I’ve been asked by many people what I think of different pay-for sites like Mediabistro and Flexjobs. Let me just say, you try a lot of things when you’re desperate. Some have been worthy and some have been worthless.
In this post, I am going to go over the good, the bad, and the ugly from my experience with the freelance writing job aggregator, Contena. I’ve been a member since February of this year.
I had never heard of Contena before I somehow started receiving these brilliantly marketed emails from a young man named Kevin who liked to talk about how he was working from exotic islands with his wife and at first I was just all “Dude, have you even graduated high school? Do your parents know where you are right now?”
But like I said, the marketing was brilliant, and I was either too green or just desperate enough to fall into the trap!
I kept opening the emails from Kevin, and I kept reading them. Kevin had apparently been a very busy young man, starting a company that promises to save you tons of time by scouring the internet for you, finding only legitimate high-paying freelance writing jobs, saving you time and energy that can be better spent on things like taking Buzzfeed quizzes to find out which flavor of discontinued retro soda pop you are and what it says about your personality. (I’m a Crystal Pepsi because I’m pure and innocent but I taste like I’m dirty.)
Kevin even swears that he personally answers his emails and if you reply to this email, he’ll respond!
(Spoiler alert, he didn’t. I DON’T CARE YOU CARE.)
Kevin is also brilliant because after he lures you in with pictures of azure blue seascapes over the glare of a computer screen, he slips in a, “Oh, you want to be a part of the Contena community? Shoot. We’re full up right now. Sign up to be on our waiting list.”
Here’s the thing that no one really tells you when you start out as a freelance writer. You can read a million blogs and a thousand books and watch a hundred YouTube videos and ask innumerable freelance experts, but nothing prepares you for…ya know, doing it. Even when you think you have a plan, you will, at some point, feel completely directionless. You will encounter obstacles that you had no idea were even a thing.
Do you know how many times I had to Google “how do I write a pitch?” and “what is a pitch?” and “pitch template” because even though I have a college degree, and I know I am a good writer, and I have been writing for every job I have held for the last eight years or so, I had never once been asked to email anyone a pitch.
Is that weird? Maybe it’s weird. But replace the word pitch with something else in the freelance world, and it’ll happen to you too.
Was a pitch formal? Informal? Was it like a cover letter? Was it just, like, “I have this really cool idea for an article about how dog food should come in pizza flavors. Would you like to read the first paragraph or a summary?”
This was just one of the unexpected hurdles I faced as a new freelance writer, and one of the reasons Contena was an alluring prospect for me.
I signed myself up on the waiting list and about one or two weeks later, an email arrived that said there were openings, and I could now sign up for Contena. (OH. MAH. GAWT. I am so SURPRISED!) Up until now there had been no indication that anything would cost, so imagine my surprise when I signed up and Kevin immediately requested nearly $200 ($179.10) for ONE MONTH.
Now, at the same time, I didn’t know what else to do with myself, and Contena appeared to offer me a lot of things that I needed.
Here is what I was offered with my $179.10 subscription fee:
The Contena Coach was the best and biggest bang for my buck.
After I signed up and forked over enough to feed 17 starving dogs for a month (Shush, Sarah McLachlan, I need this), I received an email not from Kevin, but from a nice woman named Jessica. She introduced herself as my coach and instructed me to watch a video guiding me through Contena and its various advantages, and she also sent me a link to fill out a questionnaire that would help her help me in my freelance writing journey.
I was skeptical that I would actually be working one-on-one with a coach and not some sort of AI, or simply watching tutorial video after tutorial video ala Khan Academy. (Mad props for teaching me the quadratic equation though, Sal.)
I watched the video first. It was all “Hi, I’m Kevin” etc. It was basic intro/overview stuff. When I got to the questionnaire, I filled in everything thoroughly and I was asked to submit my website link if I had one, links to social media, my elevator speech, resume, and basically whatever else I wanted Jessica to check out and give me feedback on.
I sent her all of the requested items, and to my surprise, about three days later, a real person responded with some detailed, helpful feedback on each item. I was able to make some improvements and I replied directly to my Contena Coach, Jessica. I asked her to take a look at my improvements and in less than 24 hours, she replied to that email. Within a week, I had refined my internet presence, my elevator speech, and my resume.
She also taught me what a pitch was.
Contena Academy (without being too specific due to the terms of service) is a series of videos and worksheets for members to watch and fill out.
The content ranges in complexity from super beginners to very advanced, and you are directed, and expected, to go from start to finish, in order, and do each worksheet as you go.
In fact, Contena offers a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied but ONLY if you have watched all videos and completed ALL worksheets, AND you supply them the worksheets and prove that you have made a real effort, AND Contena must agree that you did do your homework to their satisfaction before you get your money back.
(Yikes, don’t make daddy mad. I’m glad I was satisfied with Jessica’s coaching.)
The information is useful and the layout of Contena Academy is simple and clean. The worksheets are filled with valuable ideas, tools, and templates that I have used and will likely use in the future, as a novice and eventually as an expert.
You also get badges for completing each segment. You can pretend you don’t care about badges, but we both know you’re a liar.
Writing Jobs and Alerts
I am going to lump these two together. This is probably the biggest long-term draw for Contena members. This is where Contena outshines competitors.
On any given day, at any given time, I can log in to Contena and see 12,000+ jobs. I can filter by category, or how high a company pays its freelancers.
There is new content added every day, although it’s not always a lot. Some days it’s three or four new postings and some days it’s a lot more.
This is one of the biggest drawbacks for me. I am subscribed to several daily and weekly newsletters. I am getting the exact same job postings in my email without paying anyone a dime. I was just lucky enough to have found the right places to subscribe.
If my only reason for staying with Contena was the job listings, I wouldn’t stay.
I know a lot of people remain members because Contena’s job postings save them a ton of time and I get that. I’m also saving a ton of time getting them in my email, but even when I wasn’t, I don’t mind scouring websites like ProBlogger on my own. It makes me more familiar with what’s going on outside of my home base, and who knows when you might virtually run into someone who can hook you up with a writing gig or connect you to people who can? I have accidentally’d my way into a lot of great things.
For the people who are really into saving time, they set up daily email alerts via Contena.
For example, I can tell Contena I want to be alerted when a job comes through that is in the entertainment category and pays medium to high and I only want to see full-time gigs. Members can create as many alerts as they want in as many variations and combinations as they want.
But…why? I don’t want MORE junk filling up my already bloated inbox. I mean…I can just go to the Contena website and click click click literally filter my prospects on the job postings page instead of being alerted via email. I mean, I guess if you want to not be bothered to ever visit the website it makes sense, but if you get the email, you have to log into the website anyway…
And if you’re like me, after seeing the same emails come through so often, you just reach a level of saturation in which your brain no longer even registers something as important or relevant anymore. Do you know how many dentist appointments I’ve missed? Stop sending me email reminders to floss every effing day, Doctor Garrison! YOU’RE RUINING MY TEETH.
Leads and Submissions
This could also be filed under the writing jobs category. It’s basically a sub-category that has it’s own designation and page for companies that are open to pitches, want to see your poetry, and want you to submit your short stories.
You can set up alerts so that you are only emailed info about new submissions or leads from Contena.
Again, nothing on Contena is exclusive Contena content. Contena just takes the work out of searching the web for you. A lot of people prefer this kind of convenience and time-savings.
I am the first person to jump in line to pay for convenience. No, seriously.
I am happy to pay extra money to have groceries delivered and have my lawn mown. I love pressing a button to have more laundry detergent show up at my door. I love telling Alexa to order me more peanut butter.
I will pay 50 cents more for bacon at Kroger because Linda the Walmart cashier is turning 76 next week and her arthritis is killing her and those eggs didn’t ring up and is that a coupon and oh no I think she rang that up twice but fuck me if I am going to tell her now cause there is a lady with five kids behind me and only three are wearing shirts and I just know there is about to be another #buttholegate up in here, or as it’s more commonly known in Walmart, #Tuesday.
I find convenience to be something that is worthy of my money.
So, is Contena worthy or worthless?
There is nothing wrong with Contena, and truth be told, I am still a member. After I had my coaching session and realized “Why am I paying $200 for this?” I immediately canceled.
When you do want to cancel, by the way, you must email a person directly to tell them. Then they will tell you that you can pay $26.10 instead, which gives you access to LITERALLY everything I just had except for the personal coaching.
For a second helping of honesty, I keep planning on leaving Contena because I just never use it. Like I said, I use so many other free aggregators that Contena just really doesn’t meet any needs that aren’t already being met for free.
There is this specific business model that I am thinking of, and I cannot find the actual name if it has a name. It’s where a business makes canceling a service a hassle on purpose. Let’s say maybe they are only charging a customer $2.50 a month, and it’s just a small enough amount that the customer is not willing to jump through hoops to cancel the monthly charge and eventually the customer just completely forgets about it.
(Google could not help find out if this business practice has a name, but if you know what it might be, comment below and let me know! It’s basically how Columbia House survived for as long as it did.)
So, this company gets, say, ten thousand customers to just give up their $2.50 a month, and suddenly that company is raking in 25k per month, all because they set up a business practice that forced their customers to take one or two extra steps to cancel a service.
That’s what it feels like when you have to email a specific person from a company in 2017 in order to cancel a service. If I can “click here to subscribe”, it’s only fair that I should be able to repeat that act to unsubscribe. (I know I took the long way to get there, but wasn’t that satisfying?)
I know what you’re up to, Todd, AND I AM NOT EMAILING YOU AGAIN!
I mean, okay, I am going to email at least once more to really for real cancel this time and stop trying to talk me into not canceling TODD.
In terms of the monthly Contena membership fee, A Contena personal coach is basically $153 a month plus the additional twenty-something bucks to access the videos, worksheets, and job postings. I assume that is how the cost is broken down. (179.10 – 26.10 = 153.00) But I really don’t know. I’ve seen other members and former members spout off different fees and saying they paid $$$ for six months, and so on.
For me, after I tried canceling my membership the first time, this was the “deal” they struck with me.
When broken down like that, Contena gets a WORTHY rating.
As a freelancer just getting her feet wet, $153 was a fair price to pay for someone to look at all my stuff and say “This is how you fix it.” It’s no different than someone paying for any kind of business coaching, virtual or otherwise.
My Contena Coach was quick to respond, had real-world advice to offer, answered my questions thoughtfully and without any canned responses, and it was one of the first steps I took in owning my freelance career. It was money well spent.
If you are on a similar path, check it out. I think they even have a trial period, but probably without any free coaching. If you are looking for job listings PLUS guidance, and you’ve been shopping around, I will say that I was very happy with the coaching I received at Contena.
I plan on doing these Resource Reviews regularly so make sure you subscribe to my blog!
Comment below and tell if you’ve had any experience using Contena. Good, bad, ugly? What would you like me to review next? I’d love to know what YOU want to know!
MAY 2018 UPDATE! This post was written in July 2017. It’s gotten a good amount of traffic since that time, and I am so happy that it’s helped other freelancers make a decision on Contena.
A few months after this post went up, Kevin, the Contena founder, reached out to me and told me he liked my honest review. He then asked me if I’d like to write for the Contena blog. He liked my voice and writing style. I was completely flattered and I said YES!
All I want to do with my life is write and help other writers. I’ve had two articles posted on Contena and they are so fun to write. I am helping people with my writing and doing what I love for a living.
The point of this update is to let you know that although Contena pays me to write one or two articles a month for their blog, my opinions remain the same. I am NOT a member and probably never will be again. But I do like to think my Contena articles have helped other writers.
Also, if I ever doubted my reasons for keeping a blog, I remember my path to writing for a major website!
If you’re curious, THIS is the first blog I wrote for them.
HERE is another.
Do you need some help with the written word? Do you want to hire a freelance writer for your business? Do you want to talk about how weird it is that Britney Spears is almost 40? Email me at Chandi@ChandiGilbert.com or subscribe to my bi-monthly newsletter for quick and simple tips on how to improve your writing.