If, like me, you’ve spent much of the last week combing over your accounts to prepare for a new tax year, it’s likely that a thousand failed campaigns have flashed before your eyes.
One of the great advantages of taking time out to review your yearly accounts is that it often drives home your failings as well as your successes. I’ve been systematically logging in to every traffic source and every network. You’d be surprised how many bad ideas I’ve run with in the last year. The recurring thought of the week has been, “Hey Finch, what the fuck were you thinking? Asking if a Jewish guy wants a girlfriend for Christmas? You twat.” But this is a good thing, surely?
The more mistakes you make as an affiliate, the less scope you have to ruin your next great idea.
I’ve rediscovered the campaigns that filled me with so much excitement when I jacked in my day job twelve months ago. And of course, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of half arsed concepts that were always going to fail, yet I still ran with them at the time. I’d like to think that I’ve upped my game and if nothing else, put in the ground work that 95% of affiliates are scared of covering for fear of failure.
Considering this is such a young industry, I’d be surprised if there’s not a few marketers out there in the same boat as myself. Drunk on the power trip of making money, and yet somehow bigger virgins than Mary in the art of running a business.
I’ve always been very keen to stress that affiliate marketing as a career isn’t all about kicking it back and making a fortune on traffic brokering while your shit smells of roses. And I stress it because I was an absolute retard when I gave up my day job. I had just turned 21 years old, with the kind of tunnel vision that saw me calculating my daily earnings and multiplying by 365 for what I thought I’d be sitting on as I write this now.
Recently I’ve been cruising some Internet Marketing forums – yeah, I know, somehow only I can make that sound dirty – which I often do when I’m looking for topics to write about. One of the threads that caught my eye was a question posed on WickedFire. A guy asking the masses if he was ready to give up his day job and go full time affiliate marketing.
I was tempted to reply with “If you care about your career, for the sacred balls of Christ, don’t go putting it in the hands of WickedFire…” but I think I was eating a pizza at the time. Seeing how it’s almost exactly a year since I made that decision myself (to go full-time, not to eat the pizza), I thought I’d offer my own insight.
So what are the magic income figures you need to be hitting before you’re ready to exist without a guaranteed pay cheque? They don’t exist. I hate to break it to you, but anybody who tells you otherwise is throwing equations out of his arse. There’s no guarantee your wife will spend as much as his.
I’m no statistician, but I’d stake my house on the average affiliate marketer being much younger than the average businessman. Many of us are affected by sudden changes in our fortunes. Steady business development and gradual growth are two terms that you simply don’t associate with the typical affiliate. I think it’s why a large number of the successful marketers amongst us are complete and utter dicks. Overnight success can make a man feel much smarter than he really is.
If you’re trying to decide whether you can afford to quit your day job based on financial calculations alone, you’ve got a real headache on your hands. Some people will say you should be able to live comfortably for six months without earning another penny.
For me, the real challenge has never been about earning enough money to pay the bills. Of course, that should be your number one concern. Especially if you have a family to look after. But adjusting to the dozens of stresses that come hand in hand with being your own boss, that has been the story of my year.
It’s not all about the money. I’ve spoken to quite a few affiliates and one of the qualities that many of us seem to share – I say quality, it’s almost like a burden – is the difficulty in separating work from the rest of our lives. The second you hedge your bets on affiliate marketing as your future, the levels of stress take a turn that you’re simply not going to be able to appreciate until you’ve left your day job and seen the full time grind for yourself.
I’ve been sitting here dealing with my taxes, and it’s nice to know that I’ve made good money and that I can live comfortably. But then I ask myself, “what would I like to achieve in the next twelve months?” Money doesn’t enter the equation.
I feel like I’ve sacrificed far more than a day job to be where I am now. For better or worse. Full time affiliate marketing is a huge lifestyle change. When the chips are down, it’s an inescapable mindfuck. There’s been more than the occasional morning coffee where I’ve been left feeling completely powerless to revive my fortunes while shit hits every fan around me.
If you’re not ready to sacrifice the little peace in your mind, right before you go to sleep, that you’ve got a day job to full back on if it all goes wrong – then no, you’re probably not ready to make that jump. You’ve got to be a little bit stupid and a little bit irrational to see the long term prospects in an industry that changes while you sleep.
Work has consumed me in the last year. I’ve had to sacrifice friendships, relationships, large parts of my social life and the freedom that came with it. I say I had to, but I really didn’t. For a 22 year old who thought this would be a piss in the park, I guess I never really appreciated the challenges ahead. And when it hit me, slowly over the months, success turned in to a form of obsession.
If you’re working from home, yes, it’s a great freedom to have. You can work anywhere. But the novelty of being able to log on to your laptop and consider yourself setup for the day is actually a burden in itself. Whenever I’m online, I feel somehow chained to my job. People can, and do, take the chance to message me on Facebook, AIM, Twitter, Skype…the list goes on.
I know some of you reading this now will have found your own ways to separate work from play. And it’s absolutely necessary if you’re looking to avoid a slow and painful mental breakdown.
Looking back at all the mistakes I made last year, the campaigns I must’ve been drunk or high to come up with, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Every successful affiliate marketer has a bunch of shit he’s tried that just didn’t cut it. You don’t suddenly find clarity when you go full-time or gain a few years of experience.
I can live with those mistakes because they’re part of the job. The mistakes I regret are those that lead to me blurring the lines between business and my personal life. And I believe they’re the mistakes that most marketers are likely to repeat if they decide to quit the day job and move in to this industry full-time.
You can’t prepare for this job with financial projections. None of us know what revenue is on the cards from week to week. But you can avoid a lot of the mistakes I’ve made by making sure that from Day One, you’re ready to work harder than you ever worked in your 9-5.
Maybe you’ve built up a nice portfolio of moneymaking websites. Maybe you’ve saved enough money to invest and you’re ready to take the leap in to affiliate marketing full-time. Give it your best shot, but don’t let it take over your life. It’s very easy to go too far and find that the dream job working out of a hammock has the potential to be a much greater prison than even the plainest 9-5 desk cubicle.
My goals for the next tax year aren’t to earn more money, or to add a bunch of extra zeros to my next pay cheque. Sure that’d be awesome. But I’d much rather be able to sit here and look back on a year that took less out of me mentally. Time for a holiday!
On a side note, – because I’m not going to donate a whole post to it – this blog is now one year old. I seem to be whoring links from all over the affiliasphere these days so I consider it a decent success. Thanks very much for reading. You crazy motherfuckers.