From Clout One to Clout Six in Eleven Weeks

If you are committed to the pursuit of quality over cranking out articles for success at Associated Content, I’m here to tell you that you’re on the right track. I published my first article in early August of 2011, and eleven weeks later, I reached Clout Six. At thirteen weeks I had my first beat assignment and a “top 500″ badge, with 31 articles on Associated Content and 10 on Yahoo News.

I love to write, and I focused on good writing rather than a lot of writing, which runs contrary to a lot of advice I find here on the site. I don’t crank out articles. Each one is a labor of love. If you love to write and believe that even in these days of Internet Marketing and SEO, quality trumps all, I wrote this tutorial for you! SEO is important and so is marketing, but it all starts with your love affair with the keyboard.

Here are the things that have worked really well for me.

Focus first on excellent writing, and never mind how long it takes.

Several tutorials I have read discuss writing in batches, cranking out six or eight articles at a time, or calculating how much money can be made per hour. I read many of those and got discouraged. How can anybody get really good at anything without painstaking practice? I figure that any skill is less efficient at the beginning of the learning curve. What is hard at the beginning becomes much more efficient later. Once an article is in print, I can’t put it back if I don’t like it, unless it is display only. Don’t worry if your first efforts are immensely time consuming and proof after proof keeps revealing errors. It will get easier and faster, and your work will pay off.

Associated Content is not going to make you a living, at least not yet.

If you go to school to learn a skill, you don’t usually expect to get paid. Usually you pay the people you learn from. AC is an excellent opportunity to get paid while you hone your skills. My mom is a writer, and she told me I could easily be paying someone to do for me what AC is doing! By writing for AC, I am learning how to edit myself to get the best offers, what content performs well, how to promote my work, how to say more with fewer words, and how to write so that people pay attention in the first 30 seconds. I am going to writing school and getting paid to go! If I’m a good student, I’ll turn around and use the skills I’ve gained to get paid. People who expect to sign up for AC and make a lot of money are naïve. Learn your craft first.

Become a Featured Contributor as soon as possible.

There are a lot of benefits to being a Featured Contributor. The one I appreciate the most is the opportunity to get feedback, and more assignments. I became a featured contributor just over a month after I published my first article on AC, and I would have done it sooner if I had been bold. I had two blogs going and I had a good body of work already on the internet, so I went for it. It was a great decision and I doubt that I would have progressed so quickly if I hadn’t. Don’t sell yourself short. What do you know about? What is unique to you that you can offer your readers? Give it a try. If you don’t make it the first time you can try again, up to three times in a year. If you don’t have a body of work yet, create it right here on AC. It’s one of the perks.

Study your page views to see what’s hot.

What you think will get a lot of page views may not be what people are reading. Watch your page views and you’ll start to notice what titles people are interested in, what topics get the most attention, and what your page view mega producers are. You’ll also start to see what performs the best over time.

Write about what matters to you.

When I got my first Featured Contributor assignments, one of them was to write about a disease or condition. I knew what I wanted to write about. I almost didn’t do it, because I was afraid the editors would think I only knew about one thing. I’m glad I didn’t listen to that voice. I wrote the article that I hoped would save a life, about the breast cancer you may not know about. I survived it, and I wanted others to as well. That article made the rounds on Associated Content and then Yahoo News, and reached over 10,000 page views in just a few weeks. It also has been linked to by a number of other sites. Now I focus first on what I think will help people, and then I write for fun.

Try writing about things your not so comfortable with, just to stretch. You might be surprised.

I was surprised by my first Yahoo News assignments, and froze a couple of times before taking one. I started getting them after becoming a Featured Contributor. Then one popped into my Assignment Queue that just sounded like fun, so I grabbed it and hoped for the best. It was about Sara Palin, and I had my opinion. The article did well, and I became a frequent writer for Yahoo News. I never expected to write about politics or current events! These articles are a ton of fun to write, they pay much better up front than most of the offers from Associated Content, and now my beat assignment lets me do this three times a week. Who knew!

Give people a chance to find more of your work.

I picked up this tip from Lyn Lomasi, and it’s a gem. At the end of each article I publish, I add, “more from Elizabeth Danu” and include links to three more of my relevant articles. This is another reason why every article you write is important, because if people like it they will want to read more. Make it easier for them and lead your readers into best work.

Make sure you are proud of every article you publish.

Every piece that you write is an ambassador to your writing world. Each one has the potential to gain you a reader or get you written off. One time I was looking for articles on SEO. I ran across a promising headline, and opened the article. The writer simply linked to a better article that someone else had written, and bragged that she had spent five minutes writing. She got one page view, but she’ll never get another one from me. By contrast, the people on my Favorites list are writers who have never disappointed me, and I look forward to what treasure I will discover each time they publish.

Hold on to what makes writing fun for you.

Many content producers advocate treating AC as a job, and that’s true if you love your work. For me, writing is stress relief. I really enjoy snarking about politics, sharing what I know in the alternative health world, or raising awareness about something I think is important. However, I give myself permission to just have a laugh. I had a ball writing “how to diaper your cat”. It hasn’t been page view gold, in fact it hardly gets a peep; but I laughed all the way through writing it. Those fun articles have to be part of the package, or you’ll burn out no matter how much you love writing.

Read tutorials, good ones and bad ones.

I regularly look for tutorials, and return to the best ones. Each read will reveal something new, maybe something I wasn’t ready to absorb yet the last time I read it. It’s also fun discovering a new tutorial and deciding for yourself whether the advice fits you or not. I read one tutorial by a guy who is making his living on AC, advising the practice of writing 10-20 articles a day. I know that’s not for me. Reading it made me more committed to the approach I have taken. Sometimes reading a tutorial will give you just the “aha” you needed. One tutorial I read did exactly that, and made me a friend into the bargain.

Study the successful content producers.

When you read something that really impresses you, go back and look at the Content Producer’s profile. If you see all the hoopla, high page views, badges, etc, study that producer! I stumbled on Lyn Lomasi, Edwin Torres, and Amy Brantley in just this way. I read their work, study what they do, and benefit from their experience. I don’t write what or how they write. I observe how they have created their own style, and use this to help me develop and deepen my own.

Here are some things I wish I had started doing sooner.

Let your friends and fans know what you are producing.

At first, I was afraid to promote my work on Facebook or any other way. I almost felt that unless it was good enough for a perfect stranger to read, I wouldn’t pester my friends. I even felt this way about my blog readers! Once I was confident that my writing could stand on its own, I started to believe that my friends and fans would actually want to read it. They did, and I regretted wasting so much time doubting myself. Don’t sell yourself short. If you feel good about your writing, share it and watch your confidence grow.

Get your hands on the Yahoo Style Guide.

This book is really worth its weight, and it’s a heavy book! I have barely begun to scratch the surface of what’s in this volume, but it has already changed my writing for the better. You can get it two ways. You can buy it, or you can become a Featured Contributor and AC generously gives it to you. Writing for the internet is an entirely different focus than what most writers have learned, at least the middle aged folks like me. Writing a web headline is nothing like what I learned in English class, and SEO is a new science. You’ll find it all in the Style Guide.

Have the big fun and lighten up.

I know, it’s obvious right? Well, I have the advanced skill of making anything into work if I try hard enough. Once a thing starts to pay, it becomes a job, and then it is easy forget that it’s fun. I don’t believe that success at Associated Content is possible if you don’t madly love to write. Writing is just too much work, and here at AC it doesn’t pay much at first. Writing has to be something you would do anyway, because you love it. Then the money that comes is a bonus, and ironically the less you focus on the money, more of it comes! Get excited. Keep a notebook with all your article ideas. Give yourself permission to write about anything you want to. That’s one of the AC perks, so take full advantage and download your busy brain onto something that others can enjoy. Revel in the learning process. Congratulate yourself on being a writer and crow about it to the people who will let you.

Get involved in the AC community.

The folks here are nice people, and Associated Content is a community. When I have reached out to other writers to give or receive feedback, advice or encouragement, I have not been disappointed. You will read other people’s stuff, they will read yours, and everyone involved is becoming better at what they do. Colleagues are a valuable resource, and success loves company.

I wish you success as you move forward on your writing adventure!

More from Elizabeth Danu:
Making Your Support Count During Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Patchwork Economics During a Recession
How Massage Therapy Helps Hospital Patients

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