Exploitation of Writers: Fact or Fiction

Something that is a fairly hot topic among certain circles in the Internet community of freelance writers is the concept of livable wages, or the amount of money an individual needs to make in order to pay their cost of living. As you know from the vast majority of my posts, I have a vested interest in the concept because I primarily focus on writing tips for those individuals who understand the global market, and have a global mentality. Those of us who are working abroad, living abroad, or traveling frequently understand that the concept of livable wage is a 20th century concept, prior to the advent of global Internet. Livable wage was a concept tied directly to local markets, back before local included the entire developed world.

You see, livable wage depends entirely upon where you live. I’ve discussed this in other posts in the past when talking about why publishers in New York, for example, can afford to pay their writers a higher rate than a publication out of Dubai, for example, or even from St. Louis. The cost of living is so dramatically different between locations that there is no such things as standardized rates.

Standardized rates can only exist in a world where there is a baseline minimum wage and cost of living that is the same for every single person in the world. There isn’t. Global currency is nothing more than a dream, something we will never see in our lifetime. Maybe for the next generation or two down the road, but nowhere in our future.

With that in mind, you will see a lot of freelancers from the US talking about exploitative wages paid by certain content companies or certain clients. These writers will make broad, generalized claims that such and such company is using slave labor, that they are paying less than minimum wage, that they are somehow oppressing writers and forcing them to work for peanuts and sawdust.

If you have been following my blog here at the website for any length of time you know I not only work for traditional clients, but I also do some content writing from time to time above and beyond my client’s needs. In addition, I also write short fiction, and recently founded a speculative fiction magazine. I am also backing my wife’s ongoing crafting business. In short, I have a lot of irons in the fire and my fingers are in a lot of different pies. Freelance writing is not the only thing I do for a living; rather, it is simply the main source of income.

With my recent content writing experiment I took the time to set out and prove a point: that anyone, regardless of level of skill, could walk into a content writing site like Demand Studios and make better than middle management wages. If you have been following the experiment (week 3’s results were just posted last week) for any length of time you will see that the overall goal of the experiment was to prove that anyone can walk in and make a minimum of 50 dollars an hour writing for content sites…provided that the individuals in question understand how to write that kind of content. We are talking about short blurb articles that focus on the types of articles like How To do something, About something, or a Strategy about something. 400-500 word blurbs that require little/no effort, and are meant to be “disposable” content.

Do I think content writing for sites like Demand Studios is a long-term thing? Personally, no. Eventually there will be so much disposable content on the web that the saturation effect will set in, and rates will either drop dramatically or there won’t be any content left to write about. However, I’ve always subscribed to the Richard Branson concept of business. The Virgin brand is not limited to an airline. It encompasses trans, planes, cell phones, a music label, a space program, and much, much more. He has a lot of fingers in a lot of different pies. For writers utilizing content sites, it’s a great way to get fast results and big paychecks for almost no effort.

I do, however, think that the claims made by a select group of individuals regarding the “below minimum wage” prices that content sites pay is a blanket statement that should be refined. Yes, there are certain places out there which pay rates I wouldn’t personally work for…but I can’t say the same thing for someone living in Pakistan, India, mainland China, or Mexico, for example. You see, minimum wage isn’t a transferable concept. What is minimum wage to one person living in X part of the world is not the same as the minimum wage of a person living in Y. Their livable wages are vastly different because they live in two different parts of the world.

Looking specifically at Demand Studios and the other content site I used for the experiment, and the three weeks of results I have so far, I showed how I was able to make upper management wages (according to the United State’s Department of Labor statistics) solely using content sites. I also showed how even the slowest writer out there will make around 15 dollars an hour (a claim backed up by the management of Demand Studios, who show how their average writers make between 15 and 30 dollars an hour), which you should note is more than double the federal minimum wage in the United States at its lowest level, only 3 dollars an hour less than the NATIONAL AVERAGE as posted by the Department of Labor (just over 18 dollars an hour as of the 2nd quarter 2009; that’s down from just over 21 dollars an hour in 2007, and the US Census website showed a 3.6 percent drop in household median).

As you can see, at the higher end of the average posted by the people behind Demand Studios, their writers are averaging 30 dollars an hour, which as you can see from the numbers posted in my Week 3’s results in regards to the median wage of middle management across the nation, is 5 dollars an hour MORE than the highest-paid middle management individual in America making 50k a year for 25 dollars an hour, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year.

Not to mention, the US Dollar is still ranked fairly high on the exchange rate platform, although it’s still lower than the GBP, and has been replaced worldwide by the Euro as the most stable currency. What that means is that minimum wage for individuals in the United States is still double, triple, quadruple, and in some cases even more, than the minimum wage in many countries around the world.

Going back to the concept of livable wage, that translates directly into this: if the minimum wage is X in the United States, but multiplies by x2, 3, 4, or more in other countries, that minimum wage suddenly becomes middle management wages (or more) to an individual living in Mexico, or other places in the world.

As you can see, the concept of livable wages as most of these so-called professionals would have you think is flawed. Since there are no standardized wages or costs of living around the world, livable wages are determined entirely by the country where someone is living.

So, looking at content sites like Demand Studios, how exactly are they exploiting writers? Looking specifically at writers from the Unites States, and the numbers I have physically proven with my writing experiment, not to mention the numbers posted by the US Department of Labor, how is making middle-to-upper management wages in any way exploitative?

Think about it. Is 40-60 USD an hour exploitative? Are those wages oppressive?

The fact of the matter is simple. There is no exploitation going on. There is no oppression. When a person chooses to write for a content company they are making a choice, and that choice is solely up to the individual in question. One person might only be able to make 15 dollars an hour using content sites, while someone like me can make 60-75 dollars an hour. Am I making a better “livable wage” than another person? It depends ENTIRELY upon where that person is living in the world, what their cost of living is, and what their circumstances are. I cannot claim to make any statements about whether or not the rate of pay is exploitative for that individual because I am not in their shoes. For them, that 15 dollars an hour could very well be the equivalent of the 60-75 dollars an hour that I can make using solely content sites. I simply cannot make that call.

The next time someone makes a blanket statement about rates, think about the whole picture before you agree or disagree.

Posted in Freelance Writing Resources Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Content Writing Experiment: Week 3 Results

Week 3:

10 hours spent, 525 dollars made, for an average of 52.5 dollars per hour.

It should be noted that I only wrote 9 Demand Studios articles over the course of Week 3. I still hold to the fact that Demand Studios pays significantly greater than the other content site I use, by a margin of 20 dollars an hour or more. If I were writing solely for the other site, my pay would drop to around 40 dollars an hour, rather than averaging out at 50. If I wrote solely for Demand Studios, as you can see from week one, I make well above 60 dollars an hour, and in some cases make 75 dollars an hour.

Median wages for America in the second quarter of 2009 were 734 dollars per week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s for a full-time, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, with 1-2 weeks paid vacation a year. That’s $18.35 per hour, a severe drop from the numbers posted in 2007 when the median wage was closer to 22 dollars per hour.

As you can see from this experiment, which is based upon 10 hours per work week, it is feasible to make more than the average American on a per-year basis by only working an additional 10 hours per week….that is, 20 hours per week, for 1000 USD per week, which is nearly 300 dollars more per week than the average American citizen makes in a full 8 hour day.

While the numbers do vary a little bit, if you look at the Bank of America numbers posted on Careerbliss’ website, you will see that an assistant manager makes around 46,000 USD per year, while account managers make around 32,000 a year, and the center manager (manager of the branch) makes around 60,000 USD per year. They have hundreds of companies up on their site for viewing, and with the exception of the major companies like Boeing, Pfizer, and other major international companies, the average wage for middle management falls between 40 and 50k a year. Upper management makes 60-80k a year, and executives can make anywhere between 80k and 100k, unless they are in CEO positions, in which case they will be making millions. But we aren’t looking at those. We are looking at the “average” guys, the ones who have to work 40 hours a week, who don’t get major perks from the company like first class tickets and million dollar bonuses.

2009. Second quarter. Median wage in the United States was under 19 dollars an hour. Average middle management job is 40-50k a year. If you take the high number, 50k a year, and divide it by 50 weeks per year worked (assuming a 2 week vacation per year), you come up with a nice, even, one thousand dollars per week, or 25 dollars an hour.

That’s right folks, 25 dollars an hour. That’s your typical middle management wage.

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at upper management, folks. 80k a year. That’s 1600 a week, or 40 dollars an hour. That’s the average upper management wage.

As you can see from this writing experiment, it is completely feasible to make more money than upper management at some of the major companies across the United States…writing for content sites.

Many freelancers would have you believe that content sites are exploitive, that they are oppressive, that they are low-paying, and more. This is absolutely not true. If you have the gumption you can easily make more money than typical upper management.

However, to be fair, you also need to consider the fact that working for a company like that means many of your taxes are paid by the company, and this is definitely something that has to be considered. But the beauty of working for yourself as a freelancer is that you get to write off many of the things that regular employees cannot. Your computer, your office space, your phone bill, all of your supplies…there are dozens of tax write offs that you can use, and in most cases you will pay far less in taxes than you would working for another company.

I should also note that while writing for content sites can be lucrative, as you can see from these results, they are only lucrative if you have a lot of niches in which to write. However, given a few months of research anyone can pick up the niches which are profitable.

Bottom line is that there are pros and cons to the system, but in my opinion the pros far outweigh the cons. In either case, here are my results for Week 3.

Day 11:

Similar to last week. 3 articles @ 300 words each, 30 minutes for 30 dollars.

5 articles @ 1k words each, roughly 1.5 hours for writing time. 60 dollars

3 DS articles, 30 minutes, 45 dollars.

Day 12:

3 x 300 words for 30 dollars. 30 minutes.

5 x 1k words for 60 dollars…1.5 hours.

3 x Demand Studios articles, 30 minutes. 45 dollars

I’m not even listing keyword search times anymore, because it’s negligible. I pop in, load up the keywords, hit search, and there are 20+ pages of titles to choose from. I usually pick my articles in the first 3-4 pages, which takes all of 2-3 minutes, max. Keep in mind I’m specifically trying to find articles I can write in 10-15 minutes.

Day 13:

3 x 300 for 30 bucks. 30 minutes

5 x1k words for 60 bucks. 1.5 hours

Day 14:

Repeat of day 13.

Day 15:

3 articles for client. 30 minutes, 30 bucks.

3 Demand Studios articles, 30 minutes, 45 dollars.

Posted in Freelance Writing Resources Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

To post daily, or not to post daily

In the myriad of blog posts and websites around the Interwebz, one of the most common themes put out by social media experts is “more, more MORE!”. They tell you to post Tweets every few minutes, post multiple daily posts on your blog or website, and do everything you can to stay on the top of everyone’s social media lists of “active” posters.

Some people have asked why I don’t write daily posts, or multiple tweets per day. The answer? Quantity does not always equal quality.

The problem is simply this: if I were to post something every single day on my website, I would eventually run out of things to say. Eventually I would simply be repeating what 50 other people on the Internet are saying on their blogs, which is an exercise in futility. I prefer to keep the posts on my website informative, quality-driven, and aimed at providing actual resources for the readers who visit on a daily basis, not just fluff on a webpage to bring in hits-per-day.

Will I always write superb posts? Nope. I’m a human, just like anyone else, which means I am cursed to some degree with the gene of mediocrity. However, I do strive to rise above that gene and provide my readers with content that can actually help them improve upon their writing skills and in their writing career. You also have to remember that the main purpose of this website is simply an online resume with some added resources thrown in for people who care to read.

Some websites get thousands of hits per day. Others get tens of thousands. I get a few hundred. I’m happy with that number. Why? Because I know that when I make a post it’s not a regurgitated piece of copy that has been written a hundred times somewhere else in a watered-down format. Perhaps eventually I’ll build up to that number, but this website has only been in existence since November of 2009. We have a long, long way to go, and we are just getting started!

With that in mind, throughout 2010 I will be taking the time with Complete Writing Solutions to provide you, the reader (and hopefully writers!), with ways to increase your productivity, as well as show you ways to make more money with less effort.

The current writing contest is part of what I have planned for the year. Week 3 will be wrapping up sometime this week, and you’ll be happy to know I’m well ahead of my 50 dollars an hour plan. This is great news for all of the newbie writers out there who are wondering how the heck to make any money while they are working at building up clips and padding their CV, or for veteran writers who are looking for a way to supplement their income. The project is taking a close look at writing disposable website content for the we-want-it-now-and-we-want-it-in-bulk web content phenomena, and how to make it profitable for you, and so far, the results have been beyond expectations. So good, in fact, that I’m already prepping a round 2, which will be a second writing experiment I perform sometime in March or April.

In the meantime, for those of you who read, I’d like to thank you for your participation, and for your support. Work is going excellent on this side of the world, and 2010 is shaping up to be our best year ever as we move forward into the rest of it. There are a lot of big plans, and I’m grateful to those of you who are along for the ride. To the rest, feel free to browse around the website and hopefully take away something that will help you in your writing career.

Stay tuned for Week 3’s results later this week!

Posted in Freelance Writing Resources

Content Writing Experiment: Week 2

I’m not writing the full 2 hours every day. Some days I go over a bit, and other days I go under. It just depends on how I feel or if I have anything else going on. At the end of my session today, I’m up against 9.5 hours of work balanced against 455 dollars so far. 47.8 dollars per hour, or 48 dollars per hour. Note that I’m still 30 minutes short of my 10 hours per week schedule as of this writing. I’m going to pop over to Demand Studios this evening and plug in 3 articles to bring myself up to the 10 hours mark, which also puts me at 500 dollars for the weeks’ worth of time. 50 dollars an hour.

Interestingly, as you can see from this week’s numbers, when I cut Demand Studious out of the equation, I made significantly less money. I never dropped below 40 dollars an hour, however, which is double the national average of a US resident/citizen. Far beyond minimum wage, and definitely nowhere near exploitative wages. No one is being abused or taken advantage of by these content sites.

One thing I want to add: writing for content sites is primarily only profitable if you stick to short and fast articles, at least as far as I’m concerned.  I noticed a drastic drop in the income level once I started writing 1k word articles. While anything up to 500 words is short, sweet, and incredibly easy to write, once you progress beyond that point you have to actually start worrying about the flow of information within the article. You are no longer just “blurbing” information. Instead, you have to form cohesive flow from one point to the next. Definitely more challenging, and definitely more time consuming.

If I had to research these 1k articles I’d be down to around 30 dollars an hour, I think. However, I am provided with all the links and research already in place, so all I am required to do is write the articles. This is incredibly easy, and doesn’t require any “thinking” beyond forming a cohesive structure to the articles themselves. As a general rule, these 1k articles are taking me about 20 minutes per article to write. If I had to research these, I could easily see them taking me an additional 10 minutes, for 2 an hour versus 3 an hour.

Even so, if I were researching these and writing 2 of them in an hour that is still 24 dollars an hour. This is above the national average put forth by the Social Security administration. What that means is that even if you are doing the bare minimum you would still be making more than the average American.

The goal of this experiment is to average 50 dollars an hour, minimum. Last week I was far beyond. This week, I hit it right on the money. If I hadn’t used Demand Studios in a couple of places I would have dropped to just over 40 dollars an hour, which is an interesting note. Demand Studios is still by far the most profitable place to write content for a content site as per this experiment.

Day 6:

3 x 10 dollars in 30 minutes: 30 dollars.

5 blog articles @ 8 dollars apiece, roughly 1 hour: 40 dollars

Day 7:

Same as above. Also did 3 Demand Studios articles in 30 minutes. 1 rewrite request, took about 5 seconds to add one more sentence in the overview.

Day 8:

Content writing for another site. 1k word articles @ 12 bucks a pop. 4-5 links already provided; just filling in the blanks, rewriting.

5 articles @ 1k apiece…Roughly 1.5 hours. 60 dollars

3 daily articles @ 300 words each. 30 dollars.

I was at the desk for about 2 hours.

Day 9:

Repeat of day 8.

Day 10:

Repeat of last 2 days.

Posted in Freelance Writing Resources Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Content Writing Experiment: Week 1 Numbers

Keep in mind that I will be putting all of these numbers into an Excel sheet + providing screenshots of all my PayPal stubs and otherwise at the end of the experiment. These lists for now are simply my daily journal as I make my way through the writing experiment. Each week will be posted once I have 5 days of writing completed (today was day 8). Each journal entry was written at the end of each session, with -added notes being attached as necessary.

Week one was actually spread out over 2 weeks, because we ended up going on vacation from Thursday to Sunday, so I only had 3 days to work for that “work week”, then added two days of last week to get 5 working days. I have a very non-traditional work schedule. I don’t work Monday through Friday. We take a lot of trips, and we go out of town a lot. Sometimes I get 2 work days in during a week, other times I get 5 or 6. Sometimes my work week is Friday through Monday, other times it’s traditional Monday through Friday. As such, my “work weeks” as being tracked in this experiment do not always fall on certain days.

The one thing that does stay the same, however, is each “week” will include 5 days of writing roughly 2 hours each day. Some days it’s 1.5 hours, some days it creeps close to 2.5 hours. At the end of each week, I track the time invested versus the money earned and come up with a per-hour figure.

Please note I do not equate words or articles per hour to money per hour. I am strictly looking at the time invested. That means how much time I was actively pursuing the project during that particular session. Time = money in my equation, not anything else.

Here’s Week 1 of the project. Enjoy!

Day 1:

Rusty. Haven’t used Demand Studio’s style sheet in awhile. Took me about an hour to write the first article, considering they’ve updated their style sheets, guidelines, and requirements since the last time I used them. If this were my very first time using Demand Studios, I might have to factor in a day or two simply reading through everything and learning the system.

Spent 10 minutes browsing through my keywords, familiarizing myself with things. Picked 6 articles.

Total time spent on first day was 1 hour, 45 minutes. 3 of the articles were accepted within that period of time. One was a request for rewrite based upon one of the steps needing additional clarification. The fix took all of 10 seconds (add a sentence) and it went back in. Was accepted in under 5 minutes. Two others are still waiting review.

Since I’m working in a very specific niche, there are certain elements that will remain the same throughout each and every article. I am an expert in this field, I don’t have to research, and I am not required to give references. I have a formal declaration stating my experience which I copy/paste into each article, freeing me up from writing that section.

Considering the first hour was taken up by re-acquainting myself with the system, and the fact that I wrote the other 5 articles in 45 minutes, we will assume one article every 10 minutes now that I have my flow back. 10 minutes for keyword searching, 60 minutes for the article writing, and let’s just throw in 20 minutes for any editing that might be required. That’s roughly 1.5 hours worth of work for 90 dollars.

Also wrote 3 articles @ 10 dollars apiece, 300 words each. 30 dollars. 30 minutes. This is for another client, but the work is very similar to Demand Studios in that they are 300-400 word articles. My weekly agenda is 15 per week, but I spread them out and do 3 a day. They take about 30 minutes each time.

-added. Other 2 articles were approved within 2 hours of being written.

Day 2:

Keyword search at Demand Studios: 5 minutes. Another 6 articles picked. Start time: 11:15 a.m.

Finish time, 1:10 p.m., with a roughly 30 minute lunch break included. Total time writing, 1.5 hours, roughly.

Also had 30 minutes of 300 word articles x3, @ 10 apiece for 30 dollars.

-added. One article requested for rewrite, regarding details in the tips section that CE wanted moved to Steps section. Changes took 45 seconds.

-added. All articles accepted within 24 hours.

Day 3:

Skipped writing for Demand Studios to focus on client work. This is the client who needs 300 word articles at 10 dollars apiece. For intents and purposes, this is same as Demand Studios in terms of word count. Articles do not require more than a skim-read of 3-4 websites to pull the blurb information. 9 articles in less than 2 hours. Was spending time yapping with my wife in between each article, as she was on the couch. Had enough time left over to write a 10th, but that was the client’s needs for the week. (If this was through Demand Studios it would have been 150 dollars worth of work, or 75 dollars an hour)

What is interesting to note is how much the style sheet at Demand Studios slows me down. When I am allowed to simply open up a Word document and start typing, things go much quicker. With Demand Studios I am forced to adhere to a style sheet, and change my style depending on whether or not the article is a How To, About, Strategy, or otherwise. This is definitely a con of working through Demand Studios. If I were able to remove the style requirements, and just write, for the same amount of money, it would be much faster, and much more profitable. However, as you can see from the point of this experiment, words-per-hour do not = rate of pay. Time itself is the factor. 2 hours a day, that’s the goal. Whatever I get done in those 2 hours is the point.

I would like to point out that Demand Studios has some really frickin’ stringent requirements for references and citations. Content-site haters who claim that Demand Studios publishes hack content have zero clue what they are talking about, because you are bound to the letter to cite credible references, and everything is checked over. If I were writing about topics I did not know, and was forced to research topics…this could seriously slow me down. I’ve heard some people saying that they can only write 1-2 Demand Studios articles per hour. If you are forced to research your topics + reference back to everything and have it checked for authenticity…I can totally see only making 15-30 dollars an hour. Which, btw, is still far more than the minimum wage claim that traditional content site haters like to make.

Day 4:

5 minutes searching for keywords for 6 articles. First three articles written in 45 minutes. 1 rewrite request for additional details. 30 seconds to rewrite; article accepted within 2 hours. Had a lot of other stuff to do today with my wife and the spec-fic zine, so cut an hour out of my content writing schedule to focus on other projects.

Also did my daily 3 articles, 300 words, 10 dollars each. 30 minutes. 30 dollars.

Day 5:

Today I wanted to take a look at a non-Demand Studios content mill. They pay significantly less than Demand Studios. For this particular project the articles pay 8 dollars per 500 words. That sounds rather poor at first…until you consider the fact that the project came with links and the research already completed. My only job is to click the link, rewrite the content, and send it off.

For this particular project it is a series of medical articles. Each link sends me to a professional medical journal. I am required to cite the sources, including the doctors and facilities where the research is being completed. In essence, all I am doing is telling people about the research done at place X by doctor Y.

5 articles written in just at an hour. 40 dollars

Also spent 30 minutes writing three 300 word articles for 10 dollars apiece. 30 dollars.

45 minutes spent writing 3 Demand Studios articles. 45 dollars

Assuming some time for editing in there, that’s about 2.5 hours of work.

Average was 51.1 dollars per hour, or over 50 dollars per hour.

I’m making significantly more using primarily Demand Studios than any other content site. Ironically enough, Demand Studios is the only one which has a style sheet requirement; the other sites require only Word documents. I’m putting out far more words per hour writing for non-Demand sources, but getting paid less than when I use Demand Studios only. Something to keep in mind for all those people who claim Demand Studios is such a haven for low-paying work. So far my research is showing directly the opposite. Demand Studios actually appears to be one of the best paying on the market, if not the best paying.

End of week 1

At the end of week one I have invested roughly 9.25 hours of time for $550.00.

No administrative duties. No cold calls. No e-mails. Maybe 2 minutes of rewrites out of the entire batch (at most). No time spent querying and waiting. No time spent marketing myself. No time spent waiting on a paycheck. No time spent going to the bank, standing in line, cashing the check, then waiting 2-3 days for the check to clear.

The 300 word article client pays me once every 2 weeks, via PayPal. Demand Studios twice a week, via PayPal. The other content site pays a month in arrears; I submit an invoice at the end of the month and get paid 30 days later. No muss, no fuss, just bing, bang, bucks.

Average hourly rate for this week in the experiment: $59.6 USD per hour.

What is interesting to me is I spent about half my time doing non-Demand Studios work, some of which paid significantly less, yet I put out more words per hour on those projects than I did with Demand Studios. At no point in the experiment for week one did I drop below 40 dollars an hour; in some cases I made 75 dollars an hour, but the average was 59.5 dollars an hour. I’m going to round up and call that 60 dollars an hour, which is well ahead of the projected 50 dollars an hour the experiment was aiming for.

Stay tuned for Week 2 sometime in the next week or so!

Posted in Freelance Writing Resources Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

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.

Posted in Freelance Writing 101 Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Guest Post by Toni Star

How to Remain Globally Relevant as a Freelance Writer

As a freelance writer I feel responsible in writing not only what I feel is relevant to the US but also articles that inform and inspire others, globally. Having written several comprehensive “green” articles and other articles about how to care for our earth, I feel that I am making a difference toward global awareness of our planet’s resources and how each of us can work together or individually, to make a difference.

In addition, my interactions with several freelance writers overseas has helped me and my readers to better understand worldwide issues at hand such as global warming, and other human and earth issues that affect many countries such as food, population, health issues and jobs.

To achieve and further spread the news of how our planet is doing, I have also learned that there are specific areas of knowledge that need to be sought out and then applied such as knowing the geography of our earth. Researching and then sharing information about the geography of our planet offers information and insights to the reader which may possibly inspire the reader to do what he or she can do to make our earth a healthier and more compatible place to live.

Understanding how life works in different parts of the world also helps me and my readers to appreciate the intricacies of a global world and how different parts of the world grow, learn and cope. Knowing the histories of countries—how they came about, what their economic situations are and how they have improved or digressed—-is a helpful way to understand why customs, religions, politics and people interact with each other and the rest of the world.

Another great way to remain globally relevant as a freelance writer is to read about how other countries interact with each other; what their main goals are and what they’re doing to make their countries strong and productive. How countries in the past get along or don’t get along, also help one to understand the past and also what concerns those countries may be facing in the future.

Still another great way to remain globally relevant as a freelance writer is to read books that specifically discuss how other parts of the world live and interact with each other and what they think about the US and countries close to them. By reading books that discuss how others live, how their governments work and what their goals are for the future, a writer can learn, digest and then offer ideas to others that will help them understand the culture and government of said countries.

Utilizing technology can be a wonderful way to help others become more globally aware and in my own way, I feel that I am using technology well by writing articles about how our planet is doing, how interacting with others can be meaningful and helpful in understanding the past and current issues of other countries and how by writing and reading such articles freelance writers can help bring about change that is constructive and helpful. By writing articles, emails and sharing information online that concerns different countries and faiths, I continue to learn a great deal about people and this earth and I feel that I’m helping others to understand the US better.  The computer can be a wonderful tool in getting to know others; and with the speed of electronics, sharing and learning has never been easier or faster. Blogs, websites and communities online can also be very helpful in getting to know others and in sharing information.

To further expand one’s knowledge of global issues, I have found that a freelance writer can seek out sites that are searching for good, quality articles on global issues. I have done this several times and have successfully written several “green” articles that I think, have helped to inform and educate others on how to keep our planet healthy and green.  With global warming and “green” issues becoming more and more popular and needed, it is not hard to find websites that are looking for quality and informative articles.

In addition, such sites for children as http://www.nagc.org/index.aspx?id=1442 can be quite helpful for children, especially children who are gifted and talented because the site gives them opportunities to understand different cultures by giving them the tools and experience they need to grow and develop. Such issues as cooperating in the sharing of resources, nonviolent conflict resolution, living in harmony with the environment, are just several of many topics that are offered at this site.

To conclude, there are many ways writers and readers can do to become globally relevant and in this the 21st century, there is no better time to begin such a fruitful endeavor!

Posted in Being a Green Freelancer, Freelance Writing 101, Freelance Writing Tips, Uncategorized

New Year’s Writing Contest Winner

The winner of our New Year’s Writing Contest is Toni Star.

Toni is a freelance writer who has been writing for over twenty years. She is currently writing for three online magazines and has an MSA in Business from Capella University. She is also working on her seventh book and enjoys writing about topics ranging all over the map, from fiction to non-fiction and beyond. She has a passion for all things green and related to the Earth, and continues to write and read about ways to help make our planet a cleaner, better place to live. You can visit her blog here.

Her winning guest post will be up on Wednsday, so stay tuned for more information!

Posted in Uncategorized

Contest update

Everyone is apparently so swamped with work that no one had time to participate in our New Year’s Writing Contest :) We had one submission, which means as soon as I hear back from her regarding her PayPal information I’ll be releasing her name and posting her submission on the website for your reading pleasure.

It’s understandable. We have a fairly small reader-base at present, and our website has only been up for 2 months now. It takes time to build a web presence, and to be honest I’m sometimes so swamped with work that I don’t have the time or the energy to promote this site as much as I should. On the flip side our latest incarnation over at Marginal Boundaries is taking off amazingly well. We’ve had well over two dozen submissions since January 4th, and more keep coming in every day.

In any case, here’s to happy writing for everyone involved and hopefully you all stay busy enough you can afford to throw away prize money when it’s offered :)

Posted in Uncategorized

Contest update

Just a reminder that the New Year’s Writing contest is closed for submissions.

Making this post on a beautiful Saturday morning from the mountain resort of Ognyanovo here in Bulgaria. It’s a well-known destination for locals because of the hot springs here, and the surrounding countryside is simply stunning. Having lived in the Rockies for most of my life I am used to the beauty of mountains, but I have to admit that the Rockies sometimes seem a bit lacking when compared to the Rhodope Mountains.

In any case, hope everyone’s new year is going good so far. Cheers!

Posted in Uncategorized

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