Content Writing Experiment, or how to make a minimum of 50 dollars an hour.

Every time I hear someone say “I don’t have the time” when it comes to discussing the excuses as to why they aren’t working out on a daily basis, I giggle a little bit inside. You don’t have time. Riiight. But you can spend 2-3 hours a day playing a random application on Facebook, making Tweets on Twitter about the fact you just bought pink toilet paper instead of white, and hitting up the latest viral vids on YouTube.

Everyone has roughly 2 hours a day they spend on completely trivial, useless activities. Now, that’s not to say that entertainment isn’t important; it is. Without entertainment our lives would become nothing but drudgery, and what would any of us have to look forward to? But here’s the thing: wouldn’t you love to be able to do with your life what you want to do with it, rather than being a slave to the concept of an 8 hour work day?

Of course you would. Everyone would. Not only would everyone love to work less, but everyone would love to have more money in the bank to spend. For example, someone I know is in a relationship with 2 children. Both she and her spouse work full time jobs making just over 30k apiece between them for a combined income of 60-65k. Recently their home computer broke down, and she complained that they didn’t have enough extra money in the bank to afford to replace it.

You can get a home computer these days for under $500.00. You mean to tell me that with your full-time job you can’t afford to spend a mere 500 dollars?

Welcome to the life of the average American citizen.

According to the Social Security’s main website, the average wage in 2008 was just over 41k a year. The people in my question live in a “poorer” state which has a lower than average income for their majority, but they are still making a “decent” wage that puts them just shy of the average mark.

41k a year, working full-time hours. 40 hours a week. 50 weeks a year (assuming a 2 week paid vacation). That’s the average.

What if you could make more than that, working half the hours? Don’t believe it’s possible?

Get ready to have your world rocked.

Late last year, I was inspired by this post over at About.com’s freelance writing section to track my own numbers. That led to another idea to have a content writing experiment. You see, many so-called professional writers in the field would have you believe that content sites pay less than minimum wage. They continually point out the cost-per-article rates and claim that “you should never work for such low pay; that’s less than minimum wage!” I am here to show you the direct opposite. I’m joining the ranks of those writers who are backing up their numbers with proof. There’s no exploitation here, no minimum wage. There’s only cold, hard cash.

Other professional writers will tell you that writing for content sites is stupid because there’s no security. The jobs could dry up. The topics could run out. Sure…they could. No job has true security. Think about people who worked for AIG, Madoff, Enron. I’m sure they went into work every day telling themselves, “I’m working for a multi-billion dollar international company. I’m set for LIFE!”

This is not cherry-picked data. This is hands-on, physical proof. I have no college degree. I never graduated high school. I started working in the construction industry when I was a child, and by the time I was 16 years old I was working full-time. I do not have a journalism degree, I never worked for a magazine, and I have no formal education. I am a redneck from Colorado who simply went out there and made a name for himself doing something he enjoyed doing: writing. Anyone can write for content sites. This isn’t one of those “make hundreds of thousands of dollars for 2 hours a day” scam. This is 2 hours a day, making a fairly reasonable wage (depending on where you live).

The point of this project is to show how the everyday, average Joe can come in, write for a place like Demand Studios, and make a significant amount of money without ever having to waste a single moment marketing, cold-calling, querying, or any other administrative duties that plague freelance writers working in the traditional methods. Not to mention make a boat-load of cash without ever working a traditional 8 hour day.

The point of this experiment is to simply show how, with a couple spare hours every day, a person can make an extra 100 dollars, every day. Factoring in a normal work week of 5 days a week, that’s 500 dollars a week, 2,000 dollars a month, 24,000 a year, just using the spare time that you normally use for things like watching American Idol, playing games on Facebook, or other simple time burners.

This article will show how anyone, regardless of their chosen profession, can use a content site to make a healthy wage. Many traditional writers would have you believe that their way is the only way to success. That the only way to be a successful writer is to spend your time on the phone, cold-calling magazines and clients and trying to drum up work. Querying editors and magazines and websites and waiting weeks or months to hear back from them to let you know if you can even write the article in the first place. Having something accepted, only to find out that you don’t get paid until publication, and when the magazine or website in question won’t be publishing your article for another 6 months, you are out waiting for a paycheck for those 6 months.

The beauty of places like Demand Studios is that it’s fast cash. They pay via PayPal, within days of your work being submitted. There is no querying. There is no waiting. There are no administrative duties. There are no phone calls required. There is no delay in your paycheck. There are no e-mails. No waiting for replies. No leaving voice mails. No time wasted that could otherwise be spent writing and actually making money. There are only fast, immediate results.

What you will see, by the end of this experiment, is that writing for content sites is not only profitable, but extremely easy. It is not challenging, it is not stressful, and it is far from being difficult. But the most important thing I want you, the readers, to understand is the following: content sites are not taking advantage of writers and exploiting them.

If you wanted to, you could take writing for content sites and work 4 hours a day instead of 2, and see your numbers double. You can make 24k a year using purely this system, just using 2 hours a day of your spare time, 5 days a week. If you are happy doing so, and only working in your spare time to supplement your other job, that’s great. But if you wanted to, you can see how easy it is to turn around and make 50k a year working a mere four hours a day. No commuting to the office, no dealing with clients, no dealing with superiors, no waiting in line at the bank, no phone calls, no querying , no waiting, no customer service. No more slaving away at a 9-5 job for a measly 41k a year. No more spending half your time marketing and querying. Just cold hard cash for your time invested.

For the purpose of this exercise, I will only write for an average of 2 hours each session. The point is to pretend as though I only have two hours of spare time per day to write about my hobbies for a paycheck. I will not be rushing. I will be typing normally. I will take breaks between articles. The session usually falls between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. of my day, which means I take a break for lunch in between. As a general rule I am factoring in roughly 30 minutes of downtime in every 2 hour session, which allows for those individuals who have kids that might need attending to, pets that might need to be taken out for bathroom breaks, smoke breaks, bathroom breaks, and other possible interruptions.

What you will see, through the course of this experiment, is that there are times when it takes me a full hour to write 3 articles (when I have to research), and then there are times when I find easier articles that allow me to write significantly more (5-7 in an hour). You will also see Demand Studios editors requesting rewrites, something that has never happened to me with my traditional clients who use traditional editors. This, to me, suggests that they (content sites) do indeed hire decent editors. Most content-site-haters continually spew about the quality of the writing that comes out of places like Demand Studios, but the reality of it is that their editors are actually more stringent than the ones I deal with in my traditional freelance work. Considering the fact I have never had a rejection or had a request for rewrite in my professional career dealing with traditional clients, yet with Demand Studios I have had rewrite requests, the evidence seems to point to the fact that they do indeed have quality editors on staff.

I will not be writing articles that I have no interest in, or articles that are about topics I know nothing about. For example, I had a project earlier in 2009 which was on poker. I knew next to nothing about poker. It took me two weeks to research for the project, and I then spent the next two weeks writing about it. By the time I was done I was fairly knowledgeable about everything related to poker on a worldwide basis. Enough so that I started playing in my spare time and have managed to maintain an 85%+ win rate. However, the point is that if I write about topics I know nothing about, half of my time is spent on research. The point of writing for places like Demand Studios is to stick to articles you know, or already have an active interest in, so that the job never becomes dull, never becomes boring, and always remains profitable. If it’s not profitable, fun, and interesting, what’s the point of doing it?

I am using Demand Studios in conjunction with one other content site and a client whose needs are similar to a content article. For the purpose of this experiment we will only be focusing on fast, profitable content. Topics that do not require vast amounts of research.

I am using three niches: health and fitness, home improvement, and travel.

I specifically write home improvement at Demand Studios, destination overviews for a client, and health and fitness for the other content site.

I do not research for the home improvement articles, as I have intimate knowledge of the topic based upon 15 years of field experience and three generations of family. The other content site sends me titles + links to the articles they want me to use in my writing, and all of the articles must include citations. This could be said to require no research, because all I am doing is clinking a link, quoting the doctors involved in the study/topic, and writing about it. For example, if the article is about macular degeneration I can pull up the wiki, write a quick phrase about “what” macular degeneration is, then reference the study, where it was published, who the doctors were, what they said, and then I write a conclusion to the article. The travel articles require me to research: I have three sites I use: Lonely Planet, the travel Wiki, and the normal Wiki.

Keep in mind that I am not only pointing out the good things in the system, but also the potential bad. For the purposes of this study, we will looking at Demand Studios as well as a couple of other sites which pay less than Demand Studios, these so-called low-paying havens that are supposedly taking advantage of writers and forcing them to work for below minimum wage. I will be writing both in niches that I am 100% comfortable with, and I will also be writing articles for which I have to do actual research. Everything will be detailed in a daily journal of my content writing experiences.

I will be posting week one’s results in greater detail next week. As of right now I have completed day 7 of the experiment. For week one, I assumed a 5 day work week. I invested a total of 9.25 hours for $550.00, so slightly less than my 2 hours a day average. I could easily have cleared 600 dollars for week one had I spent another 45 minutes.

Every week I will be posting the results of the week’s experiments. I will be tracking every single moment of my time spent during the 2 hour period, including whether or not I take any bathroom breaks, lunch breaks, phone calls, or otherwise.

The experiment will run until I have a month’s worth of working data. The goal is to make a minimum of 2,000 USD for a mere 2 hours a day of invested time; less than what most people spend wasting on Facebook and Twitter every day.

At the end of the experiment I will be releasing an Excel version of the data. I will also be including my PayPal stubs for the period of the project. In other words, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m going to prove to you just how easy it is to work a couple hours a day and make a minimum of 50 dollars an hour. In the meantime, stay tuned for the daily journals, as they will include a breakdown of everything in minute detail for your reading pleasure.

Writing for content sites is just one of many ways that you can choose to make a healthy living. Want to make 50k a year working part-time hours? Totally feasible. Want to supplement your other, full-time job? Go for it. Want to turn content writing into a full-time job? Go for it!

The only person standing between you and success…is you. Get out there and take life by the horns.

T.W. Anderson is the founder of Complete Writing Solutions, and is a freelance writer specializing in travel writing, website content, interior design and home improvement, green-related topics, as well as anything else potential clients need him to be.

Posted in Freelance Writing 101 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
5 comments on “Content Writing Experiment, or how to make a minimum of 50 dollars an hour.
  1. Andrew says:

    While I don’t think this a “scam” by any stretch of the imagination, it is similar to many mass-marketed “get rich quick” schemes in that it glosses over the basic principles of supply and demand. What would happen to car prices if every auto manufacturer doubled its output overnight? One thing is certain: I’d be driving a nicer car! :)

    Let’s say that one of these content mills pays $20 a pop for 10,000 articles per year. What makes you think it would be willing to buy twice that many at same price? As supply increases and competition intensifies, prices will go down. That should happen unless the content mill toughens its requirements for submissions. Both of those outcomes would result in lower average pay for would-be writers.

    The more articles there are floating around in the interwebs, the more their average value falls. They are competing with each other for relatively scarce ad revenue. Even your own articles are competing with each other, most likely.

    One might argue that there is virtually unlimited demand for this content, but that strikes me as implausible. I find it unlikely that a how-to page that spends hundreds of thousands on content is going to multiply its budget with little assurance that it will boost ad revenue. I think this reflects the unsustainability of the content mill business model, but that’s another issue.

    I’m glad that you’ve done well with this, and I wish you further success in that industry. I just doubt that it can be achieved en masse, regardless of the abilities of your audience.

  2. First of all, there’s nothing to scam. I’m not selling anything. All I’m doing is running a little experiment.

    As far as the longevity of the work…the same could be said of any job. One could argue that working for Microsoft is by no means a “sure fire” bet as can be seen from the massive failure of companies like Enron or AIG. Sustainability in any market is driven by supply and demand…this is common sense, and doesn’t need to be discussed.

    10 years ago Internet Explorer was one of the only browser people had access to. Now we have Firefox, Opera, Google Wave, and several others. Are internet browsers less popular because there are more options available? Absolutely not. It’s true that competition has gone up, and there are less subs per browser than there were a decade ago, but as more and more people around the world have access to the interwebz the value of choice is more important than ever. That is the beauty of content: adding choice.

    Right now, and for the past few years, content writing has been a fairly stable business, and one that is continuing to grow. Will it eventually level off? Possibly. I’d even take that a step further and say “probably”. The same could be said for any job. Eventually things change, and people have to learn how to adapt to new markets.

    The point of this experiment is to prove how people can either make some extra cash on the side, or turn content writing into a full-time gig. It is also an experiment to prove a point; to provide actual numbers, and show that no, content writing sites are not “taking advantage” of writers, nor are they paying “less than minimum wage”, as so many content site haters are wont to state.

    Neither is this empirical evidence. Just because I can make the system work for me is by no means proof that anyone can walk in. However, it is proof that it can be done, and that’s the key point: to provide inspiration to others and show more than just negativity.

    I’m not suggesting any sort of “get rich” quick schemes. Again…I’m not selling anything. I’m simply showing hard numbers, proof that it can be done if you have a mind to do it, to offer the other side of the cake as a counter to the continuous stream of negativity from people claiming that content sites are the devil.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Andrew says:

    Sure, companies fail, jobs disappear, and so on and so on, but here we’re talking about an entire industry in its infancy, in a medium that is still quite young, one that few people have been able to monetize successfully.

    I might be a bit older than you, but I do recall that IE had a few competitors back in the day: Netscape, Mosaic, Opera, AOL. Competition is an absolutely terrific thing for society. It benefits the consumer, but it also tends to squeeze profits over the long run. That’s not a reason to limit competition, but it’s a really of doing business that entrepreneurs must anticipate. Case in point: virtually all popular browser are free. Some of IE’s competitors literally cannot give their product away!

    I never said you were offering any sort of scheme or scam. On the contrary, I believe that you want to offer folks a genuine opportunity to help themselves. I tend to have a selfish habit of being very tight-lipped about my more lucrative gigs, so I’d commend you there. It’s just that I believe that we’re looking at a young market that has yet to settle.

  4. I don’t really consider writing for Demand Studios/other content sites to be a lucrative gig that needs to be kept behind closed doors. The main reason I wanted to do this was because last year I took a lot of flak from certain authors in the blog-o-sphere about being public about the fact I write for content mills in conjunction with traditional clients. The most vocal of those opponents claimed several things: that content writing sites lack quality editors, that content writing sites pay below minimum wage, and that content sites take advantage of writers by paying them such low fees.

    Said opponents only ever focus on the negatives. They only ever cherry pick their data. I wanted to provide some hard proof that not only can content writing be extremely lucrative, but that they are in no way, shape, or form taking advantage of writers.

    Absolutely correct that it is a fairly new market…only a few years old, in fact. While content mills have been around for longer than that, the major push has only been in the past few years. I myself only just jumped on the content mill bandwagon last year. While there’s nothing wrong with being tight-lipped about your best writing opportunities, I tend to lean on the side of Pat over at the Smart Passive Income blog. The kid made 203k USD selling an e-book on an architecture test (if memory serves), and everything he offers on his website is 100% free. He goes into explicitly detailed how-to articles. The way he described it, he doesn’t make enough money to give to charity, so his way of giving back to the community is by offering all of his advice for free. The best part about his site–and what inspired me to do the same here–was providing his monthly income numbers including a breakdown of how each number was arrived at, showing proof positive how the system can work.

    While I’m not in his income bracket, the point of my experiment is to provide proof that yes, content writing can be lucrative. It can replace traditional querying, waiting, cold-calling, and otherwise. Many traditional freelancers want you to believe that the only way to success is the same path they trod, using archaic, antiquated methods. This is simply not true. As someone who writes primarily for global clients (90% or more of my work is from non-US sources) I can tell you for a fact that just because it’s done a certain way in the US does not mean that’s how it’s done in the rest of the world.

    Cheers!

  5. Richard Wilson says:

    I really enjoyed this discussion. I feel both inspired and informed..

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