Ugh. I’m so sorry to hear that. You’re not the only freelancer to have gotten lured into one of those sites. My rule of thumb, even as a newbie, was never to accept less than $10 for every 100 words, unless it was a fantastic gig that would get me good exposure. Even if you don’t have a portfolio, you should only take on projects you’ll be proud to show to other people when they ask what you’ve done. It sounds like you are creating good work right now, but unfortunately, it’s for a client who totally doesn’t deserve it.
oDesk has put me under supervision based on negative feedback from clients even though my rating is 4.77. One client said that he already had 700 words. When I looked at what he wrote, it was on a sixth-grade level. No research, statistics, compelling copy, SEO keywords, etc. So I had to start from scratch. I ended up acting like a tutor. Another client loved my work but kept disappearing. I asked for her website address, information about her company, etc. She let another week go by then disappeared again. I could go on and on. I think that clients who use the content mills do believe that they can get stellar writing for peanuts. I believe these incidents are blessings in disguise. I’ve had my wake-up call. I follow top-notch bloggers and copywriters and hone my skills continually. It is up to the freelancer to determine his standards and ultimately his worth.
These little jobs are done by people who log on to a company’s site and choose tasks, which could be as simple as clicking a link. Amazon's Mechanical Turk is one of the most well-known sites of this type. Also, there are crowdsourcing projects, which are similar to data entry, where companies engage an army of virtual workers to each do one small part of a larger project.