An Update From The Trenches, And How I Fund My lifestyle.

An Update From The Trenches, And How I Fund My lifestyle.

Work yo. Work. That’s the be all of everything for the foreseeable future. And that’s just fine. After a month of grinding work in Krakow, I’m doing exactly the same thing here in my perennial favourite Baltic city of Tallinn. I’ve always loved this place. In my opinion it’s home of the prettiest old town in Europe, some of the prettiest girls, as well as Skype, Transferwise, Taxify and a host of other tech start-ups punching well above the weight of a nation of 1.3 million people.  Inspiring stuff in the context of my life right now.

Too many people assume my life is little more than a cascading blur of fun, travel, 5-star hotels, partying and wizard spells for regenerating income. That’d be right sometimes. Take most of last year for instance. But I put in the goddamn work to make it happen. Only a handful of people are privy to that. At the end of the day, the reason not everyone in the world is living da vida location independent lifestyle is because:

  1. It aint easy.
  2. Few people actually want it enough.
  3. Risking failure scares the shit out of them.

Wallowing in the fantasy of what might be, so that they might handily avoid hard work and potential failure seems to be sufficient for most people. Fuck that shit.

In late 2012 I put a metaphorical gun to my head and said ‘Either you keep going at this affiliate marketing stuff until you make it work, or fucking kill yourself you pussy.

My business partner (and fellow affiliate in arms) mentioned that he’s still disgusted for wasting years at his old job. I said you should be glad you hated it so much – it’s the only way you get the leverage to find an alternative. I HATED my old job so much I still struggle to put it into words. And I’m damn glad I did. Or i’d still be there: Selling expense management software to businesses as a sales lackey from an office in North Ryde, Sydney. It was actually worse than it sounds.

Affiliate Marketing has served me well for 4 years, but it’s time for an evolution. While I’ve fully exploited every positive aspect of the affiliate lifestyle (location freedom, high earning power, no boss etc), I’ve also experienced the full force of its cons – which become increasingly obvious as one casts an eye to the long-term.

You can make big bucks in the Affiliate realm. But it’s big, fast, bucks. Slash and burn. And in the words of my friend, always a race to the bottom.

To break this down a little further, affiliate marketing is selling other people’s products or services online via commission. Often it’s as simple as providing a sales lead on some pre-determined metric – I.e. a zip code submission, a 1-minute phone call or a form application. The maths is little more than: Commissions, minus costs of advertising. There are no shortage of offers to promote either. I’ve generated masses of leads for legal networks, auto parts, Tech support, U-haul storage, Walmart, Aliexpress and many more.  At any one point you have hundreds of thousands of offers to choose from across a range of affiliate networks that could potentially be making you hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands or even more per day (I personally hit a high score of $17,000 in revenue for one day on June 7th, 2015). Granted most offers are garbage, but at any point you’re free to breezily drop one and start testing another.

In terms of promoting these offers, the internet’s your oyster. There’s Google, Facebook, Bing, pop-up ad networks, mobile display networks, in-app advertising, native ads, and the list goes on. But in order to crack real money, you need to master the technical nuances of one advertising platform while making infinite tests and testing infinite offers, until you find a winning combo. This takes fucking grit. Occasionally you might stumble upon a goldmine quickly, other times it takes an eternity.

So now that you have your winning offer, stacked up against you are a variety of other factors totally outside your control:

  1. Competition: Once other affiliates get an inkling to what’s selling hard and how – it won’t take long for your new-found fountain of fortune to get diluted down to dismal dishwater.
  2. Offer longevity: At any given time, with no warning, your amazing offer could be pulled by the owner. Just cos’.
  3. Regulation change: At any given time, Google, Facebook or whoever, could arbitrarily decide that your methods of promotion, legal today, are henceforth, not. Not only do your ads (and income) now cease to exist, but you’re often slapped with a lifetime ban from that platform. They’re too big to care how this affects you.
  4. Affiliate networks secretly shaving your leads to bolster their own profits. To what extent this happens, is anyone’s guess. But it 100% occurs.
  5. The Conversion difficulty increases with time. This is a real bastard and the definition of a race to the bottom. While many affiliates will engage in relatively clean ‘white-hat’ methods to producing high quality leads. Others find dirty hacks in the system that allow them to generate untold leads/commissions, but while providing incredibly low quality leads to the point of trash. As soon as the Offer owner clues into this, the offer gets tightened up so that creating leads for it becomes harder. Then someone finds a new hack in the system. And then the offer gets tightened up more. Soon enough, everyone is fucked. Including those who were playing by the rules.
  6. You just might not get paid! Back in early 2015 I generated $xx,xxx in commissions for the largest e-commerce site in India: Flipkart. I’m still trying to get these bastards to pay me (though I’m tantalising close to recouping some of it).

But wait, there’s more!

You’re but a faceless middle-man in the ether of the internet. You have no identity and no brand. Your skill sets are temporary. While it may take you several months to learn how to effectively promote a certain product or niche, rapid online regulation changes  mean that hard acquired sets of skills quickly become worthless and you’ll hence be required to up-skill again from scratch, with your income fully neutered until you do. Affiliate Marketing practises from five years ago are as archaic as banking methods from the Vanderbilt era.

Imagine if you spent a few years building up your plumbing business, only for plumbers to be made obsolete. So you re-skill as an electrician, spend some years building up your business, then  – Boom – Obsolete again. And so it goes on. Sounds absurd? It is. Every time I’ve had to repeat this process, it’s been more exhausting than the last.

Which is why it’s time for an evolution. I still want to be self-employed, earn good money, have the freedom to work from anywhere and travel frequently. But I also want long term security, a brand, the ability to leverage my skills over time, and to build a lasting business. Which is why we’re building an e-commerce business. And why most of the travel stories on here right now will be past-tense. And why it’s all about work yo, work.

Peace out from Tallinn.

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