Category - The Affiliate Lifestyle

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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
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How to Delay Gratification in a World of Immediate Distractions

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.

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How to Delay Gratification in a World of Immediate Distractions

Delayed gratification is the theory behind the old saying, “Good things come to those who wait“. It is our ability to resist the temptation of an immediate reward in favour of a larger prize in the future.

Numerous studies have shown the ability to delay gratification as one of the biggest indicators of success through life.

It can be relevant in so many ways; from your ability to budget, to the type of woman you wake up next to, to your willingness to stoneface a Sausage & Egg McMuffin in favour of training for a marathon at 5am. The latter of which, in my case, will never ever happen.

Those who can resist temptation in pursuit of long-term goals are blessed with an enormous advantage over the playing field. It is the essence of focus, concentration, productivity and even the classic quote that an affiliate can’t go 7 hours without seeing on Facebook:

Entrepreneurship is living a few years...

Looking at the career of Internet Marketers, many of us were exceptionally good at delaying gratification when we made the jump to running our own businesses. But it doesn’t always stay that way.

In a rather cruel twist of fate, the more successful you become, the more distractions that entwine their way in to your life. It’s kind of like Muse, the band. Does anybody remember how awesome Muse were in 2002-2003?

Here’s a reminder:

Fast forward ten years and you’ll find a caricature of a space rock trio who have clearly spent too much time indulging in fantasies of the apocalypse. If Matt Bellamy spent less time playing with his [admittedly very rich] balls on Above Top Secret, and more hours alone with his guitar, he’d probably write better rock songs.

Many artists produce their best work when the rewards and recognition are nowhere to be seen. It takes a special personality to cancel out the white noise; to produce the best possible work; when distraction is all around him. And that’s what success brings: distraction.

Vincent van Gogh, one of the greatest painters of the last 300 years, died alone and depressed. You could count on one hand the number of people that appreciated his work. Van Gogh’s tragedy, among many, was that he blew his brains out before seeing the recognition he deserved. But it does go some way to explaining why that work is so highly regarded, particularly for its emotional honesty.

There are only so many distractions that one man, a paintbrush and his mental illness has to bear. The product of that delayed gratification – van Gogh’s lifetime battle with depression and introspection – is what we now call genius.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that the way to get in touch with your best possible work is to despair and retreat from the world. But I do believe that anybody who has the privilege of working from home has to become fine-tuned to his ‘levels of comfort’.

Too much comfort is a bad thing.

Too many distractions will fuck with your ability to see straight through them and catch the bigger prize.

On a personal level, this isn’t something I had to worry about before I quit my day job.

For a period of several months, I would work all day in the city, and then all night in my bedroom. There’s very little reward at 9:02am, day after day, parking at your desk and feeling like your every fibre has been shagged by a pygmy hippo. But there’s an awful lot of potential if you can sustain the act long enough to achieve progress that wouldn’t have been possible at Pound a Pint Night.

The better you are at delaying rewards, the more productive you are likely to be in the meantime. Likewise, the more motivated you are, the more natural that is going to become. Learning to delay gratification is thus a two-part recipe of finding the right motivation and instilling the right discipline.

The effects it can have on your life are pretty remarkable…

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment

One of the most famous studies in to delayed gratification took place over 40 years ago at Stanford University, courtesy of psychologist Walter Mischel, 600 children, and a plate full of marshmallows.

Mischel led each child in to a room free of distractions where they would find a treat of their choice, usually a marshmallow (would have demanded a salted caramel brownie personally, but whatever). The children were told they could eat the marshmallow if they so wished – or wait 15 minutes, and receive two. A very simple premise: more good things come to those who wait.

All of Mischel’s guinea pigs were aged 4 to 6, and it was hoped that the experiment would reveal the age at which a child learns to defer gratification. Sure enough, there was a clear correlation between the older children and a better ‘waiting game’. But it wasn’t until a follow-up study, twenty years later, that the groundbreaking extent of those marshmallows became apparent.

The children who had shown the best ability to defer gratification; to wait for the second marshmallow; had gone on to lead strikingly more successful lives than those who caved in to the immediate reward.

The first follow-up study in 1988 revealed that “preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent“. A subjective analysis, admittedly, but one that would be backed by further findings.

The children who delayed gratification were later paired to better SAT scores, greater academic achievements, a healthier body mass index, among other favourable life outcomes.

Whether the ability to delay gratification comes from nature or nurturing is difficult to assess. A 2011 brain imaging study on the same Stanford test subjects (now seasoned guinea pigs) showed greater activity in the prefrontal cortex for the adept delayers, whereas those who struggled to resist the first marshmallow saw increased activity in the ventral striatum, an area of the brain commonly associated with addictions.

Biology and marshmallows aside, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how a talent for delaying gratification is useful in our world of immediate distractions.

A large number of affiliates walk this earth with the patience of bloodhounds OD’ing on viagra. They wouldn’t wait for the second marshmallow. They’d karate cock slap Mischel, steal the entire bag, and be promoting Adult Friend Finder before lunch.

So…how do we manage that? How do we keep an eye on the greater prize? How in the name of Lucifer’s anus do we learn to defer gratification?

Improving Your Ability to Delay Gratification

Alter The Path of Least Resistance

The Marshmallow experiment is interesting, but one of the conditions I find troubling is that the marshmallow had to remain in front of the child at all times. It was never more than a sweeping arm’s grab away, which is like sticking a bee in front of honey.

What would have happened if the child had been forced to stand up, cross the room, and climb up a pile of boxes if he wished to have the marshmallow? This is what we call altering the path of least resistance.

You take temptation, you bag it up, and you get it the hell out of your sight.

In doing so, you considerably raise your chances of removing a bad habit, or not doing something stupid.

Take for example the confessions of a shopaholic.

What’s a good way to stop yourself from splashing the cash on excessive online purchases that you probably can’t afford? Well, taking your credit cards and freezing them in a block of ice is one option.

Credit card in ice

I make this the equivalent of the consumer ‘cooling off’ period. If a purchase is truly necessary, it can wait 24 hours while the ice thaws.

Note: I highly suggest you get your groceries in before freezing Mr. Plastic Fantastic, and do not try this with your business cards. It will not say much for your professionalism.

The frozen credit card is a good example of how placing a roadblock in the path of least resistance can save you during a moment of weakness. It’s pretty extreme, but it’s a step in the right direction for people who never learn.

If you can take a bad habit and put it 30 seconds away, there’s a good chance you’ll remove the habit. I spoke about this before in my Premium Posts with examples of blocking time-wasting websites, putting your phone in another room, hiding the PS3 controller in your loft, and so on. Alter the path of least resistance.

The less immediate the distraction becomes, the more likely you are to procrastinate over pursuing it, and maybe – just maybe – get some bloody work done.

I heard an amusing tale from a Yorkshire friend who didn’t want to have sex on a first date, so she would turn up in her least attractive underwear and abandon sexual hygiene for the day. The theory being that no matter how drunk she got, she would always remember that it wasn’t a good night to go home with company. I think she probably overestimated the underwear receptiveness of Sheffield men, but I can see her logic. Fair play to the crazy bitch.

Clearly, one of the best ways to delay gratification is to understand your own thought processes so that you can prepare for weak decisions and create gremlins to prevent them.

For example, if you are the kind of guy who likes to take a break from work to play a few games of pool, firstly a) Don’t be so stupid as to buy a pool table for your dining room.

And b) If you are going to be so stupid, use it as a laundry post from Monday to Friday so it doesn’t kill your career.

Pool table distractions

(Life lessons. You’re welcome.)

Kids Need to be Taught About Money

I believe in this quite passionately.

In school, we spend hours teaching our kids about how Jesus fed 5000 with bread and fish, but we don’t teach them how to manage their money. That’s a pretty fucking big problem in my book.

Schools need to do away with political correctness, starting with religious education, and get teaching kids some life skills that actually matter. Like how to manage their finances. How to budget. How to distinguish between materialistic needs and paying the god damn gas bill.

While bestselling hack-jobs like Rich Dad Poor Dad have attempted to instill a wiser attitude towards finance in today’s younger generation, it should not be a responsibility left to men like Robert Kiyosaki. It should be taught in schools. In the absence of any foreseeable change, parents have to pick up the ball…

Pressure on Parenting

I was having a conversation the other day about the difference between Yes parents and No parents, and whether it is good or bad for the kid being raised.

Like many key skills in life, the seeds of delayed gratification are sewn in childhood. Parents who feel inclined to say yes to their child’s every demand are likely to give him a skewed attitude towards the supply and demand of ‘getting what you want’ when he reaches adulthood.

I would argue that, similarly, parents who never praise, or who keep both eyes locked on expectations and ‘minimum requirements’ (you will get a degree) are likely to inherit children with damaging self-esteem issues. And those can be just as difficult to shake.

Either way, I encounter so many 8-12 year old fuck-ups on the London buses that I can’t help but think the best advice is “If you’re not ready for them, don’t fucking have them.

Parents need to prepare their kids for the real world by teaching them about money, and the critical law that governs just about every facet of our lives: supply and demand.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, and neither should it. Expecting millions when your net output is peanuts just isn’t going to work, as the Western electorate is only just discovering. If everybody could have what they wanted; all of the time; nothing would be worth having because all that would be left is sticks and stones.

Delayed gratification is a virtue to those who understand it, and a royal pain in the arse to those who don’t. Would it be better any other way?

I don’t think so.

And on that note, I’m off to shove my pool table in the freezer.

Have a good week.

Copyright © 2014. Finch Media Ltd.