Textbroker is the prototypical content mill marketplace these days, and it’s a hub for middling and low quality content for a pretty cheap price. It has a lot of flaws, and it really only survives because its rates allow it to gather bulk clients for extremely basic content which is, at best, passable. Having experienced it from both the writer and the client side, I can tell you quite a bit about it.
First of all, there are a ton of reviews out there for Textbroker.com. Just take a look at this page, for example. From looking at it, you would think Textbroker is a scam. Well, there’s a lot of misinformation on this page and others like it.
The misinformation comes from people who don’t read contracts and don’t know what they’re getting into. There are some legitimate complaints in these reviews, which I’ll get to in a moment, but I’d like to correct some of the inaccuracies.
Textbroker isn’t a very good company and the work produced by its writers is in general not very good, so there are a lot of valid complaints you can make. You don’t need to make up lies and inaccuracies to smear them; they do it pretty well themselves.
In order to understand all of the legitimate issues with Textbroker, you first need to understand how the site works.
From a client perspective, when you sign up for Textbroker, you’re asked to deposit some initial money. Textbroker holds funds in escrow to avoid clients scamming writers; if you don’t reject an article, you end up paying for it regardless of how satisfactory it was. You can’t take a post and run without paying – at least, not without repercussions. Some clients take posts, ask for revisions, reject those revisions, and keep the post, but that’s a huge asshole move and you shouldn’t do it.
When you create an assignment, you are free to include as much or as little guidelines as possible. I’ve found that writers prefer a reasonable amount of guidance. Some clients link out to Google Doc guidelines and have thousands of words of specifications for 500 word articles, which is frankly insane. These writers are getting paid less than minimum wage and have to work very quickly to make a reasonable living; they aren’t going to spend two hours looking over guidelines for a $7 article.
Additionally, you can specify keywords and keyword density. Keep in mind that these by default are exact match and are required for the writer to submit a post. I’ve seen clients post a 400 word assignment with 10 multi-word “keywords” that were required to be posted 2-3 times each. The client doubtless expected the writer to use 1-2 of those keywords 2-3 times in the post, but due to the way Textbroker works, they would need to use all of them at least twice in order for the post to be submitted.
You have three options of where to post your assignment.
It can go in the open pool, it can go in a team pool, and it can go as a direct order.
There are also managed teams, which involve a Textbroker staff editor managing a team for you and vetting all articles before you even see them. This, however, tends to be limited to large bulk clients. If you have 15,000 product descriptions you need written, a managed team might be available. If you’re commissioning six blog posts per week, probably not. To be part of their managed service, you need a minimum budget for your project of $2,500.
Regardless, when you submit the assignment, it sits in the designated pool until a writer accepts it. Once a writer picks it up, they have a fixed amount of time in which they can write and submit something. When you set a word count, say, 300-400 words, the writer is free to write as much as they like so long as they hit the minimum. They can write 300, but not 299. They can write 700 if they want. Most won’t, because they don’t get paid extra, and you are not charged extra if the writer goes over.
The writer will submit something to you which, very likely, will be kind of trash. If you’re lucky, one of the few good writers on the site will pick up your post, and you’ll get something worth way more than you’re paying. This is rare, though; most good writers bailed from the site and have found more lucrative positions.
When you get your first draft you have 96 hours to either accept the article or request revisions. You cannot reject it on the first draft; this is another writer protection. For writers it’s very welcome; for clients it can be aggravating and set back your timetable if you need revisions.
Revisions have a short window, typically 24 hours for the writer to return them. The second draft then has the reject option if you need to use it. You won’t pay for the post, but the writer might blacklist you. The writer also has the option of rejecting the revision and dropping the assignment, at no penalty to themselves. Some writers do this on any revision request beyond simple typos, because a rejection can hurt them a lot.
If you like the post, accept it and the money will be deducted from your account. If you let the 96 hour window expire, the assignment is automatically accepted and money is deducted.
From a writer’s point of view, clients can be tyrants and the Textbroker staff are a monolithic testament to inefficiency and dictatorship. Writers apply and are accepted at a star level, typically 3 or 4. 5 is not available from the start, not even for professional writers with extensive credentials. They are allowed to write 5 articles, at which point their account is put on hold and their posts are reviewed. Based on the review of these posts, the writer is given a more accurate star rating between 2 and 4.
For a writer, 2 and 3 are death sentences. 2 has no work, ever. Even if it did, it pays pennies per hour. It’s firmly in the realm of Indian Sweatshop. 3 is bad, and arguably worse due to the hope involved. There’s enough work that you might think you can move up, but the inertia of a 3-star rating means it’s incredibly difficult to move up. Worse, the pay rate is terrible.
4 is where the majority of the writers and the majority of the work is. It’s cheap for a client and it’s almost good enough to be tempting to a writer that doesn’t know any better.
In order to get moved up to 5 star, the writer must take a very finicky proofreading test that is 10 multiple choice questions and score above an 80%. Given that each question can have more than one right answer and you must tag them all to get it right, this is very difficult. Add in the fact that it uses both AP style and Textbroker’s stylebook, it becomes nearly impossible. Then, to add insult to injury, writers can only take the test once every three months.
Writers pick up assignments from the public pool and can join open teams, apply to closed teams, or join teams they are invited to join. Once in a team, they can pick up orders from that team as well. They are always open to direct orders and are free to accept or reject them at will.
One thing to note is that while clients can see the screenname of the writers they work with, the writers only see clients as an anonymous number. Textbroker really doesn’t like clients and writers communicating and will actively censor direct messages or assignment/revision requests to remove any information that could be used to communicate with one another outside of the site. This is because if Textbroker clients hired writers directly, the site would lose its income and collapse.
Writers live or die by their star rating, which is a horrible situation because their star rating is only calculated based on their five most recent posts. Textbroker’s editors also only go over assignments in large batches every few months, so a writer might be stuck in one situation despite writing hundreds of posts. Worse, if a writer writes 100 posts at 4-star level but 3 of their 5 most recent are rated 3, they become a 3-star writer.
There are a lot of issues with Textbroker. A lot.
So, at the end of the day, it looks like this. For writers, Textbroker has a few nice protections to ensure you get paid, but the pay itself is minimal and the framework of the site is very punishing. It’s an oppressive atmosphere of fear rather than support and quality. It encourages minimal-thought fast-produced low-quality content, and that’s exactly what is delivered. It can be a good starting place for a novice writer to pick up some web writing skills, but if you’re working at it for longer than a few months, you’re wasting time and energy.
From the client perspective, it’s pretty much never worth the time or money for blog posts. If you have product descriptions or basic technical writing that doesn’t need to be complex, it’s a cheap way to fill out a site. It’s also decent enough to fill out PBN blogs or spam sites, but it’s not something I would want on my main site. You’re very likely to end up suffering a Panda penalty sooner or later.