Why I Told My Husband to Work for Demand Studios

Content Mill Factory for Starving WritersRegular readers of MALW know that I am not a fan of content mills. We had one of our liveliest-ever discussions here a few posts back about Demand Studios’ IPO plans,ย which to my mind revealed more reasons to be wary of the popular content factory.

As a result of my position that $20 an article is not a fair wage and that writers can do better, I’ve been called an elitist snob and worse.

So it may surprise some to learn that I recently told my husband that he should work for Demand.

Why? Because he is one of those people who are in a perfect position to benefit from a short stint at the Demand factory.

My husband is not a writer — he’s a Web video producer. He is a UCLA film-school graduate who worked in TV for years, and now he’s getting back into the visual arts. He’s a very talented visual artist, but to be frank, marketing is not his strength. He’s put together a couple of nice samples, but he’s having trouble translating that into paying clients.

In other words, he is perfect for Demand. Yes, they only pay $100 a video, which given the additional hours it takes to go out and shoot and then edit a video, I’m sure makes it roughly equivalent to Demand’s writer payments in terms of an hourly rate. So the situation is basically the same as for writers who contemplate writing articles for Demand.

It will be work for peanuts. But right now, for him, that will be a step up!

A few Demand assignments should be able to give him a few more samples and round out his portfolio. It’ll also give him experience taking assignments and meeting deadlines. It’ll get him in the habit of going out and making videos on a regular basis. I really see it as all good — for now.

The key to this idea is that he shouldn’t hang around Demand very long. Once he has a complete portfolio, he should be movin’ on up.

I’ve said it before, but it’s often been lost in the din of outrage that I’ve dared suggest mills aren’t the best new invention since the Internet… Mills have their place. For a brand-new artist who needs to get their feet wet, they’re great. For writers who don’t have the time for marketing or an interest in earning big, they may be the only game in town.

If you do have dreams of making a high-earning, award-winning type of career out of it, the trick is not to hang around places like DS and get hooked on these low pay rates — and get lazy about marketing. You can bet once he’s got a nice-looking portfolio, I’ll be suggesting my husband go out and find his own clients.

Photo via Flickr user loop_oh

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14 comments on “Why I Told My Husband to Work for Demand Studios
  1. Lisa Rudy says:

    I'm an About.com writer, and my husband did some videos for About starring,.. ME! I'm pleased to say that they did a good job of SEO; check out "paper making video" or "snow globe video" on google, and our video pops up near the very top.

    Lisa

  2. Carol Tice says:

    Hi Devon —

    He’s doing all that other stuff too, the Chamber, YouTube, etc. It’s just that at the moment he has like two samples. He needs more.

    We’d never be foolish enough to put Demand on his resume…but he needs more samples to show prospects, and Demand might help him get there. I don’t know why prospects need to know he shot the stuff for a Demand client…definitely keeping that to ourselves!

    And as you can see above, it appears being an About.com guide might be a better way to go, so he’s looking at that now. So maybe we can skip the Demand level entirely after all, and go straight to earn more than twice as much!

    As I think you know, I’m generally no fan of mills and know well how they can impact your reputation. But everybody’s gotta start somewhere…

  3. I've worked in theatre, film, and television for over 20 years. If he puts a content mill on his resume, that's the level he'll stay. Very few legitimate production companies would take him seriously.

    As a writer, over the past year and change, new clients have told me if they see a content mill on an applicant's resume, they immediately throw it in the trash, because past experience has told them that content mill writers can't provide the quality of work they want or meet deadlines. They've been burned, and they're not going to risk it again. They learned the hard way you get what you pay for. While there's some more leeway in the production world, he still risks tainting himself.

    He'd be better off pitching as an independent production entity, working with the local Chamber of Commerce, especially if there's a tourist board within a 100 mile radius. Tourist organizations always need good videos. And they tend to pay a decent rate.

    Hell, he'd be better off posting on You Tube or Funny or Die to show off some high quality work. As someone who worked in production for many years, often as a production manager or as a producer on independent projects who hired — no way would I take the risk. Even if I liked someone's reel, if I saw a content mill on the resume, I'd pass. Amongst the people I've worked with, who else you've worked with carries a lot of weight. There's too much at stake in production to hire someone who can't deliver, and working for a content mill may prove quantity, but at the expense of quality.

    He's a UCLA film school grad. Right there are a wealth of contacts. I'm an NYU film school grad, and that degree is still opening all kinds of fascinating and unusual doors over 20 years later.

    If he doesn't want a career, sure, take a low rate from a lousy organization. If he actually intends to have a career and be taken seriously in the industry — stay away from content mills.

  4. Carol Tice says:

    Can't wait to see it, Lori! Bring it on…

  5. Lori says:

    Carol, interesting post. I respond on my blog tomorrow, giving you a little link love. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I know you probably find it ironic to be on the flip side of this issue. I love that Amel found a better paying gig almost instantly, too. Makes what you’ve said all along true – better work is out there if you look. Even in your husband’s case.

  6. I agree, Demand Studios is much better than the average. I wasn't going to even consider them, then I read a review on http://www.demandstudiosreview.com and decided to go for it. I've been happy with my decision. Just glad they accepted my application! hah!

  7. John White says:

    >din of outrage

    I like that! Got any more?

  8. FutureExpat says:

    Good post, Carol. I used DS as a springboard when I was laid off in March of '08. Did just enough writing for them to re-discipline myself and to know that it was a dead end. Although I find their business model appalling, there's nothing wrong with somebody doing a (very) short stint with them just to find their feet.

  9. margiewrites says:

    Yep, totally agree with everything you and the others have said here: content mills could be a place to start, but don't plan on sticking with them for too long! I think it can be a good opportunity for someone who has no clips get a start. Then they can use those samples to start pitching elsewhere.

    Several years ago, I wrote articles for some kind of content mill and it burned me out quickly. I immediately moved onto better-paying gigs and swore I'd never do it again. Now, I have a f/t day job so my freelance time is very limited. I'd much rather dedicate a small amount of my time to gigs with higher hourly fees so I'm not constantly slaving away for several lower-paying projects.

    I don't get why people call some writers snobs for trying to encourage other writers to work smarter, not harder.

  10. Carol,

    I have been dying to read this post since you teased it in one of the WMF post's comments last week. Totally worth the wait. I have also suggested to a filmmaker friend that he get on with DS for awhile to build up his portfolio. And you're right–mills have their place–but one can't get stuck there or she stagnates! Great post, as usual. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Carol Tice says:

    @Amel – thanks for that useful lead! Sending it on to my hubby. I wasn't aware About had a video side to it.

  12. P.S. Jones says:

    I feel the same way. It’s like a fast food job. OK for a start and for temporary measures. And you should spend every day working to move on to something better.

  13. Anne Wayman says:

    Yep – perfect suggestion… a place to start… just what I suggest for new writers. Well said.

  14. Amel says:

    I have no idea what a good rate would be for this type of work. I noticed, however, that About.com is paying $250 for each video produced for its site:

    http://beaguide.about.com/vpcomp.htm

    Perhaps this would be a better option for someone looking to build a portfolio.

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