Write from home in your jammies and get paid for it? Stay home with your kids and make money on the side?
We’ve heard it all before.
When I first saw an ad for Demand Studios several months ago, I was doubtful as to its legitimacy.
Demand Studios is a company that pays freelance writers a flat fee to create content for websites like eHow, Livestrong.com, and Answerbag.
At worst, I thought D.S. was just another work-from-home scam designed to prey upon stay-at-home-parents and those down on their luck.
At best, I figured it was similar to freelance job boards where writers bid on projects and the winner is usually the person willing to write for the least amount of money.
Not long after I first heard about Demand Studios, I began to see advertisements and reviews everywhere. It seemed the entire writing community was split over whether or not D.S. was a scam or a legitimate freelancing opportunity.
So, I decided to go undercover to get the scoop.
(Okay, so I didn’t exactly go undercover. I used my own name. But it was still exciting.)
My Demand Studios Story
A little over a month ago, I signed up to write for Demand Studios. So far, I’ve written 11 articles in my spare time.
The following are some questions you might have about Demand Studios and what it’s like to write for them. I’ll share my personal experience as well as some of the things I’ve heard from other writers.
Is Demand Studios a scam?
No. Demand Studios is a legitimate company that hires writers to create content.
Some experienced freelancers who are accustomed to earning higher wages may believe the company takes advantage of writers by paying them so little.
Here’s what journalist Michelle V. Rafter of WordCount says:
Content aggregators like Demand Studios represent the lowest rung of freelance opportunity. It doesn’t take a lot of journalism training, writing experience or time to put together the kind of evergreen how-to articles these types of sites thrive on, which is one reason why the pay’s so low. Another has to do with supply and demand. When there’s a large supply of writers, professional or otherwise, willing and able to do the work, sites like Demand Studios don’t have to offer higher rates to attract the labor they need.
I don’t disagree with Rafter, but I think D.S. works for many people.
What is the approval process like?
After I’d submitted a short application and writing sample, the approval process took only a few days. I was given instant access to assignments and a large resource centre that includes in-depth style guides. There is no sign-up fee like some writing sites.
Familiarizing myself with the system, style guides, and article formats took several hours, and I needed to check the guides again as I wrote my first few articles.
Is there a probationary period for new writers?
The first three articles you write must be approved by a senior copy editor who gives you detailed feedback on your writing style, content, and mechanics. You can only reserve three article titles (the titles are already written for you) until all of those have been written and reviewed.
Once you’ve completed all three, you’re allowed to reserve up to ten titles at a time, and you’ll have a week to complete them. If you don’t complete an assignment in time, it goes back in the queue for someone else to claim.
Will I be able to write in my field of expertise?
At first I found it difficult to find titles in my field (creative writing, education, parenting), but after getting acquainted with the database of articles, I’m now usually able to reserve enough to keep me busy. A lot of titles are highly technical.
Depending on your field of expertise, you may or may not find suitable topics, but there’s a constant influx of new titles available.
What kind of articles will I have to write?
When you reserve an article title, it’s already attached to a template such as ‘List,’ ‘How-to,’ ‘About,’ or ‘Fact Sheet.’ You fill in the template boxes and the article is automatically formatted.
You must research your article and cite references and resources.
I was unable to find very many good references for the first article I wrote, which meant I spent far longer writing it than I intended to.
How much money can I make?
Earning potential is technically unlimited, but you’d have to work at break-neck pace to make a full-time freelance income. You are generally paid $7.50 for 150-200 word articles, and $15.00 for 400-500 word articles.
It may seem like okay money for the word count, but researching, citing references, finding resources, and uploading photos increases your writing time.
It’s more worth my time to choose higher-paying assignments because I tend to do just as much research for the lower-paying ones.
How long does it take to write a D.S. article?
The first three articles I wrote took more than two hours each to write. This takes into account learning the system and style guides and becoming acquainted with D.S. copy editors’ expectations.
However, I wasn’t too worried about time traded for money near the beginning of this experiment, because it takes time to learn the ropes in any new job.
Now it generally takes me from 45-60 minutes to research, write, upload, and proofread a $15.00 article (so, I earn $15-$20 per hour). I use an online stopwatch to make sure I don’t take too long.
How do I avoid being asked to rewrite articles?
Two-out-of-three of my first articles were asked for rewrites.
Study the guidelines thoroughly and become familiar with the templates. Use credible references in your research. Proofread your work. Don’t interpret titles to suit your own preferences; interpret them according to the types of results you get if you do a Google search of the title.
What are the pros of writing for D.S.?
- Get paid twice weekly; always prompt
- No sign-up/membership fees
- High degree of job flexibility
- No minimum commitment
- Access to experienced copy editors
- Learn to use AP style guide (used by magazines and newspapers)
- The work comes to you; no bidding like on job boards
- You can reserve titles for up to seven days
What are the cons of writing for Demand Studios?
- Low pay
- Limited titles in some subject categories
- Giving away full rights to your work
- Not really the type of work you’d use in a freelance portfolio
- You’re given one chance to rewrite an article, and if it doesn’t meet expectations it’s rejected and you aren’t paid for your work
- Making a decent wage relies on being a fast writer and typist
Do Demand Studios copy editors make unreasonable requests?
I’ve read oodles of complaints about how unreasonable the copy editors are at Demand Studios.
I’ve been asked for rewrites on four out of 10 of my articles, but I don’t feel any of the requests were out of line.
I got a lot of helpful feedback on my first couple of articles, and the next two rewrite requests were for very simple things (i.e. clarify one ambiguous point, and revise a dull introduction).
Here are a couple of encouraging comments I’ve received from editors:
“Hi there! Welcome to DS and I hope you are navigating your way around the site comfortably. […] Regarding your submission, great work! I look forward to reading future pieces from you. Good luck!”
“Suzannah: Very nice article. Keep up the good work.”
Of course, that’s not to say that some copy editors aren’t nicer than others, or more tactful than others. I have no doubt that unreasonable requests are made from time-to-time, but I wouldn’t say that’s the norm.
Should I freelance for Demand Studios?
Obviously if you have a background in freelance writing for more lucrative markets, writing for D.S. would be a step in the wrong direction, unless you use it to fill gaps in your work.
However, I think it’s a good place to start for beginners or university students, or those just looking to make a bit of reliable cash.
Now, the big question: will I continue to write for Demand Studios?
Yes, but I’ll only choose articles I know I can write in 45 minutes or less. I’m not looking to replace a full-time income, so any money I make is great.
I’ll also look for opportunities to freelance for other sites and magazines so I can build my portfolio. If anything, working for D.S. has given me a thirst for the flexibility of freelance writing, and I love the freedom I have to spend time with my kids and not worry about sending them to daycare.
- Have you ever, or would you ever, work for Demand Studios?
- Do you feel it’s fair to pay low wages for simple, template-style articles? If not, what do you feel would be fair?
- If you have any questions about my experience writing for Demand Studios, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you soon.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Join the discussion
Demand Studios Writer Michael says
Very nice and thorough article on Demand Studios. I agree with what you said here, and think you provide a balanced perspective.
Rebecca Mastey says
I’ve written for Demand Studios for over a year. I know that a lot of people say the pay is low (and it is), or that it’s a content mill (and it is) or that writers could find greener pastures elsewhere (and they [probably] could).
However, all three require that you have something better going on. Sure, when I have a gig that pays x times as much, I’ll work on that. Demand Studios, however, is instant gratification. If I need to come up with cash quickly, I may not have the luxury of finding high paying gigs quickly. DS is always there, there are always assignments, and I can always rely on getting paid in a timely fashion (occasional PayPal snafus aside). It might not be the best place to make a “living”, but it’s definitely worthwhile for filling in the gaps or weathering dry spells.
Michael Smith says
Well said, Rebecca. I have found that I often make more money hourly writing for Demand Studios than for some of the big boys. It’s not the most glamorous work, but I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of either. It’s a great gap filler as well, since freelance writing can be so unpredictable.
I think there is a lot of elitism out there that shows up when people dismiss Demand Studios and the like. Demand Studios isn’t trying to create journalistic articles, and therefore journalism as a whole shouldn’t feel so threatened by it.
It’s also worth noting that it can be hard to get freelance clients to pay on time sometimes, or in worse cases at all. Getting paid twice a week is no small thing.
Yes, a wonderful gap filler. And, I do think it has a lot of potential for stay-at-home-parents who want to earn a bit of income while they care for their children. $15 doesn’t sound like much, but it buys enough food for a week’s worth of school lunches, pays for a swimming lesson, or covers a month’s worth of kids’ club fees for me!
Well put, Rebecca. D.S. does offer nearly instant gratification, especially with the two payouts per week. It’s nice to keep a little money in the PayPal account so you can buy products or eBooks online that can help you grow your potential, as well. Part of me feels the pay is too low, but then the articles are more time-consuming than difficult to write. I wouldn’t argue against a pay increase, though! 🙂
I write full-time for DS and make WAY more than I did as a full-time magazine staff writer. I don’t work at “break neck speed” and make enough to live and even thrive on. I’ve been paid $400 to write articles for glossy magazines in the past, but I also had to wait months to see the money. I’m making about $1000 writing DS articles this week. I’m sure that’s more than most full-time freelancers (who don’t write for DS) make. I’ve been writing for DS (along with other clients) since 2007 and the company is just growing and growing. I don’t get how writing for DS is a “step in the wrong direction,” either. I’ve been writing a lot of decorating articles and will soon use my experience to pitch Country Living, Better Homes and Gardens and other magazines.
Thanks so much for sharing your experiences working with D.S. As I’ve said, there are a lot of good things about Demand Studios, and I intend to continue writing articles for them when I see ones I can write in a reasonable amount of time.
I’m impressed you were able to earn $1000 in one week, though. One thousand dollars divided by $15.00 equals 66 articles per week, which means you’d have to write 11 articles per day, 6 days per week. You’d also probably spend at least 8 hours every day writing them, unless you are an exceptionally quick writer and researcher. Are you perhaps writing for Livestrong? I hear they pay $20 or more for their articles.
Yes, it would be possible to make a decent living at D.S. if you put in that amount of time.
By “step in the wrong direction,” I was referring to those who are able to make higher wages freelancing elsewhere. Obviously your experience has taught you that D.S. is a better way to go for you, and that’s great.
Jessica Hill says
This article is extremely helpful. I am trying to get into freelancing, and I had been considering applying for Demand Studios as a way to try to build the beginnings of a portfolio. Under one of your cons, you said that the work for DS isn’t really the type of work you would include in a freelance portfolio. Do you believe that’s true even for freelancers just getting started? Thanks!
I’m not saying you couldn’t use D.S. articles in a portfolio, but I probably wouldn’t include them if I had print articles from magazines, journals, or newspapers. I’m torn as to whether I would even list D.S. among my writing experience in a query letter because–rightly or wrongly–some people view the company poorly. To be honest, I’d be more likely to attach clips of some of my non-paid guest posts as samples of my writing (which are far superior in content and creativity to the type of articles I write for D.S.). If you have no other clips, go ahead and use ones from D.S.
I HAVE learned a lot of useful skills writing for them though, mostly how to work very quickly, how to use the AP style guide, and how to be concise.
Good luck with getting your portfolio started!
Your experience with DS mirrors mine. No, you won’t get rich, but the frequent pay fills in the gaps nicely. I’ve found that’s it’s getting harder to find those $15 articles that can be written in 45 min or less. I find myself writing more $7.50 articles, and as you say, they take an equal amount of work so that makes them less valuable to write. Still, I like writing for DS and see it as something to do along with other, bigger opportunities.
I do love the consistency of the pay–that’s one thing D.S. does really well. I’ve pretty much stopped writing the $7.50 articles, but then I’m not relying on writing for D.S. as an income. It would be really nice if they had opportunities for higher skilled writers to write more creative articles. I do know they’re starting something like this for feature articles, but you have to have several years’ worth of experience before you’ll be considered. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thx for the post on this as I have often wondered if they were a scam or not. I write for a national magazine and the pay is good, but it’s time consuming and the paycheck comes weeks after publication. Smaller, less mentally taxing pieces might be just the thing for those in-between-big-articles times. I hope you keep us updated on how this goes for you and how you are making it work.
You’re right, Amy. If you want to fill in gaps in your freelance work, I’d definitely recommend D.S. There’s not a whole lot of pressure to be creative, and the twice-weekly payout is amazing. I wrote a $15.00 article in 37 minutes yesterday, so I was pleased with that! Maybe I can cut down my time to 30 minutes and start making $30 per hour 🙂
Brianna Soloski says
Interesting. Thanks for sharing. I didn’t even make it to the trial articles for DS.
Try doing some guest posts on other blogs, Brianna. You won’t be paid for them, but you can use them as writing samples!
I have written for DS since January of 2009 and often rely on it to make ends meet. Definitely a legit site, if somewhat picky and oftentimes boring.
“Somewhat picky”–some of the copy editors are, definitely.
“Oftentimes boring”—uh huh 🙂
Thank you Suzannah, for a highly informative and encouraging article. I admit to being quite curious, but as I have just started calling my written words ‘writing’, I will be filing this under my overwhelming ‘useful. use some day’ drawer. But good to know opportunities like this exist. Many thanks
Michelle Mccartney1 says
I just love your ” overwhelming ‘useful. use some day’ drawer”. It has given me the courage to come out of the closet about mine and now maybe I’ll get around to decluttering it and having an ‘items published ‘ drawer that out sizes the former. Good luck with your WRITING.
My DS experience has been pretty much like yours as well. It’s a nice way to make a little extra cash. Last year I made enough money to buy christmas gifts and had some money left over for myself.
L. C. Sterling says
Here’s the problem. What are you making per word? At $10-15 per 500-1,000 word article, you’re working for less than you’d make saying “would you like fries with that?”Treating writers like galley slaves is the ultimate goal of these content mills. Demand has received $300 million in VC funds and has a valuation twice that. Why should self-respecting writers make 2 cents/word … or less … working for a media giant like that?
What’s perhaps even worse about content mills is how much they’re bringing down the quality of writing. How esle can someone write as many articles as it takes to make minimum wage without doing “mash-ups” of existing content that’s out there?
Don’t forget what “content aggregator” means. They’re middle-men. They collect generic articles to sell to USA Today and other online media powerhouses. They’re cutting you out.Go direct. Sign up for Wooden Horse (http://www.woodenhorsepub.com/) and FundsforWriters.com.
Justin P Lambert says
I agree with your overall assessment: I’d never try to rely on DS to pay the bills, but I’ve always been very happy with the quick turnaround, and in many cases I actually had fun researching and writing the articles because I was able to pick topics I was actually interested in. And I’ve also had a few of my DS forays spark an idea for higher-paying articles I’ve queried elsewhere. (Of course, with major re-writes and expansions required.) All-in-all, though, I’ve had no complaints.
Fellow DS writers, if you are willing to be interviewed via email for an article I’m writing on the pros and cons of writing for a content mill like Demand Studios, please email me. As my comment above states, I’ve largely found it to be a positive experience, although I plan to offer tips to help others avoid some of the potential pitfalls.
This article is contracted for a major publication. If you are interested, please email me at pwriter1[at]yahoo[dot]com with the subject line: Demand Studios Interview.
I should have added, please email me by Jan 3, 2011 if you are interested.
I’ve worked for Demand for more than two years, and it’s been a great way to fill in when my technical writing jobs get lean. I’ve been there long enough, and have written hundreds of articles, that I get offered higher paying special assignments too. I’ve tried working at it full-time, but it really is too grueling for me; although, some people seem do it.
Demand Studios is definitely legitimate. That doesn’t mean it is for everyone, but it works well for a lot of freelance writers. This article is really well written and is a great “way in” to understanding what Demand Studios is all about. Good work.