Are You Pretending To Work At Home?
Growing A Business vs. Living Your Dream
Golden Rules For A Landing Page That Converts

Are You Pretending To Work At Home?

I think we’d all agree that it’s a great luxury to be able to work from home. As much as I enjoyed the social side of being in an office and having a laugh, there’s no place I’d rather be at 9am than tangled in my own bedsheets. Living in your comfort zone can provide the acid test for how committed you are to what you do.

Staying productive is something I talk about a lot because I believe self-discipline to be the single greatest asset to any entrepreneur, or anybody who controls their own working environment. Without it, we could spunk entire afternoons on YouTube or away from the office altogether.

I think we all know that it’s important to stay productive, but not many of us have reached the stage where we feel like we’re in total control of our environment.

So here are four tips for improving your productivity if you work from home:

1. Separate your work space from your living arrangements.

This is pretty much critical to your sanity. For over two years, I worked in a claustrophobic bedroom where I also drank, ate, slept and let the magic happen. The problem with having your office in your bedroom is that as affiliate marketers, we’re chained to a 24/7 industry that never sleeps. There’s always one more email to answer, some stats to refresh or a brainfart to research.

One of my priorities when I moved to Bangkok was to find a three bedroom apartment that had plenty of space. My girlfriend also works from home, so we opted for a 350 sq/m sprawling mass of rooms. We both have a home office, our puppies have their own bedroom and there’s more than enough space to be able to differentiate between “This is where I work”, “This is where I sleep”, and “This is where I shit”.

2. Have a schedule.

Many people consider the 9-5 to be a mental prison. The same hours, on the same days of the week for the rest of their working lives. But what can’t be argued is that routine adds order and momentum to your working day.

Nobody can tell you the best routine. Some people work better in the morning, while others can only think straight at night. Your location in the world also makes a difference.

When I have breakfast, America is going to bed and the UK is already fast asleep. This gives me a perfect opportunity to fire off my emails and work out. I can go for a swim, eat some lunch and really think about what I want to achieve before the morning has already passed me by.

If you’re going to have a schedule, you need to stick to it. So you need to plan ahead and leave time for that familiar experience of life screwing you over, or people having other ideas about how you should spend your time. It’s easy for those working at home to fall in to the trap of becoming everybody else’s bitch. Maybe your housemates want you to run errands because you have “all that time on your hands”. Or your neighbour wants you to watch out for a parcel delivery because it was too convenient to expect you to do them a favour than organize to pick the damn thing up themselves.

These are all familiar stories of how working from home can turn you in to a Samaritan at the beck and call of everybody else. So take back control and get some self-discipline. Even if it’s a flimsy whiteboard with your working hours scrawled in the kitchen for your wife to see.

You can always bust out my favourite tetchy complaint: “I didn’t get where I am today by taking care of other people’s shit.” You might be seen as unreasonable, but you’re in the right. Many of us have worked 16 hour days for months on end to be in the position that we are, so having a schedule that other people respect isn’t too much to ask.

3. Understand the difference between staying busy and getting work done.

Sometimes I have days where I only work for a few hours but what I achieve is significant because it’s a step towards a long term goal. Other days, I work for 12 hours and cross off dozens of tasks only to find that I haven’t actually achieved much because I’ve been “keeping busy” rather than making any measurable progress.

What is “keeping busy”?

– Optimizing campaigns without analyzing the data.

God, I hate myself when I do this. I’ll mark down a task for the day to optimize campaign X, and then I’ll go in and introduce some new ads or tweak my landing pages – but I won’t look at the data and make any logical assessments. If you’re forever split testing and never coming to conclusions that affect your future campaigns, you’re the perfect example of somebody who keeps busy for the sake of being busy rather than achieving goals.

– Managing people.

I’m not a project manager. So whenever I add a task like “communicate with Freelancer X and ensure project is running fine”, I know that I’m being lazy. These are things that you should either be doing automatically or handing to a dedicated project manager. It’s not a step forward for your business if you’re spending the day waiting for emails and feeling satisfied that you’ve got everything under control.

– Research tasks.

I find that if I include any item resembling “Research this…” on my to-do list, I will revert to my lazy high school trait of promoting the easiest task to the one most worthy of my time. I never add research tasks to my to-do list for one reason. They’re not measurable. I can’t hold myself accountable at the end of the day. It’s easy to flick through a couple of forum posts in the space of five hours and then by the end of the day miraculously forget that those hours were actually wasted.

To put it simply, if you’re going to set yourself tasks, you should know exactly what you’re looking to achieve. Otherwise the goalposts will move as fatigue sets in at the end of the day.

4. Cancel out the noise.

Yes literally, check out SimplyNoise. White noise is a brilliant way of canceling out the distractions all around you. I like to listen to music every now and then, but having a TV blaring in the background makes it damn near impossible for me to work productively.

My girlfriend manages to stay focused on her tasks while watching America’s Next Top Model with a laptop balanced on the sofa. She’s obviously a freak. I couldn’t bring myself to remember my CPCs from my CPVs if I had such calamity unfolding before my eyes on-screen. Whether you think it affects you or not, your brain is tuned in to what is going on around you. I find white noise to be the best way of weeding out those distractions and keeping my focus where it needs to be. Scamming the nation needs mind meditation, right?

If you’re falling in to patterns of laziness, maybe it’s time to start adjusting your home environment. You know… divorce the wife, move in to the attic, ask the cat to start feeding himself. Small tweaks. I’m not advocating Josef Fritzl measures, but discipline and clarity can be a good thing for all parties concerned. Show the world that you don’t mess with a man and his berries.

Recommended This Week:

  • Ironically, given the nature of this post, I would like to recommend you join a forum. If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

  • If you’re working in the dating market, check out Adsimilis. Definitely one of the better networks with a wide range of dating offers, all on high payouts, including lots of stuff in Europe and South America. I think you’ll like them.

  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Feel free to add Finch to your Facebook. Yes, this is the right link. My real name is not actually Finch. Also follow me on Twitter Love you long time. Thanks for reading.

Growing A Business vs. Living Your Dream

It’s hot and it’s sweaty. Everybody else is at work and the swimming pool is empty. Three months ago, before I moved to Thailand, I didn’t have to deal with this predicament. The only empty swimming pool was nextdoor’s Argos inflatable, and even that was ice-ravaged by winter. These days, it’s the question I have to answer every morning.

“Do I dedicate today to my business? Or do I just enjoy this crazy life?”

I was whinging at my girlfriend a few nights ago, frustrated over how wasteful I thought we’d been with money. I managed to spend close to £10,000 in January (That’s about $15,000 for you Yankiepops) which is quite a feat considering Thailand has this misguided reputation as the place for living on a shoestring budget. I’m sure it is, by the way. But if you don’t learn Thai – or at least date one – you’re going to find yourself existing in a different economy to the natives.

My ambition has always been to live a nomad lifestyle. To roam between countries, plant a laptop on a beach, get some work done, then jump on the next plane. I guess this is what we call “living the dream”. And for the last few months, I’ve been privileged enough to enjoy that luxury.

Understand though, this variety of “living the dream” makes it very difficult to grow a business. Nobody puts as many hours of thought in to their work on the beach as they do at their desk. Unless you’re Nick Throlson.

I’ve found myself wrestling between two states of mind. Firstly, the desire to knuckle down and spend every penny and every hour investing in my business, taking it as far as it can go and only then enjoying the fruits of my labour. After all, this is the very same drive and work ethic that got me this far. Why stop now?

Or I can listen to the other voice in my head. The voice saying, “Hey Finch, It’s 35 degrees out, why aren’t you in the pool? You’ve earnt this much”

Inevitably, after laying down ten grand in a month, the conservative side of me rose to the surface and argued with my girlfriend that as much as I can afford to live this life, it’s just not going to let me grow my business as fast as I want to.

But she raised a good point. Why even have this lifestyle, location independent albeit paying the premium, if I wasn’t going to enjoy it fully?

I think the reality is that I do enjoy it. And I do realize how lucky I am to be in a position at 23, that many people will work a whole lifetime to never have a hope of sharing. But after spending every hour of my life that came before preparing for this luxury, I’m not quite sure how to react now that I have it. Do I stand still and cherish the moment? Or do I put my foot down and stick to the same working patterns that have served me well?

Affiliate marketing is a fast-paced industry where the voices around you will constantly be telling you to push for the next dollar. If you’re not putting in the extra hour to attack a new offer, it’ll be money left on the table for somebody else. We all remember how it felt to not be making money, so we don’t want to fall back in to those trenches. Money left on the table is what we hate most.

When I look at my finances, I realize I don’t have to bite this bullshit and react to every movement in the industry. I don’t have to jump on every niche, split test every offer or open every email. But there’s so little substance to the work that we do, you could be forgiven for thinking it would all disappear in a heartbeat. Reacting becomes a natural instinct.

As much as I’d love to grow my business Zuckerberg-style and bypass millions to aim for billions, I’m slowly accepting that it doesn’t have to happen today or tomorrow. Most of us are very young and have the time on our hands to let our businesses grow naturally.

If you buy in to the affiliate marketing dream, you become convinced that scaling from hundreds to thousands of dollars per day has to happen overnight or it’ll never happen at all. This was the attitude I had back in my London bedroom, where everything about my life was focused on taking that next step.

Recently, I stumbled across a website called Kiva which I remember Bryn posted about last year. If you’re ever feeling that you’re not progressing with your goals, or that your riches aren’t accumulating fast enough, this is the website to visit for a shot of reality up the arse.

Entrepreneurs from poverty-stricken countries can use Kiva to ask for loans to launch businesses that would change their lives, and those of their families, for the better. Anybody can register to donate to their businesses and over time you will get the money back. It’s hard to read through some of the loan requests without your conversion rates fading in to insignificance.

While many of us would love to pitch a tower in Silicon Valley and claim the dominance of an industry, we shouldn’t dismiss simply providing a living for ourselves as anything less than amazing in the current economical climate. I’m trying to remind myself that Growing A Business vs Living My Dream doesn’t have to be an endless power struggle between two negative forces. They’re both great privileges and they should both be enjoyed.

I highly recommend you check out Kiva. It’s a great concept. What better way to give back as an entrepreneur than to help other entrepreneurs who have much greater challenges than ourselves? If you’re reading this and not making any money, it’s certainly not for a lack of opportunity. A lot of the entrepreneurs on Kiva have only one opportunity in life. It helps to keep that in perspective no matter how shitty you think your daily stats have been.

Recommended This Week:

  • My dashboard tells me this is the 100th post on Finch Sells. It’s taken me two years to notch them up, but I’d like to think it’s a fairly fluffless collection of posts. If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Love you long time. Thanks for reading.
  • If you’re working in the dating market, check out Adsimilis. Definitely one of the better networks with a wide range of dating offers, all on high payouts, including lots of stuff in Europe and South America. I think you’ll like them.

  • Feel free to add Finch to your Facebook. Yes, this is the right link. My real name is not actually Finch. Also follow me on Twitter

Golden Rules For A Landing Page That Converts

One of the most common questions I see on affiliate marketing forums is the classic “Should I link directly to an offer or build a landing page?”

I can count on one hand the number of campaigns I’ve made money from without the help of a landing page. Direct linking may work for some. But it’s never outperformed any of my campaigns where I’ve pre-sold the offer ahead. Now that doesn’t mean you should take my words for gospel. The equation is altered by your choice of niche, traffic source, keyword targets, and probably what you ate for breakfast this morning.

But that’s besides the point of this post. I think if you’re going to use a landing page, the least you can do is make it a good one. I’ve seen some jawdroppingly bad landing pages over the years. So bad they could only have been designed by the Escobar Status dude (baby please come back).

If you haven’t checked it out already, StackThatMoney had a very useful post this week offering seven conversion boosting scripts. Some of these are highly relevant to the landing pages you should be creating. But while they will all make a difference, they don’t quite add the missing ingredients which most marketers tend to overlook – the language you use to persuade.

Our actual landing page copy is one of the most important links in the affiliate chain, and it’s often the last to be split-tested. We pay so much attention to our faltering CTRs and our faintly different banners that we often forget to split test this decisive persuasion tool. That’s probably because it’s a lot easier to find a new dating stock image than it is to learn how to write better copy.

The best landing pages act on the message of the ad that preceded them and channel the focus towards your end goal. Presumably to get the user to sign up to some crappy service he’d be embarrassed to tell his friends about. If you’re wondering why your landing page isn’t making a difference on your bottom line, it’s usually because the sales funnel is leaking relevance.

If your ad doesn’t gel with the benefits you’re listing in your landing page, the user is going to click away.

If the offer doesn’t deliver the benefits you’ve described in your landing page, the EPC is going to be low.

I look at dating ads on Plentyoffish and often see headlines like “Our Women Need More Tall Smokers, Join Now!” And I think to myself, okay, maybe I missed the release of Mate 1’s latest “Free Weekend Pass For Nicotineheads” landing page. But I haven’t, so is this really a sophisticated marketing ploy? No, it’s just a cheap trick to increase CTR based on user attributes. It may enjoy short lived success while the CTR is strong, but inevitably it falls apart because the correlation is wafer thin and built on cones of sand.

If you’re going to exploit user attributes for your ads, you have to choose attributes that actually have some relevance. Otherwise you’ll lose way too many eyeballs in the jump from ad to landing page. Getting a user to click from your landing page through to the merchant is actually very easy. But only if you’ve pre-qualified them with ads that tie in to the benefits you’re about to sell.

At the heart of your campaign, it doesn’t matter how great your landing page is as a standalone advertisement. It has to tie in with your previous ads in order to be effective, or the user will simply leave disenchanted.

I’ve regularly touted the benefits of using “YES language” on a landing page. This is a copywriting technique where you ask as many rhetorical questions as you can, always the with the intention of getting a resounding “YES!” from your reader. A headline like “Do You Want To Get Ripped In Time For Summer?” is more of an attention grabber than simply stating “New Formula Promises Abs Within Months”. There’s another language tool at work there, which I will come to later. It involves getting the reader to picture himself in various states. If you can control the states, you can control his emotion. And if you can steer his emotion in to a buying state of mind, congratulations, you’re a better writer than most affiliate marketers out there.

Use concise language and always write for the subordinate classes. Just because you have a degree in English literature, that’s no license to alienate 70% of your target market by typing like a pompous prick with his head up his arse. Short snappy sentences are the way to go. Something I like to remind myself in any of my copywriting is that ambiguity is never a good trait when you’re trying to sell something. It’s the mark of a copywriter who isn’t truly invested in a product or it’s benefits.

There’s a beaten dead horse lurking around affiliate marketing blogs that says you should always sell the benefits, not the features, of whatever you’re promoting.

Yes, you should. But understand that there’s a difference between selling the benefits and simply listing the benefits hoping one of them fills a “tick if applicable” box in the consumer’s head. I spy on many affiliate landing pages and it really shines through how bland and uninspiring the writing can be.

“Sell the benefits, not the features,” simply isn’t good enough. You need to sell those benefits in such a way that the reader has no choice but to imagine them sweeping through his life and making a change for the better. Reeling off the A-Z of “Things My Product Can Do For You” is technically correct in the marketing sense. But it’s just not effective, in my opinion, unless at some point those benefits flick a switch from “this could be me”, to “this WILL be me if I act now” in the reader’s head.

How do you do that?

You either have the natural talent, or you hire somebody else who does. It goes back to what I was saying in my last post about outsourcing. If you want the best, you better be the best…or be prepared to pay for the best.

Recommended This Week:

  • Looking for some excellent landing page case studies? If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Feel free to add Finch to your Facebook. Yes, this is the right link. My real name is not actually Finch. Also follow me on Twitter Love you long time. Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2009-.