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'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.

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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