Affiliate Marketing: How to Make It in Affiliate Marketing
People ask me on a daily basis how to make it in affiliate marketing. I don’t blame them—I love affiliate marketing. It took me to places I thought I’d never see and gave me a passion to pursue when I was just drifting through life.
Hundreds of people try to make it in this industry, but only a handful can turn it into a career, and even fewer stay.
These are some of the lessons I’ve learned the past few years—lessons I wish someone shared with me when I first started.
Get rid of the excuses
It really sucks to see people make excuses before they even start.
Here are some of the typical excuses I hear:
- I don’t know anything about programming or making graphics
- I have a job and kids, and I’m too busy
- I can’t concentrate on anything
I’ve seen people from all sorts of backgrounds succeed: people that didn’t graduate high school, 15-year-olds, guys with five kids and a full-time job, people living in third-world countries, etc.
Keep in mind that many people who have succeeded were in a way worse position than you are now.
Don’t complain about a problem. Work on finding a solution.
I thought I couldn’t do it because I had a full-time job, but I had to make it work somehow. I worked 9 AM to 5 PM, rushed home, ate dinner…then it was time for my 7 PM to 2 AM affiliate marketing shift. I moved to an apartment right next to my job so I could save 1.5 hours a day on commute.
You have an amazing opportunity. Look at all those suckers that got the entrepreneurial soul sucked out of them by multi-leveling marketing.
I’ve been living in Asia for the past two years. I know guys here who are working 16 hours a day for $.50 an account, and they’re going to do that for the rest of their lives. Your advantage is you know about one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
People don’t wanna hold themselves accountable if they fail, so they look for something or someone to blame. I had a guy tell me he would’ve made it too if he had started around the same time I did. I smiled, nodded, and thought to myself, “What a loser.”
If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way.
Failing and losing money
A lot of people aren’t built for this industry because they have low pain thresholds. It hurts too much to try something and fail, and it hurts too much to lose a few hundred dollars trying something out.
Think about what happens in the real world. I see people graduate with $50k+ in student loan debt and end up working at Starbucks.
What about people who start restaurants? They get a 6-figure bank loan; they’re unprofitable for a few years (if they ever do see any profit); and they routinely work 16-hour days.
It doesn’t make sense to me when someone loses a few hundred bucks on a campaign and quits. So many guys started with just a few hundred dollars and turned them into 7 figures in a short time.
When I lose money, I just view it as data collection. It does get easier over time.
I remember when I lost the first few hundred, I started thinking about what I could’ve bought with that money and questioning if I really wanted to do this.
It only takes one campaign
No one’s counting the number of times you failed.
I started in 2008. I spent 6 months, lost $5,000, failed at 15 campaigns before I finally found my winner.
That first winning campaign is the catalyst and tipping point for your success.
When you feel like giving up, just know that you’re one campaign away from achieving everything you want.
Take action and be relentless
What makes affiliate marketing hard to learn is that there’s no blueprint to follow, and the failures hurt more than normal.
Brazilian Jiujitsu is one of my hobbies. My coaches are more than willing to teach me everything they know. I can pay for lessons. I can buy books and videos and learn champions’ secrets & strategies. The blueprint for success is to just keep coming to class and training more.
With affiliate marketing, no one’s going to tell you anything. You’re not going to learn much from forums, e-books, or blogs. No one’s going to give away too much information to help create their own competition, at least not for free. Yet, people will spend many years and loads of money hoping to find that magic bullet that doesn’t exist.
Being able to make money with a campaign is a skill. And like all skills, it takes practice.
Launch a campaign; learn from it; and repeat. And do it over and over and over and over again until you make money. That’s what everyone did.
You will learn more spending $500 on a campaign than paying for any course.
“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst,” said Henri Cartier-Bresson.
That’s how it works with affiliate marketing. Your first campaigns will suck and lose money. But everyone who has been successful in this industry has gone through that point.
Wanna succeed faster? Then fail twice as fast.
Drowning in opportunity
I find that the biggest problem in affiliate marketing is not a lack of opportunity but too many opportunities. You’re running one campaign, and then an affiliate manager tells you about this “hot” campaign. A friend from back in the day wants you to invest in his latest hustle. You’re halfway through launching a campaign, but you quit because another one looks like it has more potential.
You can’t keep throwing shit at the wall and hope something sticks. The majority of campaigns lose money initially. You run some split tests, collect data, and keep making adjustments until you’re profitable. That’s how it works.
You need to set a plan and stick with it:
- Choose a traffic source (e.g., Facebook or PlentyofFish)
- Choose a vertical (e.g., dating or gaming)
- Set a budget, time frame, and goal (e.g., $2,000, launch 10 campaigns in 30 days, hope 3 are profitable)
- With each campaign, keep a journal of what you learned
- Set specific goals: “Tomorrow I’m launching 5 ads and hoping one gets above a .15 CTR.”
Stick to your plan, and learn to say no.
Who’s in your circle?
As Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Choose friends who are themselves living on the edge, facing their fears, and pushing themselves far beyond their comfort zones.
Constantly give value to people—without having any ulterior motives.
In this industry, learn to recognize the people who know their stuff and whom you can trust. Nurture your relationships. Make friends with other affiliates, and learn from each other. There’s enough money to go around.
You also gotta watch out for the toxic people:
- Negative people who discourage you. The fact is, some people can’t compete, and they know it. It’s easier to bring you down than to bring themselves up. Cut them out of your life.
- People who are trying to screw you. Some guys make their living scamming people, whether it’s creating offers and not paying, or selling Facebook ad accounts and not delivering. The key to reducing risk is to get recommendations from trusted friends. Also use some common sense. Run with affiliate networks that have a proven track record instead of an 18-year-old affiliate still living in his mom’s basement.
- Cockroaches. When you start having some success, people will start showing up. It’s just like what happens to lottery winners: everyone is trying to be their best friend all of a sudden. They will try to take advantage of you, whether it’s asking to borrow money (and never paying back) or trying to steal secrets about your work. Just remember who your real friends are: they are typically the ones who have been with you from the get go.
“I’m all in”
This is what I told myself over and over again. Once I decided to get into affilaite marketing, I was going to give it everything I had: my money, my time, and all my energy. Nothing else in my life mattered.
I sold everything I didn’t need on Craigslist. I cooked almost every meal at home and rarely ate out. Every dollar I saved meant I could buy a few more clicks for my campaigns. My car died one day on a highway. The bank approved me for a $50,000 car loan, but I ended up getting a very cheap car. As much as I wanted a nice car, I knew I didn’t earn it yet. I’ll buy it when I can pay cash for it, I thought.
I spent Saturday nights setting up Facebook campaigns instead of going to night clubs. Instead of playing on my Xbox, I researched keywords.
Half-ass effort gets half-ass results.
An obsession with learning
If you’re not learning, you’re dying. I’ve read a few hundred business books in the past decade. The other week, I wanted to learn about the science behind motivation. It amazes me that after spending $10 and a few hours of my time, I learned what it took the author a decade to research. And I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I didn’t read Rich Dad, Poor Dad in high school and The 4-Hour Workweek.
Ask questions, network with people smarter than you, get a mentor, form a mastermind, attend conferences, etc.
I also believe in learning everything there is to learn about this industry as well. What’s the affiliate network’s margin on this offer? How does the advertiser make money on this offer? Are they running traffic internally?
Do you know everything about your demographic?
Let’s take the weight loss niche as an example. I did focus groups with girls needing to lose weight to see their reactions to my landing pages. I read weight loss forums. For ad copy inspiration, I read weight loss magazines and watched infomercials.
Outlearn your competition.
There’s always something to test; there’s always something to improve.
Traffic sources, angles, offers, images, headlines, landing page styles, landing page copies, the colors of buttons, pop-ups, countdown timers, bidding prices, web hosts, etc.
Being able to optimize properly means you’ll always be able to make money without having to jump on the latest trends or hot offers.
Being able to make more than the competition on the same offer means:
- you can outbid them for more traffic,
- you can still be profitable if the offer payout decreases,
- you can run traffic on places with high CPCs, and
- you can survive months after they’re long gone.
In any given niche, 20% of the guys will make 80% of the profits. Rigorous testing will help you get into that 20%.
Where’s your money going?
Here is a common scenario I see often. A guy is hustling and finally getting a profitable campaign. Next thing you know, his lifestyle increased by tenfold: he is leasing a new car, buying a new house, going on vacations, buying Louis Vuitton stuff, etc.
Before you know it, his main campaign dies out, and he is unable to resurrect it. Now with all these bills from an inflated lifestyle, he’s gotta go back to a 9-5 job. It’s like these guys score one touchdown and spend the rest of the game doing their touchdown dance.
Affiliate marketing is very psychological. One important principle is what I call “money momentum.” Let’s say you’re making $1,000 a day in profit. If you test out a bunch of traffic sources and lose money, it doesn’t hurt too much because you’re still profiting overall. When money’s coming in, you can afford more risks. And some of those risks are going to pay off.
What if the same guy didn’t start launching new campaigns until his old ones died, and now he has no money coming in? He’s going to get more emotional with the money loss.
When I launch a campaign, I’m going into a battle. What are my weapons and allies? My laptop, my hosting, my virtual assistants, my lawyer, my accountant, my tools, etc. Spend money so you can get the best.
Come on, man: don’t buy $400 belts when your campaign’s on a $10/month HostGator account. Frivolous purchases, such as travel, nice dinners, bottles, etc., come after you get your money right. What matters more is what’s in your bank account—not impressing people you don’t even know.
Imitate, then innovate
A great learning technique is modeling, which is basically imitating success. When I wanted to improve at Starcraft 2, I copied some of the strategies of the professional gamers since they have so much more experience than me. I also observed and asked why they did this and that.
A few years ago, I started learning email list building. I didn’t know much about it, so I signed up for David Dangelo & Truthaboutabs newsletters. I looked at the tone of their voices, the writing styles, the length of the e-mails, the ratio of value to offer emails, etc.
I’m not telling you to straight up jack someone’s ads and landing pages. I’m telling you to look at them for inspiration and improve from there. If someone’s running an ad for a while, chances are they’re making money.
Once you understand the basics, then it’s time to get creative. Innovation pays. If you hit on an interesting angle, you have first-mover advantage and can reap huge profits.
Adapt or die
The industry is always changing. A year in our industry is like 3 years in another. Some landing pages that worked a few years ago are now non-compliant. Offers that were huge before are now gone. It’s the nature of the business.
The most important thing you can do is heavily focus on the fundamentals. At the end of the day, affiliate marketing is just combining an angle with a traffic source and an offer, and split-testing until you reach profitability. New media and offers will emerge, but the fundamentals will always remain the same.
How To Start Affiliate Marketing?
Internet marketing is my craft. I dedicate every day to trying to improve my skills and knowledge.
I don’t know where it’s going to be a few years or a few decades from now. But if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.