Contena: is it worth your money?

And is it a scam? Contena review from a paying member, not an affiliate

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Image credit: Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Unlike many Contena reviews, this review is from a paid Contena member.

Below you’ll get brutally honest details about Contena from

I worked hard to create a useful review for you, and believe it was accurate at the time it was written. Some details, like pricing, may have changed since then.

Like the comments from others, this review is opinion based on personal experience.

Contena’s contention

Kevin Fleming, CEO of Contena, does not want you to read this Contena review. In Nov 2019 I was accused of defamation, and threatened with legal action if I didn’t remove it.

You can read about this briefly below under Accusations from Contena (spoiler: I don’t think the accusations are true, but they do scare writers into silence).

I like free speech. And sharing ideas. Threats? Not so much.

There are always multiple sides to a story. Think for yourself, make up your own mind.

Especially before you give Contena your credit card details.

Phew! Housekeeping’s over. Let’s dive into Contena.

Contena: is it worth your money?

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For Freelance Writers Contena seems too good to be true.

Outside of paying members, Contena is locked down like Fort Knox.

“I’ve been receiving funnel driving emails from them for ages.. promising ‘open spots soon!’ but no mention of pricing, even when directly asking them.” -Comment on a lackluster Contena review, link removed

All Contena reviews I could find were written by Contena’s affiliate partners.*

Do you notice how hard it is to find a less-than-glowing Contena review?

Until now.

Below you’ll find straightforward, unbiased details about Contena including:

You can understand the Contena experience without having to hand Contena your credit card.

You’re also given lots of free/ more affordable alternatives.

Given the refund policy, that’s pretty handy.

About a year ago I became a paying Contena member. All this information is first hand.

What’s not included here?

To provide a complete picture Kevin, Contena’s CEO, asked that I include these features in my review.

It’s important you are aware of all Contena offers. Please note these features aren’t looked at in detail here, but they exist.

Remote work

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Image credit: Andrew Neal on Unsplash

Contena focuses on remote work only.

In theory, being location-independent means no matter where you are, you can enjoy all Contena has to offer without having to worry about geography.

If you’re willing to travel for work, even just commuting for the interview (non-remote work), you’ll need another resource for that.

Many opportunities I saw on Contena Scout (the job board) only hired US-residents, even if the work itself was remote.

Still curious? Read on.

1. Membership Options

With the exchange rate, my membership worked out to around $1,000 Canadian dollars.

Membership at a glance

“Since they had a summer sale for $79 (for 6 months) I figured I’d give it a try. Regretted it pretty much right away. It’s not a scam perhaps, but boy does it feel like it.”

Contena customer comment, Jul 2018

Nov ’19 note: Prices may have changed since 2018

Once you sign up, can you cancel your membership?

Say you hand over your credit card, then decide Contena’s not for you.

Now what?

You can claim a refund, but only if you complete all the exercises in Contena Academy, to their satisfaction, within the first 30 days.

But…what if you want to cancel because you don’t have time for exercises?

Or you decide you don’t like them? What if it takes you longer than 30 days?

Even if you jump through all the hoops, what if the good people at Contena decide they’re not satisfied with your effort?

Tough luck.

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Help on Contena’s refund policy, from my paid member account

Nov ’19 note: Contena claims the above screen-grab is false and deceptive, because the refund policy is clearly displayed throughout the Contena website.

While I won’t comment on the accusation, I will say when I searched for refund policy this screen-grab, straight from Contena’s website (paid member access), is what I found.

A writing program, in fact any program, willing to charge two years of membership fees without the option for a no-questions-asked refund, not even during a trial period… seems like a red flag.

Smartblogger’s paid writing services, even pricier ones like Freedom Machine, offer full access and a no-questions-asked refund for the first 30 days.

Universities don’t charge for your whole degree up front. You can drop out early or take a break (defer) if your circumstances change.

Even my local gym lets you cancel for $100, including people who signed a two year membership.

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Nov ’19 note: part of an email I received from someone claiming to be a Contena member. To respect her privacy, I didn’t publish her name.

You’d be right to wonder “If Contena really is that good, why lock you in?”

Seems hefty compared to competitors like FreelanceWriting, Problogger and even Indeed, which are all free.

Is it worth it? What do you get for $1,000?

2. Contena Scout

What is it?

Contena claims to make your life easy by consolidating remote job openings from many sources into one convenient site.

“We focus on remote and location independent jobs because it is often very time consuming to weed out good *remote* gigs” — Kevin Fleming, Contena CEO

While Contena Scout looks like a job board, you don’t apply for work through Contena Scout.

Most links in Contena Scout took me straight to free job boards like Indeed.com, where you can read the full job posting, apply etc.

Instead of paying for Contena, why not go straight to job sites directly, for free?

Contena Scout claims to save you time by consolidating opportunities from many sites into one easy place. Does it?

Does Contena Scout deliver opportunities?

I don’t want to say “red flag” again but…

Advertised: Over 16,000 opportunities!

Actual experience: A measly 16 jobs in 7 days

According to the non-member preview of Contena Scout (image below), “Contena Scout has discovered 16,402 writing gigs.”

Holy smokes! 16,000+ jobs?

Clicking any of the jobs takes you to Contena’s sign in page. You can only get the job details if you’re a paying member.

For that many opportunities, surely it’s worth it.

Unless…

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Screenshot of Contena Scout for a non-member, Feb 2018

Below is the same screenshot, but from my paid member account. Seems pretty similar, right?

Look at the smaller number just above the job listings.

Only 526 jobs.

The rest of the 16,000+ have either been archived or deleted. They’re not actual opportunities.

And that’s not all…

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Same screen shot for paid member, Feb 2018

When filtering for jobs posted in the past 7 days, LinkedIn (worldwide) showed 2,487 remote writing opportunities, Seek (Australia only) had 101.

Contena Scout? Just 16 jobs, across all industries.

I was told this is due to a rigorous vetting process, where only the best remote jobs are kept. And yet…

Even if the 16 jobs were all awesome (they weren’t), imagine filtering for your field of expertise, or for more recent posts.

The number of opportunities Contena offers seems a tiny bit exaggerated, in the same way the Titanic seemed a tiny bit sinky.

What if you find the job board to be less than stellar?

“I joined for the jobs. I went big and paid almost $1000…Many of the jobs are expired.”

Contena customer comment, Jan 2018

If opportunities on Contena Scout are far fewer than you expected, you’re advised to be less picky (use less filters, broaden your search etc.).

This is a huge risk for you.

By then it’s too late. You’ve handed over your credit card. You’re locked in, jobs or not.

“I feel seriously scammed.”

Contena customer comment, Feb 2018

Is the job board user-friendly?

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Sometimes it makes sense to sacrifice a little quantity for convenience.

According to Contena’s CEO, “our mission is…reduce the number of hours you spend searching for work.

Personally I like the look of the consolidated view. You can easily run your eyes over job titles. The color-coding allows you to quickly skim through quality ratings, job categories and more.

But…

Hardly a wide-reaching buffet of opportunity.

As a visually easy user experience, Contena is beautiful.

As a trusted source of work opportunities… try these free alternatives.

Alternative job hunting sites (all free)

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Search results from LinkedIn U.S.A. (2,183 jobs) and Contena (16 jobs) on 2 April 2018.

Or simply try a quick online search for “Freelance Writing Jobs”.

In my experience there are better, far cheaper options out there.

3. Contena Academy

What is it?

Contena Academy is a set of 9 training videos, with exercises, to help you get started as a writer. Each video is around 5 minutes long — fairly short.

The videos are mostly about self-promotion, and include worksheets and templates at the end of each module.

For any chance of getting a refund on your membership, all these videos and exercises need to be completed within the first 30 days.

After surveying our members we realized that most were either totally or relatively new to freelance writing. This is why we have such a big emphasis on Contena Academy.

— Kevin Fleming, Contena CEO

Exercises are typically simple, actionable and directly related to freelance writing.

I found this useful, since most writing courses focus on writing (as they should), while Contena claims to teach you the business side of things.

Contena Academy, at a glance

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Contena Academy

Does Contena Academy encourage self-discovery?

A self-discovery helps you reach your goals by asking about obstacles, the time you can put in and related questions.

From my personal experience, many aspects of Contena Academy’s self-discovery related to making money, and enjoying that money.

While fantasizing about oodles of cash is fun, it doesn’t really help you understand where you want to go, and how you’re going to get there.

And most writers, even successful ones, aren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. If money is your motivator, you may want to rethink your profession.

So why imagine getting rich?

By prompting you to imagine a time when you feel wealthy, you’re likely to link that feeling to the product in front of you. Especially if you just paid a hefty fee for it.

And there you are, imagining wonderfully rich feelings while staring at Contena on your screen.

I‘m pretty sure that’s a sales technique called transference, not self-discovery.

Will Contena Academy make you a better writer?

Contena Academy is about how to sell your work by selling yourself. As a side effect you might become a better writer, but that’s not the focus.

“I already knew how to write before coming to Contena. What I didn’t know how to do was market myself effectively.

— Tim, Contena Wall of Wins (part of the Contena website)

Contena Academy and self-publishing

Publishing your work online makes you “look like a big deal” to prospective employers, according to Contena Academy.

You’re given a handful of US-based websites like Medium, and a quick ‘how to publish’ tutorial.

Generally the links work, and the tutorials are simple, making it super easy for a newbie.

Because you‘re only encouraged to use these platforms as a way of showing employers your work, one question immediately springs to mind:

If you have a handful of articles with no followers, no comments, and no writing anywhere else… do you really look like a big deal to potential employers?

Will Contena Academy help you land a Freelance Writing job?

“I was a member of Contena and never landed one job from the site”

Contena customer comment, April 2018

The Contena training modules encourage you to get out there.

You’ve given lots of templates, simple exercises, and tips for thinking like a sales person, which is useful for a new freelancer.

Without access to their database, it’s impossible to say what most Contena members experience.

One lackluster Contena review I found online also mentioned not finding work through Contena. The page has since been removed.

I reached out to the writer who’s review disappeared…she said she had been threatened with legal action if she didn’t take it down, even though it was an honest review.

According to Contena’s CEO, prolific bloggers Elna Cain and Lisa Tanner both started as paying Contena members, and were both happy customers before becoming affiliate partners.

On the other hand, while I have been paid to write, I have never landed a job using Contena.

One lackluster Contena review I found online also mentioned not finding work through Contena. I had a link to it here, but the page has since been removed.

I reached out to the writer whose review had disappeared. The writer said she removed her negative review after being accused of defamation. She had been threatened with legal action if she didn’t take it down.

Is it just me who finds it strange when negative reviews “disappear”?

Alternatives: learning and publishing

Udemy’s Complete Freelance Writing Course covers the same material and more. No expensive membership, and an unconditional 30-day refund.

To self-publish without creating your own site, try

Join a writer’s group, where you can share support, writing and industry information.

A basic career development course will walk you through pitching, writing a resume and interview techniques. You’ll get better information and more transferable skills.

4. Contena Coach

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What is it?

Your Contena coach is sold as an expert to help you launch your writing career.

In theory Coaches keep you accountable, give your writing a second set of eyes, and provide expert information to move you in the right direction.

Coaching experience, at a glance

Most coaching relationships I’ve experienced begin with setting expectations and goals.

An initial conversation helps confirm what your coach will deliver (and what they won’t), and your responsibilities too.

My Contena coach and I never had this conversation. In hindsight I should have noticed this red flag before signing up.

“The feedback I got was not at all constructive and very thin.”

Contena customer comment, Feb 2018

Does your coach keep you accountable?

My Contena coach was very quick to reply, and supported anything I was thinking of publishing.

But… my coach has never suggested goals, recurring meetings, or any of the other standard tools coaches use to help you stay on track.

Unless I contact her requesting feedback, I don’t hear from her.

The short answer? No. You keep yourself accountable.

Does your coach provide useful feedback?

For the first 30 days (while you can still claim a refund) my coach thoroughly read pieces, and provided lots of comments.

Nov ’19 note: I’m not saying coaches are incentivized to keep you happy until your refund period runs out. I’m just describing my personal experience.

Most feedback was subjective, or suggestions straight out of the Contena training videos.

You see this a lot in English and Creative Writing courses. It’s not publishing advice per se, but still useful to see how someone consumes your work.

After the first 30-days, the number of comments declined significantly and key points were missed.

I asked my coach for advice. Could she recommend a few search techniques, or suggest any sites?

Her advice was “I don’t know. See what you can find”.

This was fine, since I had mainly hoped for expertise in Contena’s core offering — the business of writing.

Advice like “make sure your font is the right size” (it was) and “do a Google search” (I had) was hardly groundbreaking.

Does your coach know where to publish?

Your first writing piece is always exciting.

For my initial idea, my coach suggested I find and approach a relevant local website. I had already tried this, but couldn’t find one in my subject area.

It’s tempting to think that you can guarantee success by shelling out $500 bucks. I’m just not seeing what they offer that other sites don’t for free

I asked my coach for advice. Could she recommend a few search techniques, or suggest any sites?

Her advice was “I don’t know. See what you can find”.

She not only couldn’t recommend relevant places to publish, but also had no advice around how to find them.

So no, your coach doesn’t know.

Does your coach understand publishing platforms?

Understanding a platform before you publish helps you avoid costly mistakes and deliver better work.

Before first hitting publish on medium, I would have loved any of this advice:

“Put it on medium, see how it goes” encouraged my coach after my article was ready, echoing the Contena training videos, which treat medium as a ‘catch all’.

“Contena Coaches don’t give you sound advice and only say their opinions”

Contena Review, 2019

This is a great first step because, again, you’re encouraged to get out there and write.

But if you’re selling your work (and yourself), isn’t it equally important to demonstrate you understand the platforms you publish on?

Alternative Coaching Sources (far cheaper, just as useful)

Writing Cooperative. Free to read. Join if you want feedback, options to publish etc. Membership is just $3 a month, no minimum commitment.

ProBlogger: Articles are insightful and incredibly useful. Courses range from just $7 to $200. Less than half the price of Contena, twice as useful.

Critique Circle: One of the oldest online writing communities. Relaxed discussions about all things writing. Totally free to join.

You can also learn a lot from

You’ll get a variety of perspectives, build relationships and discover a wealth of industry information.

Of course, try to give back as much as you take.

Contena and your network

Given that most jobs are found through networking, this really surprised me about Contena.

My coach advised me not to provide links to similar articles or writers in my work because “they’re your competition”.

“I didn’t have access to other members, the companies were not super recognizable except that a few of them were also posted on other (free) job boards.

— Less than glowing ‘limited access’ member review. Disappeared March 2018

My coach never refers to resources outside of Contena, even though there are some amazing tools out there.

For example, she helpfully suggested I create a provocative headline, but never mentioned this Headline Analyzer Tool, and these headline tips (both free).

I was frequently encouraged to publish to promote my brand, but engaging or giving back was never mentioned.

I feel like something’s missing here. Something important.

Do I like the alternatives because they’re free?

You may suspect I recommend alternatives because they’re significantly cheaper, and mostly free.

I’ve paid for my Contena membership, so don’t get any financial benefit by looking for resources elsewhere.

Given how much the average writer makes in a year (around $50,000), I thought you might find these options more affordable, and more useful.

The verdict

Signing up for Contena felt like paying for a house, and instead being given a mostly weatherproof cardboard box.

It’s not a total scam, but you can’t help but feel misled (available jobs for example) and you may wonder why you paid for it.

This Contena review was more direct:

Overall, I find this service to be a waste of money and scammy…I had a feeling that this was a case of “too good to be true” before joining… I should have listened to my gut!

— Contena Review, 2018

Contena has a user-friendly front, and Contena Academy provides actionable tips on self-promotion.

The idea of training, a coach, and a job board all in one virtual place sounds incredibly convenient. That’s what sold me.

If job opportunities were sourced from around the world and truly remote, it would be a fantastic resource.

The idea is as beautiful as the many affiliate* reviews out there (what’s an affiliate review? scroll down a touch).

If only the product were as good as the promises.

Thinking of signing up to Contena?

Try the free alternatives listed here instead, and spend your $$ on something fun.

Accusations from Contena

In Nov 2019 Contena threatened me with legal action if I didn’t remove this review.

Is it standard practice for Contena to bully people who post reviews they don’t like?

“We all don’t like negative reviews but Kevin seems to threaten anyone that writes a negative review (even if it’s an honest review) with legal action.”

Contena Review, Aug 2019

In 2017 this writer says she removed her negative review after Contena threatened her with legal action, even though her review was truthful.

After replacing her review with a brief explanation about why it had been removed apparently Kevin Fleming, CEO of Contena, told her to remove her revised post and threatened her with legal action again.

In 2018 I heard from a writer who claims to have removed their negative review after…you guessed it…threats of legal action by Kevin Fleming, Contena’s CEO.

The writer felt their negative review was thorough and honest, but removed the post because they couldn’t afford a lawyer, and were afraid of legal action.

Seems a bit suss to me. How many other writers have been threatened?

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Another negative Contena review, removed after the writer was threatened with legal action.

After Contena threatened me with legal action a lawyer read my review.

The lawyer advised there is “no actionable defamation against you for any of the statements in this review” and advised Contena of the same.

He further added “This appears to be a blatant attempt to intimidate someone…to take down a review that Contena does not like”.

As far as I know my review is true and I haven’t broken the law. I never put this review behind a paywall, never took money for the content, nothing.

This is a review based on my personal experience. Calm down.

Not only would I not recommend the Contena product, I wouldn’t trust a writing company that has a history of threatening writers.

*Amendment: Affiliate reviews

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Image Credit: Sharon McCutcheon

Having positive reviews splashed all over the internet matters. Over 70% of consumers only take action after reading a positive review.

It matters almost as much as removing negative reviews. A recent survey found 86% of customers hesitate before purchasing from a company with negative reviews, or they simply shop elsewhere.

Originally I had said all positive Contena reviews I found were sponsored.

Instead, I should have said they were written by affiliate partners.

Is there a difference?

An affiliate partner is paid for people who click through their review (or use a relevant discount code) and buy a Contena membership.

Kind of like being paid a referral fee, or sales commission.

If a review has lots of links to one website, or offers a discount code, it’s likely they’re an affiliate partner to that website.

In both cases the writer is rewarded for a positive review.

Typically with sponsorship the company controls the content.

If a review has lots of links to one website, or offers a discount code, it’s likely they’re an affiliate partner to that website.

An affiliate partner controls their own content. Of course if they write a negative review they won’t get paid.

No one’s likely to buy from a review that says “the product sucks, click here”, but they have every right to say that.

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Loves making the world a better place and snacks.

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