / Features
Guest posts is a legitimate way to get some great content on your website for free. However, you need to be tough and demanding. The guest poster is getting a link or something in return. Do not compromise the quality of your content just because it’s being offered for free.
Many websites have lost their appeal because they go the way of too many guest posts.
I reject more guest posts than I accept. Usually I don’t even bother dealing with guest post proposals from media or SEO companies. They’re usually bad articles.
However, I love accepting guest posts from quality merchants, professionals in the niche and bona fide bloggers in the niche. These are great guest posters and I love it when I get a quality guest post submitted.
- Free content: The price is right. It’s free content. That said, you’re giving away something such as a link and/or exposure. Keep that in mind.
- Quality: Some guest posts can be awesome content. I recently published 2 amazing guest posts from an ecommerce merchant. Their content is so good and is formatted exactly per my instructions, I told them we’d love as much as they can provide.
- Poor quality: Of course you can reject the submission, but by that time you’ve wasted time. You might just say “what the heck” and be done with it and publish it. I’ve done this in the past. Now I’m pretty hard-nosed and just reject it or demand revisions until it’s up to snuff.
- Hassle: If you publicize that you accept guest posts, you’re going to waste a lot of time from lousy proposals. I usually don’t publicize the fact I accept guest posts for this reason.
- Inconsistent: Unless you don’t care about quality, you can’t count on consistent guest post content unless you do receive a lot of quality submissions. Therefore, even if you publish guest posts, you’ll need other content sources.
I’ll be straight up here. I wouldn’t use Fiverr as your main source of content. Five bucks isn’t going to cut it for content. It will be junk. Yup, I tried it.
I’m not going to say any more on the subject.
Fiverr definitely has great gigs for other tasks, but quality articles is not it for five bucks.
OnlineJobs.ph is a freelancer website for freelancers in the Philippines. I’ve hired some great people there. While they are non-native English speakers and writers, they write at an acceptable level for specific types of jobs. For instance, for me they find images, upload images and describe images. They do a great job. However, I wouldn’t use them as your main content writer for lengthier, in-depth content. For this you’ll want to either use a service or hire a talented article writer from another source.
If you’re lucky, you can find decent writers. It won’t be the best writing in the world, but if you have simple writing assignments, you can find people there who will do the job for much less than native English writers, including article writing services.
Cost: Hiring people in the Philippines doesn’t cost much. They demand $3 to $8 USD per hour.
Hard working: The people I’ve hired in the Philippines are very hard working. They try very hard. I love their work ethic.
Quality: Because they aren’t native English speakers and writers, the content won’t ever be top-tier unless you’re very lucky.
Turnover: Because you hire freelancers, they can quit which means going through the hiring process again.
17. Aspiring journalists
The website I purchased in December 2015 was built with free content by aspiring journalists who want to break into the movie, TV, video games and comics review industry.
The amount AND quality of the content is amazing.
I continue working with this huge group of amazing writers and editors.
That said, I’ve established a budget for paid content so I can pitch content ideas for the writers. This way I can dictate topics I want to publish on the site in addition to the articles the writers submit for free.
Cost: It’s free content. What else can I say?
Quality: Because they’re trying to make a name for themselves and have a strong intent to be professional writers, the produce excellent content.
Lack of control: I pretty much leave what gets published for not cost to the editors and writers. After all, they’re contributing for free so I don’t want to get demanding and choosy. That said, for content I pay for, I specify the topics and format.
Moreover, by lack of control, I mean that since people do contribute for free, they have a stake in the site. The site’s writers are to a large extent customers. I depend on them and so I want them happy. This restricts change because if many writers hate something that changes with the site, they may leave.
That said, while at first I worried about writers leaving, I don’t any more. Even modest budgets for content goes a long way in this niche so it’s not hard finding excellent writers.
How do you hire free journalists?
I’m still amazed at how effective the site’s seller was at recruiting excellent writers for the site. He would advertise available positions on the site and on industry job boards.
The thing is this won’t work in every niche. Movie and TV reviews is a glamour industry that many people aspire to break into so it works for this site. However, I know for my other niche sites, I won’t attract aspiring journalists. Therefore, unfortunately it’s niche specific, but if it works in your niche, its’ a great deal.
Is there something you can offer in exchange for content?
I’ve never been big on barter, but suddenly found myself in a barter situation this year. A Fat Stacks reader who is very good with marketing on Facebook offered to manage one of my FB pages for a discounted hourly fee in exchange for me helping her with her niche website. Basically she gets free coaching and I get a top notch FB page manager who handles all the posts, messages, etc.
While my barter situation is not for content, the concept works. If writing is not your forte but you are good with managing FB pages, for instance, you could barter your FB marketing services in exchange for content. You might as well capitalize on your strengths.
The big problem with bartering is it’s hard to know if it’s an equal deal. Moreover, you can’t count on it all the time. Solid barter situations usually arise out of the blue. However, if you’re open to a barter scenario, put your mind to who you can offer your expertise to in exchange for them helping you out. When it works it can be a very strong win/win.
In-House Team vs. Writing Service vs. Fully Managed Service: What’s Best?
I’ve done it all. I’ve used a full website and content management service. I’ve had my own in-house team put together with services like OnlineJobs.ph and Upwork. I’ve ordered thousands of articles from services like WriterAccess.com and Textbroker.com.
They all have their pros and cons.
1. Online writing service:
- Timely delivery: If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can get a lot of content very quickly.
- Variety: These services have writers trained to write all types of content such as an SEO article, press release, scientific article, ebook, email newsletter, social media posts and much, much more. Another aspect of variety is you can request different tones, such as a professional article, funny, light-hearted, folksy, technical, etc.
- Volume: With a large pool of content writers, they can produce a ton of content quickly.
- Quality: This can be hit and miss. Sometimes, you can get awesome with 3 stars and weak with 6 stars. You never know… but overall I’ve had a positive experience with reputable writing agencies.
- Limited revisions: Most offer at least one free revision, maybe up to 3, but that’s it. Actually, the real problem is not the limited number of revisions but the free revision timetable in which to do it. Often you have 3 to 7 days to request a revision. After that you can’t do so. I’m not blaming them… the last thing they want is to have indefinite outstanding revision requests. However, as a user, sometimes I don’t get to that project for 10 days at which point I’ve exceeded the revision deadline.
- Flexibility: This is a huge benefit – you can train them to write, format, upload… whatever you need for the ultimate individual approach for your content and website(s).
- Cost: You can pay different rates depending on the content you need. It’s the ultimate cost-control approach.
- Speed: Because they work directly for you, you can change course or get something done very quickly.
- Customization: Again, you can train them to produce content anyway you like.
3. Fully Managed Content Service:
- Peace of mind
- Don’t have to work.
- Need I say more?
How should you choose a writing service?
I’ve used a lot of services because I’m always looking for good content at the best price.
I think the easiest way is to place 1 to 3 orders with a variety of services and then assess the content. Of course, assessing content is fairly subjective, but at the end of the day you go with what you like the most.
Also, there’s no rule that says you can’t use multiple services at the same time (I do).
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.