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A Year In South East Asia
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ZeroPark Does Not Want Clean Ad Spend
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How 1 Weird Table Keeps Me Motivated in the Morning

A Year In South East Asia

It’s been a while.

In fact, it’s been so long since I last updated this site, I’m betrayed by my own strapline:

“I’m a 26 year old high school dropout.”

Well, it was true two years ago.

Now I’m a 28 year old high school dropout.

Having to share a platform with the candid thoughts of your much younger self is one good reason not to sustain a blog for almost a decade.

Before I rip up this site forever, here’s an update on where I’ve been, what I’m working on, and how I’m surviving in South East Asia.

Thailand: 12 Months On

This blog has — at times — descended in to farce as I’ve tried to justify my jumping around: moving to Thailand, moving back to London, moving to America, not moving to America, moving back to Thailand, and so on.

Last March, I sold (or gave away) 95% of my possessions and moved to Bangkok with my girlfriend and two small dogs.

It’s been an amazing year. The best of my life.

I didn’t really know what to expect.

Our intention was to spend 12 months in Asia and ‘see how we felt at the end of it’. If it wasn’t fun anymore, we’d move back home.

It’s still fun, so we’re still here.

There are times where I get nostalgic for a British pub, or the predictability of Old England compared to the Thai Junta, but there’s no mistaking: our lifestyle out here is infinitely better than what we left behind.

I feel healthier and happier despite the utter chaos that passes as normal in Bangkok.

As any visa runner knows, a year in Thailand is ample opportunity to explore your local surroundings.

It’s practically a rite of passage to spend a shit four days in Laos.

So here are some thoughts on the places I’ve visited recently:

Hong Kong

Hong Kong Victoria Peak

My girlfriend summed up Hong Kong perfectly: the Clapham of South East Asia.

Packed with history, character, and the guffaws of yuppies.

I expected the British/Chinese fusion, but it’s surreal nonetheless.

From the English street names, to the ‘little green man’ at crossings, to the entire swathes of downtown Hong Kong that feel like London pitched on a steep incline and ridden of its kebab shops and pissheads.

My highlight was climbing Victoria Peak for one of the most outrageous panoramic views of any city on earth.

Lowlight was getting an exceptional case of the shits on the last day — with 15 hours to burn between hotel checkout and boarding our flight.

Fucking painful.

I wouldn’t wish the experience — the profound lack of emptiness — on my worst enemy.

Macau

Macau mini golf

Macau’s casinos are impressive, but soulless.

They reminded me of Dubai.

You can build the most majestic buildings in the world; but you can’t buy character.

The place reeks of cashed up mainlanders gallivanting for the weekend. Most of them in Man United shirts and tour groups of 80.

My highlight was playing pitch and putt, in the rain, on the roof of the Venetian. It summed up my overall impression of Macau: “OK cool, I don’t know why you’ve built this, but OK cool.”

Penang, Malaysia

penang

I didn’t see much of Penang on my last visit.

This time I stayed in Georgetown, which had much more going on — and some cracking chicken biryanis. We found plenty of good food and some interesting Japanese bars which reminded me just how much I don’t miss life before the smoking ban in bars and clubs.

The city has lots of British-style architecture as remnants of its colonial past. A nice place to walk around with beautiful Mediterranean style weather.

We used an agent to get our visas renewed while we were here.

You know it’s a funny year when you’re sitting in a hotel lobby, wearing sunglasses, waiting for Abdul ‘the runner’ to come and pick up your passport.

You wonder what the doorman’s thinking as he sees the money change hands; as he catches you mutter: “Here, tomorrow, at 3? Don’t be late — we’ve got a flight to catch.”

Vientiane, Laos

Laos

Would I recommend a visit to Vientiane?

Sure, just like I’d recommend shutting your balls in a car window.

We stayed in a hotel that I later discovered had been busted for child trafficking. This mute point hasn’t affected its lofty ranking on Trip Advisor, which says a lot about the competition.

And the Gary Glitter types congregated around the pool.

(I purposefully didn’t shave for the entire holiday.)

There are some nice temples, cheap markets and a massive fuck-off river with some history behind it. All things somebody with a little culture might appreciate.

Alas, I spent most of the time patching in to BBC Sport to keep up with the cricket.

Saigon (HCMC), Vietnam

vietnam

I really enjoyed Vietnam.

It felt like a Bangkok of 20 years ago.

A neon lit sprawl of mental traffic, bedraggled tourists and a thousand coffee shops.

The War Remnants Museum was worth a visit for its (one-sided) account of America’s crimes during the Vietnam conflict.

Although it doesn’t have a scratch on the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Cambodia, which is by far the most affecting war museum I’ve visited. The stench of death there gets under your skin and lives on in your dreams.

We made a huge tourist error in boarding a taxi parked up outside the museum. Of course, the meter was obviously going to be rigged.

The fare started bouncing upwards within a couple of minutes, leading to a classically British display of anger: politely asking to pull over whilst openly discussing how much to pay the scammer.

We eventually decided: nothing.

And ran away.

But not before I found time to take this photo of the chancy prick:

meter-scammer

We should have known better.

Tourist 101. Never get in a parked taxi outside a tourist attraction in South East Asia.

Balancing Work and Bangkok

Between trips abroad, and seeing various parts of Thailand, there comes the small issue of work.

One of my biggest concerns about moving to Asia was, “What’s going to happen to my productivity?”

I am, admittedly, a creature of habit.

Back in London, I couldn’t function in the morning until I’d conquered my daily routine:

  • Feed the pups
  • Have a shower
  • Head to the ‘Petch (my affectionate term for a Petrol Station that stocks Costa Express and vanilla muffins)
  • Scan The Times
  • Wallow in coffee beans and rifle through my inbox

This routine guided me to a moment of spark at about 10:25am when I’d suddenly think, “Shit, hold on, am I not supposed to be… working on campaigns?”

And with a nervous fart, I’d assault the day.

In Thailand?

Not much has changed, except the scenery and my choice of breakfast.

For those who give a shit about daily routines, here’s how I design mine.

I divide the day in to four periods:

  1. Before Breakfast: 8:30 to 10:45
  2. After Breakfast: 11:00 to 12:45
  3. Before Lunch: 1:00 to 2:00
  4. After Lunch: 3:00 to 7:00

(Yes, I’ve managed to associate eating to literally everything I do.)

I also divide my work in to four distinct ‘phases':

  • Management
  • Creativity
  • Production
  • Autopilot

I assign them like this:

Before Breakfast
8:30 to 10:45
Management Phase

Here I’ll take on management tasks like briefing my team, responding to emails, tracking projects, and viewing the trends of campaigns. I’ll examine my scorecard (KPIs) of the previous day’s stats, which gives a breakdown of performance across my entire business.

Whatever needs following up gets assigned and scheduled.

By the time 10:45 arrives, my loins are quivering for coffee beans.

It’s off to Au Bon Pain, Wonderwall, or some other random establishment on Sukhumvit Soi 31.

After Breakfast
11:00 to 12:45
Creativity Phase

After breakfast I enter my creativity phase.

This is when I will carry out any writing (e.g. Premium Posts), lay out ad copy, and find solutions to problems in websites and campaigns I am working on.

If I’m writing, I can blast out 2000 words in this period.

I find it easy to experience ‘flow’ in the morning — in coffee shops — so I use the opportunity to attack any task that needs my full concentration.

I wish I could do more of this work, but it requires an intense focus the likes of which I can only muster for around two hours per day.

One thing I’ve learnt is that two hours is all you need to achieve more productive work than most people manage in their entire week.

Before Lunch
1:00 to 2:00
Execution / Production Phase

The walk home is a good chance to mentally reset.

I now have two pomodoros to charge through production related work. This could be making campaign changes, preparing websites, tweaking landing pages, or — most often — split testing ad combinations.

I like to restrict the window to just a single hour since this work is very easy to conflate in to half a day if you give it the chance.

My irrepressible rumbling gut assures that I get through this work fast.

After Lunch
3:00 to 7:00
Autopilot Phase

…Then I go out for lunch, usually with my girlfriend.

After we’ve eaten, I’ll disappear to another coffee shop and enter the longest period of the day:

Autopilot work.

This is the stuff I need to do that doesn’t occupy any significant brainpower.

I find that my mind and body naturally crash after lunch, so this is a good chance to crack out Spotify and cruise through the afternoon with a series of easy wins.

I assign any tasks that don’t require major decision making or creativity to my Autopilot phase.

This is the session for detailed emails, or phone calls, or follow-ups. It’s where I evaluate the work from my team and provide feedback or new instructions. I’ll also carry out research to support the rest of my phases.

At some point between 6 to 7pm, I’ll head downstairs to the pool or the gym.

After which, surprise suprise, I’m hungry again.

Fat bastard.

Could I follow this same routine in London?

Probably.

The main gains I have in Bangkok are:

  • The food is amazing
  • The location is inspiring
  • The weather is glorious
  • I have a pool and gym downstairs

The small things add up to a daily routine that suits my lifestyle perfectly.

Plans for 2016

We’re staying in Thailand for at least another year.

Next stop is back to London to see friends and family in April.

One of the things I learnt when I moved back from Thailand in 2011 was that while you miss people, naturally, the pang doesn’t justify relocating 5000 miles just to be permanently ‘near’ them.

Quality time together is better than the false comfort of knowing somebody is 5 miles away and yet still not seeing them.

Some of the places I plan to visit in 2016:

Mount Kinabulo (Borneo), Australia, Cambodia, Germany (for AWE) and one of the major US conferences — probably ASE in New York City.

Plus, I want to see more of Thailand, particularly the north.

It’s a stunning country.

Stunningly flawed in so many ways, and yet still an amazing place to live.

Plans For This Blog?

None.

I’m releasing a new volume of Premium Posts next month, which is likely to be the final post on FinchSells.com, and my last ‘public’ contribution to the affiliate industry.

(So it will be a bloody good one.)

Work is busy, life is good.

I hope you all have a great 2016!

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Khao San Bangkok

ZeroPark Does Not Want Clean Ad Spend

I have had hundreds of campaigns rejected over the years; many quite rightly.

Today marks the first time I have had a campaign rejected for the reason:

“No monetisation”

Yes, ZeroPark rejected a campaign because I had made no attempt to monetise the traffic that I was buying.

There was a good reason for this lack of monetisation on my part.

The site in question was an online magazine — not an affiliate website — and I launched it three days ago.

Naturally, I contacted support, thinking it should be pretty easy to resolve.

I was pushed to provide more information:

Hi,

please let us know how you plan to monetize the visits you send to this landing page.

Best,

To which I reply…

I have no plans to monetise the traffic.

I launched the site three days ago.

I wanted to test xxx related keywords to see if these users would stick around and engage with the site, hence the Google analytics in my tracking code.

Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

No plans to monetise the site, but wanting to test ZeroPark traffic to see if its users would engage with the website.

Sounds like normal brand advertising to me.

Not so…

“Hi,

such a campaign will not be approved on our network.
If there is no monetization whatsoever then it makes absolutely no sense to send visitors to a website.

Best regards,”

Now, call me a cynic, but is this not the most retarded ad policy in the history of self-serve advertising?

I’m not allowed to buy advertising on ZeroPark, for a completely legitimate white-hat website with no tracking link… because ZeroPark is concerned that I won’t make money from it.

Take a bow, lads.

Take a bow indeed.

A shit experience, with a platform I like, backed up by some astounding logic that I will never forget as long as I am buying advertising:

If there is no monetization whatsoever then it makes absolutely no sense to send visitors to a website.

If there is no monetization whatsoever then it makes absolutely no sense to send visitors to a website.

If there is no monetization whatsoever then it makes absolutely no sense to send visitors to a website.

If there is no monetization whatsoever then it makes absolutely no sense to send visitors to a website.

If there is no monetization whatsoever then it makes absolutely no sense to send visitors to a website.

UPDATE:

ZeroPark have since contacted me to explain their reasoning behind the ad rejection:

Links pointing at innocuous pages are a common footprint of cloakers and unscrupulous advertisers spreading malware — of which there is no shortage.

An affiliate announcing that he has no plans to monetise a campaign is likely to trigger a red flag. And, it appears, in this case it triggered many.

ZP accepted that the campaign should have been approved, and that the back-and-forth emailing shouldn’t have escalated as it did.

For my part, I regret blowing my gasket in public.

If there’s something we can all learn from this moment, it’s that “it makes absolutely no sense to send visitors to a website“.

(I want that on a t-shirt.)

How 1 Weird Table Keeps Me Motivated in the Morning

Affiliates have a daily scorecard.

“Profit per day.”

There are many ways you can track your progress in this industry.

The one method that doesn’t lie is profit taken.

The problem with measuring profit per day is that it exposes your morning ritual to one of two negative emotions:

Complacency and impatience.

A good day can breed complacency.

A bad day can breed impatience.

Either emotion can have a ruinous effect on your decision making.

And that’s why we should look beyond daily performance metrics if we want to stay motivated.

One of the methods I use involves gamification and an imaginary league table.

Hold on tight. This could get a little geeky.

‘League of Affiliates’

At the start of every month, I create an imaginary league table of twenty affiliates and how much they will have earned by the end of the month.

I set prizes for finishing at the top.

Here is how the table might look for an intermediate, mid-level affiliate:

League of Affiliates

Make sure that first place is attainable, and not so far detached from your current affiliate level that it triggers a nose bleed to look at.

In this example, $30,000 profit represents ‘the perfect month’.

What I like to do is tie 1st place to a big reward.

Something that I really, really want, or somewhere that I’d really like to go.

It could be a dream holiday; a big purchase; the proverbial jackpot that keeps you ticking.

If you have debts, it could be ‘Pay down Credit Card X‘ or ‘Wipe X% off the mortgage‘.

The idea being that if in 30 days time you have equalled or bettered the John Doe affiliate in 1st place, you get to treat yourself.

And not feel guilty about it.

I also create rewards for positions 2-4.

These positions should represent very good performance relative to what you would normally expect.

The rewards might range from a fancy week-long holiday in second place, to dinner at a top restaurant in fourth place.

For beginner affiliates, lower targets and smaller rewards will suffice.

(If you really want to be ironic, you can set a 5th place reward as a trip to the underbelly of Europe on Thursday night — and a Liverpool shirt. That’ll fucking teach you for getting complacent.)

In one of my own recent tables, I rewarded a ‘top four’ finish with the laser eye surgery I’ve been wanting for five years.

It was a real incentive to keep pushing myself for 30 days.

At the bottom end of the table is your absolute minimum income target. Set it in 17th place — just above the relegation zone.

No rewards for surviving relegation, or for doing a Stoke.

(‘Stoke’ is what I call my pub quiz team in Bangkok, btw. Or it was until last week — when we became QPR.)

If you succeed in getting yourself relegated, I’m not sure of the best action.

Perhaps a fist in the balls and a change of niche.

How does this improve my motivation?

Next to my table in Excel I have a running tally of my total profit in the current month. This is divided by the number of days in the month so far.

I take my average profit per day, times it by 30, and the table will tell me what position I’m in… and what rewards (if any) I have to look forward to.

Every day is another chance to improve my position in the table.

Sound fucking crazy yet?

Probably.

I hope so.

This form of gamification may seem obscene to some, but I get valuable motivation from it as a form of data/progress visualisation.

Without a running monthly tally, it’s tempting to ‘write off’ bad days, or reward yourself prematurely after one good day.

Most importantly, the table is directly tied to your goals.

I reset mine every month.

I set new rewards that I have to earn.

Visual representation of your performance is better than merely writing what you earned yesterday on a post-it note, soon to be buried by tomorrow’s avalanche of data.

It’s so easy to become obsessed with the last 24 hours… or the next 24 hours.

But a month is a loooooong time in affiliate marketing.

Use that knowledge to deflect any impatience or complacency that might be creeping in to your morning ritual.

Monthly targets
+
Imaginary competition
+
Real-time ‘keeping score’
+
Rewards you actually want
=
A healthy fire under the arse.

What unusual ways do you have to stay motivated?

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