This is our very first Affiliate Blog Online podcast….woohoo! It took a while to get this up and running only because we have been creating a guide to podcasting and had to record every step along the way. But since this blog post is up it means that we only have one more step to go and that is to submit the podcast to iTunes for approval.
In the meantime, you can listen to this podcast here as you should be able to see a media player above this blog post. Once iTunes approves the podcast it will then be available on iTunes so once you can subscribe to it there, you will be able to listen to it as often as you like.
In this podcast we provide a bit of an introduction and go through how we got into this business way back in 2003. We also reveal our income that we were earning back in those early days.
Also, we talk about the two things we did that finally skyrocketed our online business to success and how it enabled the both of us to finally give up our 9 to 5 jobs.
And finally, we discuss what we are doing now to make money online.
We hope you enjoy this Podcast as it will be the first of many in which we will discuss ways to make passive income online and enjoy yourself doing it.
Recently, I had the rare opportunity to take my wife and our 7 kids to a friend’s cabin to Cascade, Idaho. The scene was surreal: the blacktop was white. The pine trees were dusted with fluffy, freezing, playful snow.
We had just walked into a post card with our tired family van chugging along. This time we weren’t just driving through, we came to play in this stuff.
It was my wife’s birthday, and the entire trip was long overdue. See, we don’t take vacations normally. But that was in my old life…
I’m James, a.k.a. “JamestheJust” online, former freelance writer on Elance (that turned into a golden training ground to learn the ropes while getting paid).
I blog at The Average Genius and tell it like it is. It’s still something I’m getting used to (I get paid a passive income? Say what?).
Unlike many success stories, or perhaps like the cliche story you might expect – I come from generations of struggling, hard-working folk.
Money has been that elusive character in someone else’s play, I was raised convinced that only other people ever had any.
My dad lived and left his life as one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen.
My mother comes from the Philippines, where most internet marketers hire cheap labor for English web content.
See, both of my parents worked…
They worked long, hard hours, mom still does.
My grandparents were in various blue collar jobs from construction to rice threshing.
Needless to say, hard work is in my DNA. The family has viewed money as a slippery, wriggling fish that escapes every time you grab hold, real enough to tease but never real enough to linger.
Money meant struggle, strive, sweat and ache. Regular hours were reserved for banks and the filthy rich. I knew from the start: I was born to work to provide for my family.
For 16 years of marriage, that’s what I’ve done, and it’s meant nothing but struggling, striving, sweating and being bone-aching tired.
That was life, and the way to provide, right?
In 2009, I was embroiled in a family business owned by my in-laws here in Idaho. The job went from “reasonable hours” to You have got to be kidding me, I’m a man, not a machine!
I was given unreasonable hours and expected to turn up unreasonable results in marketing…so for three months in my final, desperate winter in the business, I pounded the pavement so to speak.
I would market for “bonus money,” but the trick of it was I had just suffered a loss of $12,000 annually, or $1,000 a month paycut, right before winter.
To make up the loss, I was offered the “opportunity” to market the business – so I jumped through the hoop and marketed like a Fury.
I marketed my way out of a $12k annual paycut in the worst of my personal recession, while the evening news told of similar sob stories all over the U.S.
Layoffs and foreclosures were happening all over my neighborhood, I was no exception it would turn out later. At the time, I bit down and faced the music:
I had to work harder, longer hours, for less money. Either that or get fired, so I was told. It worked, for my in-laws anyway. I built their business and gave all I had to give to my now thankless job.
Family ties were strained to breaking, and in the midst of my financial crisis, my boss / brother-in-law told me about Elance, and the XFactor AdSense buisness model.
The XFactor model was to build many miniature websites that would make $25-$100 a month extra. At the time, you must understand: every bit counted!
I had just lost $1,000 a month and didn’t have room to breathe in my budget – I didn’t know how I’d feed my family.
I figured I’d need 20-50 websites to make up the deficit…but the money was slow in coming for AdSense. To make matters even more desperate, for the first two months on Elance I got nothing…
I was met with rejection, disappointment, and panic. I was paying Elance a membership fee to bid on jobs but I received no work for all my frenetic efforts, I had no idea what I was doing.
In the precious few hours I had left to myself, I looked at sleep as a luxury I couldn’t afford. I bid like crazy on Elance, lowering my price until I found a sweet spot – I needed work and I hit bottom.
It was desperation time.
My first gig was for a lawyer in L.A. for $8.33 / hour, transcribing her free ebook to build her email list. I worked until I was bleary eyed and it was unhealthy and unsafe – but my kids liked warmth in winter and dinner on the table, so I knew what I had to do.
We decided long ago my wife would stay at home with our 7 kids. That meant I had to figure something out, and quick.
I had no choice – I needed the street cred on Elance so I asked my client if she’d give me a positive review if I dropped my prices.
She agreed. The next 5 jobs were similar: working for a referral and chump change.
Without those referrals, I couldn’t get a gig – they were my golden ticket.
The money wasn’t “good” at first, but every little bit counted. Then I’d raise my prices slowly as the referrals came in.
I began refusing work and became choosy, only working for better wages.
Then something funny happened.
I watched the AdSense grow on my one website – and it took 96 days before I got that first precious $100 AdSense check. I thought I had won the lottery.
Freelancing was working, but it took all my time, I didn’t have time to build my 20-50 websites. Instead, I rushed my half-baked content out and slapped up a few skinny sites.
As I watched the AdSense total keep growing, it proved that the making money online dream was slowly chugging along and coming true – I just needed to find the throttle and let ‘er rip.
This had to work – I needed passive income to come in so I could do away with my active income (my job at the time, freelancing). Passive income was the road to freedom…but I needed more time.
Desperation and frustration drove me to work at a frenetic pace, and I channeled all my aggression into two very distinct, intermingled goals:
1) I had to prove to everyone watching, waiting for the next pathetic shoe to drop, that they were wrong about me. I began to feel trapped, backed into a corner and a brick wall in front of me.
With a family in tow, that’s a recipe for divorce, for drug abuse, alcoholism – all bad news. I had the tenacity to choose hard work and wild hours.
Everyone thought I was crazy. I worked like I was.
2) I wanted to put legs under my wife’s claim that she had a husband she could be proud of, I wanted to change that sad, forlorn look in her eye from desperation into a gleam of hope.
She was tired of worrying. I was just tired of it all, weary to the bone – but it wasn’t time to lay down. It was time to fight for our future, even in the worst economic turmoil we had seen.
Our kids weren’t sure what was “wrong” with me – I was gruff, distracted, determined…but I was in it for them.
They deserved a better life than the hand-me-down, beg-along life I’d given them. I was sick of it…
…Tired of the charity case claim to fame.
I didn’t want to work until I had arthritis into the long and lonely hours of the night as a security guard because retirement wasn’t an option. It had to stop.
“I’m a writer. I’ll re-write the script and my part in the play,” I told myself. “My wife’s going to be proud of what I’ve done, once the dust settles.”
That, more than AdSense and riches, more than vacations and more than luxury cars, is what drove me.
It still drives me.
I lost my job in July of 2010. It was an underhanded surprise.
Before that nefarious, calculated event – things were getting better.
I was paying down debt. I was working my nerves into Carpal Tunnel Syndrome after putting in overtime in the “family” business, getting a “solid” 4-6 hours of sleep on weeknights and burning the midnight oil on Elance…
The money was getting better as I was able to attract better clients…
But there was one problem: more time was being given to Elance than to my own websites and passive income network of websites. I only had 10 or so websites up – mostly with mediocre, original content and AdSense.
Still – it was working out until July 2nd, 2010, when I was told I had a week left. I had been replaced with someone more desperate, willing to put in the 14-16 hour days now that I was “only” doing 10-12.
In the meanwhile, I had played “good student” in my own personal college. I was dissecting my clients’ requests for my writing, and developing relationships online.
I’d ask so many questions I thought I’d pushed my luck and welcome a few times. Then I’d ask a few more.
My appetite for more information was voracious: I needed to learn how the big players were making their living…
I had worked nearly 3 years serving big names in Boise, Idaho – the big wigs who were making a killing online.
I have seen their homes. They’re castles.
These people hired guys like me to build their thriving websites, I just had to figure out why my websites weren’t raking in that kind of money.
I listened. I asked. I studied. I learned:
I began reading. I found Paula and Wanda. I found other internet marketers’ blogs. I began asking more questions, finding people I could trust – hard to do in this business, but not impossible.
My blue collar upbringing saw that I was son to a pair of bowlers – as in “Bruinswick, 10 pins and smoky bowling alleys,” not funny-looking hats.
As my dad would say to me at 6 years old, “It’s all about the follow-through, son. Always follow through.”
I didn’t have money for every ebook in town. I’ve only read two: the XFactor AdSense ebook and Amazonian Profit Plan – I didn’t need to buy every ebook out there to learn – and learning can become a habit in itself.
It’s pointless if it’s never followed through with action…
Once I learned something, I put it into practice – if I felt I had time. Then it dawned on me: I wasn’t taking action because I never made time for MY buisness.
Then I forced myself to work my own business.
It didn’t matter that I was swamped – it was either work for myself and make perpetual money, or work for others and get perpetual gigs.
I treated myself as if I was a client that had a real deadline. I committed just a few hours every week for research and writing.
If I wanted more money, I was stuck: I had to freelance more, right? That was born out of panic. It kept me back for a long time from breaking through…
My attitude tanked and wrists burned from the mad typing. Long hours grew longer, even though I was working for myself entirely with no “real job” to distract my efforts online.
My dilemma: freelancing provided the “right now” money, and my passive income wasn’t large enough to wait for.
It’s not like you get paid every week or two, most affiliate programs pay out every 30-60 days.
I let my fear control me – I kept thinking, “If I lose my clients, I lose the ability to provide…” But I wanted off the train to Nowhere.
I cared more about my clients’ quality when I’d write than my own websites – that was stupid.
I bought into the lie that “more is better: more sites, more pages, more writing…” when less is more.
I was stuck between chasing the AdSense many mini-sites method, or changing my entire approach and focusing on affiliate sales – my mistake was trying to do both.
I bought more domains. “Money’s in quantity, gotta have those Exact Match Domains before they disappear…” That’s a load of guano.
The truth was: I regularly made $400-$850 with one particular web page at the time, my first site. Then I “wised up” and began following the herd mentality of churning out dozens of sites…
But the math didn’t add up. I didn’t have time to develop such a massive empire of 200-500 websites – nor the resources to outsource: and I couldn’t fathom paying a writer when I AM ONE.
I was relieved when I devoured the Amazonian Profit Plan and read that quality counts, and you can make thousands from 10-20 webpages, even less.
See, my ears perked up at reading Paula and Wanda’s “How Much Did We Make in November” post – and I read it dozens of times.
My stupid mistake:
I was following a crowd and nobody was doing what Paula and Wanda were doing. I didn’t believe, down where it counts – so I didn’t act on it.
Then I read Dave of Making Money On The Internet Free, and learned that I wasn’t far off the mark – I just needed to do more of what worked:
I laid aside trying to build dozens of AdSense mini-sites altogether and began focusing on what was working: just 1 main website, selling affiliate products on Commission Junction and Amazon.
The revolution in my mind snapped into place: I was chasing the AdSense dream because I didn’t think I could do any better.
Besides: November 2010 was looming, and the summer had been dismal in terms of my online sales (my rankings weren’t stellar, the niche as a whole doesn’t do well in summer).
I had to act fast to get more content up, more reviews. Then I had to rank them in Google – but I knew how by then.
I just needed to make the time.
My big problems were: time, need for immediate money, and the emotional elephant that was sitting on my chest. It was hard to shake off the self-pity, and self-pity doesn’t pay the bills.
I was being eaten alive with the frustration of being fired and going down in ignominy, scratching along with 7 kids and the threads of a strained marriage with a beast of financial burden pressing on my back like the world on Atlas.
I would listen to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” track over and over again. I made a playlist of nothing but Eminem, he seemed to hit the nail on the head and kept reminding me what I was doing and why.
“Success was my only option…Failure’s not” more or less summarizes and sanitizes his lyrics that soon became my mantra.
My efforts finally paid off!
I had taken Paula and Wanda’s advice and I focused: one site.
A few quality products with a solid payout per sale.
Write a handful of well-researched, story-type reviews.
Get traffic to them.
For me, it meant backlinking my reviews until they ranked in the top 5 in Google or better. In my case, my reviews are at #1 in Google.
The sales rolled in then and now.
February of 2011 has been, thus far, my best month online ever – and I’m through worrying. I’m relaxed, I can breathe…and the old frustrated Eminem lyrics don’t tell my story anymore.
In February of 2011, I made just under $4,000 in passive income, counting my last Elance gig my total is over $4,000.
My wife looks at me with a glimmer of hope and a rested assurance that she’s going to be well taken care of…our kids had one hell of a Christmas…and my family business is now exactly that:
My family business.
How many websites? I have 13 developed. The majority of my income stems from 2 websites, my making money online site, The Average Genius, and another website in the health “niche.”
Yes, I’m an affiliate and this is ebook is a treatise on making money with Amazon – and I was asked not to hype or even really talk about the APP for this post, but it’s part of my story.
After reading it, I begged my wife to read it. She finally acquiesced once she saw the turning point in our income…
She now out-sells me in Amazon regularly, though I’m still selling primarily through Commission Junction with the same principles in the APP.
We earn 100% of our income in affiliate sales, in purely passive income.
Neither of us have to “work.”
She only writes product reviews when and if she wants to. With 7 kids, she’s busy enough. :)
With the investment of studying what works, learning SEO and reading successful internet marketers, to deconstructing my competition and analyzing top money earners’ strategies – I’ve put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
For 20 hours of work, I’ve made nearly $1,000 an hour – without any impressive university degree. In April I’ll get another $1,000+ bonus check for my sales in February.
When the chips were down, and sheer need and a stubborn hope were all I had to go on – feeding on the real stories of others’ success pulled me forward.
Seeing my wife and children and their needs pushed me beyond limits and made the goal worthwhile.
I was driven.
I had to see it was real. It wasn’t hype. Making just a little bit in passive income gave me a spark of hope.
Reading successful people make a 6-figure income just fanned the hope into an inferno.
Hope – not hype – changes lives.
Real, honest people who take time to answer questions are priceless, and they’re easy to find.
That’s what helped me most in 2010, and Paula and Wanda, and yes the Amazonian Profit Plan, are a definite building block in my foundation.
They are a real, visceral part of my success story.
I don’t freelance anymore except on projects I believe in – like guest posting here, to say this is the real deal.
This isn’t hype, it’s not just someone else’s dream.
Go ahead. Open your eyes. The money doesn’t disappear when you wake up.
UPDATE: Since writing this post, James has released his very own ebook all about SEO. If you are interested you can read more here – Duct Tape SEO.
Note from Paula and Wanda: We loved reading James’ story and feel very privileged to be able to share it with you. We hope it helps to give you the inspiration and motivation to keep going. If you would like to read more from James we highly recommend checking out his website at The Average Genius.
Yesterday I was having a think back to when we were really struggling to make a living online….and actually it wasn’t that long ago. And as I was thinking about it, I wondered why it took us so long to start making a decent income.
We had been working really hard on our websites on a daily basis for over two years but were nowhere near to making a living from it. In fact the only thing that kept us going was knowing in our minds and hearts that this would eventually work if we put in the hard yards.
As I thought about it, I realized that it wasn’t just one thing that finally did it for us – instead it was a series of actions that got us to where we are today. They are what I call ‘massive action’ tasks (you’ll know that phrase if you read or listen to Tony Robbins).
In other words, as we reached a stage where we could see that the amount of input wasn’t reaping the rewards, we changed our tactics and instead of continuing to do the same tasks everyday, we took massive action to take us to the next level. Now we are by no means experts at it, and really at the time we didn’t even equate what we did to taking massive action….we just arrived at the conclusion that we needed to do something extraordinary if we were going to make this work.
I love the saying – “If you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” This happens a lot with people trying to make money online. They continue to do the same things day after day and wonder why they aren’t getting the traffic levels they want or the income they are trying to achieve. If you really want to leap ahead of the rest, then you need to take massive action.
Here are just some of the things we have done in the past that have taken us to the next level in our internet business:
1. Added massive amounts of content – At the time, we had read about two guys online who were adding something like 20 posts a day. We knew 20 posts were just a little beyond our capacity so we decided on 8 posts a day for one of our product blogs. That meant we had to each write 4 blog posts each a day. I did all of mine over the weekend. I think Wanda staggered hers over the week. It gave us a lot of articles to write but we did it.
The effort paid off and the result was that it made a big difference in the amount of traffic to the blog and a huge difference in the amount of our affiliate sales.
We didn’t end up doing it forever – from memory I think it was a couple of months and then we started to reduce the number of articles steadily over a period of time. The funny thing was that the traffic didn’t decrease – it stayed at a steady level and continues to increase as we add content at a more manageable pace.
2. Changed the Quality of Our Content – We have a lot of blogs and a lot of content, but I can say with all honesty that a good proportion of our blogs have a lot of rather inferior quality content. This is because at the time we weren’t really thinking about our readers but more about making a dollar. When we changed our focus to providing more value to our readers, we noticed a huge difference in our income levels….and I mean huge. This was a major turning point for us. You can read a little about how we write our product reviews here.
3. Concentrated on Less – What do I mean by this? Well we focused on only one or two websites instead of 20. This made a big big big difference….I know that’s a lot of ‘bigs’ but I need to emphasise the importance of this one. When we were working on all our blogs, we were really spreading ourselves too thin. It just wasn’t effective for us. The trick is to focus on one thing until it starts making you money, then and only then do you move onto the next thing.
4. A Change in Thinking – I think this one was a key ingredient for us. We needed to change our attitude to things particularly in relation to making money online. I remember us having a discussion about why we weren’t making the income we wanted and we came to the conclusion that the only people who make money online are those that tell other people how to make money online.
Well we know that’s not the case now but that was our thinking back then. After all we were working ourselves to a frazzle and getting nowhere, so that must be the reason. We all know this is a fallacy and product sites work extremely well, thank you very much.
5. More Time for Ourselves – It was at this point that we also started to work on ourselves a bit more rather than just the business. This meant that we started to take time out to exercise and to spend part of our day listening to self improvement cds like that provided by Tony Robbins. Funnily enough, the more time we took for ourselves, the more productive we were in our internet business.
Don’t let anyone tell you that making money online is quick and easy. For the majority of us it’s a hard slog. But there is plenty of opportunity for everyone and that is why we want to share our story with you in the hope it will encourage you when it seems that things won’t ever improve, just hang in there it will get better.
Just remember to:
…and really believe that you can do – because you know what – You Can!
Tonight I read a forum post by an internet marketer who found that although he was making money online and was successful at it, he found it all incredibly lonely. He was so lonely that he was asking for suggestions from readers as to how he could get around this problem.
What the…?! was my initial response but as I sat and thought about it I realised that in fact, working from home can be very isolating for many. As the ‘Lonely Affiliate’ said, the ‘grass is always greener on the other side’. In other words, those lucky people working a 9 to 5 job have got it all when it comes to social interaction – they get to communicate all day long with other people…they get feedback and hopefully lots of recognition for the good work they’re doing. They get to chat about the latest fashions, which celebrity has just died and gossip to their hearts content about the latest office relationship.
If you work from home, you don’t get any of that. The feedback especially is non-existent and you are often left wondering if you are doing the right thing for the most part.
For this reason, working from home is not for everyone. If you don’t like being on your own, and I know lots of people like that, then you might have trouble adjusting to this sort of lifestyle. I personally like being on my own…not all the time of course, but when I am I relish it.
I don’t feel isolated…I kind of figure that I have millions of people right inside my computer if I want to interact with any of them. And as for face to face contact?…well there are plenty of options open to me if I choose to take them and the same applies to the ‘Lonely Affiliate’. How about taking up a hobby, or joining a gym, or getting involved with your local community centre or joining a club. The possibilities are endless.
I know that I will never get bored or lonely working from home – there is so much more to life than that…but what about you…are you a ‘Lonely Affiliate’?
By James Martell
You Can Gain and Maintain “Top 10 Rankings” at Google with a Proven Systematic Approach to ‘Inbound Link’ Development
FREE “SEO for NON-TECHIES” MP3 Mini-Course Offers A Systematic Approach to Developing Inbound Links
That’s because the search engines of today, especially Google, have evolved and simply using old search engine optimization strategies is like banging your head against the wall.
Worry not. There is some good news here. In fact, it’s easier than ever today to achieve a top 10 ranking at the search engines. You simply have to know what to do and how to go about it.
You see, the key to search engine success is to utilize a systematic effort to develop inbound links to your website and then make it an ongoing part of your business.
The search engines determine where pages on your site reside by analyzing the backlinks, also known as inbound links, to that page. These backlinks are absolutely critical if you want your site to obtain top 10 rankings, where it will be seen by a targeted, qualified audience that is already searching for your information and your products.
And, contrary to popular belief among webmasters, keyword density is not the way to climb the search engine ladder. In fact, using too many keywords can get you into hot water with the search engines and cause your site to be pushed down the search engine ladder and not up!
This point is worth repeating: It’s a false assumption that keyword density is the catalyst for higher search engine rankings.
The truth is that search engines now look very little at the keywords on your page when determining where a page ranks, but instead place much more weight on the other pages where links to your site reside.
This means that the inbound links to your website are constantly being analyzed by Google and the other search engines and if they are on pages of little or no value, the search engines simply don’t give your site “credit” for these links; hence, they are practically useless.
Of course, if you’re like most webmasters, this comes as a complete surprise. Or, if this is something you understand, you may be unsure about how to get quality inbound links and find yourself scratching your head in utter dismay.
In a nutshell, it’s like this: every other site that links to you is like a favourable vote or nod of approval to the search engines, attesting to your site’s credibility and overall trustworthiness. This explains why, for a page to be considered valuable (and be ranked high) by Google or the other search engines, it must first prove itself by having other high-ranking sites link to it.
These links are just “votes” in your sites favor.
Putting this to Work For You: 5 Things You Must Know
To get more traffic to your website and achieve the top 10 rankings every Webmaster is looking for, your site’s pages must:
content that is well-researched, well-written and provides valuable
information to the visitor;
Lead off with a
strong headline that piques your site visitor’s interest (and includes
keywords you want that page to rank for);
keyword-rich title tags (once in your browser, look in the top left corner
of your screen to see the title tag, which should include the keyword you
want the page to rank for each page);
accurate, detailed 25-30-word META descriptions that explain exactly what
the page is about; and
You can easily achieve all five of these, and develop your own successful inbound link building campaign one of two ways by simply following the directions outlined a my new “SEO for Non-Techies” mp3 mini-course which is available free of charge.
Delivered directly to your inbox every day for six days, allowing you to listen to it on-the-go, while on your commute to and from the office, while you workout at the gym or even as you relax at your home desktop, this informative free course was created for webmasters with little time and little technical skills.
As other Webmasters have found, you can expect SEO for Non-Techies audio course to really cut through the clutter and the hype associated with search engine optimization and provide you with a proven step-by-step strategy that, when implemented, can be counted on to help your website achieve top 10 rankings from the search engines.
The mp3 mini-course really simplifies the steps of ON-page and OFF-page optimization, and shows exactly how you can gather trusted backlinks to your website, saving you immeasurable amounts of time, money, and frustration.
“Do It Yourself SEO” for NON-TECHIES mp3 mini-course is the perfect solution for the webmaster who is comfortable learning from audio instruction and, while most webmasters find this teaching solution to be enough, those webmasters who prefer a more interactive, classroom-style approach turn to the online Backlinks Workshop for a more interactive, more hands-on approach.
The Backlinks Workshop allows webmasters to work with me directly live and in-person via my engaging, full-color, media-rich online conference room to better understand my proven PAD technique, search engine optimization and more.
For more information, and to download your copy of the “SEO for NON-TECHIES” mp3 mini-course for FREE, visit:
About the Author
James Martell is a successful publisher, natural search expert and the author of the best-selling Affiliate Marketers Handbook. James lives with his wife Arlene and four children in a beautiful little seaside community called White Rock, a suburb of Vancouver, BC, Canada. James has been earning his living online ever since he was introduced to the world of online publishing by a good friend back in the summer of 1999. James enjoys the freedom of working from his home and setting his own schedule and can usually be found most days at his local coffee house down on the beach in White Rock working on his laptop or out cruising in his 1965 Shelby Cobra S/C replica.