What Is This Demand Studio Controversy Really About?

by Anne Wayman

opinionWhew!

If you’ve been following, and maybe even contributing, to the threat following my post, John Hewitt Defends Demand Studios, Sort Of, you know it’s a heated discussion.

The bulk of the comments could be sorted into two types:

  • Those who say, in one form or another,  Demand Studios and sites like them are awful rip offs who are preying on naive writers, and by the way, anyone who thinks otherwise is awful too!
  • Those who say, in one form or another, Demand Studios and sites like them are great and wonderful, supporting writers, and by the way, anyone who agrees is wonderful too!

Then there are a scattering of folks, like me, who say, in one form or another, Gee. What’s the big deal?

I’ve been wondering and am not sure I have a handle on why people feel so darn passionate about what seems to me to be an issue that’s easily solved – either write for them or don’t. I asked that question in my newsletter this morning.

Allena Tapia, the Guide to Freelance Writing over at About.com said this in comments: Anne– you asked why all the hoopla, and my theory is that it comes down to: Should I care what other writers make or not? Some say “No – why do you care what I make/write, leave me alone” while others say “I have to care, I have to fight against it, because you’re bringing the market down for everyone and impacting my job title.” Really, I think thats the crux, IMHO. Not sure where I fall anymore. Am reading with interest.

She may be on the right track. I’ve been thinking more about it – not about Demand Studio or any of the other article sites or what they pay – but about the intensity of emotion in the discussion. I want to offer this as a thought, and, if you want, to get some feedback:

When I find myself stridently defending a position, if I look deeply into my motivation I usually find that somehow I’m afraid I’m not doing it right, whatever ‘it’ might be.

The ‘it’ can be anything I suppose from politics, to lifestyle, to (gasp) religion, or even how much or how little I’m willing to work for.

Once I locate whatever it is I have decided I might not be doing right I usually end up laughing at myself and letting go of whatever is going on. Sometimes, of course, I have to change my thinking a bit. That’s okay. One way or the other I’ve learned something valuable.

I suppose the underlying “I’m not doing it right” thoughts in this situation might be something like:

  • Maybe I should be writing for Demand Studios.
  • Maybe I should be charging more for my writing.

So what do you think? Could this apply to at least some of the heated emotion around the post? Or maybe you see this differently too. Let’s talk about it.

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Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

This Guy March 26, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Full disclosure: I recently applied to be a demand writer.

My preferred analogy: I shop at a grocery store in one of those strip-mall style establishments. On either side is a restaurant, one a mid-range Italian place, one a local chain sandwich shop. Three places to buy food in the same location, and not one has driven the other out of business. Why? Because they fill vastly different needs, with offerings and price ranges reflecting that.

“Content mill” freelancing vs. “legitimate” freelancing is the same: just because the paid-per-article writers are willing to accept less pay for something that (let’s be honest) requires less effort doesn’t mean that the work of paid-per-word writers* will be devalued; they’re doing two related but ultimately distinct jobs, with output and rates reflecting that. (If anything, it’s the paid-per-word writers that need to stay vigilant on their quote; it’s working more for less, not less for less, that drives wages down.)

*I recognize these are not always distinct populations.

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Lorraine Beauchamp March 20, 2010 at 11:43 am

I just received notice that I have been approved by Demand Studios as a writer, and I went online to see what I could find about their reputation. As one commenter noted “I bang out 4-5 articles” when he wants to take his wife out to dinner. I think this says a lot about the quality of the articles and the time put into each one. If my writing doesn’t help illuminate the intended audience, what’s the point? It’s not about the money- it’s about my goal as a writer and my reputation as a provider of quality writing. My bet is that the market is being flooded by semi-plagiarized articles with no thought behind them and no true “news” being offered to readers. This is precisely the Internet I don’t want to be part of – so yes, take a side and stand by your beliefs. We will soon all be drowning in misinformation and crying into our keyboards as we try to deconstruct the downfall of the technological bubble.

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Anne March 22, 2010 at 8:38 am

There are lots of pros and cons about Demand Studios and the other content providers. Make it work for you.

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Zoe Winters March 22, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Lorraine, Demand will fire you for plagiarism. They take it very seriously. You can’t even use parts of your own old articles to write new articles.

If you are concerned about craft and not money, then Demand is not for you. Some of us don’t have the luxury of just writing for the highest and loftiest goals, we have bills to pay.

And the fact is, writing for demand you can easily make $15-$30 an hour. While that might not be a lot of money to a lot of people, those for whom their other options are burger flipping for that money… it’s good money.

Also Demand is not really great for someone who wants to build a freelance writing career. But not every writer (including myself) wants to build a freelance writing career. I write books. And I write DS articles until such time that I can afford not to. I have absolutely no interest in “being a freelance writer.”

Also DS articles have content editors and fact checkers, and you have to provide references for what you’re saying, preferably .edu or .gov references.

It seems like you’re just pulling stuff out of your butt here with the plagiarism and low-quality content and misinformation thing. Write a few articles for DS with that assumption and see where it gets you. I’m betting you’ll be spending most of your time rewriting.

At DS you have to be both fast and good to make money, not just fast.
.-= Zoe Winters´s last blog ..Whaaaaaa Self-Publishing is HARDDDDDDD =-.

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SpikeTheLobster November 23, 2009 at 4:29 pm

I just thought I’d pop my (shiny, newly-shaved and very cold) head up again and comment that I’ve noticed another trend in the discussion and in freelancers. Yes, it’s generalisation time!

The ones who are struggling are the ones who have to fight to produce fluff. That includes me: I HATE writing simplistic junk that’s been done a million times – but that’s what sells quickly and easily. I always try to have something original to say, or I feel as if I’m letting the client and myself down.

That habit will stop anybody earning very much. Right now, as TW mentioned, is a time of mass content. It can be literary polystyrene peanuts (i.e. all the same, light and useless except as filler) – nobody really cares unless they have an established reputation to uphold (such as Time, the NYTimes and so on – though even the big-time publishers are producing more and more rubbish). Like it or hate it, that’s how it is.

Unfortunately for me, I hate it. Ah, well. Maybe I’ll win the lottery or be the next J.K.Rowling (without the hair, obviously – and assuming I finish that book one day). Until then, I’m earning more by editing and proofing than I do from writing. Suits me. :)
.-= SpikeTheLobster´s last blog ..How To Get Blog Traffic =-.

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Anne November 22, 2009 at 10:46 am

Glad you found us TW. You’re making great contributions… I also love having a window on Europe. Hmmm… if you ever want to write about writing in the UK, you’ve got a spot here. No pay, but links to whatever you want… the old ‘guest article’ pitch.

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T.W. Anderson November 23, 2009 at 9:04 am

I may take you upon that, Anne. December into February are focused 100% on getting my brand into the market, launching the e-book, and networking. I’ve been getting my feet wet in quite a few new areas these past couple of weeks but I’m a bit limited on time with a contract at present, but I’m wrapping up on the 28th of November and after that I’m home free for some time.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Tools of the trade, part II =-.

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Anne November 23, 2009 at 10:52 am

Hey, TW, considering the pay ;) or lack of it, I have to say any time it works for you if it ever does.

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T.W. Anderson November 22, 2009 at 1:58 am

I only wish I’d stumbled here sooner. To be honest, I didn’t even know this place existed until last week.

My thing is I spent the last year with my head buried in the sand working at building up my credibility with clients, and not doing a lot of networking. The website launched at the first of November, and I transitioned out of my personal blog. The entire month of December will be me spending my time getting the social networking side of the website up and running, and my wife and I have some major plans for 2010. She’s actually quitting her cosmetology job after the holidays to focus 100% on her hand-crafted shop, and we are going to be starting to focus on translations at some point next year, and my personal goal is to help bring freelance knowledge to our part of Europe, and maybe even the rest of Europe as a whole…we’ll see how things turn out.

Right now it’s still America and Britain who dominate the “freelance” theme. I’m generalizing here, but most of Europe still hasn’t really grasped the digital concept yet, although it’s getting better. Most of the people you see in the EU who are working freelance are people who are either from the “Western” world, or they went to school in the Western world and are therefore knowledgeable about the concept. One of my major goals for 2010 is seeing what I can do about that, as well as diversifying my client base and getting more “regional” clients throughout the European Union as more and more of them start to get in on this digital market.

The best part about being in a global market is there are opportunities in every country in the world. You just have to be willing to search for them and look beyond the limited view of “the U.S. is the only place that matters”.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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Cathy Miller November 21, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Anne- I think you found the secret to getting major
traffic to your blog. LOL!!! :-)

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Deb Ng November 21, 2009 at 11:08 pm

I always thought Anne had a terrific blog, I just have to remember to stop and comment more often. This is such a great community of writers!
.-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..The Inconvenience of Inspiration =-.

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Allena November 20, 2009 at 11:30 am

*friends’
.-= Allena´s last blog ..Demand Studios Releases Freelancers Health Insurance Info =-.

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Allena November 19, 2009 at 10:48 pm

hey thanks for the quote. glad you liked my two cents. I am leaning toward the Who Cares? But, I also want to say that those writers who insist they can do x, y,z… well, if that’s so, please consider putting aside a day, learning queries, and firing out a good, solid set of 10-12 for print publications. Yesterday someone was bragging about making $80 on an article and I thought she’d probably fall over for $500 for the same amount of effort!
.-= Allena´s last blog ..Demand Studios Releases Freelancers Health Insurance Info =-.

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T.W. Anderson November 20, 2009 at 3:08 am

To play the devil’s advocate here, Allena….why bother?

Writing the 21st century doesn’t require the tedious, old-fashioned approach to print where you are forced to query, wait for a reply, then determine if you are going to write the piece or not. Today there are content sites where the article titles and approach are already mapped out for you, and all you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Why would I possibly want to print an article by going to an antique shop, setting the type, padding the paper, painting the type, and hand-crank the press until I have one sheet of printed paper, then redo the process for the next page? Why would I possibly want to go through all that effort when I could simply go home, sit on my computer, spend 10 minutes using a MS program to design and layout my brochure/newsletter, and then simply send out 100 copies via e-mail? The printing press is no longer a feasible piece of equipment. It has been replaced by modern technology. The only thing I gain by living in the past is appreciating nostalgia.

The same theory applies to transportation. Why would I want to take three days to walk from here to my best friend’s suburb when I could drive there in 30 minutes? So I can appreciate the view while walking? Why would I want to rely on old-fashioned snail-mail that takes weeks for a letter to be delivered when I can use e-mail and have it delivered instantaneously?

Querying for articles is old-fashioned, it’s slow, and it’s dying a very painful death. Painful in the sense that people who refuse to transition into the 21st century are hanging onto that industry with every fiber of their being, refusing to let it simply die the death it was meant to die. The kings of the industry for the last half of the 20th century were print writers. Their time is over, and many of them just can’t bear to admit that their day is done. The sun has set. Digital, online content is the way of the future.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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Allena November 20, 2009 at 11:29 am

Here’s -Why Bother- (for me): Because there is still a distinct thrill, almost a physical reaction, to going to the B & N, picking up an inky-smelling print magazine, and flipping to see my name. I love it. And I make same or more than content (which I also do)., AND I get more recognition. AND I get editors to approach me and assign me more stories. AND I get to interview for these pieces, making contacts with the movers and shakers in my industry. AND I get (let’s admit it) that much more “respect” from other writers. I’m willing to bet some of these new writers who are following this with bated breath would love to break into print, and I think that they CAN do such a thing, if they are whipping out these fast, high quality articles as they say they are.

I actually agree on where you think the industry is heading, and what we get to see and experience today are growing pains of that. However, I’ve found it quite enjoyable to walk to my friend’s houses. Until I can’t walk anymore, I’ll enjoy the pleasure (and profits) of the experience.

Does that answer your question?
.-= Allena´s last blog ..Demand Studios Releases Freelancers Health Insurance Info =-.

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Anne November 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Yeah, I miss being in print sometimes… then I publish another ebook or something. Makes all the difference in the world.

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T.W. Anderson November 20, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Firstly, understand that I’m just playing devil’s advocate here :) I don’t even own a car anymore…I walk everywhere, or I take public transportation. I moved to Europe, if that says anything about me. I much prefer the “simpler” life in this region, plus I have access to the Mediterranean and my wife and I have Europe as our back yard, and we take 4-6 trips a year.

With that being said…I treat this like the old theater/movies concept during the early part of the 20th century. I do content for the cash, and fiction for the bylines. I’d love to transition into fiction full-time someday, and originally that’s what I started out to do, but here I am 2 years later and I’m making a lot of money doing a lot of really damn cool things, and 100% of it is online.

Print is dying off. It’s not just rhetoric that I spout :) The USPS is cutting back hours, actually trying to reduce the days they ship mail to 3 days a week. Why? Because no one uses snail mail anymore. E-mail has replaced the printed mail. Everyone has a hand held these days, either a Blackberry, Kindle, iPhone, or similar. They don’t buy magazines. They read them on their hand held while they are in the subway, on the bus, in the cab.

With the green-consciousness has come the understanding that we don’t need to be wasting vast amounts of natural resources on something as outdated and mundane as paper. Almost every major university in the world is transferring their libraries to digital format. The same with regular libraries. Look at how many print publications went out of business last year (newspapers as well). Look at how many of them started transferring operations to digital format. Every day I see online editors and journalists replacing the old street-beaters.

It’s just the evolution. Yes, print still exists. But it is nostalgic at this point. You might enjoy walking to your friend’s house, but it’s not expedient. And that’s what drives the market…expediency. I rarely–if ever–come across print ads anymore, and to be honest…they are getting more and more rare. Personally (and this is just me) I don’t even bother submitting short stories to magazines who don’t accept e-mails. Why? It’s a waste of my time and a waste of resources to have to physically print something out, hoof it to the post office, stand in line to get it weighed, and then mail it off. Not to mention, post is frickin’ expensive these days. Which, btw, is why the few print magazines still in place pay more than digital format, because it costs an arm and a leg to publish something physically versus digitally. It’s also why the post office is going out of business. nobody wants to pay an arm and a leg to get something shipped when you can simple send it via e-mail.

For example, we still have 5 boxes sitting in my sister’s garage from our move 2 years ago. Why? Because at the time the USPS wanted six THOUSAND dollars to ship 6 boxes that only contain books, DVDs, and some around-the-house-trinkets like coffee table decorations and candle holders and such. They were HALF the price of Fed Ex, UPS, and other international shipping agencies. To this day, they still want around 220 USD per box to ship, and I keep thinking to myself…is there really 1200ish USD worth of DVDs and books and household items in those boxes? There’s not…which is why we haven’t shipped them. The cost of doing business the old fashioned way is so expensive that it’s dying out because nobody wants to pay those kind of rates for backwards thinking.

So…yes. Print format is nostalgic. It carries a certain “thrill” about it, even I can admit that. But is it efficient? Hardly. Just as much as the printing press is no longer efficient. It’s old-fashioned. It’s nostalgic. The smell of the ink, the feel of the wooden handle beneath your grip as you slowly crank the press and meld ink with paper, all of that is beautiful in its historical merit, but it lacks any sort of relevancy with the modern age. Which is why nobody uses printing presses to publish these days, and why we haven’t for centuries :)
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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Allena November 21, 2009 at 1:32 pm

And so those of us who like to hold a book or magazine in our hands are the old curmudgeons? Cause I don’t want to be the old curmudgeon! :( I have always thought of myself as young and progressive and hip. So I’m either off to write some DS or buy a Kindle. Or both, cause I don’t have the cash for a kindle. heeeeeeee :)

No, but, I do try to cater to new freelancers, simply because of my position at About, so I do feel that if they want to try for print, they really, really, should! It’s hard, yes, but it’s a matter of discipline. And if you are cranking out XX articles at DS, you likely have some discipline! And if you DON’T care to get into print–also fine.
.-= Allena´s last blog ..Demand Studios Releases Freelancers Health Insurance Info =-.

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T.W. Anderson November 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm

According to Amazon’s site that’s 250 USD for a Kindle. That’s 17 Demand Studios articles. Assuming you have a good niche (and you are a professional writer I assume, so you most certainly have some form of niche), and assuming you can push out at least 2,000 words of content an hour considering it’s no-brainer content in your niche that doesn’t require any form of research so you can just get right to typing…that’s roughly 4 hours worth of work (4 articles per hour).

Even if you break it down to 8 hours worth of work that’s still 250 USD for an 8 hour day. 31.25 USD per hour.

Playing devil’s advocate again with the following…
…the only person standing between you and success is you. You either want it, or you don’t. Demand Studios is a freakin’ amazing resource…if you know how to use it. It’s profitable, you keep your byline, and you are in, out, and paid in less than a week (within 72 hours assuming you write on a Monday, are approved by Wednesday, and paid on Thursday).

You can remain a crusty old curmudgeon, or you can be profitable. You can’t say you are profitable as it stands now, because you can’t afford a 250 USD Kindle. I don’t mean the following as an insult, but if you can’t afford 250 USD, then you aren’t really being “profitable” in the modern sense of the word.

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t use hand helds :) I much prefer curling up with a book in the comfort of my bed, or turning the pages of my favorite magazine. But when it comes down to putting food on the table for me and my wife I do whatever it takes to make as much money as quickly as possible for the least amount of effort as possible. That’s just smart business.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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T.W. Anderson November 21, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I was actually just talking to my wife about this as we wind down for bed over on this side of the globe, and I thought I’d add something to the previous post.

I don’t mean to come down on you in any way, so don’t take the above post the wrong way. The point I was trying to make is that by most people’s definition (you could even say society’s definition), profitability is determined by how much money you are making above and beyond “getting by”. In other words, if you have excess money to spend. You mentioned that you don’t have enough to buy a Kindle, which means you technically aren’t really being profitable. You are getting by.

Notice I don’t use the word successful. In my mind, successful and profitable are two different things. One can be successful without ever actually being profitable. But profitability is another beast altogether.

Simple math shows how you can literally walk into Demand Studios and make enough money in ONE working day (8 hours) to pay for that Kindle. That’s one day out of your time. Now, granted, the starter limit for Demand Studios is 10 articles a day, so technically it would take you two days to be able to hit that cap unless you are one of the writers who has been there for awhile and has your cap lifted. But the point is…print writing might have some level of prestige attached to it, and that’s all well and good, but why do we consistently (and I mean every single solitary website out there regarding freelance writing) see print writers complaining about a lack of work, a lack of funds, continually bitching about “the other guy”, constantly whining about the content writers, and so on and so forth?

The reason for this is simple. Yes, print writing can be prestigious. It can even be profitable if you can find your way in. But by far and large the most profitable method of writing in the 21st century is through content sites, be they Demand Studios or somewhere else. Print writing is considered (by most) to be a dead industry that isn’t worth the time. Thus the reason for the USPS reducing the days it delivers mail every week, thus why most major publishers are moving their businesses online, and why almost everyone out there has a hand held device of some kind or another.

Now, I’m not you. And I’m not saying this is the be-all, end-all way of doing things. But it’s certainly profitable, and it could certainly afford you a Kindle (or extra cash period) for simply a day’s worth of work. Which, btw, is how I’ve used DS in 2009. When I want to take my wife out for a nice weekend dinner or something I hop on, bang out 4-5 articles, get paid, and go out.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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Anne November 21, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Absolutely love the idea that my blog is being talked about in Europe by a husband and wife as they go to bed!

Two words I’m working with personally are sustainability and sufficiency.

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Anne November 21, 2009 at 7:41 pm

lol, so true that I’m the only cause of any lack of success I have… totally agree. I want a Kindle as well as real books… maybe I’ll wander over to DS and see what I can see….

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Regina Morrison November 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm

@ T.W., extremely well said, brilliant analogy.

Anne, I love this post. The passionate discussions these “article mill” websites provoke are so interesting. I have seen the same arguments and discussion on various other freelance writing blogs.

Personally, I always find it interesting when people are willing to get so worked up over what someone else is or isn’t doing. As long as the other person isn’t hurting anyone, should you really care?

I know those who feel that the market is being driven down by those that will work for less will say that they are being hurt. But, like many others have commented, you have to keep up with the times. Things come and go and change all the time, just relax and everything will work out! (Or, keep getting fired up as it makes for an entertaining read.)
.-= Regina Morrison´s last blog ..Tomato Soup =-.

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T.W. Anderson November 19, 2009 at 7:54 am

I echo Spike’s comments. In fact, I’ve been talking about the subject for the past 2 years on my personal blog, and I’ve been transitioning all of those thoughts on my new website. You can see it in many of the posts I make, referring to things like “How to be Relevant in a Global Market”, “Rates: What Determines Them”, and “Location, location, location”, and my most recent post on “Research in the 21st century”

People have to stop living in the world of yesteryear where things were based on regional situations. Regional is a word of the past. Global is the word of today. What worked then does not work now. Change always comes with birth pains, and the birth pains of digitalization is that content writing is the way of the future, and for print writers and people who used to get away with charging 100 dollars for an article that now can be done for 15 dollars they are freaking out. It’s a natural reaction to change. I’ve used the example in the past of the farm laborers who rioted during the advent of the threshing machine in England. They were so upset that the “new” way of doing things was taking their jobs away that they started burning farms and machines, all in a last-ditch desperate attempt to stop humanity from evolving.

Of course they couldn’t stop human evolution. You’d be daft to even want to try. The days of print are going out. The new wave is digital. That means adjusting to a global market and learning how to understand that the community of writers is the ENTIRE WORLD, not just the privileged few who used to dominate the industry.

I embrace change. I welcome it. I love evolution of the species. I’m also not one of those scrounging for pennies or bitching about the lack of work. I’m so busy that I told my wife I had to take the entire month of December off because I’m just so wiped out…plus I was financially blessed enough this year to afford taking an entire month off to just unwind and focus on passion projects. Next year is already shaping up to be twice as busy as this year, and I have so many other projects in the fire that my mind is literally boggling with the possibilities. And you know what? Out of ALL my clients, and out of ALL my possibilities, I have ONE client in the United States. (I’m not counting DS because I rarely use them, not for lack of pay; I think DS pays awesome…I just have other places at present). The rest of my work is exclusively done in Europe…Netherlands, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Australia, Bulgaria…I’ve done work in all of those countries and I’m only expanding from here.

You can either be the farmer in the field stamping your foot and holding a smoldering torch while technology moves on without you, or you can be at the front wave of the industry, adjusting to the times and continuing to evolve with the rest of the world. I know where I’m at.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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Anne November 19, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Give us some links! Sounds like worthwhile stuff.

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Jennifer Woodard November 18, 2009 at 9:52 pm

I found the comments very interesting. I do not anger at writers writing for such small amounts although I wish they would not. I anger at companies offering so very little. I feel that they are not valuing the services that are provided by the writer. There is definitely a difference in the style of writing that is going on now on the web. I myself am thankful that the amount of research is not required to write articles these days, it is very time consuming. The thing that is missing when research is not included and quotes from authories in the field is the article may not be completely truthful. If there are no facts to check, how do you really know that the article offered and the advice given is really valid. Again, I am grateful to not have to chase down people to interview and all the things that go along with jounalistic style writing, but it definitely has it place. It is so very easy for people to become a writer when writing for this new easy medium of we pay for words not necessarily expertise in what is written. A jounalist may not be an expect in lawn mower repair but by the time he finishes interviewing people, researching and learning all that needs to be learned to write an informative article, he is damn near an expert.

I have been debating whether or not I want to move towards a more journalistic approach with the articles I write for my blog. I have not, I have a hard enough time producing an article everyday for my blog. I honestly do not have the energy, time or real desire for a more journalistic style approach. I rather enjoy the relaxed writing style that the web allows.

I can certainly understand that people who have been journalist for over ten years would be intimidated and angered by all the new competition. People who have not paid their dues education or experience wise. I do not agree with call names or putting people down. I would love for writers to stick together and demand more respect for our profession. The people is people then to think that writing is easy and when you do not have to approach writing in a journalistic fashion it is much easier.

In the end, you really can’t worry about what others are doing. I am too busy watering my own grass to spend my time watering others.

Jenn

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Cathy Miller November 18, 2009 at 9:12 pm

P.S. Please don’t judge me for the typo in Ellen’s last name! #:-o
.-= Cathy Miller´s last blog ..Remembering Our Veterans =-.

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Deb Ng November 18, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Here’s what I think…

I think times have changed. I feel there are now plenty of different options for writers and I feel there are different types of writers. Some veteran writers don’t appreciate seeing a writer who doesn’t have a degree in mass communications or journalism become a success writing web content. Some veterans don’t appreciate “non journalistic” writing. Some veterans don’t like the pay. Some veterans don’t agree with giving up all rights to a 400 word article about lawn mower repair. They need a scapegoat and because Demand Studios puts out so much content and keeps so many people employed, they have a convenient scapegoat – the content site and the content site writers. The happiness of so many writers is irrelevant.

This isn’t your father’s journalism. It’s a totally different type of writing. The people who had to spend days researching a 500 word article don’t appreciate the top of the head approach. As a blogger, I’ve been criticized for this for years.. Veteran writers had to train for years and pay their dues. All of a sudden some work at home mom with no writing experience is earning $45,000 writing for Demands Studios without having to pay dues. All of a sudden an unemployed truck driver is earning $60,000 per year writing for Demand Studios without having a Journalism degree. It’s not fair. I think their passionate because they’re mourning the loss of traditional journalism.

Anyway, I could be way off base, but that’s what I think is behind.
.-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Downsizing for the Holidays: Five Tips for Getting Back into the Freelance Groove on January 2 =-.

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Star November 19, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Really? Forty-five, sixty grand? I am skeptical of that claim. And by making $5-$15 a “fee” for a story, this is lowering all rates. This is not rumor. This is not heard from a friend of a friend. Those of us who make our living this way, no second breadwinner, and have for decades, have seen it. Medical Economics, a big trade, assigned me a cover story, then said the fee was half the usual…They said they had looked at the “ads” and didn’t have to pay “New York prices.” A Cornell-Weill newsletter, done by a custom publisher, also cut rates–to my certain knowledge. The whole bar is falling. If this is because of foreigners with excellent English or snappy at-home Moms, I don’t know. I want everyone to make $45,000 or $60,000 and not by writing 4,000 stories to get it!

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T.W. Anderson November 19, 2009 at 1:03 pm

200 articles, 400 articles, 4000 articles…it doesn’t really matter. What matters is how much money the person is making for their own personal benefit, regardless of where they happen to live in the world.

If it takes you (generalization here) 5 hours to scrounge up, research, and write 2 articles, but I can put out 5 articles in 5 hours from my content site, yet we both end up with 500 dollars, who made more money?

Neither. We both made the same amount of money because we both put 5 hours into the job.

Who cares if someone else writes 5x more articles than you do? It’s none of your business. If you are a GOOD writer who is SUCCESSFUL at what you do, you are going to find clients regardless of what the “other guy” is charging. Furthermore, by spending so much time focusing on the “other guy”, you are wasting valuable time that could otherwise be spent writing articles that pay money.

The beauty of disposable content is that it’s not meant to last. We aren’t writing Pulitzer winning stuff for content sites. We are writing fast, off-the-top-of-our-head fluff in many cases. Things that take 10-15 minutes to write, yet pay 15-20 bucks. Sure, I have my 100-dollars-per-article jobs, and I definitely take more time to write those, but I’d be an absolute idiot if I took an hour to write a 400 word fluff piece.

Learn the market. Understand how the global freelancing market has changed. Understand that content writing is cream of the crop if you know how to manipulate the system. You can either make a lot of money or wander around bemoaning the way things used to be.

Be skeptical all you want. I make 25-30 dollars an hour. That’s 50-60 grand a year. With the majority of my work coming from content sites. This month alone I had over 2000 USD thrown at me from my primary content site. Two grand is two grand. I could have spent countless hours trying to market myself and scrounge up leads or I could simply take what they give me and run with it. I like money. I work part-time hours. Pretty easy decision as far as I’m concerned.

I’m actually debating turning Demand Studios into my primary bread-winner next year. They keep adding more and more categories in my niche and the only reason I haven’t used them the last few months is I’ve been too busy doing other contracts. I’ve already discussed it with the wife and I should actually be able to reduce my hours to 3 hours a day and increase my hourly rate to 50-60 USD an hour.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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Anne November 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Star, my sense is some, maybe even many of the older markets are paying less, but we’ve seen the price per article on the content sites creep up a bit. When you couple that with the possibility of revenue share, it’s possible to make decent money – not easy, and not the way we used to, but possible none-the-less.

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Star November 19, 2009 at 5:59 pm

I used to make $3K a month easily, now maybe a third. I see ads that say “some of our writers make $100 a mo.” Who can live on that or even think that is worth time they could use to research subjects and do decent queries for places that still value quality and don’t want recycled material? After a while, I keep thinking, people will see that this is not a way they can support their families–and will turn to other things, esp when we get national industrial policies that support economic growth. While I wait for this, I wil continue to state my position–however sad it makes me each and every day.

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T.W. Anderson November 20, 2009 at 1:49 am

If you are only making a thousand dollars a month you are failing to grasp how the industry works in any way, shape, or form. This is not meant as an insult. It is simply fact.

Someone else posted in one of these threads that you can do 10 articles a day (at MOST that’s 6-7 hours of work; realistically it’s more like 3-4 hours) at Demand Studios. That’s 150 dollars per day. That’s 3,000 USD per month.

The only person standing between you and success is you. You make the decisions about how much money you make. Not the market. Not the competition. Not the clients. You.
.-= T.W. Anderson´s last blog ..Research in the 21st century =-.

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Deb Ng November 21, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Yes, Star, there really are writers who make $40,000 to $60,000 per year writing for Demand Studios or other content sites. And you know what else? It’s quality content. Every single article has to go through a quality control process. Every article needs references and has to pass through copyediting and fact checking. Articles not making the cut have to be rewritten or they’re rejected outright I know of several writers who earn between $2000 and $4000 per month writing for this company.

Look, even though you may not believe it, I want writers to make as much as they want to make, but who am I to decide what that is and the means they should use to get there? I wish everyone could receive $1 per word for their writing. However, it’s not up to me to make these types of decisions for everyone. Many writers are making a very good income doing what they enjoy doing, even if veteran writers don’t approve. I admire them and I won’t take that away from them. I’ll even help them.

I’m from the old school. I started in publishing in 1985 and remember exactly how it was. There were low paying jobs there too. No, there wasn’t prolific web content because there wasn’t much of a web back then, but newspapers were notoriously low paying as were many literary journals. There were (and still are) plenty of magazines paying very little money – $5 to $20 a pop. No one complained about them and writing for newspapers and magazines required a lot more work than a web content article. So if this works and this makes sense for writers, I think that’s terrific. There’s no one way to do things anymore. There are lots of different ways to make money as a writer and I enjoy exploring all the different means and points of view. I know that doesn’t make me popular with many people (especially you, Star) but I can live with that if it means freelancers have the freedom of choice.
.-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..The Inconvenience of Inspiration =-.

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Zoe Winters January 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Holy crap Deb, I think you’re one of my twitter followers! I recognized your picture. LOLOL small world. (of course maybe you found me through one of these content mill discussions.)
.-= Zoe Winters´s last blog ..Stupid Business Tricks: Training your Customer into Entitlement =-.

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Anne March 20, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Zoe, I’m Anne – Deb is over at freelancewritinggigs.com – we’re both nice people.

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Zoe Winters March 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm

I was replying to Deb’s comment here. I realize Deb didn’t write the original article. I may not have clicked the proper reply key to reply to her comment specifically.
.-= Zoe Winters´s last blog ..Whaaaaaa Self-Publishing is HARDDDDDDD =-.

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Cathy Miller November 18, 2009 at 7:13 pm

After 30 + years of Corporate America, I began freelancing. And I can tell you I have made plenty of mistakes but, in my humble opinion, I really believe all the emotion definitely comes from the individual.

From a newbie perspective, I understand the frustration of being bombarded with the “you, too, can make 6-figures while working just a couple of hours a day.” Even if you don’t buy into that (and I hope you don’t), you have plenty of examples of people who, like you, work hard, but unlike you, are doing very well. Like you said, Anne, it’s tough not to think, “What am I doing wrong?”

Then from the perspective of a baby boomer-aged person, I take great comfort in my life’s mantra, “Everything happens for a reason.” I remember an Oprah-like “aha” moment during my corporate days where I discovered how much energy it takes to be angry or sweat all the little things in life. That was a calm, beautiful time in my life and a lesson I forgot along the way. That was the point behind me leaving the Corporate World to freelance. I want to recapture that moment.

I really work at and wish we would all work at not judging others and simply working on ourselves to be the best we can be. I often fall down on that lofty goal but I keep trying. We all could learn a lot from Ellen DeGeners and how she lives her life. Her show is just pure joy.

Live and let live and accept that what makes the world really special is the differences we all possess. I warned you I was a Pollyanna. :-)
.-= Cathy Miller´s last blog ..Remembering Our Veterans =-.

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Anne November 19, 2009 at 11:13 am

Cathy, I call that being in the present moment… works well for me when I can get there.

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Eve November 18, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Actually, Anne, I value and respect you, and though I agree that the high emotions on this situation stem from fear, I disagree with you about what that fear is. I don’t think the underlying “fear” is that people are wondering if they are truly doing the right thing. It is more of a fear of losing one’s place in the world – people are afraid of losing their sense of self. Writers identify themselves as writers. And so, when people accuse others of being “hacks” – not real writers – It is my opinion that this is not an economic issue, but one of class.

People who insult and belittle and condescend to other people are not really doing it to “educate” them or “help them” or “unite the workers.” It is my opinion that it is only done to boost their already inflated egos.

When writers write inflammatory comments on other writers by calling them “desperate” or “hacks” or just plain ignorant – it is not a reflection of their willingness to help. It is because they truly believe that since they earn $100 an article, they are “better than” people who earn $20 per article. They believe they are part of the “upper class” of writers, and that those who write for less are part of the “lower class” of writers. And why shouldn’t we treat lower-class people like the scum they are? (so the self-reasoning goes).

Writer A may earn $1000 per week by writing 10 articles. Writer B may earn $1000 per week by writing 50 articles. Here’s the kicker – it may take them both the exact same amount of time to write those articles. The amount of time it takes to query and negotiate with new clients, for example, is time that a content-mill writer is using to busily write their next article. Or, writing one $100 article may take five times as long to write a $20 article.

Some people simply (and truly, no matter what they say otherwise) believe that they are better than others. This attitude, of course, stems from fear and loathing of one’s self, but that’s a whole other topic.

Of course I’ll continue to comment on your blog, Anne. But when I saw that evil “hack” comment, I will admit that I felt devalued, defeated and just plain sad that some people choose to live their lives in a combative, angry, mean way. It just shows their own insecurities, but still – it’s something we learn in kindergarten – it’s not nice to call people names.

BTW, I wrote a piece for AP once. It took me 13 hours and I got paid $10.
.-= Eve´s last blog ..Dear Difficult Adult Students =-.

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Anne November 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

Hmmm so that might be called fear of losing one’s perception of their place in the world I suppose… could be. Interesting thought… I’ll contemplate it.

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Zoe Winters January 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Eve, I think your comment is brilliant and I totally agree with what you’re saying.

I really don’t understand why so many writers are such jerks to one another. I generally just do my own thing and take my money to the bank and go do my thing. People who are “too good” to do this or that thing are in a much worse situation ultimately than those willing to do whatever they need to do to make the money they need to make in this business.
.-= Zoe Winters´s last blog ..Stupid Business Tricks: Training your Customer into Entitlement =-.

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SpikeTheLobster November 18, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Hi Anne,

There is no controversy – it’s just the same old argument again. The established writers whining that their pay is falling because those young rapscallions will insist on offering their services for less. It’s been going on for ever – or at least since I started freelancing a year ago, when the same discussion was just a hot. In fact, here’s an entry on my blog from June about this exact same subject: http://scrawlbug.com/2009/06/22/freelance-writing-rates/ (with apologies for sticking my linkie in there – feel free to edit out that sentence if it messes up your comments, of course, Anne!!)

The simple fact is that there are a LOT more people doing the same thing: writing. Added to this, there’s huge growth in the number of non-native English writers who have as good – if not better – control of the language than a lot of the so-called experts who’ve been getting $100 a word. The market is being flooded.

Now add the fact that, unlike US- or UK-based writers (or other “first world” countries), authors in countries with much lower costs of living can actually afford to earn $1 for an article (or that $1 is well-paid, in some cases) and you have the ideal formula for much wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Western world.

The answer? Grow up and realise what globalisation is. Set your own prices, don’t accept anything less, stop looking at other people’s back yards and tidy your own. Above all, make sure you’re WORTH the price you ask – because 90% of the so-called “great” content producers are actually just regurgitating the stuff they see on other sites.

My opinion is, in a nutshell, this: if the low pay and reputation gain from working on sites such as DS (and AC, Helium, Triond, Bukasa and any of about three million other sites) is enough for you, great. More power to you. If it isn’t enough, fine – go do your thing. Just stop blaming other people for the fact that your supposed talent isn’t enough to keep demanding ludicrously high prices for your work. Welcome to the global economy.

(P.S. You know this, Anne, but for other visitors, the “you” in the above text is NOT directed at Anne, who’s brilliant and I’m sure deserves every penny she earns.)

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Anne November 19, 2009 at 11:08 am

Spike, I’m chuckling cause I suspect you’re right. Back in the dark, pre-computer days there really wasn’t a way for many writers to get together… oh a couple of hundred or so at a conference, or a dozen at a meeting – as I recall we mostly complained about how difficult it was to break in. Hadn’t even thought about how the net makes it so easy for us to tell others how much were making… management doesn’t have a chance!

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Mitch November 18, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Hi Anne,

Since I’m one of the folks who got into the fray in my own way, I’ll offer my opinion on this one.

I think what it comes down to are two things. One, all of us believe we’re good writers, and we might be. Trying to suddenly write in someone else’s format can be difficult, and we might not always feel we’re getting the support we need from the people we’re trying to write for.

Two, there is definitely a separation between those who have to scrap their way towards income initially and those who found another way to scrap to where they might be now. You see the same debates and arguments on some forums, where some people start out writing at a penny a word just to get going because they think that’s the way to go, and others who believe those people bring the writing industry down by charging so little, especially if they might be pretty good writers.

Also, the word “hack” didn’t help. lol
.-= Mitch´s last blog ..If You Can’t Get Your Family And Friends To Subscribe… =-.

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Anne November 19, 2009 at 11:11 am

As I recall, Dickens was paid a penny a word (worth more back then) which is one reason he wrote so many words!

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Mitch November 19, 2009 at 11:16 am

Too many, since some of his books, at least to me, are unreadable. :-)
.-= Mitch´s last blog ..My 13 Favorite Singers =-.

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