The 30 Day Marketing Boot Camp for Freelance Writers

Demand Studios—You Can Make Over Two Million Dollars If You Try Really Hard

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on December 25, 2009 in Freelance Writing Business, Freelance Writing Jobs
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In this series, we personally test traditional online freelance marketplaces to share first-hand experiences and honest assessments of marketplaces and resulting jobs, as many freelance writers turn to these outlets to find writing gigs. You can read all the posts in the series here.

This week, I did some work with Demand Studios. I have a very long history with Demand Studios. As many readers know, they were one of the first mills I worked with. I have over 130 articles with them, most of them published between July 2008 and February 2009--before I realized how much more money I could make working with regular clients instead of content mills. I’m mentioning this because it is impossible for my past experience NOT to factor in to this review. I am not a fan of Demand Studios' recruiting tactics, copyeditors, process, format and monetization structure. That being said, I don't think they're evil or "bad," I'd just like to see them do things differently.

Demand Studios: The Door is Always Open

Demand Studios is a content mill that pays from $5 (for really short, 200ish word “fact sheets”) to $25 (for specialized health content articles of about 400-500 words). Most of the articles offered by Demand Studios are in the $15 range and the topics are varied. Know how to build a chicken coop? Then they might need an article from you. Know anything about business? Hop on board.

They have quite a few different style guides you need to familiarize yourself with for their various article types. As an example, you might write a list, an "About" article, a how to or a fact sheet. You will need to submit a resume and samples in order to be approved as a writer.

The Pros for Freelance Writers

Once you're approved you have access to a system with over 150,000 titles available. At an average (I'm guessing) of $15 per article, that's well over $2m  sitting there waiting for you. Just log in, claim the article titles you want to write and then make sweet love...no...that's not right...oh yeah, make sweet typey-typey with your keyboard and create cheap masterpieces on the quick. This appeals to many people because:

  1. Client work can be unpredictable. If you want extra spending money you can’t always call a client and ask for extra articles. You can pitch needed services to existing clients (like suggesting an e-book for a new product they have or some article marketing) but that doesn't have a guaranteed success rate. Demand Studios titles are a guaranteed thing.
  2. You can drop the ball. Since Demand Studios is its own entity, there are no individual clients waiting for you to turn in the work. You can claim up to 10 titles as a newbie and then, if you only feel like doing 5, you can cut out on the other 5 and run away to Cabo with no one disappointed or hurting—unlike Textbroker where you have a client who is expecting the article/web content and needs it in order to run their business.
  3. No marketing. No networking. No querying.

The Cons for Freelance Writers

So hey, man, what’s the downside? Uh…an average of $15 per article friend, that’s the downside. Unless you are super fast, don't really care about the process of creating an article (you know, the thinking and crafting part that you won't have time with while working for Demand Studios) and get no rewrite requests, you're not going to make much money. Say what? Rewrite requests? Um…yeah…rewrite requests.


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Here’s the thing about Demand Studios that pisses me off the most. You are given a title. That’s it. You don’t get to interview your client, find out who the target is, or figure out what the point of your article is supposed to be. This week I chose all life insurance, annuity and IRA articles because those are easiest for me and I gave all pertinent information in the articles. But you see, my idea of what should be in the articles and the copyeditor’s were very, very different. I don't remember it being so bad before but this week was terrible. 90% of my articles came back with rewrite requests and some of them were just stupid--like asking me to add some information that had nothing to do with the article topic or that wasn't even true of the topic discussed. Some of the rewrites I understood, although the articles were perfectly fine without the info the copyeditors just wanted to go an extra mile. This wouldn’t be a problem if you were able to sort that out at the beginning, as you would doing due diligence with a normal client, but with DS it just means extra time spent redoing shit you’ve already done.

Show Me the Money

So what’s the bottom line? What did I make? I monitored my work this week with Demand Studios using the Slim Timer application (as I did with Textbroker last week) and timed everything: going through titles, picking assignments, writing the assignments, and doing the rewrite requests. I wrote a bunch of $7.50 articles that were about 200 words each and one little $3 “Answer” to a question (about 40 words) and made a whopping $63 in 2.5 hours which makes my hourly average $25.20. As I said, this includes time to find titles and edit for requested rewrites.

If you think in terms of a regular job, you might think that $25.20 an hour is pretty good—but as a self employed individual there are some other things to consider. If you work a regular job and make $25.20 an hour then you make over $52k per year. Your employer pays about 7.5% of your social security and supplies you with some combination of benefits that may or may not include: vacation time, sick time, group health benefits, and 401K matches.

In addition, making $52K a year with Demand Studios at $25ish an hour means about 8 hours of non-stop typing, 5 days a week, every single week of the year. How does that compare to an office job where you get variety and breaks?

Freelance Writing Insider's Tip

I think that content mills like Demand Studios, despite their drawbacks, may have a place in the lives of some writers but I can't imagine anyone actually liking them for full time work. You can make so much more with so fewer hours if you position yourself correctly as an expert in your specialty, start networking and marketing (yeah, it doesn’t take that much time and if you know what value you bring to the table it’s not obnoxious or unwelcome) and get yourself some real clients.

If you really want to try Demand Studios, have at it. Don't forget to work on positioning yourself and building that platform (visit The Query-Free Freelancer for tips) while you use Demand for money. Stick with topics you know and write only one kind of article so that you don't have to change voice and style to match varying style guidelines.

Oh, one last thing, they have no way at this time to disable accounts so make sure you use a pen name because you may be attached to that stuff forever.

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Yo Prinzel
Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express, Covestor.com, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

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The 30 Day Marketing Boot Camp for Freelance Writers

Yo Prinzel

12 Comments

  1. Jennifer Mattern December 25, 2009 Reply

    The rewrite requests are something I hear a lot about from Demand writers, and one that seems almost silly at times. If they want to “go the extra mile” they’d better be prepared to pay for a higher level of work for starters. Beyond that though, they’ll request things like completely unnecessary sources — in reality, they should be thrilled that a niche specialist would even consider writing for them and sharing real-world experiences. There are times when the author is all the source a piece needs (and obviously times where that isn’t the case). But when you write for someone who allows writers to jump around and write about things they might know nothing about, I guess you set yourself up for those kinds of requests.

    You hit a very important point Yo. There’s a lot of talk about how “Oh, I can make $30k or $40k with Demand Studios if I work full-time for them and write fast, so it’s a great job!” That’s bullshit.

    1. As you noted, $30k or $40k freelancing does not equal the same amount in a salary position, which is what people tend to compare things to income-wise. While I covered this in more detail in the rate-setting article linked in the sidebar, very briefly what you DO need to compare it to is your cost to an employer as opposed to the salary. A 5-figure difference is pretty typical.

    2. A lot of the people talking about how easy it would be if they just write fast haven’t been doing it long enough (or full-time) to speak to the most important point — sustainability. No writer should have to push themselves to the brink of burning out just to make what still amounts to a pretty mediocre living. That doesn’t even account for the fact that not all 40 hours per week (in a typical full-time work week) are spent actually writing — at least not if the writer’s competent in running their overall business.

  2. Yo Author
    Yo December 25, 2009 Reply

    Yeah, the post was already so long that I had to take a bunch out but I had mentioned in the original version that when you work in an office for an hourly wage or salary that amounts to $52k it isn’t generally a factory-type setting in which you do one task, without stopping, all day. You get up to pee, make coffee, go to meetings, answer the phone, chat with coworkers, do paperwork, surf the web for work..and for a couple minutes just for fun, so on and so forth. The time I spend doing DS work is time spent typing and that’s it. It’s not pleasant. I can understand people using them as a back up for money, for extra money, or as a temporary part time gig, but I can not imagine planning to go full time with them.

  3. Jennifer Mattern December 25, 2009 Reply

    One of the salary comparison sites (it might be salary.com) allows users to search not only salaries, but employee cost as well (factoring in the employer’s part of taxes, average benefits they contribute to, etc.). That’s the number that really matters. So for example, to have the same lifestyle that $52k salary would provide, a freelancer might have to earn more like $65-70k to have all other things equal.

  4. Jennifer Mattern December 25, 2009 Reply

    OK, it definitely is Salary.com. I just did a sample search for my own local area (for a level 1 copywriter). As an example, here’s the average salary, but then the average cost when you factor in other things like vacation time and benefits:

    Salary: $41,101
    Real cost: $60,703

    Therefore if you wanted to quit your day job paying $41,101 and have an equivalent lifestyle freelancing, you couldn’t aim for around $40k as a freelance writer. You’d have to set the bar to around $60k.

    After doing a few searches for different writing-related jobs, it turned out that there was around a 30% difference each time (give or take a little).

  5. Mitch December 25, 2009 Reply

    I was writing for them, but as you mentioned, they kept wanting rewrites, then would deny them when I’d do the rewrites without telling me what they wanted. And for stupid stuff also; I finally asked them to close out my account. And you’re right, even on topics I knew well because they were in my industry, they would want me to link to outside sources that didn’t make any sense, then be upset because I did it.

    Just a major waste of my time; ended up having to write about it in my blog as well.

  6. Stace Johnson December 26, 2009 Reply

    FYI, the link to the other posts in the series pulls up a 404 error.

  7. Jessie December 26, 2009 Reply

    Demand Studios…I’ve got a love / hate relationship going on with DS. I derive most of my income from DS right now. When I first applied to DS, I was super-psyched. I write business articles, which I love to write, and when I want to get immediately paid for something I want to share info. about, I can suggest it and make $5–while very measly that dough is, it does let me take something that would be filed in a folder somewhere and make quick cash. DS is good for the things that you will write about quickly and enjoy writing. For me, I can write business articles very well fairly quickly. I also have a very low cost of living.

    Sometimes, writing for DS can feel sluggish and icky, but what I love is that I feel fairly certain it will be there in some capacity. I know that content mills aren’t completely secure and the work could go away at any time, but it helps to have it there to fund projects like blogs and content sites I want to create myself.

    Regarding rewrites, I get them occasionally / infrequently, but maybe it is the sting of a recent pain in the ass client but I find that my rewrite requests have been invariably less annoying than some clients will be.

    Sorry to sound all grinchy. Demand Studios does have a place for some writers. Excellent objective reporting Yo.

  8. Jennifer Mattern December 27, 2009 Reply

    “DS is good for the things that you will write about quickly and enjoy writing.”

    That’s what your own blogs are good for, and why writers should learn how to effectively monetize them (it’s not that difficult to earn at least the modest income you’re talking about from them, and you don’t have to rewrite or associate your name with a mill that won’t remove your account on request).

    I’ve also found that rewrite requests are rather minimal with “normal” clients, and the higher their budgets, the fewer rewrite requests there often are.

    I wouldn’t have much faith in DS being around in the long term. That’s not to say they won’t be, but rather that it’s silly to assume so and place the future of your career on them. It’s foolish enough to rely mostly or solely on a single 3rd party. It’s even worse to rely on a 3rd party whose own future relies almost solely on another 3rd party (in this case the whims of Google — a company known for killing income models when it suits their own purposes).

  9. Jessie December 27, 2009 Reply

    Jenn,
    I agree with what you said about writer’s own blogs. I’m trying to figure out the right niches for me. I’m using my DS money to hold me over without any hassle. Reread your real look at residual income…totally convinced!

    • Jennifer Mattern December 27, 2009 Reply

      If you want to make money at it, you can’t spend time toying around with different niches. Make a list of everything you could write about. Do some keyword research to see if people are actually searching for / interested in the topic and how well advertisers are paying, and then devote yourself to the niche. There’s very little trial and error in it with all of the information available these days for market research. The only thing that determines whether or not a blog is profitable or successful is how dedicated the blogger is to reaching their goals.

  10. Jessie December 27, 2009 Reply

    Thanks Jenn for the dead on advice.

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