Write It Sideways

Demand Studios: Scam or Legitimate Freelancing?

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.?

What are the cons of writing for Demand Studios?

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.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.