From A Laptop In Thailand…
Mastering The Art Of Getting Shit Done
Investing For The Future With Affiliate Marketing

From A Laptop In Thailand…

Many Internet Marketers dream of leaving the concrete jungle to go about their work with laptops on sandy beaches. It’s the stuff those work from home jpegs are made of, right? Having stomached the first half of a bitter London winter, I would be lying if I said I haven’t been itching at the balls to fly out here to Thailand and kickstart my new life of luxury.

Even though I’ve only been in Bangkok for a week, it’s already clear to me that the quality of life is worlds apart from what I’ve known in the past. The people are friendly. They call Thailand the Land of Smiles, while my old neighbourhood was more like the Ensemble of Chavs. The food gets better seemingly every day, and my taste buds are on fire. Literally. Somebody should have warned me how the Thais love to douse meals in chilies. Of course, the weather here is bliss too.

I’ve waited a long time to live like a nomad. The biggest challenge now is to remain focused on my work while the sun is beating through my window. And if the last six days have been anything to go by, that’s something easier said than done.

I’ve always believed that your environment plays a big hand in your ability to achieve your targets. If you can’t turn your head away from the television, you’re going to miss tomorrow’s moneymaking niche. If your wife is trampling around your office telling you to do the dishes, you probably don’t want to be scouring through female dating pics.

To put it simply, your working environment dictates what you’re able to accomplish. Nothing affects an attention span quite as harmfully as a poor working environment.

I consider myself lucky to have found initial success as a young guy in my 20s, without any kids, without any mortgage and with relatively few responsibilities. It gave me the freedom of locking myself away in my bedroom and sitting at a desk throwing shit at the wall until some of it stuck. Many of you do not have that luxury.

Whether you’re working in Thailand or England, in a home office or at the kitchen table – you need to be able to cancel out the distractions of everyday life fucking with you. I’ve only just noticed since flying out to Asia how badly television can affect my productivity. How eating out can zap monumental hours out of my day. I’m still searching for a balance between work and play. And no, the equation doesn’t involve ladyboys.

Once you find a situation that allows you to focus properly, it’s easy to find a rhythm where to-do lists become yesterday’s waste in the litter basket. It’s what we call the grind. But it’s damn near impossible to slip in to that grind at the snap of your fingertips. We can become ruled all too easily by the environment around us.

So much of the success we enjoy as marketers is carved through momentum. I believe in the theory of 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration being the blueprint to success. Momentum is everything. If you don’t have an online/offline switch helping you to gravitate between work times and social times, it’s your work that will suffer the most. And probably your friends too when you explode with anger through the stress of knowing you’re not working efficiently and haven’t earnt your ticket out of the office.

There’s nothing I find more frustrating than being frustrated with myself.

I’ve become so tuned in to my former working environment that it’s truly a bitch to get my head down and work in a different climate. When I looked out of my window in London, I would see a stretch of grassy nowhereland and maybe – on a busy day – some dude being dragged along by his dog. When I look out of my apartment in Bangkok, I see a city waiting to be explored. The low hanging fruits of my work over the last few years, ready to be plucked and enjoyed.

How do you stay motivated when everything you’ve worked for is sitting on your doorstep?

I’m treating this first week as a holiday that I’ve earnt. Nobody can travel halfway round the world and expect to snap in to a working routine. So much of my success as an affiliate marketer has come from an almost robotic tendency to stay rooted to one spot and churn out profitable campaigns. It was the by-product of a mundane working environment, but a very effective one.

To get the best out of myself, I need to be in an situation where I have complete focus and concentration. As much as I enjoy working on laptops in the sun, a quiet office where I can shut myself away from the world is just the tonic I need to get by. Maybe it’s the snobbery of a guy who swears by his dual screen, but I’m finding it pretty difficult to function without seventeen windows at my disposal.

Laptops are suitable, I guess, if your entire job involves sending emails. Anything more and I need my Mac. Unfortunately it’s still in transit and my productivity has gone down the shitter ever since. I don’t like having to use my finger as a mouse and I’m acting quite grouchy at the idea of having to work out of my established comfort zone. It all comes down to that environment.

If you’re working from home, you need to become a master of your own work space. Maybe the ultimate goal is to one day pack up your bags and migrate to warmer shores. But even when you’re there, there’s no such thing as retirement for an entrepreneur. Understanding how to get the most out of your working day, and how to control your environment effectively, is a prerequisite to success.

So while I’m sitting here pissing around with a shoddy baby laptop and a failing Internet connection, take a look around the room and see how you can channel some extra focus towards your work. Maybe it’s a television that needs to be switched off, or a little white noise to cancel out the cars from the street below. Maybe you should throw your kids over the balcony. Anything to focus your energies where they need to be. Actually please don’t throw your kids over the balcony. Or at least close this window before you act on impulse.

There’s always a way to control your environment. But you can be certain that most of your competition are chained to their own. Working harder and smarter than the rest, with more discipline and more drive, will nearly always get you results. The problem I’m finding, is how I can maintain that level of focus with the allure of Thailand shining through my window…

Recommended This Week:

  • If you haven’t read it from front to back already, snap up a copy of the brilliant 4-hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. Inspiring stuff for any affiliate marketer.

  • If you’re looking to explore some very different but potentially very profitable micro-niches, take a look at ShareASale. It’s like a CJ that isn’t run by a bag of dicks.

  • 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

Mastering The Art Of Getting Shit Done

The summer is coming in London Town. And that spells major trouble for my work productivity levels should I decide that airing my balls to some rays is time well spent.

One of the questions I get asked by my non-affiliate friends is how I manage to not waste my life playing videogames and watching TV. It would be very easy to hit cruise control and let business take care of business while I watch four back to back seasons of Prison Break. Obviously I’m not talking from experience. Anybody who has enough time to watch 3418 minutes of espionage during working hours should probably stop blogging about productivity tips.

Err, not mine

It would be rude not to finish what I started so fuck you.

I’ve been experimenting with various time management techniques, Firefox extensions, and god knows what else in my pursuit of a productive working day.

One of the most talked about productivity tips is simply to make a to-do list.

Now, I’m not knocking anybody who manages to stay on top of business with a simple notepad. In fact, I envy you. But personally speaking, if I’m having a lazy day, I’ll just give myself less to do on my to-do list. Which defeats the purpose of making a list altogether.

There will be some guys and girls out there who shake their heads in disgust.

“Productivity tools? Do you need Antony Robbins to inspire you to brush your teeth too? Just get it done and stop fart arsing around, you emo blogging prick”.

Yes, some people are capable of sitting at a desk, plowing through their tasks and not so much as batting an eyelid at a fresh new post on FinchSells.com. Others, thank God, are easily distracted.

I was sitting in a library musing through various self-help books the other week (don’t ask). I stumbled across a method in a book called Stress Proof Your Life, which is a really dull read except for this one particular method. So don’t go canvasing Amazon for a new bedtime story just yet.

It basically outlined the power of momentum in your working day. I’m sure many affiliate marketers are in the same boat when I say that momentum is probably the deciding factor in how much we get done on any given day.

I find it very easy to sit at my desk and tear through hours and hours of work. But only if I have the momentum where I feel like I’m getting somewhere. Otherwise I’ll bitch and moan and find the most fiendish of ways to waste my own time until somebody invites me to a pub where I can pretend that I’ve been at it hammer and tongs all day over a pint of the good stuff.

Momentum is everything.

If you set yourself a simple to-do list, it becomes very easy to switch off after you’ve completed a task. How often have you found yourself scratching your head at 5pm having spent the morning whacking off and telling yourself that it’s all okay because you don’t have plans tonight and those tasks will get done eventually?

I’ve started breaking down my tasks in to three different categories:

6 x 10 minute tasks
6 x 20 minute tasks
6 x 30 minute tasks

The idea is that you set a recurring timer to run through the time allocations with no gap in between. For example, the first hour of my morning may look like this:

10 minutes – Reply to emails from night before.
10 minutes – Analyze stats for yesterday’s campaigns.
10 minutes – Update PPC ad groups with new A-B split test.
10 minutes – Update Facebook campaigns with fresh images.
10 minutes – Add another 100 test URLs for PPV campaign.
10 minutes – Set and forget my automated scripts for the day.

These are all tasks that I could quite easily stretch to take an hour out of my day each if I was working from a simple to-do list with no time constraint. By setting the recurring ten minute alarm, you’re concentrating on one task for a very short window. It encourages you to keep moving, quit Twittering and start building the all important momentum that gets shit done.

After all my ten minute chores are done, I go straight in to the next set of activities. It might read like this:

20 minutes – Research demographics for Offer X. Decide on test groups.
20 minutes – Find and buy suitable imagery for the landing page.
20 minutes – Plan out important points to be conveyed in landing page copy.
20 minutes – Set up hosting, tracking & domain.
20 minutes – Sort out laundry, put on some clothes and apologize to the neighbours.
20 minutes – Carry out keyword research and assess prices across different platforms.

Why would I distract myself with laundry when I’m in the middle of setting up a campaign? It may sound like a really bad idea, but as long as you stick religiously to the timings, you begin to develop the momentum where it doesn’t matter what you need to do – you just do it. And that is the ultimate mindset you’re looking to achieve. To be able to get the ugly crap done.

I leave myself an hour at the end of the day to deal with the inevitable bullshit that arises while I work. Dropped offers, phone calls, email correspondence…the necessities of running a business that can be ballbreakingly annoying if you allow them to dictate your working day.

Everybody has their own way of staying productive. Some people are just natural troopers who’ll rip up the earth to get their latest project online. If that’s you, congratulations, come back when I have something worth reading.

An excellent tool I was pointed towards not too long ago is Leechblock. This is a Firefox Extension that you can set and forget in your browser. It will display an ugly red “THIS SITE IS BLOCKED” message when you try to access your usual time wasting sites. Twitter, Facebook, Statcounter…whatever you find yourself clicking back to, get it blocked and get on with your work.

Staying productive is one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since becoming a full-time affiliate. Dragging myself out of bed when the body says no, fighting the urge to slack off over a bacon sarnie when I’ve drunk too much the night before. It’s not easy and it requires self-discipline. I can’t remember who I’m stealing this from but it’s the gospel truth: Procrastination is masturbation…you’re only ever fucking yourself.

It doesn’t really matter if there’s a method to your madness. Being static as an affiliate is the ultimate recipe for disaster. Do what you have to do and then reward yourself when it’s done. Even if the reward lasts 3418 minutes.

EDIT: Most people who’ve added me on AIM are pretty much aware that I don’t actually use AIM unless it’s a full moon or something. I’ve created a Formspring account for people to ask their questions somewhere I can answer them in my own time. And of course, for the odd smart arse to post something witty. You can post questions here: http://www.formspring.me/FinchSells. If it’s a question that you don’t want other people reading, forward it to my email and I will reply on a rainy day.

Investing For The Future With Affiliate Marketing

It seems funny to think that I’ve only been a full-time affiliate marketer for six months – and I’m already planning what to do next. There will probably be a large number of you who think that jacking in the day job to work from home is the ultimate retirement. The chance to put your feet up, bust out the cocktails and wake up when the sun goes down.

The problem, of course, is that affiliate marketing happens to be one of the most volatile industries to be making a living in. At any point your campaigns could go to bust, your traffic source could eject you, or an inexplicable server downtime could cost you thousands of dollars. My ex girlfriend once told me that I’d been talking to her about affiliate marketing in my sleep. Besides bowing my head in shame at the obvious, I was quite shaken at how quickly this industry has enveloped my day-to-day thoughts, concerns and ambitions.

As much as I love what I do, I’m slightly paranoid about the long term prospects of it all. Can any of us honestly say that those $35 commissions are going to be there in 15 or 20 years time? The industry will evolve and so will the techniques that we use to reach the millions of users online. But that in itself is a constant challenge. No matter how much money you’re making today, the Internet is transforming at such a rate that you always have to be learning. Or you’ll get left behind.

Take the art of SEO as an example. I know guys who work every day on building long term websites that rank well in Google. If that’s not hanging your balls on the line, I don’t know what is. Your riches and fortunes are hinged on some Google suit deciding not to tweak the algorithm in somebody else’s favour. I would not want to be sitting there knowing that everything I have is prospering in a virtual universe that could change tomorrow and completely forget me.

I think enough affiliates have been banned from Google and Facebook for me to assume you already know the dangers of being a one traffic source wonder.

Affiliate marketing is a game of cat and mouse. The mouse being very rich, and the cat being a Warrior Forum sized stampede of nobodies. Every last one of them would enjoy your riches and it’s up to you to stay one step ahead. If you’re sitting at your desk and thinking it’ll only take one lucky break, one lucky campaign, to turn your life on its head – well, you’re wrong.

Try one lucky campaign, every week, for the rest of your working life.

That is the reality for marketers who intend to make hay forever as affiliates. Personally, I’m working hard now to provide greater opportunities for my future. I see affiliate marketing as the launch pad to something else, something better, something that doesn’t have a stinging acai aftertaste. If you’re not investing in your future, you’re setting up your eventual fall. Nobody’s luck lasts forever – especially for an affiliate.

Security is the word that springs to mind when I consider what I’m trying to achieve. And that’s ironic because most affiliates who’ve achieved great things have had to risk it all at some point. I think the mass banning of Adwords accounts back in the summer acted as my warning. Since then there hasn’t been a day where I haven’t forced myself to think several steps ahead.

It’s very easy to watch a successful campaign rake in several thousands of dollars. But you should assume that the offer caps tonight. What’s your next move? Say some Wickedfire dick has outed your campaign and the whole world can see what’s been making you money. Your work ethic needs to be such that they’re only talking about the weaker split test. If you’re constantly evolving and seeking out better results, you’ll find them before your competition catches you.

I had a couple of emails after my last post about “outing” successful Facebook techniques. It’s never my intention to harm anybody else’s campaigns, and it’s true that the tactics I talked about have been good to me over the last few months. But do you really think I’m so stupid to post how-to guides on what’s currently making me money? This is the big problem with affiliate marketing blogs and why you shouldn’t be reading them all day every day. By all means go ahead and teach a bum everything they know, but don’t teach them everything you know. Most affiliate bloggers are very good at that. In fact, they don’t teach shit to begin with.

What I’m trying to say is that to enjoy long term success as an affiliate, you simply have to learn as much today as you did yesterday. To do that, you need to be humble (under the surface), willing to learn from your mistakes and constantly seeking improvement.

If you check out my profile, you’ll see a quote that I believed in when I started this blog:

“Entrepreneurs live for a few years the way most people won’t so they can live the rest of their life like most people can’t.”

Maybe I’m still living those few years, but I don’t believe it anymore. If you truly have the dedication to achieve something, the desire to improve your business, you’ll never start working less. And that’s a good thing because determination, drive and commitment are qualities that some people will never dream of having until the sirens of failure are ringing in their ears.

You might work smartly. You might move away from the daily grind that contributes to so much stress – but will there ever be less work? Less on your mind? I don’t think so. When I look back and ask myself “when was the last time I had nothing to worry about?” I think my answer is when I was sitting at my day job. That’s the truth. If you take the solo road, you are going to carry a burden. You might not feel it through the good times, but it’s waiting to reveal itself to you when shit gets hairy.

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