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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.