The first freelance company I started with was Demand Media Studios (DMS). They require a college education in English or Journalism for general writers, or a specific degree to write for sites requiring legal, medical, or parenting expertise. I applied as a general writer, and was accepted pretty quickly
Once you’re accepted, you’re given access to a massive amount of style guides, example articles, and a forum full of people willing to help. You also have access to a library of titles, the size of which will vary depending on what kind of area you’re writing for. My area seems to have, on average, between 8,000 and 9,000 titles available. You’re immediately able to claim up to three titles. Once you write three that have been approved by the editorial team, you’re able to claim up to ten titles at a time, and can claim more as soon as your articles are submitted instead of waiting for editorial approval.
I liked the clear guidelines. I’m a rules girl, and if you give me nice clear, concise rules I’ll follow them for ya. I did have a little difficulty getting used to using the active voice always, as I’m a big passive voice fan. I think it’s the people-pleaser in me – I hate to sound like I’m giving orders! Still, with the help they offer it wasn’t hard to adjust. The pay is plenty reasonable – most articles pay around $15, though some are as little as $7.50 and some as much as $35, and at this point they take me between 45 minutes and an hour to write, including research. At the start it took me upwards of two hours as I got used to the style and voice requirements and the “forbidden words”. It’s hard for me not to say “easy” or “fun”, but I’m getting there!
The most difficult thing in the start was realizing how little I was getting paid per hour for the work I was doing. Piece work can be difficult when you’re learning, but it just takes a little determination and knowledge that you’ll cut down on your time as you learn what sites make great sources for what kinds of articles, and how to construct the article parts in the way you’re required to. I also was disappointed in the types of titles available. Automotive articles are a huge portion of their work base, and while I suppose I am capable of researching and writing about anything, I really found little inspiration with most offerings. You only get one chance at a rewrite if a copy editor doesn’t like your article, and while they will send you notes on what they want changed, if you have questions about it, there is no way to contact them. I have had a few articles, particularly at the beginning, returned for rewrites, but usually it was a case of me slipping into passive voice, using words that weren’t allowed, or something of my own oversight, such as picture captions that were longer than is allowed (12 words). It’s not common now for me to have a rewrite, and I’ve never had a rejection after a rewrite, so this hasn’t been much of a problem for me. The problem I have had, interestingly enough, is copy editors adding typos to my articles. This has happened to me twice, and it was on articles that went straight to publication after editing, so I didn’t have a chance to change it.
For the positives, DMS makes it easy for you with a very intuitive submission document that checks to be sure you’ve included everything you need, such as captions for pictures and key words for the article. It also has an automatic plagiarism checker which, from reading the forums, some people have real issues with, but I’ve not had an article flagged by it, so it doesn’t bother me in the least. From what I’m told, it’s significantly more sensitive than the plagiarism checkers available for free on the Internet, even when those are set to the highest degree of sensitivity, so if you are just reworking phrases from someone else, you’re likely to get caught pretty quickly. There are no minimums, and no maximums, so you can write one article a month or ten a day, as apparently some people do. You can take time off without notifying anyone, without losing your job, unlike some agencies that require weeks of notice in advance or have a maximum number of weeks off you can take. There is a large library of licensed photos you can choose from, and while all articles need at least one, you can add more to jazz things up. You get a byline, so if you want to refer potential clients to your work, it’s clear that it’s your own.
Overall, while I really love DMS, I thought I needed a backup in case there was a week where I just couldn’t find any titles to write. It was a smart move, as I have had three to four day lags where I couldn’t find a single title out of thousands that I wanted to write.