Biography: The Rise of Ngo: Chapter 4
The next chapter of my life involved balancing the demands of my first real job and trying to learn affiliate marketing on the side. Here’s what my schedule looked like for the following few months:
7 a.m.: Wake up, do the morning routine, get stuck in traffic
9 a.m.: Arrive at work
5 p.m.: Go home
6 p.m.: Actually get home, shower, eat dinner
7 p.m.: Work on affiliate marketing
2 a.m.: Sleep
7 a.m.: Wake up, do the morning routine
8 a.m.: Work on affiliate marketing
5 p.m.: Hang out with my girlfriend
12 a.m.: Sleep
I was pretty much working two jobs. By day, I was in the corporate world helping manage PPC accounts, and at night, I was working on my side business.
I actually loved my 9-5 job. They had amazing clients, and my co-workers and bosses were awesome. If I didn’t succeed with affiliate marketing, I would’ve continued working in the agency world.
How did a job at an agency help me?
- I became super-proficient with Excel. Pivot tables? Easy.
- I saw how an agency deals with clients to keep them happy.
- Constant, constant exposure to Google Adwords.
- By being an employee for half a year, I learned different management styles and what makes a good boss.
Between the job and my affiliate marketing, I was thinking about Internet marketing every hour of the day. I was learning fast as if I was Goku (Dragon Ball Z) training in the hyperbolic time chamber.
What’s your excuse?
I notice whenever people try to break into the industry, they always have excuses ready: I don’t have any money, my schedule’s too busy, or I’m not really good at technical stuff. They make excuses before they even start…it’s like they’re already preparing themselves for failure.
Most excuses are made for ego protection. People don’t want to feel that they failed because they didn’t work hard enough or weren’t smart enough, so blaming other things makes it easier.
I’ve seen 16-year-old affiliates; I’ve seen 60-year-old affiliates; I’ve seen women affiliates; I’ve seen affiliates from really poor countries like India; and I know that most of the industry people don’t have a college degree. Whatever excuse you have is not valid. No matter how bad your situation is, I guarantee you that many people have had it worse and still succeeded.
You just have to play the cards you’re dealt in life to the best of your ability and not waste energy wishing you had better cards. Even a 7-2 offsuit can beat pocket aces.
I need more money
It’s interesting to see that money and personal finances have become uncomfortable topics to think about. It’s weird to ask someone how much money they’re making. People keep getting hit with overdraft charges because they feel uncomfortable looking at their bank accounts.
Running a business means you need to keep a really tight leash on your finances. I was bootstrapping the operation myself, and it cost money: servers, tools, and paying for the actual traffic.
I simply needed more money, and there were only two ways to do it: increase my income and decrease my expenses.
There wasn’t much I could do to increase my income since I was making a salary, so I turned to freelancing to earn some extra cash. I didn’t have any major talents like programming or graphic design, but I noticed people were buying 500-word articles (for SEO content) for $15 each. I spent a few hours each week researching and writing articles and was able to make an extra $500 a month doing it.
To decrease my living expenses, I moved to my friend’s house and paid only $350 a month for a room. I saved on my groceries by clipping coupons. I rarely went out to eat, mostly cooking at home. Between the article writing and decreasing my living expenses, I was able to scrounge up around $900 a month I could dedicate to affiliate marketing.
My mindset was that every dollar I saved was a few clicks I could put towards my campaigns. Every campaign I could afford was me moving an inch closer to my goals.
For the previous five years, I was driving a 1995 Acura Legend, which literally broke down on the highway at 200,000 miles. Fixing the car would cost me more than the car was worth. I really didn’t have the money to spare, but I needed a new ride.
What was weird was even though I wasn’t making much at my job, the car dealerships approved me for a $40,000 car loan (at a ridiculously high interest rate). The salesman was trying to sell me a dream:
“You don’t have to drive your girlfriend around in that beat up car anymore, man. It’s 2008, and you should be driving a car from this decade. Our finance guys wouldn’t have approved the loan if they didn’t think you could afford it. Every time you see your BMW, it’s going to motivate you to work harder. You’re a Georgia Tech graduate with a stable job—you’ve earned this.“
What he didn’t realize was my dream wasn’t a BMW 3 Series; my dream was a GT-R or a Porsche 911. Having a high monthly car payment and wasting thousands of dollars on paying interest on a car that I didn’t really want was taking money away from my goal.
I went to the local credit union and got a reasonable $10,000 loan with 3.5% APR. I bought a used Red Lexus IS300.
On the road to success, there will be a series of tests designed to kick you off your path.
Being offered that new BMW was a test. Having to choose to work at night instead of playing video games was a test. Dealing with negativity was a test—anyone who was negative about my ambition was cut off from my life.
Life throws these tests at you to see how bad you really want it—success only rewards those who deserve it.
Dealing with failure
Fourteen campaigns. All failures. Minus $4,000.
Most sane people would’ve quit a long time ago, and I wouldn’t blame them.
How did I stay motivated?
I kept telling myself, “It only takes one campaign.” Seriously, all I need to do is just stay persistent and keep learning. If I keep launching campaigns, one of them is bound for glory.
Most people quit because they put too much pressure on themselves and have an unrealistic timeline. It’s like the fat guy who works out for two weeks and quits because he hasn’t lost any weight. It’s hard to see progress when you’re in the trenches—you have to stick to your goal and have faith in the process.
I never had any doubt in my mind that I would eventually make a full-time living from this industry. Why?
I’m a huge fan of having smaller but realistic goals. I wasn’t trying to be a millionaire. This was early 2008, and there weren’t any ballers in the industry yet. After reading The 4-Hour Workweek, I just wanted to make around $40,000 a year and travel in Asia.
My thinking was quite simple: the more you practice something, the better you get at it.
- Can’t talk to women? Cold-approach 500 women, and you will improve.
- Suck at chess? Play 500 games, and you will improve.
- Not a good writer? Spend 30 minutes writing every single day, and you will improve.
I concluded that affiliate marketing was a skill, and the only way to improve it was through constant practice. I didn’t mind losing money as long as I was learning from each mistake.
The mistake that most people make is they believe that there’s a magic bullet they can find in a forum or a blog post. They read, read, and read and never implement what they learn. The problem with reading and no action is you don’t have the right perspective to understand the material. Everyone’s impatient and wants instant results; these kinds of people don’t achieve their goals, but they make amazing customers.
Why do people get stuck in the pattern of reading and never actually working? Pain avoidance.
Let’s say I want to become a better writer and I write 15 minutes every day. I’m not really losing anything other than the cost of time. Internet marketing comes with several pain points if you fail. You can lose money, and people don’t like the feeling of sucking at something.
When I lost $300, I didn’t think about what I could have bought with that money—I didn’t think about new games or a nice dinner. I re-framed that loss as a gain: “I just spent $300 on data, on a lesson that I can’t learn anywhere else.”
People want to learn while avoiding pain. Reading books, e-books, blog posts, and forums makes them feel like they are learning about this stuff without actually going through the pain.
“In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.” – Bill Cosby
The different campaigns I tried
Some niches I did:
- A Clickbank product for reversing someone’s phone number
- A Clickbank product for an online tattoo gallery website
- Credit reports
- Home insurance
- Ringtones, and I was bidding on Song Titles
- I heard payday loans were quite hot. I decided not to do it because they were just too dirty even by my standards.
I was only working on Google Adwords campaigns at the time. There were plenty of traffic sources to choose from, but I felt I had a natural advantage with this platform because of my 9-5 job. The problem with Adwords, though, is that it’s one of the hardest traffic sources to understand and optimize. You have to deal with quality score, keyword research, grouping the keywords, bid prices, etc. For a newbie, that’s a lot of optimization.
My campaigns were becoming a source of great frustration for me. Every week, I would research a campaign, set it up, launch it, and lose money. After a campaign started losing money, I didn’t really know how to optimize it. Not only that, but I had no clue whether I should stop a bleeding campaign or try to make it work.
My conclusion was to always stop the bleeding and switch to a new campaign. My affiliate managers were always telling me about a new “hot offer,” and I always thought, “This is the one.” As a newbie, you feel frequently confused because you don’t have enough experience yet to separate the gems from the dirt.
Big shout out to my original affiliate managers: Greenberg at Copeac, Fraser at CXDigital, Sessler at Azoogle, and Leanne at Neverblue (3 of the 4 companies are now gone). I didn’t know anyone in the industry, and it was my affiliate managers that let me know this industry was real and there were people out there making this work. Even though I had a peasant affiliate status for months, they still found time to answer any questions I had.
With each campaign, though, I was getting closer and closer to profitability. Tracking202 wasn’t available yet, so I had to do some really filthy tracking using php and passing SubIDs. I learned how to create landing pages from scratch. I started applying what I learned from copywriting into creating ads, and it was amazing to actually see results from the techniques.
I didn’t have a profitable campaign yet, but I knew if I kept going, I’d hit one sooner or later. All that mattered was that I kept faith and stayed on my path.
The $100,000 blog post
There were a lot of shitty affiliate marketing blogs back then (99% of the blogs today still are), but my favorite one was NickyCakes.com. Most of his posts were calling out people in the industry on their bullshit, but occasionally he’d drop some gems if you were smart enough to see them.
I was reading his blog and came across his blog post “Still Can’t Make Money With Facebook?”
Nick gave away a profitable gaming campaign on Facebook.
My initial thoughts when I saw this post was that it was already “too late” to run this campaign. He has thousands of readers, and I was quite sure that a bunch of them already launched the campaigns. How can I compete in a new niche and on a new platform against guys who had more money and experience than me?
I made a big commitment then and told myself, “I am not quitting this campaign until I lose $1,000.” I figured the problem was that every time my campaign lost money, I would switch to another offer rather than actually try to figure out how to improve it.
Next on The Rise of Ngo: How I took this campaign from -200% ROI to +500 ROI% a day, more profitable campaigns, cash flow issues, and going to Affiliate Summit for the first time.