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Demand Studios – Devil or Savior?

I wouldn’t be properly covering freelance options, especially content writing, if I didn’t talk about Demand Studios. A quick Internet search will provide opinions on Demand Studios that seem most often to swing in one extreme direction or another. Some writers declare DS a savior, while others are convinced DS is the devil.

Some entrenched in the old school of journalism blame companies like DS for the downfall of journalism. I think this is a bit of a stretch. I do not think that an article on How to Hang a Toilet Paper Roll somehow lowered the profit margin of any major news reporting agency. Bottom line, DS does not report news. It provides information articles for a collection of company-owned websites and outside clients written with the sole purpose of generating ad revenue in mind. So I call the reports of DS killing journalism bunk. They are apples and oranges.

Others argue that DS has cheapened writing by paying sweatshop rates while some contend that they make more per hour writing for DS than they could at a regular job. Again, I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare the pay per word at DS to the pay per word for a national distributed magazine. That would be no more accurate than comparing the pay per word for a magazine article to the pay per word for a technical manual. Writing is not all the same, and writers, of all people, should realize that. So what is the pay reality?

A regular 400-word DS article pays $15. Some shorter formats are available that pay $3, $5 and $7.50. Special projects are available to those that qualify that offer 400-word articles at higher rates of $20 and $25. Based on posts on the DS forums, I’d say the average DS writer writes mostly $15 articles at a rate of two per hour. That’s $30/hour in pay, which, when annualized, equates to an annual salary of $62,400. Sure, some will argue that self-employment tax makes that same $62,400 less than salary paid at a regular job. The additional 7.65 percent of tax paid due to self-employment adds up, but so does gas, oil changes, tolls, dry cleaning and business clothes expense of a regular job. If one also considers the available tax deductions for the self-employed, then the person working for home is likely to net more of that same $62,400 than the person earning the same salary at a regular job.

Sounds great, so why all the complaining?

The DS system of writing is not for everyone. DS provides specific style guides and rules for article creation. Copy editors review articles not only for grammar but for factual accuracy and to ensure that the information given meets the title requirements. If an article falls short, the CE can request a rewrite. If the rewrite falls short, the article is rejected and the writer is out the time and money. Some writers do not feel comfortable or perform well working within such strict guidelines. Some writers have a limited range of knowledge on DS topics and find that the time to research an article outweighs the money made by writing it.

So is the system perfect, otherwise?

Of course not. DS is not heavenly. System glitches occur that make people groan. Guidelines are often inconsistently distributed and enforced. CEs and writers often interpret guidelines differently and butt heads. But the reality is, it’s an article processing machine. Hundreds of thousands of titles are available to write. There are no quotas or limits, so no matter how much or how little time you have available, you can make money writing at DS. And then there’s the payment processing. Unlike many content companies that pay once a month, DS processes payment for articles approved twice a week, far more often than any regular employer I know.

Bottom line: I started writing for DS a little over a year ago and have been perfectly happy writing for them. I hold a full-time day job and have novels under contract, so I write articles in between other deadlines. Where else could I obtain part-time employment that allows me to work from home, whenever I want and as much or as little as I want, then pays me within a week or two for all the work I’ve completed? Despite my busy schedule, I’ve managed to make an additional $17k in my first year of writing for DS. Not too shabby.

But as with all things, your mileage may vary.

4 Responses to “Demand Studios – Devil or Savior?”

  • I started writing for DS part-time when I still had a full-time job. Now that I’ve gone full time, my only real complaint is that sometimes it seems to take the CE’s forever to read my articles. I tend to be more motivated when my articles are processed quickly. On the other hand, I work only five to six hours per day and make an average of $100 to $150 per day, and occasionally I’ve been able to get 8 articles out in 3 hours if I can find topics I already know a lot about. So the slow payment is (sometimes) worth it.

    • Jana DeLeon:

      I know a lot of people do quite well fulltime with DS. It’s also been a real savior to many who have suffered loss of regular jobs or with spouse’s who have lost jobs. The slow review times seem to come and go but mostly come with system glitches. Growing pains. 🙂

      I’m glad you’ve found something that works well for you!

  • Renae:

    I actually worked on the other side of things at a predecessor to DS, as a CE and doing some of the marketing stuff. I’m pretty torn on my views of the whole $15 per article bit. It does boil down to sweatshop labor for some people–a disturbing number of articles come in that you’re pretty sure the person spent 4+ hours on. I wince when I see those, especially when the person just keeps writing them, and is even grateful to make $2 an hour because it lets them be a stay at home mom. For the people who have the self-discipline and skills to keep themselves to a 2 an hour or even 1 an hour target, though, I’m happy it’s making them money and is an opportunity for them.

    The part that really drives me crazy, though, is the differences between SEO work (self-writing publishers) and freelance writing (people selling their writing to people who SEO it). In both cases, the work is very very similar, with just slightly more technical knowledge needed on the SEO side. People approaching it SEO self-publishing style make much much much more money in the long run, though, to the point where I could see some of the 60k a year DS writers making 600k a year if they’d started in SEO self-publishing 5 or 10 years earlier. And when you take a look at the two “communities” another difference becomes obvious… SEO people are primarily men, 30sish, ambitious goals and a fair amount of education. The freelance writers are more often women, more often stay at home moms, more often live rurally and are midwestern or southern. The why of that is a chicken vs egg question, but anyway… drives me nuts.

    Oh, and as an aside, thanks so much for your tax help ebook. It was exactly what I needed.

    • janall:

      Renae – I get what you’re saying about slave labor, but then I would also argue that if it takes someone hours to write a single article, maybe they aren’t really a writer and shouldn’t attempt to make a living that way. I love woodworking, but I’d starve if I had to do it for pay because I’m so slow.

      I am learning the SEO stuff now and it’s a handful to try and grasp. Not to mention that finding something that hasn’t been done a million times is difficult if you’re looking to make your own site. And without the ability to post thousands of articles a day, individuals come up short compared to the mega-content monsters.

      I’m so glad the ebook helped! If there is anything else you wanted to know or anything that wasn’t clear, please let me know. I definitely want to make updates where needed.

      Thanks for posting!

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