Category - The Affiliate Lifestyle

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Melting in Dubai at Adsimilis Meetup 2014
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When Working From Home Becomes Hell
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An Affiliate Marketer Going Slightly Insane Before 30 and His Daily Routines

Melting in Dubai at Adsimilis Meetup 2014

September was a busy month.

I’ve just got back from the Adsimilis Dubai Meetup, which was bookended by two weeks in monsoon-lashed Krabi and Phuket.

A bunch of social commitments (or as I only half-jokingly refer to them: “going outside”) meant that by the time I reached Dubai, my campaigns weren’t so much suffering from banner blindness, but paralysed from the neck down by weeks of neglect.

The churn in this industry is absolutely insane.

Alas, I’m back in the trenches. Energised and motivated. Ready to tap in to brand new traffic sources.

I have to admit, meeting other affiliates is a great cure for a lost mojo.

It works in two ways.

First, we’re an industrious bunch. It is both enlightening and inspiring (and sometimes terrifying) to hear what other affiliates are working on.

Second, it’s nice to not be the biggest scumbag in the room.

Seriously.

If your guilty conscious ever needs a pick-me-up, find the nearest circle of affiliates, plaster them with alcohol and then ask: “So, what’s the shadiest shit you’ve ever run?”

I met one affiliate in Barcelona who had been engaged in marketing practices that can only be described as the ‘wrong side of borderline’. Those practices lead to his house being raided in the early hours by a SWAT team.

A fucking SWAT team!

More memorable than the confession itself was the sheer acceptance among the rest of us in the circle that, oh well, shit happens.

Followed by the inevitable, “So… are you still running the offer?”

(I’m glad to say he wasn’t.)

Besides the tales of insanity, it’s reassuring to get an idea of where the industry is heading.

Large scale meetups provide a nice general consensus of what works today, what is likely to work tomorrow, and more ‘what stopped working yesterday’ than you could ever hope to digest. A bit like a trip to the Warrior Forum.

The Adsimilis Dubai meetup was a great mix of affiliates: some just starting their journeys, others who have creamed several million in cold profit already.

There’s one concept that I think nearly everybody walked away agreeing:

Affiliate Marketing… is Dirrrrrty

Five years ago, ask an affiliate what he did for a living and he’d give you a blank stare.

“Well, um, I don’t actually like know, but it’s called affiliate marketing and it’s pretty sweet. Gotta run though bro, hookers waiting.”

Next year, ask the same question, and you’re likely to receive this canny slice of positioning:

“I’m a director at a performance marketing agency.”

There is a clear shift.

Nearly every affiliate I spoke to in Dubai was wrestling with the same dilemma:

How can we take this ugly twisted cousin of advertising — affiliate marketing — and rebrand it in to something that gives us greater opportunities moving forward?

Those megalomania days where affiliates took pride in loathing the status quo — the corporate desk monkeys — are no more. We’d rather pass through the wider advertising community undetected as mere ‘parts’ of respectable, 9-5 agencies. You know, guys who just might be up to something a little more honourable than lead scalping.

This can only be a good thing.

After all, if you want to build relationships with advertisers, you have to play the advertiser’s game.

And that means creating a perception that you are an agency built to last. Not just a lone wolf chancing his luck in his underpants.

Some takeaways from Dubai:

1. If you’re going to waste time on any social network, make it LinkedIn; network mercilessly.

Set up a company profile and fill it with recommendations from anybody who has ever worked for you.

Want to distort outside perspectives? Set up fake employee profiles.

There’s no doubt that scale matters at the negotiation table. The appearance of a full agency will get your foot in the door of the Advertiser’s World.

2. Refer to yourself as a “Director of Marketing” instead of CEO, President, etc.

Better to be a relevant department head than Top Dog with his fingers in too many pies.

3. Go one step better:

Actually build an agency.

Thoughts on Dubai

This was my first time in Dubai.

I’m still not sure what to make of the place.

As a committed Englishman, the concept of not being able to drink outside of hotels and restaurants — or indeed to be seen drunk in public — is, dare I say it, a trifle fucking troubling.

I struggle to see how a city can ‘meet in the middle’ with Western tourism ideals and still enforce the many punishable social offences that it does.

The reality is that if you are suitably rich, you can jump on a yacht, float a few meters off the coastline and commit just about any debauchery under the sun, all while remaining completely untouched by the law.

That, I find a little too pick and choosey for my liking.

But that’s not to take away from the immense standards of service, and general all-round friendliness.

Dubai is painfully hot in September, as I discovered on my first day:

Dubai Lessons

Thankfully Adsimilis laid on a coach to get us around the city.

I had an early flight so I didn’t descend on any Dubai nightclubs, but the restaurants and happy hours were great fun.

And more importantly, the people first class.

NUI: Networking Under The Influence

Read too many forums and you could be forgiven for tarring the affiliate community as a cold bunch.

Yet in person, there’s a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect that rarely translates online.

I guess networking is just a million times easier face-to-face.

That’s not to say you can’t make a prat out of yourself.

On the first night, whilst sipping Carlsberg in the merciless desert heat, the discussion turned to Voluum and ZeroPark.

I turned to a guy I hadn’t spoken to before and asked, “So, Voluum… you use it at all?”

(Note to single affiliates: A cracking chat-up line. Yours free of charge to abuse over the weekend.)

Said chap smiled in confusion, and pulled out his business card:

“Bartlomiej Dawidow
CTO and Founder of Voluum.”

Cue howls of laughter as I stood there, copping the flak, thinking “Well there goes my bloody discount.”

I also met Robert Gryn, CEO of CodeWise who took great enjoyment in asking repeatedly why I was crying over dinner. I wasn’t. I was sweating.

Fucking Dubai.

For the first three years of my affiliate career, I never took meetups seriously. And that was a big mistake.

While the speeches at this event were a good rallying call to action; inspirational even; it’s the one-on-one conversation with fellow pros that pays for your plane ticket.

When the booze kicks in, so does sincerity in the shit that falls out of our mouths.

The truth is that you can learn more from a drunk affiliate than you’ll ever learn from a lifetime of readings blogs like this*.

*Unless the writer is drunk, careless or stupid.

Thanks Adsimilis

adsimilis-meetup-dubai
(Photo jacked from Ian Fernando’s blog where you can read his write-up of the trip. There’s also a post by KJ Rocker)

It’s always a pleasure to catch up with the Adsimilis crew.

Cheers for keeping us all fed, watered and safely insulated from the wrath of Shariah Law.

Special thanks to Sean for smuggling a mini-bottle of Champers in to my ‘party bag’, which I promptly and rather indiscreetly popped against the hotel fucking ceiling, no less. And to Eleah for tranquillising me with Scotch before my panel.

London Adtech is just around the corner.

If you haven’t been before, I suggest you keep it that way.

Unless, of course, you enjoy the sterile wasteland of middle management blabber and beaming rent-a-pitches; most of whom think ‘performance marketing’ stands for who can shove the most coke in their face whilst still talking coherently about whatever marketing buzzword has captured the press pen and/or Twitter.

What’s that you say?

It’s all about ‘earned media’ now, is it?

Earn my balls, you gobshite.

Now that’s not to knock AdTech itself.

I’ve heard great things about the NYC show. But if you want to get value for your time in London, skip the show, avoid the snootiness, and head straight for dinner.

If anybody is in town and wants to meet up for a pint before or after, hit me up.

Otherwise, see you in Vegas at Affiliate Summit West!

When Working From Home Becomes Hell

I just read a blog post from Mark Rofe, fellow Internet Marketer and creator of the ingenius Wank Sock, who has just made the decision to return to work.

It’s an interesting topic.

(Although I bet you’re now thinking about wank socks).

Is the 9-5 really such a bad thing?

Is there a time to forget the false paradise of working from home happily ever after?

I think Mark has made the right decision based on it being his career, his life, his happiness. Nothing more and nothing less.

There’s a small subset of the Internet Marketing community that believes you have to be earning big bucks from home whilst trolling the working class, or you’re doing it wrong.

There’s an even larger subset of the population that believes this myth before trying it for a single day.

Let’s forget about what goes in to running a successful business.

You can do this from home, from work, from a beach, or from a park bench.

Is working from home for everybody?

No, no and NO.

I divide the Not Working From Home majority in to three subsets.

  1. Introverts who want to work from home.
  2. Extroverts who want to work from home.
  3. The rest of the world who doesn’t want to work from home.

Why introverts and extroverts?

I believe your natural disposition here will determine the challenges you face working on your own.

But first, everybody else.

Internet Marketers can be guilty — myself included — of viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses and thinking everybody should want to do what we do. It’s the entrepreneurship argument.

“Why wouldn’t you want to earn a fortune on your sofa? What better way to live?”

The rebuttal is Purpose.

Not everybody wants to be an entrepreneur, and many people are just fine following somebody else’s orders.

This should be a relief.

An economy full of entrepreneurs would have a lot of great ideas that never materialised.

For most Internet Marketers, purpose means maximising income whilst finding more time for pleasure. Usually from the comfort of home.

It’s a captivating pursuit for those of us who live by it.

But many people don’t.

And it’s not because we know something they don’t. They simply don’t want to.

They’ve seen what we do, they hear what we do, and still it’s not for them.

They are right.

Collectively as an industry, we should get over ourselves and appreciate that.

People will always moan about tax hikes, bills, outgoings and their financial responsibilities. It’s tempting to throw back the ‘You should have been an Internet Marketer‘ line.

Except it solves nothing and changes nothing.

That’s not what they chose to be, and their choice is always right.

The world simply cannot function with 7 billion Internet Marketers working from home.

Introvert vs. Extrovert

Now, for those who do decide to work from home, there are two distinct personality types:

Introverts:

  • Very self-aware
  • Thoughtful
  • Enjoys understanding details
  • Interested in self-knowledge and self-understanding
  • Tends to keep emotions private
  • Quiet and reserved in large groups or around unfamiliar people
  • More sociable and gregarious around people they know well
  • Learns well through observation

Extroverts:

  • Warm
  • Seeking novelty and excitement
  • Gregariousness
  • Assertive
  • Cheerful
  • Talkative
  • Enjoys being the center of attention
  • Action oriented

As with any personality type, these are generalisations. There are extroverts who keep their emotions in check, and cheerful introverts who live for novelty.

Which category are you?

There’s an easy way to tell.

Extroverts gain energy from frequent social interaction, introverts lose it.

That’s not to say that social interactions aren’t enjoyed by all.

Rather that while some extroverts will thrive on the ‘banter’ of a typical work day, an introvert will be looking pretty bruised and battered if he feels he can’t escape it anytime soon.

The Best First Day in the History of Work

The happiness (and productivity) you get from working from home is largely a combination of:

a) Your personality type
b) The environment you inflict upon it.

In Mark’s returning to work post, he touches on the sore spot that seems to have led his decision: isolation.

Nobody likes isolation. It doesn’t matter what personality type you are.

Isolation is used as a form of torture for good reason.

It eventually hurts.

But I’d argue that introverts are better equipped to deal with working in isolation.

And this is the point I’d make to any extroverted reader who wants to quit his 9-5 and work from home:

For a while… it’s going to be fucking great.

Seriously, you’re missing out on the best first day of any career in the history of Man.

But there’s a catch. Many of them.

Once you’ve cashed in the novelty of “Oh shiiiit, I’m doing work in my boxers with only empty packets of Popchips and my balls for company!”, the only way to share the grotesque image is to post it on your Facebook.

(Which many of us do, extroverted or not!)

If you need the social interaction of a thriving workplace, then the echo of your thoughts racing around an empty house will probably not suffice — not in the long run.

Staying Somewhat Sane

I am introverted by nature

I enjoy catching up with friends and meeting people who are interesting. Keyword: interesting.

I simply don’t have the capacity to enjoy being around people for shits and giggles. And I highly doubt they’d enjoy being around me. Not for any extended period of time.

I like the comfort of my own space and I protect it in the only way I know how:

By making a shit ton of money online.

Whether you are introverted or extroverted goes a long way to deciding if you will enjoy working on your own.

Yet it’s important to distinguish this question has nothing to do with running a successful business.

It’s possible to be a badass super-rich affiliate with any personality type. (Which makes it all the more baffling why so many choose to be bags of dicks.)

Knowing your own characteristics will do much for increasing your chances of happiness along the way.

My tips for extroverts:

Bear in mind, I’m not one. I could be very wrong. Please offer your own suggestions if these suck.

  1. Consider a shared office space with like-minded professionals. There are plenty of these springing up in major cities. At the very least, get a laptop and hit the road.

  2. Use your social wings and network, network, network. Many affiliates struggle at this, so cash in the advantage and use it to get ahead of us.

  3. Leverage the many online communities at your disposal, become a connector and embed yourself in the industry.

  4. Work shorter hours and join local clubs (sports or otherwise) with scheduled meets every week.

My tips for introverts:

  1. Make sure your friends, family et all respect the boundaries of your work space and work hours. Lest you go insane.

  2. Build a small circle of masterminds and use it as your eyes and ears. Focus on the quality of your contacts instead of quantity. A Skype group is a good start.

  3. Work out exactly what form of social interaction wears you out the least, then arrange a lot of it. For me, this is a quiet pub and several pints. Fight, fight, fight the urge to get lazy, which is so much more of a danger to introverts.

  4. Get a dog. Like me, you probably believe they’re better than humans.

  5. Separate your work space from your living space. If you spend a lot of time at home, you need to disconnect part of the house from your work activities. That’s why I’ve bought a LazySpa and created a reading room with beanbags.

I highly recommend the LazySpa:

Lazy Spa Finch

My tips for those who aren’t sure if they want to work from home:

  1. Try it for three weekends in a row. Are you still sane?

There, probably, is your answer.

If anybody needs to fill a vacancy for a creative, hard-working individual with a lot of wank socks in his wardrobe, give Mark a call.

An Affiliate Marketer Going Slightly Insane Before 30 and His Daily Routines

A question on routines from Darren:

Finch, how do you deal with managing multiple campaigns at once?

I’m hoping to build a large enough safety net to do affiliate marketing full-time from October. Are there any steps you’d recommend for building good routines?

Managing Campaigns & Time

Full-time affiliate marketing is the same as part-time affiliate marketing.

You only need an hour to do it well.

The biggest difference in going full-time is that you can afford to work on other projects, those in the ‘real world’.

I think this is good for your hairline. It takes the pressure away from belonging to an industry that is forever being handed the last rites.

Even if your one motivation is to become a successful affiliate marketer, I would not recommend creating campaigns from 9 to 5. You’ll go broke fast.

This was drummed in to my head quite recently by a realisation that I’ve wasted half my career to date. Thank god I’m 25.

Choosing Your Battles

A few weeks ago, I’d wake up, check my stats and one campaign would stick out like a sore thumb.

I had dedicated my left ball to this campaign. Crafting the angle, honing the ads and even meddling with JavaScript. It felt like my baby.

But it was only breaking even.

I was spending $400 on this campaign every day. Some days it would edge to a slight profit, others it would dip to a loss. But every morning I would wake up expecting my most recent changes to have launched it out the ballpark.

And they never did.

Eventually, I gave it the finger.

The irony is that no sooner had I stopped wasting time on this ground zero campaign, my energy shifted to another.

This second campaign was in a similar situation; roughly $300/day spend, but with a profit of $100-$120.

I had ignored it because it was profitable. Worry too much about diversification and you’ll commit this sin too.

One late night brainfart inspired me to apply one of the landing pages that I’d tested on my failed break-even campaign, and you can probably guess what happened next.

The conversions skyrocketed. From $120/day profit to $250+/day.

It was a helpful reminder of the Pareto Principle.

Don’t waste your time (and money) beating a dead horse.

If you have a campaign or a website that is doing well, make it do better before you think about creating something else.

I’ve stopped spending thousands of dollars on campaigns that are break even or a marginal success. I prefer to bring excellence to the increasingly rare handful that benefit from the optimisation.

In short, don’t run too many campaigns.

There are some campaigns that I have documented in my Premium Post series which, while helpful to the reader, will never be on my agenda. I don’t have the time or resources to focus on $20/day campaigns.

So, here’s a simple task.

Assume you have one hour today to work on the campaign that’s going to pay your bills for the rest of the year.

What will you work on?

There is no difference between part-time and full-time affiliate marketing. This answer should always be the same.

I believe in Parkinson’s law. Work expands to fill the time you have available.

So give yourself an hour and do something more sustainable with the rest of the day.

Establishing Routines

My day is split in two halves:

  1. The morning – spent analysing data and planning.
  2. The afternoon – spent acting on data and creating.

Before I start work, usually around 9am, I will traipse to the local petrol station and fill up on Costa Express. It’s a habit my girlfriend has used to draw comparisons with Alan Partridge; a massive compliment, and a man whose sweaters I would die for.

My morning is rarely as creative as the night before.

It’s tough to be creative when your last great idea is still simmering in flames.

I prefer to analyse data without jumping to conclusions, safe in the knowledge that damn near every traffic source I work with is fast asleep and unable to approve my ads until the sun rises across the pond.

The rest of the day is a blur of frantic creation, lots of writing, lots of Photoshop, and lots of Skyping.

Perhaps the fastest way to save money in this business is to ensure that you talk to your affiliate managers before launching a campaign, any campaign. Make it a routine.

I’m quite blunt with a four step assault:

1. What’s your top performing offer, by EPC in [country]?
2. And its top performing landing page?
3. What’s your second top performing offer, by EPC in [country]?
4. And its top performing landing page?

Followed by a thank you, followed by silence, followed by split testing.

I don’t like small talk.

I will sometimes regret finishing work if my whiteboard is clean before 9pm.

On these rare lonely nights, I’ll read (at least three books per week), watch television, fight the crickets, before eventually slipping back in to my office with an idea that sounds better than it did at lunch.

Data Routines

For somebody who prefers to work with words, it disappoints me that so much of my day is spent buried in numbers; analysing them, anticipating them, praying for them, going bloody insane from them.

Launching a successful affiliate campaign is less about creativity; more about patience with numbers.

I know this sounds like a bloodbath, but if you can’t calculate where the numbers are likely to work in your favour, you’ll be broke before lunch.

So if there’s one routine you’ll do well to adopt, it’s placing trust in your stats and data.

They never lie.

Whatever your tracking software, be it CPV Lab, Tracking202 or iMobiTrax, a most important routine is to use it, and use it well.

Recommended This Week

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