Thursday, April 30, 2009

Q&A with Michelle L. Devon

Michelle L. Devon, aka Michy, hardly needs an introduction. A familiar face and a font of AC knowledge, she recently wrapped up a month-long experiment comparing Associated Content with Helium. Since she wanted to conduct it from the perspective of a new user, she created an AC alias who is now known as Michy, Jr. The alias ensured her anonymity and became a guessing game to figure out which new Source was actually Michy.

Michy agreed to answer a few questions about her experience here on the AC blog, and you can read her full account on her personal blog, Freelancing & Fiction with Michelle L. Devon. She'll be conducting a similar comparison with Suite 101 in May.

AC: How long have you been writing for AC?
Michy: In May, I'll have been registered with AC for three years. I started writing for them in June of 2006.

AC: What inspired your comparison of AC to Helium?
Michy: I regularly talk to aspiring and accomplished freelance writers about looking at web content sites differently. At one time, web content sites were the bad stepchildren of the writing world, but with more newspapers and magazines offering either print and online versions or just print versions, the face of freelance writing is changing. The newer freelancers who are already skilled in writing for the web will have a leg up on those seasoned freelancing veterans who are die-hard print writers.

With this and the economy being the way it is, I knew more people were going to explore their options for making alternate income. The CEO of Helium had been asking me to really give Helium an honest go, and I was surprised and slightly disappointed with the results. This got me to thinking about Associated Content and how it's changed in the three years since I've been with the site. I've heard plenty of folks on the AC forum say that us veteran ACers don't understand what it's like for a newbie to break into AC. In the midst of the Helium challenge, I asked myself, "Humm, might be interesting to see how a relative newbie could do on the site, assuming they knew how to write for the web." I figure if I was going to try it, might as well compare it to the other site I was challenging on and see how they stack up.

As my blog showed, AC smoked Helium in overall money, payment per article, and hourly wage. What's more, AC did this 'blind' whereas I was myself on Helium and people were able to view my articles throughout. I think that shows AC has the potential for any new writing coming to the site. Plus, it was fun!

AC: What were the high points of the month?
Michy: I was very impressed to note that out of the 51 articles I wrote in a one-month period, four of those articles, as a brand new AC writer, were featured on the front page. I was also found by a few people I know on AC who didn't know the challenge account was me, and they recommended me for the "Best New Source" prize, which was very flattering. I also learned I really like comments...a lot!

AC: In 3 sentences, what were your conclusions?
Michy: With AC, you get out of it almost exactly what you put into it. I think it's important to look at AC as a long-term investment and not a 'get rich quick plan'. However, even with that said, if someone really invested full-time hours into AC, I am absolutely convinced anyone who properly wrote for AC could make full-time income, as well as a residual passive income in the Performance Bonus.

AC: Will you break down the numbers for us? Hours writing, pieces published, money made, etc?
Michy: During the challenge, I had launched my Unsent Letters projects, and it took off so much faster and better than I ever could have imagined. Because of that, I spent time writing for the challenge than I had expected. Still, I managed to write a comparable number of articles to the Helium challenge.

In all, I wrote 51 articles in the month, and 50 of them were approved during the challenge time frame. All said and done, including commenting on a few articles other than my own, writing the articles, finding pictures, entering them into the site, and submitting them, I spent approximately 21 1/2 hours working on the 51 articles I wrote. That's between 15-25 minutes per article on average.

For all 51 articles plus the Performance Bonus for the first month, I earned a little under $200. When calculated for pay for number of hours worked, it comes up to $9.10 per hour during the challenge. Keeping in mind that a few of my articles on the challenge were submitted as Display Only (when I probably could have earned a little upfront on them), I know if I'd pushed it, that hourly rate might have been even higher.

If I were able to keep up that pace for full-time hours on AC, truly being dedicated to writing as a profession, I could earn, as a brand new writer, $1500 per month without too much effort, from the comfort of my home. That's not including what I could earn as the Performance Bonus accrued. In fact, looking at that profile, the Performance Bonus that's accrued this month is already close to double what it was last month!

I'll be honest... I was surprised! I had always known in the back of my head that AC had potential for folks who wanted to turn it into a full-time job. In fact, I'd watched Pam Gaulin pretty much do that very thing and work her Performance Bonus up to four digits at one point. I guess I just never realized how much potential AC had for me personally, and especially on my 'real' profile where I have already established myself.

Someone new to AC could really set themselves up quite nicely and within a year be pulling in enough income to replace their full-time job. I believe that wholly, but it would take some dedication! At the very least, AC is a truly viable option for part-time income, and a place where professional freelancers can experiment, earn long-tail residual passive income, and sell articles they want to write, without the same constraints print venues often put upon writers.

AC: What are the important takeaways that you'd like to offer newbies on AC?
Michy: I think the most important thing for a new writer on AC to learn is to step back and learn HOW to write for the web first, before you start throwing up a bunch of articles. Read all the FAQs. I know they're time consuming, but they are so worth it, and then, hit the AC forums and read and read and read. It seems really boring and it's hard when you want to just get started making money and publishing, but if you really want to make a good income from this, do the research first and then write. It will be worth it down the road!

Another thing I think is important is the social aspect of AC as well. Particularly for a new writer, getting some followers and some people you can learn from and share with by reading their writing, are essential to really breaking out on AC. Usually, if you comment on someone's work, they'll come visit yours and might comment too, and if they like what they see, they'll come back. You can learn a lot this way, and gain a nice readership base too.

Lastly, know your market. AC is not for all types of writing and also what works on other content sites might not work as well on AC. That's another reason why learning the ropes and reading first is so important. Some really successful writers have come to AC without seeing any success and others who had no experience at all but learned from the forums and other writers on AC who are successful here have become successful.

To sum it up, again, AC is pretty much whatever you make it to be, and it's many things to many different people. You do get out of AC exactly what you choose to put into it, so keep writing!

AC: Thanks, Michy, for undertaking this project and for sharing your results with us!


Anonymous said...

Informative and inspirational. Michy demonstrates that with hard work, perseverance and a little "local" education, one can make a go of freelance writing.

Unknown said...

That was a good idea for an experiment. I especially agree with new web writers needing to read the FAQ etc., but they probably won't, just as I didn't! And now I find myself going back and fixing SEO and anchor text like a madwoman!lol

Unknown said...

Wise words indeed. Great interview with excellent info.

Lucinda Gunnin said...

I was glad to see the challenged confirmed what I wrote two years ago, you get out of it what you put into it. And, since I personally dislike many things about Helium, I was glad to see some semi-scientific proof of what I had personally already conclude--AC rocks the socks off Helium,

Michelle L. Devon said...

Thanks so much to Laura, Sam, and the rest of the gang at AC for letting me do this challenge! I really enjoyed it and learned a lot about why I really do love AC!

Anonymous said...

Interesting interview. I can't imagine doing 51 articles a month and you make it sound so easy. Thanks for the great tips for beginners.

Angel said...

It was interesting watching while Michy went through the challenge. I can see how someone who is good at SEO and picking popular topics would be able to make decent money with AC.

Kim Karl said...

It was a great challenge and I'm really glad that you did this. It is proof positive that you can make money writing for AC with the know how and effort. Great job Michy!

Unknown said...

It was such a thrill to watch this challenge unfold, and to see what Michy would conclude at the end of it. Very inspiring. :)

Jennifer Walker said...

Great stuff! Very inspirational...Michy Jr. posted half as many articles in one month as I have in my year and a half on AC! I bet they're performing a lot better than mine, too. Maybe I need to get cracking again!

Jo Brielyn said...

I enjoyed watching and learning from Michy's experiences throughout this challenge. I think it's time for me to start pumping out more articles on AC!

Thank you, Michy and AC for conducting this experiment. I think we all can learn from it.

Lindsay Maddox said...

That challenge was surely motivating! Excellent interview. :)

Shannon said...

Great interview! Michy's success was inspiring. I'm going to really try and write more for AC this month and see how it goes.

Dreamweaverr said...

You get what you put into it and with a little luck and skill it grows. This was an awesome experiment, but coming from Michy, I am not surprised.

Derek Odom said...

This is great stuff, Michelle. You really included a lot of important details that someone just getting into the game may not know. Thank you for all your help - write on!

Randy Inman said...

I agree with Michelle in that AC is best looked at as a long term thing.Kudos to her for doing this and to AC for letting her.

Nicole/MadlabPost said...

Great interview. I read Michy's blogs during the challenge and she posted very useful information that new AC writers can benefit from. Seasoned writers on AC can also find her blog posts useful, as they offer insight to details that tend to be overlooked sometimes.

Michy has the ability to inspire and encourage writers who produce content for the web to not only publish great content but to also monitor their efforts in promotion, research and time management to make the best improvements for their work.

Christina said...

I'm thankful for all of the work Michy put into this challenge. It is especially helpful and inspirational for someone as new as I am to online writing to see that hard work really does pay off.

Thanks Michy and AC!

Anonymous said...

This was very inspiring, especially for a new writer like me.

Rissa said...

I loved watching this challenge to see how you would do.

It helps to see the results of a veteran. The Helium and AC challenged lived up to my expectations.

AC rocks.

BookingAlong said...

Michelle- this is truly inspiring. I strive to learn to write as many articles and get good results - or, actually, excellent results. I'm so glad you did this experiment!

C. Wilson said...

I thought it was a great idea for Michy to do this challenge. I tried very hard to figure out who she was as a new Source but I never did figure it out. Excellent challenge and interview. Great information for new Sources.

Lyn Lomasi said...

This is an excellent and inspiring interview. I hope many Sources listen to and apply the things Michy talked about here, as well as on her blog during the challenge.

You really do get out of AC what you put into it. I believe that anyone willing to put in the effort can make some decent money on AC.

Anonymous said...

I'm already reading the FAQ's. I'll poke around a little more then sign up this afternoon!