Writing for an internet article mill.

I’ve been working for Demand Studios since May 2010. I wrote 149 articles in 2010, earning a total of $1012.50.

I mostly wrote two kinds of articles – $3 “Tip” articles which were one- or two-sentence answers for questions on sites like Answerbag.com, and $15 “About” and “List” articles which were longer (500 words or so) articles for sites like eHow.com.

As an experiment, I also did one of their “revenue sharing” articles, which is where you write for free, and then they share the revenue generated by the article. The experiment didn’t pan out all that well. I wrote a how-to article on submitting short stories, and so far I’ve theoretically made $3.42 (in four months), which I don’t expect to ever see because you have to earn a minimum of $10 before they pay you.

I initially preferred the Tip articles because they were really fast to write. I could generally do 7 or 8 an hour. They had a lot of questions I already knew the answer to,1 or which I would have been happy to spend unpaid time reading about.2

They ran out of Tip articles early on (I don’t know why – maybe Answerbag stopped using Demand Studios?) so then I did some About articles, which were pretty time-consuming. Those would take me an hour and a half to two hours to write, about half of which was research. People in the forums claimed to be able to write 2 or 3 or 4 of these articles in an hour, but I never could. I was about ready to give up on them, when I discovered the travel List titles.3

Travel articles are really easy to write when you’re not expected to provide an opinion or any sort of insight. Demand Studios doesn’t require the writer to actually have visited the place they’re writing about, or, indeed, know anything about it, in sharp contrast to publishers who aren’t just trying to cash in on SEO. I used Google Maps’ “search nearby” feature to find places to write about, and then I used those places’ websites for info. I wasn’t giving recommendations, just providing regurgitated info from already publicly available sources. I wrote quick and formulaic (most of my articles were initially flagged for plagiarism by their automated system because they were too similar to my own previous articles), and those articles still took 45 minutes to an hour to write.

The travel articles ran out mid-autumn, and at that point I’d earned the thousand dollars I’d been aiming for, so I stopped writing for them.

I estimate I earned, on average, about $10 an hour. That’s not great, and includes no benefits, but it’s better than minimum wage and most importantly for me, allowed me to earn money without my husband knowing about it. My paycheque from my day job goes into our joint account, and he takes care of our finances, so sekrit monies are hard to come by. Alan went to Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK several summers ago, and ever since he’s been talking about going back. His 30th birthday was yesterday. Last night, I gave him a bank statement from the bank account that he doesn’t have access to, which is where I’ve been salting this money away. Combined with my pay from the story Per Contra published and the poetry contest I won, and a little of our Christmas money, I’ve saved enough that he thinks it will cover our flights to Europe. So that’s a pretty damn sweet birthday gift, and yeah, I am pretty much the best wife ever, at least this weekend.

Writing for Demand Studios is an okay way to make some extra money, but that’s about all you can say for it. It’s not a good full-time gig (they don’t have enough decent titles available at any given time), and it’s not a good way to build your reputation as a freelancer (the pressure to churn out content necessarily requires a lower quality of writing). I don’t have a freelance reputation to uphold, so this wasn’t much of a concern for me (I also wrote under a pseudonym, if a pretty transparent one, because I didn’t want my professional name associated with a sea of decent-but-not-great writing whenever somebody did a Google search on it). Demand Studios is essentially a writing sweatshop. At around $10/hour, it’s a lot less than a professional freelance writer is going to earn writing articles for almost anybody else.

I went into it with my eyes open, and I’m not complaining – in fact I am smugly pleased with myself for giving my husband the Best Gift Evah – but I wanted to write a bit about it here to let people know about my experience. I really can’t recommend writing for Demand Studios5 unless you’re just looking for some extra cash, like I was.

1Like “Is the sun a planet or a star?” (yes, really – weep for our educational system) or “What is the opposite of trochaic meter?”
2Like “How far can a cricket hop?” and “Can a mouse eat through foam insulation?”
3Like “Things to Do Near State Street in Albany, New York” or “Hotels & Motels in Ottawa, Canada.”4
4Yes, all of these examples are actual articles I wrote.
5Incidentally, Demand Media, who own Demand Studios, are now being investigated by the SEC for accounting irregularities. So, clearly they are very trustworthy.

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