Freelance Portal Review: Academic Minds and Oxbridge Research Group

Academic Minds is a subsidiary of The Oxbridge Research Group (also known as TORG), a London-based company that offers various forms of support to undergraduate and postgraduate students. Arguably their key offering is marketed through Oxbridge Essays, through which they offer “customised model essays, dissertations and other written pieces […] designed to offer you an example of how an experienced and accomplished academic would approach the question or project you have been set.”

These model essays are provided through their writers’ portal, which is located at the Academic Minds website (but can only be accessed and viewed once you have been accepted as one of their freelance writers).

Ethics and Legality

As a part of their terms of service, customers (i.e. students) are not allowed to submit essays purchased through Oxbridge Essays as their own work. Rather, they are supposed to offer the students inspiration as to how they might approach the assessment at hand. As you might expect, staff at Academic Minds and TORG are very careful in how they speak about their services, and you won’t catch them referring to their offerings as anything but model answers. So that’s the legal aspect taken care of – it’s all perfectly within the law, both for writers, clients, and TORG.

However, it should be equally unsurprising that the absolute majority (I dare venture all) of their clients will submit these essays as though they had written them themselves. So while legal, the ethics of writing for this company may bother some – but not me. The way I view it, either I can write these essays and earn a fair amount of money, or someone else can do it while I make pennies writing about industrial carpet cleaning. The choice, in other words, is pretty easy.

Getting Hired

I found Academic Minds through Elance, where they were advertising for experienced academic writers. Once I had sent them my pitch – where I detailed my excellent undergraduate performance and my current role as a PhD researcher and graduate teaching assistant/tutor – I was asked to provide my contact details for a phone interview.

As I still had very little idea who I would be working for a this point, I didn’t prepare at all for the interview, which in any event turned out to be a rather informal affair. I was told that the company provides help and guidance to struggling undergraduate students through model answers, and asked how I felt about that. I was also asked to run over my academic writing experience once more, and that was pretty much it.

Following this phone call I was sent a link to their portal – where new writing jobs are posted every working day – and once I had signed up they called me back to give me a quick tour of how to use it. At the end of the call I was offered a short writing job (a 1000-word essay), which paid £50, which I accepted.

In other words – getting hired should be easy so long as you have a strong undergraduate degree, and easier yet if you have a masters or PhD.

Available Jobs and Pay

Once you’ve completed your ‘test’ assignment, you are free to apply for other assignments through their portal. The portal offers a list of the assignments currently available, which looks like this (note that I’ve only included two assignments, though there are over 35 available at the time of writing):

Academic Minds' Portal

 

You can sort these orders by subject (which include law, African studies, history, management, marketing, psychology, engineering, sociology – you name it), level (undergraduate, masters, PhD), deadline, fee, and fee per one thousand words (PTW). Fee is what you, as the writer, will get paid – it does not reflect how much the student has paid. The writer’s fee is set according to the deadline, number of words, and overall difficulty of the assignment as determined by the people at Academic Minds.

Clicking on an order ID will give you further details of the assignment, which might include using a particular structure, the minimum number of references, and any essential sources/models/figures that must be used. Some students will also include a bunch of articles for you to include at your discretion.

Once you have decided to apply for an assignment, you are asked to send in a brief outline of how you would approach it. This is usually around 1-200 words and doesn’t, in my experience, need to be particularly detailed or convincing. You will be notified by e-mail as well as on the portal itself if you have been selected, at which point you start writing the assignment.

You may also find that Academic Minds representatives will start calling you if you aren’t currently working on an assignment, just to “check in” and see if they can interest you in one of the available briefs. At this point you may be able to renegotiate the fee being offered, so don’t be scared to say that you will undertake an assignment if they can up the fee by 10-15% or more, depending on if you think it’s reasonable.

On average I have been getting paid around £70 per 1000 words, ranging from £45-180 across the assignments I have completed. It should be noted that the higher figure here was a once-off as they desperately needed someone to complete a short assignment, and I haven’t included it in my average.

Contact With the Client

One thing I personally like about Academic Minds is that you have no direct contact with the actual client, as all of that is handled through the support staff. The only time you will hear from them is if they are nervous and want to see how you are progressing (in which case you just send over whatever you have at that point), or if they request any changes once the assignment has been submitted. Again, this is handled through the support staff who will forward the client’s comments to you. You are also free to send comments back to the client if you don’t agree with the changes they have requested, and in my experience this always results in the client accepting the piece as is so long as you can convince them that your experience outweighs their concerns.

Getting Paid

Getting paid is my main grievance with Academic Minds. As keen as they are to get in touch when there’s a new job available that suits your profile, they take an absolute age to compensate you once your work is done. To get paid you have to follow a rather cumbersome process:

1) Once you complete an assignment, the client has 10 days to request changes. You are not eligible to request payment until this time is up.

2) Once the 10 days are over, you have to fill out a .docx invoice template detailing your name, bank account number, and the assignment number(s) and fees you want to get paid for.

3) You have to send this by e-mail (using a specific subject line) to their payments department.

4) Once sent, you should (but won’t) receive a notification within 1 working day to notify you that your payment is being processed

5) Your payment will be made within 10 working days.

In other words, you may have to wait up to 27 days before you receive your payment!

As such you shouldn’t expect to be rolling in cash as soon as you sign up and get working. In my case, I never received the promised confirmation once I had sent in my first invoice – and when I asked on the phone, I was told that they would “make sure it’s being processed and send me an e-mail.” I was promised this after agreeing to take on another very large order, so you would have thought they would be keen to get my first payment rolling so as to ensure that I would get back to work. No such luck – the e-mail never arrived.

Overall Impressions

At the time of writing I have earned just under £2500 through Academic Minds, spread over 7 projects ranging from 500 to 12,000 words. While I’m displeased with the speed of payment, I’m happy with the fees offered and the support available should you have any questions about the assignment. They are very quick to get in touch with the client to clarify what is expected, and generally seem to take the writer’s side in any disputes (such as when the client – more than a little bit ironically – see think they know more about how to structure an essay than the writer).

Usability: 4/5
Fees offered: 5/5
Payment speed: 2/5

Would I recommend it?

Well, yes. So long as you don’t mind ignoring the obvious ethical dilemma associated with writing assignments for a presumably rich and definitely very lazy student, there is good money to be made. Based on my earnings so far, during low season, I could easily earn £4,000 per month working for Academic Minds, rising to £6,000 if I committed to it fully.

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