Biography: The Rise of Ngo: Chapter 6
Life was good.
I had a steady income from my job, and I was making three times more money from my affiliate campaigns.
I was starting to get burnt out from a lack of sleep and the amount of work I was doing. I took a look at my daily schedule and decided I could save two hours a day if got my own apartment next to work. I didn’t use that extra two hours to work more—I used it to make sure I got enough sleep each day.
The Instant Action was running strong for a few months, but then I hit a road block. The advertiser lowered everyone’s payout from $1.50 to $.75 a lead. It happens with new advertisers a lot—when they start, they’re not familiar with their metrics yet to realize they are losing money.
The good news is Neverblue gave me the exclusive on this offer. Since their budget was lowered, it was probably easier to work with one guy who had consistent traffic than having to balance caps among 10+ affiliates.
I was able to keep the campaign running strong despite the 50% payout drop. My cost per click started to drop once I was the only person able to run this offer. My guess is people were copying my angles and creatives, and that accelerated the audience’s banner blindness. My costs got lower now because I didn’t have to compete against my own creations.
I learned two major lessons from my first campaign that have stuck with me till this day:
a) Don’t be afraid of competition – I assumed that this campaign was too hard to compete in since Nicky posted it on his blog for the affiliate marketing world to see. I didn’t even want to launch it at first, yet I was able to dominate this niche. If a niche has a lot of competition, it’s because there’s money to be made. Don’t be scared.
Who wants to be #1 in a $500-a-day niche? The ceiling is too low to grow. The tougher the competition is, the more you can develop your skill set. If you want to be a better athlete, you have to compete against people better than you.
I’ve been in some of the toughest niches and traffic sources in history; success boils down to being consistent with your testing and always aiming to improve. He tests three angles? I test 10. He tests five different landing pages? I test 100 variations of it using multi-variate testing. I am fortunate to be a hard worker in an industry full of lazy people.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
b) The first mover advantage – I got the exclusive on this offer because I got in on it early and did volume. If you are one of the first in a new niche, offer, or traffic source, everything is much easier; there’s less competition, and your marketing is more effective because the audience hasn’t seen your techniques before. If people are talking about how “hot” an offer is, then you’re not getting in early enough (kind of like with stocks). Be an initiator, not a follower.
My cash flow finally caught up with my spending, and this freed up my time, energy, and cash to pursue more campaigns.
Facebook was a pain in the butt back then (still is) because there wasn’t a power editor, bulk upload tools, or any API. Each campaign I launched had to be uploaded by hand. The worst feeling was spending half an hour uploading a few campaigns only having all of the ads disapproved. It meant I had to start all over again.
Fortunately, I was able to make some campaigns work outside of the gaming niche.
This was a lead generation offer on how to make money working from home. I discovered a neat trick to increase my click-through rates.
I made a campaign group for each age, and I called out their age in the title.
For example, I had an age group for 21-year-olds only. The headline would be “21 and Need Cash?” I learned the power of segmenting your audience and creating ultra-targeted ads for them. (This technique’s not allowed on Facebook anymore, by the way.)
This campaign was when I discovered a strategy to get high CTRs: aim for ads that are weird. A picture of just money isn’t going to get an amazing CTR.
Do you see the difference? I’ve always liked images that make you go “huh?” and take a second look. The brain is biologically wired to notice irregularities in your environment. Create ads that stand out.
On my personal Facebook page, I kept seeing dating ads. I figured if many people are running something, it must be making money.
I decided to do something a little bit different and focus on the Australian demographic.
The dating niche was extremely simple to make money in. I would direct-link, sneak in some ads with cleavage, and then profit.
Sneaking in the ads was the hard part, and I started discovering tricks to make the process easier. For example, there were certain times of the day when my ads were five times more likely to be approved.
I also did something called the sandwich method. Instead of submitting three naughty ads in a row, I would submit 50+ “clean” images and sneak the naughty ads in the middle. I figured the reviewers would just hit approve, approve, approve, and after 20+ images in a row of clean images, they would start lowering their guard a bit.
At this point, I was averaging about $10,000 a month in profit, but I had no intentions of quitting my job anytime soon. I still had student loans and a car loan, and I didn’t really have money in savings yet. All my cash was being reinvested into my campaigns.
I felt very uncomfortable knowing that all my income was based on campaigns run on Facebook. I’d only been in affiliate marketing for about six months, and I had no idea how long it was going to last. My plan was just to make as much money as possible from it now while keeping my job.
I liked the security and cushion my job provided, and I was still learning tons every day. The eventual goal was to start doing affiliate marketing full-time, but I figured that was years down the road.
Affiliate Summit East 2008
The first major conference was coming up, and I knew I had to go.
I requested a week off from work. Instead of using my vacation time to head to the beach, I chose to network with a bunch of nerds. It was an investment into my future.
At this point, I still didn’t know anybody in the industry. Don’t obsess over finding a mentor if you’re new because I reached this point without anyone.
How can you spot a newbie at a conference? They’re the ones walking the floor, collecting free “swag,” and stopping at every single booth. I collected so many pens from that show that five years later, I still have a stash of them.
The coolest part of the conference was affiliate managers taking me out. I was riding around in limousines and eating fancy steak dinners.
I realized something at the conference. Most of the affiliate marketers I met were around the same age I was, and most of them were already working full-time and making less money. What exactly was holding me back?
A few things popped into my head. If I can make a $10k+ profit a month only working four hours a day, how much money could I make if I worked 12+ hours a day?
What’s the worst case scenario if I quit my job? If all my campaigns died, I had six months of work experience and a degree from Georgia Tech. I was pretty sure I could find another job if I had to.
When I came back from Boston, I knew I had to walk into work the next day and put in my two-weeks’ notice.
The longer I would’ve stayed at my job, the more comfortable I would’ve grown—comfort is the enemy of growth. Was I scared? Hell, yeah—this was a life-changing decision.
I asked my friends and family what they thought I should do, and they told me to keep the job for security.
What is comfort compared to the life I wanted? I wanted a future without debt, no one telling me what to do, being able to travel whenever I wanted, and most of all, I wanted to control my own destiny.
When you are young, you have time to fail and make mistakes. When life shows you two paths, take the one that you’ll regret the least. One day I’ll be old and see myself in the mirror. Do I want to wonder “what if”?
Next Time on Rise of Ngo: quitting my job, going from $10,000 a month to $0.