Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Benefits of working for a content mill

The world of freelance writing is changing fast, and the emergence of the so-called "content mill" is a major feature of that change.

TW Anderson has written rather glowingly about working for Demand Studios, an online media outfit that provides content for websites such as eHow, Answerbag and LiveStrong. DS populates the sites by hiring freelance writers to churn out regular articles following a rigorous style and format. Writers can pick and choose from thousands of titles; they write up the article, submit it, and they're paid a flat fee when it's accepted.

The DS set-up is a typical content mill model. But this style of creating content has its critics. The main criticism is that it is low-paid. To give you an idea, a standard-length eHow article (300-400 words) pays $15.

Anderson errs on the side of unabashed optimism with his assessment of working for Demand Studios, but he makes some salient points.

First, it should be said that although DS's fees are on the cusp of what's acceptable for a professional freelance copywriter, they are generally a few notches above the competition. Break Studios, for example, pays as little as $8 for 700 words. That makes DS fees two to four times as high as BS (no pun intended).

The big factor to consider is how much time and effort is saved writing for a content mill like DS. Suppose I charge a client $40 for an hour's work. At first glance, that seems a much better prospect than making $15 to $30 in an hour with DS.

But what about the savings? With a private client, I spend twice the amount of time unpaid. There's the time I spend searching for leads. When I find a lead, there's the time I spend emailing back and forth to get the job. Once I've secured the job, there's the time I spend on the phone to discuss the requirements. Even after the job, you still have to deal with invoices and the regular annoyance of chasing up unpaid bills. So a $40-an-hour job ends up being a $20-an-hour (or less) job when all the extra work is figured in.

With Demand Studios, there's none of that. You just log in, and the only unpaid time is what you spend searching the database for titles. Once you've found a title, you research, write, edit and submit. Once you're used to the style and format, you can manage at least a title or two in an hour. Payment is automatic once an assignment has been accepted.

Is the system perfect? No, and few freelancers want to stay with a client like Demand Studios forever. But is it unreasonable? All things considered, it's a fair deal.


  1. <Writer of the post here.

    I've actually often criticized them in the past, because their editing system is definitely flawed, but for the amount of time you can put in and simply "write for cash", it's a fairly decent system.

    Obviously it doesn't work for everyone, and individual results may vary, but for me, I can make 30-45 an hour typing by hand or 45-60 an hour using Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and while that is less than I make with my traditional, private clients, it's a fair trade off considering there is no time spend lolly-gagging and drumming up the work in the first place.

  2. Nice post, and much more realistic. As someone who has been writing content for awhile, I can only say that I think Mr. Anderson's stats are skewed and misrepresented. As he says, he has been criticized before.

  3. Thanks, guys.

    Not as optimistic as TW, but I don't think DS is a bad deal, and it's come along at a convenient time for me.

  4. Sorry, just realized I never linked TW's article in the original post.