When I first joined Associated Content or AC, as it is affectionately known as, I had no idea what to expect – except not to “get rich quick”. (And if you believe that getting rich quick is possible anywhere, whether on the Internet or in real life, you are in for one hard, cold wake up call. You’d better start buying lotto tickets now.)
Other than that, however, I didn’t know much. But I learned – and quick.
Where to Start on Associated Content
Attention all new AC Contributors! This is for you.
Where to start, where to start! Such a daunting question it seems with so much material and so many articles. But your starting place is clear: the guidelines, rules, FAQS, etc., that are AC web pages. Don’t read the AC Articles on this subject just yet. AC’s official guidelines and rules are where it’s at even before you sign up, though you probably have already if you are reading this.
Read them over at least once. And then read them some more. They are absolutely vital to your position as a Contributor. Bookmark them for reference. You will need to consult them often more than likely.
And then read articles such as this one or this one (by Lyn Lomasi, who happens to be somewhat of an AC Guru. I have learned a lot about AC from her and from reading her articles; I suggest you do the same.) Keep reading. Click on the supporting links and the other links that appear in the top right-hand corner of the screen. Click, read, do it again. This is vital.
Visit your dashboard. Specifically visit the lower right-hand corner of your dashboard. There is a panel of several FAQs, tutorials and guides there that might be infinitely valuable to you.
You are ready to start submitting your articles… Right?
Associated Content Forums – Welcome Wagon
Utilize this. Do it, do it, do it.
Go to the “Welcome Wagon” and introduce yourself. Read the guidelines posted there first, of course. (It might save you from breaking the rules or making a fool of yourself.) Connect with other AC newbies who might share your journey on AC with you. Connect with seasoned AC veterans. Connect with average AC Contributors. You will find them all here, and you might just gather the beginnings of a fan base and earn some of your first followers.
You will not be able to access all of the forums just yet. I know, I know. It happened to me too when I first ventured into the forums. I only saw the “Welcome Wagon”, and I thought something was wrong with my computer. Not so, but I didn’t find that out until after I had published my first couple of articles. I think you might only need to publish one to get into the forums, but by the time I ventured back to them (I got bored of just the “Welcome Wagon”) I had published three.
Articles – Getting Started Publish Your First Piece on Associated Content
The joy, the nervousness, the anticipation, the eagerness, the – oh my god, what do I write about?
Oh, yeah, forgot about that bit for a second. You might be like me and have TOO many ideas in your head. Or you might not be like me and have NO ideas in your head. Either way, your first article should be about something you know and something you know well.
Try this: Pick a topic that you already know a lot about or have to do minimal research on, such as one of your hobbies. It will make writing the article faster and easier and will make it flow better.
Make an outline. Write in a word processor that is NOT Associated Content’s Publisher. While AC’s Publisher is wonderful, simple and efficient, you do NOT want to risk losing your work due to a computer failure. Write in your favorite word processor. Save, save, save and save some more.
And then spell check, spell check, spell check and spell check some more. And proofread, proofread, proofread and proofread some more. Spellchecker is not always reliable, and it isn’t a very good judge of what sounds good and reads well. So don’t rely solely on your spellchecker. Read your work over several times and, if possible, get a second or even third set of eyes to read it over as well. Now, Mom might not be good with English and grammar, but she can tell me when a sentence sounds funny or doesn’t make sense to her. Just because it makes sense in your head doesn’t mean it does to anyone else.
Associated Content Payment: Upfront or not?
Strive for upfront, always… Maybe.
I read somewhere in an article or the forums or was told (I can’t really remember now) that you should always ask for upfront payments for a simple reason: if you receive one, that’s a few additional dollars in your wallet; and if you don’t, at least you know you tried and will still get PV.
But now, just today in fact, I’ve been told something different by Marie Anne St. Jean. Yes, she recommends upfront payments – but not always. In some cases, such as with my Today in History series (see here, here, here, here or here ), upfront is not the right answer. This series, which is daily, needs to be in a chronological order and will receive the best page views if published on the day that it is the “today in history” for, which is why upfront doesn’t make sense. Yes, the extra money would be nice, but it completely screws up chronological order and my articles have been published after the date they were intended
And that is why I say that choosing to submit your article for upfront (if eligible, of course) is a situation by situation kind of scenario.
Associated Content Forums – Again… And Again
Yes, I know. We already talked about these, but remember how I said we would come back to the AC Forums?
The forums are an invaluable tool. You will learn much here once you get access to the additional forums. Scour these. Use these.
The AC Forums provide you with a golden opportunity that you don’t find on other freelance article writing sites: they will teach you, network you with other writers, and even allow you a chance for shameless PV (page view, if you’ve forgotten) promotion. The value of this is limitless. Explore the AC Forums.
No, you don’t have to post there fifty times a day. No, you don’t have to spend hours in them. But use them to their fullest potential. There are lists of tips, other writers seeking questions, answers and networking, people willing to answer any questions you might have, and just general discussion. Building a network of AC Contributors is important.
Associated Content Contributors…
Are your best friends here on AC.
Want PV (page views, remember?)? Start reading their articles, leaving them comments, and messaging them with any questions you might have about AC or their articles. Give them a little PV love (page view love, if you couldn’t decipher that), and follow/fan the ones you truly enjoy or find helpful. They will return the favor by viewing your articles, leaving you comments, answering your questions and potentially following you.
A good suggestion, you say? Go to the “Show Your Work” Forum and support those who are asking for a look-see. If the article you are reading already has a comment from a fellow AC Contributor, follow it to their profile. Read one of their articles. Comment. Repeat the process.
Supporting your fellow AC Contributors is the quickest way to gain their support and respect (if you aren’t rude or disrespectful, of course). AC Contributors are more than willing to help their peers with PV and constructive criticism as well as advice, and some of them even thrive off helping their peers, like the Community Guides. (Remember Lyn? She’s one.)
Associated Content – Promoting Your Work
Yikes! This is the hardest part for me and, I would imagine, many other AC Contributors.
Promoting your work is hard, and there is so much advice on it that I don’t know where to begin.
I personally created a Facebook just to garner fans for my Associated Content Contributions. I searched for random names, such as “Brittany”, and sent the first couple names on the list a very personalized message explaining who I was, what I do, and why I would like to add them as a fan. I look at their profiles, find out their interests, and spell their names correctly. I thank them for their time, tell them my name, explain that PV is part of my pay, and that I write about this, this and this, some of which might match their interests. I ask if it is okay to add them as a friend to support my work.
Some say yes, some say no, and some just ignore it. But it’s worth a shot.
You don’t want to spam these people – it will only result in you having a bad reputation and not being able to gain support. Everyone hates spam, including you and me. So be personal in your requests. Take the time to find out their interests and explain who you are and why you want to be their friend.
Another way to promote yourself is through your friends and family and their friends and family. Using email, Facebook, whatever, ask them to pass around your work, that you’re a freelance writer, and would appreciate if they read some of your work. By passing your link onto your family and friends and asking them to send it on, you’ve created a chain that could reach limitless people.
Your PV will not reach enormous levels immediately; that isn’t how it works. Your PV will equal the work you put in to get those PV. Take the time to write articles, publish them, and chip away slowly at gaining a following for your work. It is a snowball effect; the more fans, followers and articles you have the more PV you will get.
Associated Content – SEO
What the heck even is that, I still say. I don’t even know what it stands for – search engine optimization, maybe? Don’t quote me on that.
Point is, it’s important. Basically, what it means is that you need to make your articles searchable so that people can find them when they search Google, Yahoo and the like. How do you do that? You stay on topic, you pepper in your keyword or words, and you try give your article a title, subtitle, etc., a title, subtitle, etc., that is to the point and contains the keywords. Imagine what you would type in if you wanted to find your article.
Keep in mind that most people won’t be searching for what you did last summer. A piece like that will gain PV, just not quickly. The more pieces you have, the more PV you will get. SEO just helps you get those PV on articles that people will be searching for, such as my article “The World’s Ten Biggest Dogs” , which is my biggest PV gainer.
Associated Content – Balancing Networking, Promotion and Writing Time
Yikes! Another difficult subject.
Don’t fret though. It is all completely do-able. Set yourself a schedule, and stick to it. I personally try to write during the weekdays (most places don’t really do any editing and whatnot over the weekends, and I do have a social life).
Spend the majority of your work time writing. Promotion and networking are important, but they shouldn’t take up much time. Spend perhaps a half-hour a day on each.
Keep a notebook handy for jotting down article ideas and notes, and buy a ledger to keep track of your articles, how much you are being paid for them and if you have been paid.
Associated Content – Taxes
Oh dear. If you are like me, you’re too young to know what taxes even means hardly, but it isn’t too hard to figure out with someone older guiding you (mom, dad, the forums, etc.) and with the proper guidelines.
What you need to do is fill out a W-9 Form , and fax it or snail mail it to Associated Content. You can find their address here. I mailed mine, and they processed it within two weeks. You can still receive payments before that unless your amount is greater than $500.00, I believe. And hey, let me tell you, you aren’t going to make that much in two weeks here.
Associated Content – Odds and Ends
“Pictures next time” was a comment I received from Lois Lunsford on one of my articles. Pictures, I thought, but how? I don’t fully understand how to work most of the picture devices, so I search the public gallery or take my own. My overall point is, viewers like to see pictures. They like a visual of what you are talking about to see what it is you are talking about and to break up text.
Sources are important. Find multiple sources if you are researching, and make sure they are credible. For crafts and reviews and the like, make sure you have personal experience. How can you recommend something to someone you haven’t heard, read or seen? How can you tell them the best way to knit a scarf if you haven’t ever knitted a scarf?
Do not get frustrated if you don’t get a massive amount of page views in one day or week. That isn’t how it works around here. Don’t get frustrated if it takes a week or more for your article to get reviewed and published. The editors are busy. There are thousands of AC Contributors like you sending in content for review every single day. They will get to it in time. In the meantime, keep writing. Have articles lined up for publishing and then you will start to see offers and articles published every day or so, which will make it seem like you aren’t waiting for articles.
In the end, this guide will help anyone, I believe, who doesn’t know much about AC. I haven’t been here long, but I have learned all this and I am successful here at AC. I balance my time. I keep writing. I network and promote, and it’s paying off slowly but surely. I’ve already reached Clout Level 3 and am part of the way through it already. Not bad, eh?