October 14, 2009

Demand Studios - What Their Average Contributors Are Saying... By Angela Hoy | printable version

We have been profiling content mills and companies that have revenue sharing / pay-per-click programs. You know the type. They either offer insultingly low rates for articles (and often take all rights)...or you work your butt off to fill their site with content, and promote their site to get lots of clicks and/or ad revenue. They then earn money on ads placed on your content pages and you usually end up earning less than minimum wage, if anything at all.

Last week, I issued a call for writers who write, or have written, for Demand Studios / DemandStudios.com.

Demand Studios, which is a product of Demand Media, Inc., buys content from writers and sells this content to other websites. They have statements like this appearing on their website: "Demand Studios Writers write made-for-the-Internet text articles that appear on brand name sites like eHow.com, LiveStrong.com and more." However, what they don't tell you in that line is that Demand Studios ALSO OWNS eHow.com and LiveStrong.com. So, while they do sell content to others, they are also filling their own websites with content from their writers.

Demand Studios has two different types of payment models. They have a revenue-share program but they also have a flat fee program. Writers who participate in their revenue sharing program report very, very low pay (you can read their comments below). Even the fees for the flat fee program are pretty dismal ($5-$20 per article - but writers report the $20 payments are rare). But, the flat fee program DOES pay real money and they release payments twice a week. That's great, right? Well, not so fast.

First, for the pitiful pay they offer, they take ALL rights: "...with Demand Media being deemed the sole author of the Contribution and the owner of all rights..."

That's right. You write it, you sell it to them, and you earn nothing more after the initial low fee, even if they syndicate it and sell it over and over again. They can edit it, remove your name, and more. Theirs is a work-for-hire contract. Let me tell you folks...$5 to $20 for all rights is, in our opinion, downright insulting, especially since resources and references must be cited, a free graphic must be chosen and included, and an anonymous editor can request changes or a full re-write (at no additional pay for you), or kill your article altogether. They also have a rating system, which rates their writers. We find it interesting that some writers are given less-than-high ratings (3 is considered "average") by Demand Studios itself...yet the Demand Studios own website claims, "We are proud to work with freelance writers and copy editors who are capable of consistently producing quality content at a very large scale." Are they only talking about some of their writers?

Like I said, I issued a call to our readers asking if anyone writes, or has written, for Demand Studios. I received a few responses, some positive, some negative, and some having comments both positive and negative.

Then, I started getting a flood of emails, back-to-back, obviously not from our readers, saying they heard I was looking for Demand Studios writers. Naturally, I started getting suspicious because some of the responses were pretty similar to others...

Jump past many emails and some research on my part, and on the part of some other angels (some of our subscribers who are also Demand Studios writers), and this is what we discovered.

After my article was published last week, a woman named Deb Ng posted a note to the Demand Studios forum telling their writers I was looking for stories from people who write for Demand Studios.

The problem is, I had asked OUR readers for comments about the company and I hadn't asked anyone to post anything to other websites. I know many of our readers and they always give me the good, the bad, and the ugly. If I don't know them, I can easily find out if they're really a subscriber...or someone else who just popped in - someone whose identity I can't prove. Publishing comments from people who are not our subscribers means I have no idea who these people are and I can't prove they're not someone else. Let's face it. Some naughty companies use "plants" to post positive comments about their firm to forums and other online publications. Also, posting something directly to the Demand Studios forum might get tongues wagging, and may even encourage people to send me false praise just to get into the good graces of Demand Studios. You can see why accepting comments from anonymous third parties could totally skew our profile of this firm.

In a subsequent posting on the Demand Studios forum, Deb Ng wrote: "That's why I posted here. I knew that disgruntled writers would jump on the badmouthing bandwagon. So I wanted to encourage (you) DS writers with positive experiences to contact Angela and tell her your stories."

The "(you)" above was added by Deb Ng., not but us. Also, notice she's now not asking ALL DS writers to contact me - just the ones with positive experiences.

Interestingly, however, not all of the comments coming from the Demand Studios forum users were entirely positive. I also received several emails from people asking me to protect their identity. You'll see some of those below as well.

Another source reported that Deb Ng posted another note to the Demand Studios forum saying I wasn't happy about her posting a note about our investigation. The source reported that she went on to say she didn't have anything to hide but that she also didn't want anyone to mention it to me because she didn't want me to use her post to say she sent a bunch of writers over to say how great DS is. WritersWeekly is in receipt of screenshots of her posts.

Who is Deb Ng, you may ask? Well, she is the owner of freelancewritinggigs.com / The Freelance Writing Jobs Network. So, first, she competes directly with WritersWeekly.com (though I don't recall ever having any disagreement with her). By the way, WritersWeekly does not compete with Demand Studios in any capacity, nor any other revenue-sharing / pay-per-click website. We don't do business that way.

Second, Demand Studios is a paying advertiser on Deb Ng's website.

Third, we found this Sept. 8, 2009 quote directly from Deb Ng's website:

"As you may have heard, Demand Studios and Freelance Writing Jobs have entered into a partnership. In return for Demand's sponsorship, I'm spreading the joy at conferences, this blog, and across the social networks."

She even calls herself "Demand's Ambassador of Freelance Writing and Social Meida (sic)", and made an appearance at their recent "Creators Conference."

I think that says it all, readers.

I'm not going to kill the profile of Demand Studios, however. I have consolidated comments from emails (positive, negative, and in-between) we received that appear to represent the average Demand Studios writer. What does that mean? We did not publish some of the scathing emails we received about them and we also didn't publish the email from someone claiming to be one of their top contributors, nor the one that called Demand Studios "the best job" she ever had...because extreme comments like that are clearly not representative of the average contributor.

Below, we have included the comments that represent the average Demand Studios experience from the average writer. You can then decide if you want to write for this firm or not. You'll definitely see some patterns in the reports below.

NOTE: Words in parentheses below are added by me to protect the identity of the writers who contributed to this profile.

THE FIRST TWO COMMENTS BELOW ARE DIRECTLY FROM DEB NG'S READERS (they appear under her article endorsing them):

Last week, I had problems with instructions from a content editor. This is the first time I've had any disagreements with a content editor in two years working there. Using the help desk, I was given instructions which I felt jeopardized the integrity and truthfulness of the article's content. Since it was an article for eHow, I feel that was a particularly important issue and I made both "Steven" and "Sarah" aware of how I felt.

As a result of concerns that I brought up with the help desk, I received a delightful letter from Sarah Me telling me that my services would no longer be required on Demand Studios. After two years of writing faithfully for the site, I was in fact fired because I questioned the questionable tactics their instructions editors provided.

That is not my idea of treating the writers with respect.

~~~~~

I'm having a similar problem that some of the writers are having. There's no editor continuity. I wrote two articles, in the same category, with similar formats. One is approved and the other is rejected and the editor wants the article completely rewritten in a different format. I can't wait to see how this one turns out...

EMAIL COMMENTS RECEIVED

Angela--Thank you for doing this story. Someone on the DS board posted your call for stories. I just want to tell you what you may not know about it: It was posted by Deb Ng of freelancewritinggigs.com. If you log on to her page, you will see a nice big ad for Demand on there. DS has been an advertiser of hers for several months, so (you might) get a lot of smoke blown up your (expletive removed) after she posted it.

After Deb posted, a bunch of people chimed in about how they had written to you. And in fact, one of Demand's full-time employees, (name removed), chimed in on the thread with:

"Hi deb,

"What a nice suggestion! Great to have you in the Forums. You guys are so amazing when you empower one another!"

I thought it was important to tell you because you do so much to look out for other writers and I didn't like (what Deb did) since she is essentially a hired gun. This is just my little way of showing my appreciation for all that you do for the community.

~~~~~

Angela -

If you will keep the confidence -- I'd like to share my experiences.

I began writing for Demand Studios (awhile back). In those days, the format was simple and easy to understand, and business was straightforward. You could also suggest titles and be paid $15.

Things have changed since then. While the additional sites and title formats can be considered a plus (more work), writers are paid $5 for suggested titles, and the demands Demand Studios puts upon writers is crazy. Working from the premise that sourcing and citing makes an article more credible, Demand's policy now includes citing references as well as resources for each title. Thing is, some don't interview sources for their articles -- it's mostly regurgitation from web or print media. Additionally, the guidelines have become more demanding (there's that word again!) -- and remember that for the $5-20 writers gain from the article, they retain no rights to the piece. The titles offered are nothing I would consider writing as either I am not familiar with the topic or it would take a mountain of research to turn out a worthy article.

The clincher was when Demand implemented the rating system. Some writers waited anxiously for this aspect of the site. Because I write infrequently, it was a distant observation. However, when I saw how the scores lined up and read what others had to say, I was shocked. Many of the people I felt were strong writers were rated no better than a high 3 or low 4 (rating scores range from 1-5, with 1 being the lowest; 4 is considered proficient, 3 is average). Why in the world would Demand Studios, a site desperately clawing the web in attempts to become a credible source of information, publish an article that was less than a 5? Would you want less than excellent material on your site? Why would Demand pay for and be associated with work that rates as 3 and 4? Is that CREDIBLE information and GOOD writing?

It seems that Demand draws people in with the lure of quick money, twice weekly payments and the chance to be published. Demand owns quite a bit of web real estate, but writers are fooled into thinking they are writing for Demand's clients when Demand owns (some) of the sites people are writing titles for. I also hear many writers talking about Demand being a good employer: You're a 1099 contractor and there is no employer-employee relationship.

Why doesn't Demand redo the business model to enlist and contract with freelancers in particular specialties, and prune the writing stable down -- way down? Expect less content produced, but be assured that what you are getting is top notch. Pay the writers more, since now you're dealing with, say, 250 writers as opposed to (thousands of) regular writers. Contract with only the best, nurture and cherish them, and fill your sites with superb content web readers can rely upon. The same model applies to copy editors. Demand forums are filled with complaints from the writers asking for one on one relationships with a copy editor rather than the hit and miss currently offered. It's been said, from the top down, that it will never happen.

If I were Demand, I'd be embarrassed that I paid my writers and copy editors such low wages that they felt they had to work quickly. Copy editors are paid $3.50 per article edited. Demand brags that CE's can make $25 an hour.

Long ago and far away, Demand Studios seemed like a good idea. That's faded with all the rules, style guides, requirements and the one-shot before being rejected, I cannot see how the range of $5-20 an article is justified.

Demand has strong followers. There are writers that live and die by the Demand sword, fiercely protecting and serving the site -- no matter what. I don't know if it's churned by fear, or if the writers feel obligated due to economics or could it be that they are just so darn happy to see their names published on the web? And how does Deb Ng fit into all this? She's right there, applauding. Of course, she's being sponsored now...funny how she just began writing for the site, too, since she never bothered to do so before.

PLEASE DO NOT PUBLISH MY NAME! I want no retaliation from anyone. I've been around the DS thing long enough to have seen quite a few changes, cat fights in the forums, people getting bent out of shape and sitting on both sides of the Demand camp -- it's been an interesting experience, to say the least.

~~~~~~

I've been writing for Demand Studios since June of this year. A series of financial circumstance made it necessary for me to write for DS. I hate it. Getting paid $15 for a fully referenced 400-500 word article is less than I got paid when I first started full-time freelancing more than 12 years ago. I used to earn at least five cents (and usually ten cents) a word back then - getting less than three cents a word is insulting.

The editorial process is ridiculous. There is no communication with the editors. They look at your work, and if they don't like it or feel it needs major revisions, they send it back for a rewrite. You don't get to correspond with them. If you send it back in and they still don't like it or feel you haven't met their requests, they reject it and all your work is for nil, even though the copy editors still get paid for reviewing it.

There is a process to appeal a rewrite, but many of these go unanswered by the editorial department. Writers are extremely frustrated by the whole process, but more frustrated and angry because the appealed articles count against you in a scorecard if you send an appeal and it isn't answered.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I just closed my account with Demand Studios. I felt uncomfortable with the way the agreement that was sent to me was worded. And DS was pushing their revenue program heavily so I don't know if this is the direction the studio is pursuing or not, hopefully not.

~~~~~

I spent some months this past summer writing for Demand Studios, while waiting for a more lucrative writing gig to kick in. It was actually kind of fun to write articles for DS, but the pay is indeed pitiful. The highest fee paid for "how to" and "about" articles is $15 per article, flat fee. I figure it would take me 2 or 3 hours to write them most of the time, so you can do the math to see just how pitiful the pay is.

Yes, I have published a whole bunch of internet articles through DS, but it's not really a writing gig one could actually make a living from.

~~~~

HI Angela,

I was writing for How-To.com when On Demand started handling the writers for them. Until then, I was paid a small amount ($10 I think) for an article, but I got additional royalties depending on how many people read the article.

When On Demand took over, they paid you about that same amount (it could be $15) for an article and you never get any more! Plus, you submit titles and someone else can jump in on your title, write an article and get paid, and you are out in the cold.

This was my experience, however, they have continued to send me email encouraging me to write for them, and one indicated that the pay method may have changed. I haven't had time to look into it. I just wasn't very satisfied when I was working with them.

~~~~

Hi Angela,

I was tickled to get the current issue while at the public library working, or trying to work, on something for Demand Studios!! I am a new addition to their ranks, and have thus far found the site extremely hard to navigate. Click on a link that's supposed to open a pdf showing an example of the format they want, and it opens a duplicate of the listings page you're on. Click to open the available assignment listings, and wait (too long) for them to sort and open (if I was at home with my dial-up connection I could let that slide, but come on!). So the site as a whole seems to require DSL, or whatever's faster than DSL, and even with that I was never able to claim a job since I couldn't see the format for a "Fact Sheet" that would have paid $7.50. Other people seem to be able to join the scrum and get pieces out, but the land-rush approach to claiming assignments and consequent difficulty in doing so left me feeling like it was intentionally harder than it had to be to get started.

I have written for eHow, which is owned and run by Demand, and pays based on how many people read and recommend your work. Those can be completed very quickly--after neglecting the ones I put up at the beginning of the year, I wrote four yesterday in about two hours, plus a little outlining and note-taking done the night before--and they just plug into a template and publish with the push of a button. It's fun, but unless you glut the site with work it pays next to nothing. 19 pieces up on the site since January have netted me a cool $13.00, which isn't going as far as it used to since I lost my day job.

Hope this was of some use; don't hesitate to get in touch if you have specific questions.

~~~

Hello Angela,

Your request for writers who work for Demand Studios was well timed. The payment does come quickly but is embarrassingly small ($15) for a lot of time and fact checking, etc.

Like many of us in the professional writing business my jobs are as dry as the desert. Newspapers are relying on wire copy instead of freelancer stories. So, any work is needed.

The problem with Demand Studios is the strict format to which a writer must adhere. I have been writing since the 1960s and have had many of my articles (for Demand Studios) rejected, not because of content but guidelines. My husband, who is a neurologist and expert in the field of Alzheimer's patient care, helped me with an article and it was rejected.

Thanks for your help and for letting me vent.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I have written for Demand Studios and I can tell you there are both pros and cons.

The pros are that they pay $15 per 400-word article (this is for most articles, not all) and have steady work to sign up for. There are a variety of articles to select and they pay twice per week (Tuesdays and Fridays) through Paypal. They always pay on time.

Now, for the cons: the topics to select from are sometimes very random and difficult to research, if not impossible. As an example, finding the recipe for how M&Ms are made (it is a company secret). Also, some of the titles (topics) are vague and it is hard to tell what they are wanting.

Then, there is the matter of the editors. Some of them are very quick to review your work and give helpful feedback. Some of them are difficult and downright nasty with their comments. I actually had an editor try and rewrite my article for me, while providing information that was inaccurate and completely contrary to what I had researched. And turnaround on getting things edited and approved can be painstakingly slow. I can only have 10 articles in my queue at one time (a limit for new contributors), so maximum weekly earnings for me is only $150. The editing process is far too slow.

Also, the formats for these articles are nothing like what you would find anywhere in the print world. You are forced to write in a step by step, how to format that I find very difficult to maintain. It is unnatural for me to write in their format and so it takes a long time. I can write maybe one article per hour, which brings in $15 per hour if I choose an "About" article but it still seems like a lot of work for too little pay.

And if you suggest a topic to them, you are to write the same 400 words for only $5 per article. So I do all the work for only 1/3 the pay. Boo.

All in all, it is a steady gig and reliable pay but I still feel taken advantage of. I am trying to transition into print article writing and see how that goes. It sucks to only earn $15 on something that, in the print world, could earn me $50 or more.

Thanks for all your work and the great newsletter.

~~~~~

I have a big problem with (Demand Studios requiring me to list very specific personal details on my bio) considering I've already been cyberstalked and obtained a restraining order against the person. I was seriously thinking of revising my bio to include less information ... they also want a list of TEN things you're interested in, to put in your profile. LOL, I don't think so!

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I am writing regarding Demand Studios. Deb, from the forums, stated that you were looking for opinions of the site from writers. I would prefer to remain anonymous. My overall opinion of the site is "fair." (3 out of 5)

Pros
- On time payments every week (now twice per week)
- Consistent work -- there are thousands of titles available at any given time.
- Decent pay (though the quality demanded for each article does not always match the rate)

Cons
- No writer support system. The Content Editors (also called CEs) at the site are supported by editorial, and often backed on appeals (I'd say about 85% of the time), but writers do not have an advocate to balance things off. There is clearly a bias toward the editors on this site.
- A few editors are insistent on nitpicking away at articles or insulting the writers, and are allowed to do so without punishment
- Lack of consistency in replies regarding appeals of articles. There are times when the writer will spend one to two hours writing a piece, then have it scrapped for a silly reason or because editorial took too much time to reply with advice on an appeal (articles expire if not submitted in time).

~~~~~

Dear Angela,

I write approximately $500 worth of articles for Demand Studios each week. But only get paid for half because I refuse to complete unreasonable and exorbitant rewrites. If I received payment for all my work, I'd earn an hourly rate of $17. But, because most of my articles are "abandoned rewrites" I only earn about $7 to 10.

Demand Studios says they're "quality driven." But, they need to pay writers a higher rate for the hell that we go through to meet their "quality driven" standards. Half of the editors are clueless and work on their own set of rules; no two editors are on the same page about the guidelines. A lot of DS writers have gotten rewrites because something in our article was a "pet peeve" of the editor. Another extremely common situation is that the editor sees the article titles (which are typically very general and can be written several different ways) from a different perspective and forces you to scrap your article and write a new one tailored towards their point of view, or risk losing payment.

If you get an article rewrite that is ridiculous and send it up to the editorial team for review, don't expect an answer back before your article expires and you lose payment.

~~~~~

I saw the ad for Demand Studios and answered it, provided the sample, etc. and was accepted.

However, you are required to fill out forms online, including giving them your social security number, and although I asked to do this by another method, I never heard back.

~~~

Angela,

I've just started writing for Demand Studios. Here's the breakdown:

Pros
They have lots of different kinds of articles to choose from, eg, Fact Sheets, How-to, Travel. Most of the articles are information based/how-to/factual for clients like eHow.com or Trails.com.

Their pipeline is always full so you're never waiting for work; also, you can suggest your own articles.

Online workflow interface is easy to use.

Lots of supporting documentation for editorial guidelines.

Payment is through PayPal, twice a week I believe.

Payment for articles range - I've done Fact Sheets for $7.50 a pop. They don't take much time, but most of the time is spent on research, eg, a Fact Sheet on Philippine Passports. How-to articles are usually $15, and require much more research unless you're already an expert in that topic, eg, How air is separated.

Cons
Even though there are lots of articles available, the range of topics and types of articles can be limiting. You might not be able to find something you feel comfortable writing about if you don't know about technology, home improvement and other specialized skills.

The research can become time-consuming if you don't know about a topic, and even then you might not be able to meet the 400-500 word article requirement for a How-to article. That happened to me. I spent a good amount of time researching (a specific topic) only to find that I could write about 250 words on it.

~~~~~

I wrote for Demand Studios for awhile during 2008, with the last of my accepted work published in early 2009. It would be accurate to say I currently am part of their group of writers, although I've not submitted anything to them in quite some time, and have no plans of doing so in the future.

The pieces I wrote for DS usually took between twenty and thirty minutes to research and write. The pay for each of those articles was $15.00. Like many content writing companies, you assign all rights to DS once they accept and pay for the work.

Since my time, they've taken on other types of writing projects that offer different rates of pay. There is also a bonus program in place that some of their writers participate in. I've never been interested in the program enough to log back into my account and investigate how the bonus works.

I was comfortable with the average hourly rate I could generate with Demand Studios. However, they've gone through several periods where they hired new editors who (and I'll put this as kindly as possible) exhibited a decided lack of understanding of the writer guidelines.

To be fair, I don't think it was completely the fault of the new editors. DS has gone through periods where they would seem to implement changes to the guidelines and make them retroactive. I'm sure that caused more than a little frustration and confusion among the editors.

Some writers I know also found themselves the recipients of editor notes on rewrite requests that were less than constructive. Examples were published on a few forums I visit now and then. One writer that I frequently chat with online forwarded the comments attached to one article that was sent back for a rewrite. I was appalled to read she was told she had no grasp of the subject matter (little did the editor know that the writer in question has a Master's in the subject matter related to that particular article).

Personally, I never had an editor be insulting. For the most part, the rewrite requests I received now and then made perfect sense and strengthened the article. Toward the end of my involvement, I did get a few rewrite requests that were so off-the-wall that I could not bring myself to comply. Instead, I allowed the topics to expire, changed the titles, and published the content elsewhere. So far, one of those articles has earned me a total of $49.23. All but one of the articles I let expire and published elsewhere have earned more than the $15.00 I would have gotten if DS had accepted them.

In the end, the rate of pay was not worth attempting to work around what I saw as a growing trend with their editors. Life is too short for that sort of nonsense.

It seems that every week, comments about Demand Studios pop up on one forum or another. Some of the comments are negative, some are positive. For me, the grass is greener elsewhere. I doubt I will ever submit anything to DS in the future.

Hope you get lots of responses; it will be interesting to see if the responses turn up anything I've not heard about before now.

~~~~

Angela,

I wrote for Demand once just to see. I picked a topic I knew well so it would be a faster write. It paid a whopping $15. I figured to make it worth my time, I should write it in 15 minutes. I wrote it in 60 minutes, did no rewrite and sent it in. They reviewed it and asked me to reference a book differently. I referenced the book in my article but the Demand reference notes only took urls. I had to print out the manual, and still couldn't figure out how to include the book citation. Now I was up to 1 hour and 20 minutes. I emailed the editor the book info and she published it. 90 minutes?

I got paid the week after I wrote it. I can panhandle for more money than that! I don't need clips that badly, so I won't do it again. Also, it would be difficult to always find an article topic I knew inside and out -- if I had to do much research, it would be an even longer process.

~~~~~

Hi Angela! I'm a writer for Demand Studios and I definitely have an opinion. It's a pretty moderate one, though. (Side note: I really enjoy the exposes you've been doing on other content mills.)

Anyway, yes, I write for Demand Studios and I'm really thankful for the work. I'm just starting out as a full time freelancer but I've been freelancing part time for several years. Today, I have several streams of income - most of which are private clients - and I have to admit that Demand Studios is my least favorite to write for. The topics can get pretty off-the-wall and some editors standards are higher than others, for better or worse. I think most people complain that editors are too strict and nitpicky, but I have noticed some factually questionable content getting through on occasion (though they have been getting more discerning editorial-wise overall).

On the other hand, there is some merit to the complaints. I often get asked to do a rewrite for silly things such as the occasional use of "passive voice" which, in my opinion, is somewhat kind of passe' to ban ecumenically. The most frustrating thing is that it's a strict "two strikes and you're out" policy, so if the editor's revision requests aren't clear, then it's rejection and an hour or so of wasted time and bruised pride. Of the 238 articles I've written, I've had 40 rewrites and 4 outright rejections to date.

I think someone trying to assess the level of writing and research required by DS editors should pop on to eHow.com and look for user names preceded by DS_ (you can see this by looking at the URL when clicking through to the profiles).

I only write articles that pay out a flat fee of $15. The pay scale ranges from $5 to $20 (the high end being very rare) and there is an option for revenue share, too. I've tried it once and made $0.03 or so after several months, though, to be fair, I didn't make much of an effort. Others on the DS forum report dissatisfaction with revenue share payouts.

I try to choose topics that I can pound out in 30 to 45 minutes. Some of the How To articles are absurdly simple to write and take as few as 15 minutes to write. When I had a lull in business, though, I was forced to take on as many DS articles as I could to make ends meet (I'm allotted 30 flat rates out at a time) and I admit that I picked some doozies. I ended up spending hours sifting through the archives of the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office (which was kind of fun, until it got frustrating) trying to figure out when and who invented the first zippered plastic bag.

Turnaround is pretty awesome, I must say. Articles get edited in two to three days (sometimes within a few hours) and payments get zapped into your account promptly on Wednesday and Friday. If there's a snag, DS lets you know ASAP, too.
(These statements run contrary to other reports we received at WritersWeekly that state the writer must wait too long for the editors. Also, one contributor wrote, "We let them know about many of the errors through the forums and help desk, and sometimes it is only then that they post something about how the error is going to be fixed.")

I would say that the key to earning money with Demand Studios is to know how to pick the articles that are quick to write, unambiguous to edit and with reusable research. For example, I ended up writing three articles on military retirement - the first took 40 minutes to research and write and the next two took 10 minutes each to write based on what I had learned. That's $45 an hour. There are lots of really easy articles to write in the pile of 40,000+ assignments but finding them is the hard part (biggest complaint about DS, really).

Anyway, thanks for WritersWeekly! I hope my perspective helps.

~~~~~

Angela,

I work for Demand Studios. It takes me between 40 and 60 minutes to write and submit an article, so I earn about $15 an hour...sometimes a bit more.

In an effort to make the articles of higher quality, they are beginning to implement some rules about giving sources and such, so more work is now required of us. Hopefully, however, it will continue to be a good gig.

Unlike similar places I've worked, they pay twice weekly via PayPal, which is great.

~~~~~

Hi, Angela--I wrote five articles for Demand Studios (haven't had time to look for more "assignments"). I chose topics that let me play "subject matter expert," including pieces on computers and cameras/lenses. I wrote pieces that didn't require research. The first needed to be shorter; overall I had about two hours in it; the other four landed without rewrites, and took less than an hour each. The pay was $15 per piece, paid via PayPal each Friday. While even $15/hr is low in that it would be very hard to stay at it all day to try to make a living, the general experience was very positive.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I've written, on and off, for Demand Studios for over a year. They pay a set fee per article and it is stated up front when you take the assignment – no complaints there.

After writers are approved, you have access to a website that lists all potential assignments. They tell you the format they require and exactly how much they pay for each. It's up to you to claim what you want. You can take the $5 articles, the $10 or the $15. I've heard some pay more but never found one.

Each article must be written in a very strict format. They give you a PDF guideline for each format. You must also find a free photograph to include.

(Writers reported to WritersWeekly that all articles must include a photo and that all photos must now come from the Demand Studios photo library. One writer said, "They talked about how the new library would have 'millions' of images, but writers search and search and can't find photos to go with their articles now! So, they have to write a note saying that they couldn't find a photo when a photo is required for a certain format. It's a huge mess.")

After submitting the article, it goes into editorial review. Sometimes they get bounced back for a fix and sometimes you just get it approved. They pay quickly via PayPal.

Pros:

* Assignments generally take me less than half an hour for each, so that's an average (roughly) of $25 - $30 per hour if I can squeeze off 2 articles
* They pay promptly
* The articles are on the short side – less than 500 words – so pretty easy to do with minimal research

Cons

* I find it really hard to write to their strict and sometimes rather arbitrary guidelines.
* I've had articles bounced back for simple fixes that at any other site/publication, the editor just fixes and moves on – a simple typo once earned me a rant and rave from an editor. True, I should have been professional and caught it, but also true...it did not earn a half page rant (that editor was later let go)
* You do not get a byline – if you do, I have never found mine

(WritersWeekly received a report that some writers do receive bylines, apparently depending on where the article is published.)

* You do not get the published clip – again, if my work is out there I've yet to find it
* I've had articles bounced back for plagiarism that I had to fight – they were in no way plagiarized. Luckily I had a good editor on that one who immediately got the problem solved and reassured me she agreed with me.

Would I write for them again? Yes, if my regular clients go away or I need money. I like the flexibility of picking up an article or two and making a quick buck. I don't like their formats and some of their editors. I wish they gave more training instead of the PDF guidelines. But they are a good place to start for newcomers and they pay what they promise, even if it's on the low side, so I recommend them.

~~~~~

Hi Angela! I am a subscriber and just read that you were looking for some information.

I started writing for Demand Studios a year ago while I was still an undergraduate student (I am 22 now and graduated in Journalism this April). I am doing DS writing full-time right now. It offers me great flexibility and a competitive pay scale. I focus on writing $15 and $20 assignments. Each assignment, on average, takes me 30 to 45 minutes to complete. I enjoy it because I can break up my work schedule into manageable chunks. I work about 50 to 60 hours a week but it doesn't feel like that because I can take a break when friends come over, or to head to the neighborhood Starbucks.

Even better, DS' flexible routine let me work for them while I was also employed full time as a magazine staff writer on the east coast. Last month, I made almost $3,000...that's just working part-time. Not a bad way to supplement my income! It helps that I am well-versed in web writing and know how to find sources and research quickly. I know some writers who spend upwards of two hours on a $15 assignment. Frankly, I'd rather work at a fast-food joint at that hourly wage. It's not for everyone!

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

Your recent spate of letters on AllVoices mentioned that you are looking for writers who work for Demand Studios for an upcoming article. I have written articles for Demand Studios in the past, as they do pay weekly as promised, and though their payment is quite low compared to industry standards, sometimes it's been more important for me to make a bit of fast cash with my writing skills than to debate whether or not their low payments were right or fair.

In my opinion, Demand Studios is quite not in the same league as places that completely rip writers off, as they do pay a set wage for articles and tell you up front how much each assignment will pay; writers are free to pick and choose the topics they want to write about, and can sort the list of topics based on pay scale to choose only the top paying assignments. Assignments are due a week from the date you accept them, so there is continual turnover of the work (they employ copy editors as well, who will send your piece back for one round of editing or approve it). They also now pay out twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays. These aspects all set them apart from the Suite101s and AllVoices that focus on pay-per-click methods and pimping your work for the promise of some possible future payment. Demand Studios does also offer "revenue share" assignments, but I suspect these will ultimately be phased out, as I can't imagine anyone wanting to write for the uncertain potential revenue share over a set fee.

While I don't think Demand Studios is committing fraud or misleading writers about what they are offering, they are certainly not paying industry standard (i.e. fair) wages for the amount of work expected, and this is why I no longer write for them. It may take a writer several hours to prepare a properly formatted, well-researched article, yet they are only being paid $15 or $20 maximum for their efforts. If you are going to invest the time, you might as well try to submit this work to another publication that would pay fairly for your efforts. But, as I said, sometimes people just need the money, so Demand Studios fills that need for quick cash.

For reference purposes, here are the current payment levels for the various forms of writing: Fact Sheet, Tip, Quick Guide: $5-7.50 (varies) Strategy, How To, How Does, About, Product Review, Travel Review, List: $15-20

Those are the facts, as I see them. I hope this will help your readers decide for themselves whether Demand Studios is worth their time.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

As per your request, here is my take on Demand Studios.

I have been an on-again off-again contributor for DS for 6 months or so. The reason I'm contributing so sporadically is that I rarely find an article topic that motivates me to write! There are all too many titles like: How to install a toilet on a houseboat, or, About Acaii Berries and their effect on the pancreas.

When I do find an article I can/want to write, it will usually take me 30 or so minutes. Longer if it the article is outside my niche. What can take as long or longer than the actual article is finding good links to support my article. That and finding a decent picture can also take a while.

All told, I'm usually running about 45 minutes / article.

The pay is good, and on time and above board – but you've got to work hard for that money when you consider picky and sometimes downright crazy editors and article bounce-backs, some really strange titles, and sometimes having to wait 3-5 days for an article to be cleared for publication.

Recently they've instituted a method to view your ‘stats' like grammar and research. I'm bugged by this grading system as it seems like one bad article can really pull down your averages. Rather than motivate me to write more or better, it just annoys me.

~~~~~

I have some experience with Demand Studios. PLEASE don't publish my name, I'd like to remain anonymous (you'll see why), but here's what happened to me.

I wrote for Demand Studios for just about a year. They posted all the writings I did, never edited one, and paid promptly through PayPal. I worked with several different editors, and never heard back one negative piece of feedback for my work. Then, out of the blue, I was told I could no longer write for them, because my work wasn't "up to their standards." This was about a month after they had made me an editor! I appealed, and they refused to reinstate me. I was really surprised, as many of my articles were getting lots of hits and positive comments.

Right after this, they changed their pay scale and their entire database. I know this because despite the fact they said I couldn't write for them, they kept me on their mailing list and often sent me emails begging me to come back and write for them! I would steer far clear of them.

My final 1099 tax form, due by January 31 by law, did not come to me until mid-March, forcing me to amend my income taxes.

~~~~~

I like that I don't have to market my own writing and get page views if I do a strict write for pay article.

Usually it's $15 for the how to articles. I do 2-3 per hour, but I am VERY careful to pick only topics on which I consider myself an expert. Other writers seem to think I am either doing a sloppy job with the writing (I hardly ever get rewrite requests, though) or not doing enough research.

It's tough work though, meaning it's not 'yay sit down and freelance for fun!!!' stuff. I do it for the money or to learn more about a topic I love already. I've had pay deposits over $400 in one week -- while also working a full time job with an hour commute each way.

It paid for most of my Christmas last year.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I have been writing for Demand Studios for about 2 weeks. I have only submitted five articles. It takes me an average of three hours, including research and editing, for a 400 - 500 word article. I hope to get quicker after I am familiar with their style and format guidelines.

The good part is that payment is prompt, deposited into my Paypal account twice a week. I do think the pay is low, at $15 an article, but it has been reliable.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I'd like to contribute anonymously to your question: Do You / Have You Written for Demand Studios?
I've been writing for them for a few weeks now. The online tool they have is amazing. It's a very professional operation with payment going very smoothly. Pay ranges from $5 to $15 for eHow articles, which is what I am writing. Because they have a format they require, formatting does take a bit of time at first. Also, these articles do require research and some are fairly technical. I'd say it takes me an hour to an hour and a half to write, edit, load and proof the average story.

Here are the problems though. Out of about 16 articles, a handful have been kicked back for slight rewriting. No problem, but this takes more time. 2 have been kicked back for rework and I'm pretty confident that I addressed the contextual needs the copy editor wanted, but they didn't get it/I failed to be clear and the articles have been rejected. So no payment for them, but maybe I will be able to use them in the future. I've also been flagged for plagiarism, which I understand is not uncommon, as they use a software tool and then use a human to see if there is really an issue.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I've only written two articles for Demand Studios. It took me much longer to write the first than the second, once I became familiar with their requirements. Both were in the "strategy" category.

I chose to be paid a flat fee ($15/article) rather than the pay per hit option, and I found they paid quickly, just as they say.

I'm planning on writing additional articles for Demand more to have the articles out there with bylines rather than the pay. I earn much more freelancing news releases and newsletter copy than I can make from Demand Studios.

I'd be happy to answer any other questions you may have -- hope this helps with your research.

~~~~

Hello Angela,

Dear Angela--I was happy to hear that you are profiling Demand Studios and I would like to throw my two cents in (anonymously). It has its good things and bad things, but for the most part, I am only writing there because my business was slow the last few months.

On the plus side, they do pay twice a week and they are very reliable in that regard.

On the other hand, there is a lot of hassle from them. You don't get to communicate with the editors directly and as a result, if you get a rewrite back and for some reason can't figure out what the CE wanted (in some cases, their communication is quite poor and unprofessional), your article can be rejected and you will not be paid for your time (although the CE gets paid 3.50 per article no matter what the outcome is). Many people have done exactly what the editor has asked from them, including a complete rewrite, and they have still gotten a rejection.

Editors who are not well-versed in the topic you are writing about will sometimes introduce factual errors into the stories--sometimes even grammatical ones--and from what I understand it's next to impossible to get the story changed once it has been accepted by an editor. Many people write under a pseudonym for that reason (among other reasons).

Also, of late Demand is demanding certain things in an effort to increase their legitimacy (though paying a decent rate is not one of those things). They are requesting that all writers add a head shot of themselves to go with their articles and to fill out a profile with detailed information about education, work history, etc. Demand has not yet indicated what they will do to people who cannot or will not comply with this request.

As far as the pay itself, articles are $7.50, $15 or $20. Many writers seem to only write things that they know off the top of their heads, so they can write them quickly. (Some say they can write up to four or five 400 word articles per hour.) I don't tend to find articles like that, so I end up doing research, which means I can spend upwards of an hour on an article (or more in some cases). People boast that they write ten articles per day, everyday to make over $1,000 a week but when you factor in that they are writing about 4,000-5,000 words per day it's really crazy that some people actually think they are making good money.

So, all in all I would say that Demand is good when you are having a slump in your regular business. For the most part, it is fairly easy as long as you don't run into a snotty editor (some are quite rude) then you may not get paid if your crystal ball is off. Some people do it full time and I'm not sure how they can keep up with and not get completely burned out.

~~~~~

Hi Angela,

I have been a subscriber of your Newsletter for quite a while and find it most informative. I noticed that you wanted to hear from writers with experience on Demand Studios. I have written for them on and off for two years now. I say on and off because if I have a magazine or web gig, I place my concentration in that direction. Demand has change dramatically for the better and I find that I am earning continually while I seek other opportunities.

The pay scale for Demand is $15 for a 400 word article or $7.50 for a 200 word fact sheet. The subject matter touches on many areas and I only select genres that I enjoy writing on. In general, it is not difficult in writing a quality article in under an hour as long as you follow their guidelines. In the beginning it takes practice to adhere. The most time consuming part of completing an article for Demand Studios is in seeking royalty free photographs.

It takes less than 24 hours to have your article approved and you are paid via PayPal twice a week. On a personal note, I am very pleased to write articles for Demand and will continue to do so.

(Note: According to reports above, articles are NOT always approved in 24 hours.)

~~~~~

If you found this article helpful, you need to check out Erik Sherman's piece on Demand Studios HERE.

~~~~~

POSTSCRIPT

It's being reported that some of the writers on the Demand Studios forum are publicly lynching me today, accusing me of being "totally biased", only publishing negative comments, and looking for negativity.

I guess they didn't read the entire article above. The dismal pay alone would make any self-respecting writer cringe. However, unlike Deb Ng, I asked for ALL experiences from writers, not just negative ones. There are plenty of positive statements posted above. But, the majority of what I received was negative. As promised, I published statements representing those from the average Demand Studios writer. That's what appears above and I didn't put words in these writers' mouths.

I have a personal message for writers who lack the self-respect to demand fair pay for their hard work. If you're happy to write for $5-$15 per article, there are plenty of places like Demand Studios that are happy to pay you a pittance for your hard work. Don't expect writers like me to try to butter it up and make it look like it's a better deal than it is. Five to fifteen dollars for a well-researched, well-written article, with references and illustrations, is pathetic. Claiming it isn't makes you a laughingstock in the industry. Everybody's just afraid to say it to your face. I'm not.

On the other hand, being publicly lynched for trying to help these writers leaves me speechless. Am I the only one who senses some sort of cult mentality occurring here? I am no longer responding to profanity-laden diatribes by people claiming to be DS contributors.

MORE CHATTER

The Definitive Word on Content Mills by Lori Widmer

Demand Studios Analysis by Joan Reeves

Fed up with DS -- Quitting!!! by TeenMommy

Writer Mills: You Can Do Better by jesakalong

A Demand Studios Writer Points Out Irony of Deb Ng's Actions

 




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