I’m An Affiliate Marketer, Get Me Out Of Here

How many of you have seen The Wire?

There’s a character called Stringer Bell who fronts a Baltimore drugs gang (Ask Cakes for details), and slowly becomes disillusioned with the shady shit he has to deal with on a day to day basis. In a bid to escape the wrong side of the law, he uses the gang’s drug money to invest in property and real estate. Ultimately it all goes wrong and he gets shotgunned down for his sins.

If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about – or why – it’s because I’m feeling the strong urge to pull a Stringer Bell, leap out of this shady industry and throw my money at something that doesn’t make me blush when I explain the mechanics of how it produces profit.

Affiliate marketing is full of so much bullshit and unnecessary drama. You can do everything in your power to avoid the drama, but when networking is such an integral part of your business, the drama becomes a lurking fixture of your day. Staring in awe at a cyber shitstorm over nothing in particular. None of the time management tools in the world can fully isolate you from an industry which regurgitates endless shit like no other.

I’ve been thinking about how I can limit the negative aspects of affiliate marketing. How can I cut down on the bullshit and learn to see through the lies without wasting any more of my time than I need to?

It’s a very shady space to work in. Some of the things I see affiliates doing – some of the things I engage in myself – would certainly rank low on the list of “topics to discuss with the grandparents over Sunday roast”. You can say that it’s a dog eat dog world. But one look at WickedFire and I’d change that to “dog eats dog while cheered on by pack of starving wolves”.

You people love drama. And as a guy who blogs to the exact crowd that love it most, I would be a colossal hypocrite to sit here raising a white flag and begging for mercy.

Instead I’m thinking about how I can adapt a business model that allows me to sleep easier at night. Most of us who’ve been doing this for any length of time appreciate that there’s a system in place. I haven’t promoted rebills for so long that I’ve convinced myself they’ve gone out of fashion. But even working with dating, gaming and a bunch of other CPA offers – I’m still riddled with the guilt that making money shouldn’t be this easy. So much of marketing is about creating false positives and selling a user what deep down you know they don’t really need.

I’ve made a personal effort to promote reputable offers and steer well clear of the continuity market. But it still bothers me that my working day involves tapping in to consumer weaknesses and surrounding myself in these negative energies. Negative energies? Yeah, I had a curry for dinner. I’m pretty fucking full of negative energies right now.

At the moment, it’s fine.

Affiliate marketing is an addictive circle to be working in. It can be so incredibly lucrative. I speak to guys who are millionaires in their early 20s and it’s all thanks to an industry that anybody can excel in if they have their fucking nuts screwed on.

But are you planning on doing this forever? Or do you have an exit strategy?

Last week, Nickycakes took a backlash from some of the WickedFire community for releasing a product that allegedly clashed with some of the rants he’d written in the past. I noticed a few posts mentioning how he obviously couldn’t be making as much money as he once did if he was willing to release a relatively low margin product in comparison.

This is such bullshit, I can barely believe I’m even writing about it. I’m not leaping to Cakes’ defense by any means. I’ve never met the guy and I’ve never tried his product. But are all affiliate marketers expected to live and die by the arbitrage game for the rest of their careers?

Whether Nick’s product blows or not, it’s pretty irrelevant. Escaping the “buy traffic to sell traffic” trap is something that I think any affiliate would be a mug to ignore. I don’t see how all of us can possibly get away with exploiting something that is this lucrative forever. Especially if affiliate marketing continues to grow at the same rapid rate.

I’ve been mulling over my own options and thinking about what I want to do. How can I use affiliate marketing as a launch pad to a stable long term business that reaches beyond basic CPA arbitrage? Well, I’ve been posting recently about building long term assets, and there’s a lot more to come there.

For me personally, I don’t plan on sticking in this industry for long. I’ve seen enough of affiliate marketing to know that while I’m enjoying it now as a 22 year old with no family of my own to support – I don’t want to be riding this horse for any longer than I need to be. I have my eye on property investment as an exit plan.

Make enough money as an affiliate to finance the kind of investments that would go beyond what the average 22 year old is capable of laying down. Every day is a constant drive to increase profits and give myself that flexibility sooner rather than later.

Do you have your own exit plan? You might be making money now, but how are you going to keep making money if the tap ever runs dry?

About the author

Finch
Finch

A 29 year old high school dropout (slash academic failure) who sold his soul to make money from the Internet. This blog follows the successes, fuck-ups and ball gags of my career in affiliate marketing.

26 Comments

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  • i mean really, if you know traffic, you can always make your own products. they don’t have to necessarily be about affiliate marketing or internet marketing, even, but you could partner up with people who have something legitimate to offer to the world and get eyeballs to them/their business/their product.

    i think the biggest issue w/ the drama in the affiliate industry is that it’s such a young crowd. without getting on a high horse or anything – the demographic is one that carries a lot of insecurities with it. if you’ve ever played diablo 2, or warcraft, etc. – you know the type of crowd that plays those games. affiliates are those people – except with the added confidence of the fact that they make good money.

    knowing traffic = money. there’s pretty much no end to what you can do with that knowledge and experience.

  • I totally agree with you man – Affiliate marketing can really mess with your conscience a lot – especially with shady rebill offers.

    Launching your own product/products is definitely a good long term strategy, but I believe the hardest part is knowing what’s needed in the marketplace and catering to that – with confidence! … It’s a hard thing.. to commit to a project not 100% sure that it will be something that people will want to pay for and use.

    But as a wise man once said – the only risk not worth taking is not taking a risk.

  • im with you. I wish rebills would just go away. I thought they were supposed to with visa and mastercard banning merch accounts. But i still see them everywhere

  • Look at some of the real businesses behind some of the offers. Companies such as vistaprint offer legit standard products and turn over $100m+ a year.

    You could build a e-commerce store selling soft toys and turn over $10 million a year, so affiliate marketing doesn’t have to be evil or take advantage of consumers.

    I guess it depends on how fast you want the money.

    Love your posts, keep up the good work!

  • I totally agree with moving out of the paid traffic/lead gen business. It’s pretty much an absolute must for me.

    As far as Cakes’ product, I think the price is what pissed so many people off. $50 a month is too much when Cakes himself openly released a free version with many of the same features. LPLockdown could have ROCKED as a $37 Clickbank product, and he could have built a big ass list on the backend of buyers, but he blew it going for the continuity model. Rebilling experienced affiliates is hard to do, and you better bring a shitload of value to this crowd as well. Just my $0.02 on cakesgate.

    But awesome post as usual and thanks for the help again

  • The drama is way too thick right now in AM in general. And that tells me to network differently and definitely spend less time on wickedfire and more time getting money.

  • Great post dude. It’s true affiliates are in the middle of all this junk and a lot of the blame/shit/problems are pushed over to affiliates. Ad networks and affiliate networks sandwich affiliates both ways.

    Exit plan for me is to get hold of a traffic source or get some products.

  • My exit strategy has been real estate for the last 5 years. I own 8 properties now, all because of affiliate marketing and I plan on buying more. I will ride the affiliate train as long as I can then live of rental income and real estate investing, whenever I give up on affiliate marketing.

    You are smart to think about real estate as a stable source of income, it’s way more stable than affiliate marketing offers.

    Affiliate marketing is great though because you can make soo much money, soo damn fast. It’s one of the best businesses for super fast income, and then buy real estate with that affiliate money.

    It’s the best plan I thought of and it looks like I’m not the only one who thinks that, consider you’re posting about it. Keep up the good work!

  • Wickedfire is only a small portion of the affiliate marketing world, I wouldn’t use it as a barometer for the affiliate industry as a whole.

    There is plenty money to be made outside of the ubiquitous dubious offers, but it’s just a bit tougher to crack. For example at ASW I met a guy making a KILLING with CPS selling consumer appliances.

    I felt many of your sentiments and I switched over the EDU space last year, while I don’t have the six figure days I still enjoy being legit, stable and not getting hung up on by ad networks once they figure out I want push Acai.

    -Jayson

  • you should open up a curry shop, mate.
    then market coupon codes and discounts via fb ads, geotargeting to every street in london?

    ballin with vindaloo y’all…

  • Holy shit Finch, you want to get out of AM due to it’s shadiness, fair enough, but to then move into the property market?! I guarantee that you will find it just as shady and drama-filled, if not massively more so, than AM.

    The reason why? The only barrier to entry is cash. At least with AM you need some level of intelligence to understand the technical and marketing sides of the business.

    With property you don’t – if you got cash, and you don’t know what to do with it, ultimately you end up running a ‘property business’. This means that the majority of the people you will meet in property are not particularly clever or ‘ethical’ at all, and the amount of shit that goes on is ridiculous.

    Even if you’re just running a tiny buy-to-let portfolio it’s a massive headache dealing with crap agencies and tenants and you working as a landlord most of your time, fixing toilets, driving radiators around, etc. Think about hiring an agency to do that? Kiss your rental margins and income goodbye, and hedge all your bets on capital growth, which as we’ve seen recently doesn’t always pan out.

    Stay calm and avoid any aggressive growth and you will make very little money for lots of work. Leverage up your cash (which is the major benefit of property, the banks will allow you to leverage your deposit substantially, you can’t do that in many other bizs) but you will be at huge risk come another bump in house prices and risk losing everything.

    Try to start developing when you realize you can turn your £30k worth of back garden into £300k once you have planning, and then £1.2m once you’ve built out and sold, and you will then be dealing with architects, council planners, tradesman, etc, etc and it is such a nightmare mate, I can’t stress.

    I recommend property only as a last resort and certainly not as your core day-to-day business. And enjoy the easy (and ethical) money in AM, you will miss it once it’s gone. 😉

  • I don’t care about the drama, as long as you’re making your dough, I’ve seen people do way worse things in order to survive, this is a business like any other. Shady? Hell yeah, but if you don’t sell them the stuff they are probably going to buy it from someone else.

    You’ve kept away from continuity products and so have I, I don’t have a different mindset about ethics, if you lose your peace of mind, drink a little more and keep the money stacking sky high.

    Since you’ve got the hang of this kind of business, keep on it man, it’s being harder and harder nowadays to make a living, so what you can’t tell your grandparents what you do, it’s not like you’re killing, selling drugs or anything that would give someone cancer (acai pills won’t do that I believe.. lol).

    If there are human beings involved, there will be drama, if you want to run away from drama, better work with robots or something…

    Nicely done bro, at least you are an affiliate marketer with a heart… This business is “screw or get screwed”. But I believe affiliate marketers are screwed all the time, by merchants, networks that doesn’t pay, and so forth.. Try promoting amazon products for a honest living, they give you a 4% commission, who live like this?

    Good luck bro…

  • Always cover your bets man, try new stuff but I bet it might not have the same appeal – its tough leaving some industries without sufficient challenge elsewhere.

    Also I am nearly 1 series into the wire, now I am going to be watching Stringer bell the whole time! lol

  • You’re reading my mindz once again Finch. Though I agree with a few of the posters above, there is such a thing as a value added Affiliate. There’s a whole nother world of non-shady extra dorky genuine AffMarketers out there on the pay per sale side of things.

    But I know what you’re saying. You want to get on the other side of the affiliate equation. And that’s where you should be. You want affiliates pushing your products not vice-versa. Check out the latest addition of Wired “The New Industrial Revolution”. The world is flat Finch. Start dreaming and stop scheming.

    Oh and if you want a different business model that’s less shady you can invest in my movie. Kidding about the less shady part, but not about the movie.

  • You hit it right on the head. The industry moves so fast who knows what tomorrow can bring. Promoting rebills is NOT a long term business model, however if you do happen to make a bit of money off it, take advantage and invest it into something with greater longevity.

  • I definitely agree with you Finch. I don’t necessarily want to get out of affiliate marketing, but I want to expand my income sources into other separate markets as well.

    Right now I’m working on building a few membership sites in other niches, I’m a big fan of recurring income that is up front to the user.

    Delivering quality content will keep them coming back – if the site truly helps them then they will stay.

    I’m also looking at launching a few brick and mortar businesses, one of them being a LAN center(I’m a gaming nerd, what do you want from me? :P).

    Diversify 🙂

  • As someone who was a realtor:

    If you think AM is filled with shady assholes… I can’t wait until you get more involved in real estate. It’s littered with scumbags, morons, and others who are some combination of both.

    I get where you’re coming from, though. It always seems the bottom could fall out from you at any time. I think that’s a better reason to look outside of AM than on moral grounds.

    Your argument about morals falls flat when you compare the sketchy nature of AM to pretty much anything else. Want to get into retail and scam the shit out of dumb people like Best Buy, selling them overpriced services that don’t actually do anything (“optimized” windows machines?) or maybe HDMI wires at 1,333% markup? Or maybe you’ve got your finance degree and want to get a legitimate job at a bank… where you can think of clever ways to screw the poorest 1% of the country out of their last pennies with ridiculous, unjustifiable overdraft fees. The list goes on and on.

    If your goal is to make money, and want to be good at it, you’re going to need to take advantage of people in some way.

  • It’s simple for a successful guy like you. Pay down your bills or as many as you can such that you are either debt-free or only owe on your home. Then, turn around and become an angel investor (or owner) of new websites and web apps. Start with a designer, get stuff drawn, and then get some decent devs to build it. If a site does well but the sales start to taper off, or you’ve lost passion in it, then flip it for as much cash as possible and move on. And if you don’t like where you’re living, you would be the kind of wealthy individual who could get a home in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Brazil, or Belize. I’m not there, myself, but these are things I think about for my future. I love the fact that one can relocate to these Central and South American countries and live like a king, taking advantage of currency exchange rates.

  • 1) Affiliate Marketing doesn’t revolve around WickedFire.

    2) The majority of these comments look like they’re posted by noobs who have no idea what they’re talking about.

  • @ Tom – No doubt there are some shady people to avoid in real estate – hence the direct reference to Stringer Bell for those who’ve seen The Wire. I’m not necessarily talking about property development, but investing money in to brick and mortar assets that don’t exist in cyber space and aren’t going to disappear without a trace.

    Where I come from, there’s only one way for the working class to get on the property ladder: wait for a parent to die.

    I want to avoid this and own a property with enough leverage to be able to cover my own back and forget about mortgage hell. With the prices in London, you can make an absolute mint by getting your paws on the right property.

    I’m not saying the real estate space isn’t full of assholes, because I’ve already dealt with some. But if you have property, you will always have an anchor. The value is always relative to the times.

    To put it simply, if the Internet crumbled overnight, I want to have tangible assets. Not just because I feel the need to diversify offline, but because I need these kind of challenges to keep my work rate high.

    @ Volomike – Definitely. The idea of swanning it up in Panama with a laptop and a cocktail is something that catches my fancy too.

    @ Cullen – I never said it did. I hardly even post there. As for comments being posted by noobs…who knows? I only see a comment from a dude on his high horse.

  • Hey Finch, interesting post bro.

    I agree with the Realtor. I have been up to 23 units and about 90% of the tenants, no matter how many you are on good terms with, fuck you in the end. There’s a lot more to real estate investing than the investment books tell you. Believe me.

    Just be careful before you give up a good thing.

    ~ Corey

  • Im 22 as well and have been using the majority of my extra profits to purchase rental propertys since I was 20. I tried managing them myself which was a shitstorm. I’ve since moved onto just buying em if they are cash flow positive, and tossing them to a local property management firm. I initially started doing this due to those Rich Dad, Poor Dad books and some post I read on Wes Mahler (sp?) blog a long time ago. I dont think he focuses on real estate investments anymore but I think this is a great way to move from a market a lot of us feel is shady to something a bit more respectable.

    Also I agree with Corey, the majority of tenants will take advantage of you in a heartbeat if they can.

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