Associated Content–Residual Thousandths of Cents

In this series, we personally test traditional online freelance marketplaces to share first-hand experiences and honest assessments of marketplaces and resulting jobs, as many freelance writers turn to these outlets to find writing gigs. You can read all the posts in the series here.

If you spend any amount of time online reading the many freelance writer’s blogs that dot the virtual landscape, then you have probably run across a post or two that sing the virtues of Associated Content’s residual earning program.

Now, I’ve spoken out about residual earnings and how they affect the time value of money before, as has Jenn. Essentially, earning residual income from other outlets (rather than your own blogs, e-books and other products) is pretty much never the best plan. If you happen to get a lot of traffic on your residual pieces, the online outlet may pay you a big enough chunk each month to keep you happy but you have to remember that:

a) They are sharing earnings with you, which means you could have more earnings on your own without sharing.

b) The company or website may not be there forever, and then your future residuals will be gone…gone I say!

c) Sometimes you have to work really hard to get traffic to a site that’s not only NOT yours but is also only paying you part of the ad revenue for the traffic you bring.

What I Did Last Month for Residual Earnings on Associated Content

Since I closed down my own freelance writing blog, I decided to throw my old, previously published posts up on Associated Content for residual earnings. It is important to note that I was paying freelance writers to write on my freelance writing blog and I was doing next to nothing to promote it—so I had lost money rather than made. This means that I am actually making more on Associated Content than I did on my blog…but that's just because I handled my blog stupidly, not because Associated Content’s residual program rocks.

I posted the articles between 12/04 and 12/21. I set up an automatic feed from my Associated Content account so that it announced on Twitter and on Facebook when I had a new article posted and I did let the 30 or so members of the Freelance Writerville Ning community know that I was moving the articles there. That is all the promotion I have done.

The Results and How I Plan to Retire

By far, my most popular article was How to Increase Your Freelance Writing Rates for Existing Clients which was the last article I posted. It has gotten 110 views. Not too shabby for little to no promotion. That has earned me a whopping $0.17. That means I make roughly $0.0015 per visitor. Nice. I think I just found my new retirement plan.

The next most popular (posted on 12/06) is 5 Things to Do Before You Quit Your Job to Freelance Full Time. This high performer has gotten a total of 49 views and made me $0.07. Third most popular was the first one I posted (on 12/04) 6 Ways to Improve Your Freelance Writing Portfolio’s Conversion. There we have a total of 34 views and $0.05.

The rest have between 24 and 12 views each. In total, I have made $0.46 on the 9 articles I posted in December. Let’s say they had NOT been previously published on my blog and I had just sold them for non-exclusive rights (you can get significantly more for exclusive rights) to a blogger like Jenn at a rate of $25 per post. I would have $225 busy working for me--earning dividends or interest in my brokerage account, earning money and affording me a tax deduction in my SEP, reducing my interest and paying down principal of my home…really, there are so many better things I could have done with these articles.

If you want to spend the time to build up traffic to the articles you post on Associated Content (or Examiner and Suite 101 for that matter) then you will make more money but at $0.0015 per visitor, wouldn’t you be better off spending your time learning how to spin the cat hair on your sofa into yarn for clothing? I think you would.

Profile image for Yo Prinzel
Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express, Covestor.com, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

17 thoughts on “Associated Content–Residual Thousandths of Cents”

  1. Since you mentioned me, I’ll go ahead and clarify what AFW bloggers are paid here because I don’t think I’ve done that yet publicly, and I think it’s a good thing to put out there for transparency’s sake so you know exactly what writers here are paid, what they’re paid for, and what responsibilities they do and don’t have.

    1. Rates were based on hourly quotes from the first writers coming on board — not an arbitrary number pulled out of my ass.

    2. Writers are paid $25 per post (read below before thinking I’m a hypocrite for requiring higher pay in our job listings).

    3. I do NOT buy full rights to their content, as most clients on the Web do. I purchase exclusive online rights for 30 days, with non-exclusive rights after that. They can re-sell their content to print outlets immediately. After 30 days from publication they can re-sell it on the Web, publish it to their own sites, publish it to residual earning sites, use it for article marketing, compile their articles into an e-book, etc.

    4. I also place almost no rules or restrictions on the content (other than the obvious “don’t post libelous shit kind of thing”). I don’t dictate length, style, or topics (with a rare exception where I’ll suggest one, but I don’t force them to cover it). They are essentially free to write whatever they want to write in the scope of their series.

    5. Writers here are also welcome to include affiliate links to further monetize their content if they so choose, as long as the standard AFW affiliate link disclaimer bar is included at the top of the post linking you to the affiliate link policy here (so you’ll never have to worry about deceptive affiliate links).

    6. Writers here are not required to promote the content in any way. As the blog owner, that’s my job. That includes all SEO aspects of the blog posts — I deal with descriptions, tags, keywords, etc. for them.

    7. On an occasion where I would want something very specific and unique rights to AFW (like a linkbait style piece), pay would be 2-3 times the normal post rate depending on length and other requirements, and those pieces would be in addition to their regular series.

    So yes. Had Yo published the articles here first, she would have had $225 in her pocket up front, and she still could have put them up on AC to earn those few cents later had she wanted to.

    Reply
  2. Another great article Yolander! I’m really enjoying this series, if only for the laughs it brings. You should do one of these articles on Constant-Content. I think it would get you to retirement faster than AC, but slower than marketing yourself and finding clients willing to pay a professional wage. It’s where I got my start, so I have a soft spot for it.

    Jenn, I think the pay and incentives you offer AFW writers is a really fresh and interesting idea. Though I’ve been subscribed to the blog for some time, since back when it was a one-woman show, I really enjoy the addition of the other writers. I would say that you are certainly getting your money’s worth!

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  3. Another great post. I totally look forward to the next entry in this series, great education for all of us.

    I started with Examiner myself and snarled, scratched and struggled my way up to making that first $1.00. (Well, US $, so it was something $1.05 for me 😉 ) There are a few benefits to maintaining a site like that, at the beginning of your freelance career anyway.

    It keeps me committed. I post twice weekly (I know some who do more, some less). That level is work is a snap to do, yet still keeps me accountable and writing regularly.

    I’m networking (and learning how to network). My site is in an industry where I am established locally, but it’s been a blast networking in a national and even international way. I’ve learned how to use Twitter (I know, get with the times already), how to better use Facebook in a business sense and also how to approach someone cold turkey. One post even had me honing interviewing skills.

    It’s a reference and some experience to quote. I know many of you in the writing world may scoff at Examiner, AC, etc. but at least if someone is genuinely interested in checking out my writing, there it is. In an easy to read and search format, with some hard data to back up it up (hits, subscribers, etc.) Could I do all of that in my own blog and earn more? Yep, sure could. But starting out there has gave me an almost instant online presence with no (yawn for me) layout and design work that comes with a blog.

    Wow, I babbled on here. Sorry! Just wanted to give another possible perspective to these kinds of gigs (and Examiner in particular).

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  4. @Marina — You definitely did give up some rights when you chose to publish there. Read the terms of use, master license agreement, and payment policies for full details. Whether you chose to give up exclusive or non-exclusive rights depends on what option you selected when you published (Perhaps exclusive is highlighted by default? I’m not sure.).

    This is a perfect example of why you should never get involved with one of these residual income or content mill sites without very carefully reviewing the terms. You might be agreeing to more than you bargained for, and you might be legally entitled to far less than you think.

    Sorry to hear you had such a lousy experience. While I don’t use AC at all anymore, I’ve found it’s better to think of them as article marketing with possible pay than a legitimate outlet for being “published.” For example, you can submit content you’ve already used and monetized thoroughly on your own sites, but with non-exclusive rights.

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  5. I did some writing for AC several years ago. The pay scale was/is so poor though that it is hard to justify. I had some steady writing income at the time and figured the occasional article there was gravy. However, I have never done much there but I did notice the advance payments declining over the course of a few years. I have some articles there still that earn me enough each month to buy an e-book or a few cups of coffee. I don’t write for them anymore though.

    This is an interesting piece and I appreciated your perspective and input.

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  6. Hi Jennifer.

    Yes, I should have been much more careful initially. I realise that I was naïve. However, this is not an excuse to use me.

    The thing is as far as I know, correct me if I am wrong, here in UK according to NUJ, unless a publisher has a paper agreement signed by me and have evidence that I received payment they cant possibly own anything exclusive. And I have a right to be named as an author regardless. And even if my actions constituted contract, it can still be overruled by the court as unfair, if it ever comes to that. For example: those rates nowhere near fair rates recommended by the NUJ. And AC never paid me anything anyway. Hence, as far as I am concerned my article is still my property and they are stealing from me. One’s private terms cannot overrule the law and common sense or slavery would have been legal then.

    Also, in the past, I have started first with paper/printed magazines. AC is my very first experience like this, I was not used to this kind of things. I did not expect such treatment. Hence, I am outraged. I am genuinely shocked that US legislation allows such scams grow to such proportions. This experience sure thought me to be much more careful.

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  7. Generally courts don’t get involved in “unfair” rates for independent professionals from what I’ve seen. I don’t claim to know UK law thoroughly, but here for example minimum wage does not apply because you’re a business and not an employee.

    Digital contracts are usually just as binding as paper ones, and if that hadn’t also been upheld in the UK then AC probably wouldn’t accept UK submissions. In the end, the terms of use are a contract that users are bound by as soon as they make the choice to submit material to a site.

    I do agree that they had absolutely no right to remove your name from the article. I can’t imagine why they would do that — seems rather strange. So I hope you can at least get that straightened out.

    I understand your outrage, but unfortunately it’s a fact of life when it comes to content mills (why I don’t support them here and try to steer writers away from them for more lucrative opportunities if they’re serious about making a career out of it). It’s not technically a scam though, and stating so borders on libelous so be careful about that. The last thing you want is to give them any other reason to cause you grief at this point. I’d suggest just steering clear of them. It’s really not worth the aggravation you seem to be getting from it. So I’d say take it as a “live and learn” experience and move on to better things. They really are out there. 🙂

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  8. Hi, Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this way. I am getting inspired. Although I am learning to write some good quality article on my blog related to my expertise, it may help me to earn also by writing. I will keep writing and learning how to write more informative way…

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  9. Oh I wasn’t referring to minimum wage. I was talking in general about contracts. For example: everyone agrees to banks’ terms when they open accounts, but thousands of people get their fees back if they can justify that those are unfair even if they signed the agreements to pay those exact amounts. A friend of mine had business contract made void in court as unfair. My partner and I had big reduction on water rates ones; we complained that prices were unfair and that it is unfair that they are monopoly. What I am saying is that terms of contract might not be necessarily binding, especially considering that I did not receive any compensation for my work. But it doesn’t matter really. I don’t have plans to sue them or anything. I pretty much forgot about it till I saw your post. I am just sharing my experience that’s all.
    And about calling them a scam, lots of people already called them a scam all over the Internet and gave them very bad reviews. This is another my big mistake. It is so easy to check a company’s reputation online, if it has been around for a while. But I didn’t bother, which was beyond naïve of me. I learned from that.

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  10. I’m glad you guys are enjoying the series! Be sure to check out next Friday’s…it is easily the Worst. Site. Yet.

    Also, you actually can spin cat hair into yarn and make purses and other items out of it. A groomer in the U.S. does that for her clients and charges quite a bit for the service. Watching her spin the hair was pretty calming and did make me contemplate buying a spinning wheel.

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  11. @Marina — There’s a big difference between agreeing to pay money and agreeing to get money though. That’s why here in the U.S., courts won’t go in and simply say a contract is void because pay isn’t fair. Especially in the day of user-generated content, there’s really nothing to say you have to be paid for submissions at all if you agree to terms to transfer some rights upon publication. Forums for example generally have a nonexclusive right to whatever you post, and they never have to remove it just because the poster wants it deleted (only in cases where libel, copyright infringement b/c the poster posts someone else’s work, etc., and even then generally only by court order). I was just noting that’s the way it is in the U.S. Might be different in the U.K.

    @Yo – LOL But if I gave her my cat hair what would truly be the point of having a black couch and two white-bellied kitties? I like to think they’re just trying to help me decorate. 🙂

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  12. I do not see AC as forum or social media, but as a publisher or at least agent, because they present themselves to writers in that way. And even if you post on the forum, technically you still own the copyright to your words, and it is still your property, and you have a right to be identified as an author if you want. I don’t know about US, but in UK copyright is created at the moment words were written and it belongs to the author. One doesn’t have to specially register it, or put any copyright sign next to it, or anything. For example: I own these words. The relationship between the forum owner and person posting is usually informal and based on trust, and I guess some kind of contract is assumed based on common practice.
    To be honest, I don’t care what kind of scheme AC invented to cover their backside, I am still very dissatisfied with their practices and wouldn’t advise anyone to go near them.

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  13. You definitely do have the right to be listed as the author. There is absolutely no excuse for them removing your name.

    Unfortunately though, based on their terms that writers agree to and the way user-generated content is covered in the U.S. they couldn’t really get in trouble for paying “too little” and they don’t have to remove anything once rights were granted (which they are the moment someone submits that content). So even though you own the copyright, they’ve been granted an irrevocable license based on the terms, and that’s the reason they don’t have to remove anything regardless of pay. The only exception would be if they guaranteed a certain amount of pay, which they don’t do based on their residual earning pieces.

    Your situation definitely sucks, but there’s not much you can do about it at this point (other than go after them about removing your name). In that case since they’re a U.S. company I’d file a DMCA notice informing them that they’re in violation of your copyright by publishing it without your by-line and that if they want to keep exercising their license to publish, they must include your credit information as originally submitted.

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  14. Great article. May be a hybrid model–get your own contract writing and also post articles to content mills–would work?

    Sid
    Great Income from Freelance Technical Writing

    Reply

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