20 Pieces of Advice For The New Affiliate Marketer

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For the last 5 years I have been a full-time affiliate marketer.

I’ve launched thousands of campaigns, designed hundreds of landing pages and written thousands of advertisements.

Overall, things have gone very well.

But it hasn’t all been perfect. I’ve crashed servers, sent traffic to the wrong urls, been banned from traffic sources and trusted the wrong people more than once.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. And I’ve learned from every one.

So for anyone interested in the online ad game, I’m going to share a little bit of what I’ve learned so far.

20

  1. Work hard. There is a story told by salesmen that online marketing is easy. This is false. You have to work very hard at it. In the beginning I rarely slept, my social life fell apart. Everyone said I was working too much. But they didn’t see what I saw – the huge opportunity. I was willing to sacrifice all of my time to accomplish the goal. And it worked. Remember, you’re working for yourself now so work hard without regret because when it pays off the payoff will be your own.
  2. Save your money. You are going to be funding your campaigns out of your pocket. So you’ll need cash. If you have a 9–5 job save every cent you make to invest in campaigns. Don’t buy dinners, don’t buy clothes, don’t buy anything. Invest it all on your first campaign. I saved every cent I made for a year before I went full time and used it to withstand thousands of dollars in losses on my first campaign. We all lose money at first, so be sure you save up a pile of cash big enough to play the game. Consider it your tuition.
  3. Exercise and eat right. You’re going to spend 8–20 hours a day sitting in front of your computer. This could go on for months or years. If you don’t implement some sort of nutrition and regular exercise routine you will get fat and your body will fall apart. My body turned to mush during my first year because all I did was sit in front of the computer and work. Luckily a friend introduced me to a personal trainer and he got me back into shape and taught me how to eat. Work out 2–3 times per week to keep your body from falling apart. Doing this will help you work better, feel better and think more clearly.
  4. Don’t trust everyone. Watch out for slime balls. Especially if you do well. If you make a bunch of money keep your mouth shut about it. It’s not your enemies you have to worry about. You know they hate you. It’s your friends you have watch out for. Jealousy can make your best friend hate you and try to take you down. It’s sad but true. Watch your back.
  5. Don’t work with small, shady affiliate networks. Over the years many affiliates have been ripped off by shady little affiliate networks that run out of people’s bedrooms. You will get emails from them and they’ll approach you at conferences. They will make promises. Don’t work with any of them. There are well-funded and well respected affiliate networks out there. Their reputations are gold. Work with them and only them. The smaller guys will try to entice you with promises and increased payouts. Beware.
  6. Focus on one campaign and one traffic source. There are a lot of traffic sources and offers. Don’t get distracted. Pick (1) one traffic source and (1) one offer and become a master at it. I started with one campaign on one traffic source and ran it by itself for the first 6–12 months. I dominated on that single campaign. Find a traffic source with huge volume potential and an offer that can handle it and focus all of your energy on it.
  7. Be original. You can make money by stealing landing pages and ads from other people. We all do it from time to time. But your biggest profits will come from your original ideas. If you steal, steal to learn and then innovate. If you really want make something happen, invent a new campaign style from scratch. The last time I did this I was able to run for several months before anyone caught on. Then hundreds of affiliates copied it and it was ruined. But it was a good run. Remember, there is no better way to get high ROI than to create an original idea.
  8. Play it like a game. If you’re a gamer, throw your gaming console in the trash and play affiliate marketing instead or just go to Armchair Empire and get a better one. My first year in affiliate marketing, maybe even the first 2 years I didn’t realize I was making money. Campaigns were a game and profits were points. When it finally hit me that the points were money I couldn’t believe it. I was just playing a game.
  9. Find a group of friends / Mastermind. Find 1 or more people you can talk with and share ideas on a regular basis. I spent my first 4 months in the business completely alone. Then I went to Affiliate Summit West in 2009 and met 3–4 guys. Each one of us had a different set of knowledge and we taught each other everything we knew. You will learn 10x faster that way. Find a few friends and share everything you know, there is plenty of opportunity for everyone.
    “No Two Minds Ever Come Together Without, Thereby, Creating A Third, Invisible, Intangible Force Which May Be Likened To A Third Mind.” – Think and Grow Rich a book I highly suggest you read.
  10. Go to conferences. This is how you network with the major industry players. If you have to choose, go to Affiliate Summit (don’t pay for or attend the actual conference, just network with people) or the A4D Meetup in San Diego (free). Ask your Skype friends and forum buddies to meet up with you. Force yourself to go to parties, introduce yourself and make a friend. All it takes is one. Having someone to bounce ideas off of will help you learn much faster.
  11. Meet your ad reps and affiliate managers in person. Want to be treated better by your ad reps and affiliate managers? Develop a real-world relationship with them and become friends. If a big opportunity comes up you’ll be their go-to guy, because you have a real relationship.
  12. Your introvert personality is a super power (tweet this). If you’re a socially awkward geek – that’s good. Someone who can spend weeks alone working has a major advantage over some douche-bag socialite that has to be out every night of the week. While they’re blowing cash on drinks, you’re launching campaigns and optimizing pages. Use your anti-social behavior to your advantage and crush your competition.
  13. Act Fast. If you see an opportunity – act fast. This industry changes quickly and an opportunity can appear and then disappear in a few weeks. For example: Years ago, Google Adwords loved affiliate marketers. Unlimited traffic, best in the world. Thank God I smashed it while I could because now Google hates affiliates and will ban your account immediately. Same with Facebook. If you see an opportunity – make it happen ASAP, or you could miss your shot.
  14. Take Breaks. I know I said to work your ass off before, but when I look back I see that I should have taken more breaks. I worked for a full 3 years without stopping and burned myself out completely. Looking back, a week off here and there would have been refreshing and allowed me to work better when I got home. If you make a nice chunk of change it’s ok to rest a bit. Just don’t be the guy that’s permanently on vacation or you could miss a lot of opportunities.
  15. Stay Humble. You can do very well in this business. And sometimes financial success can make you crazy, especially if you never had any real money before. You’ll see a lot of affiliates driving fancy cars, wearing Louis Vuitton and big diamond watches, they talk loudly at parties and brag about the money they’re pulling down. Those are the mid-level guys. They’re a dime a dozen. The real monsters, the guys you hear rumors about… they sit quietly at tables wearing flip flops and t-shirts. You won’t even know they’re there. Keep an eye out for them. That’s who you want to be.
  16. Take Risks. Some of your biggest rewards will come from taking the biggest risks. There are going to be times where you have to make a gut decision and hope to God it works.  You have to be smart – but if you’re willing to take risks where others are not, you can make big plays with no one else on the field.
  17. Choose Your Mentors Wisely. There are a thousand online marketing gurus on the market. 99.9% of them are full of shit. If someone says they can help you do something, make sure they’ve done it themselves. If they haven’t done it successfully themselves, there’s no way in hell they’re going to be able to teach someone else.
  18. If they zig, you zag. The herd mentality in affiliate marketing makes me ill. Copying can definitely make you money, but by the time you steal the landing page the guy that started the trend has already made a killing and is on to the next thing. There was a period when every affiliate was advertising the same offer to Men 25+ on Facebook. They were making a killing and driving CPC costs through the roof. I took the same offer, rewrote it for women and ran a campaign to Women 25+. There was no competition so click costs were next to nothing. I dominated that demographic all by myself. If everyone is doing the same thing you can do it too, but you can also do the exact opposite and make huge returns.
  19. Have fun. Don’t forget to have fun with all of this. If you get too focused on making or losing money you’re in trouble. Test crazy ideas, be as creative as possible. Throw a funny ad into your campaign to see what happens. If it works, you’re a genius. If it flops, who cares – it was good for a laugh. Seeing how people respond to the images and words in advertisements is a hilarious, psychological experiment. Have fun with it.

And the last thing I want to share before I go is this:

20. It’s not too late. Everyone thinks that if they’d just started X years ago it would have been so much easier. When I started 5 years ago I thought the same thing. “In 2003 there was no such thing as a Google quality score! I wish I’d been there for that!” Now people think 2008-2009 were the “Glory Days” and it’s too hard now. That’s B.S.

Don’t worry about the past – focus on what’s working now and do your best to take advantage of it. Because 5 years from now, someone new is going to think you had it made.

And they will be right.

Malan

  • Jared DiCarmine

    Awesome man, especially #12!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Thanks Jared – true. A lot of people think their introverted personality is a problem. In this industry it is a major benefit.

      I know certain people that cannot be alone. They constantly search for social interaction or entertainment. They would never be able to do what it takes to pull off a successful campaign.

  • lenstrom

    Timeless advice, dude!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks lenstron – and after reading this a few times I realized that 99% of these apply to any business, industry or goal. Just replace “affiliate marketing” with whatever you want to do.

      • lenstrom

        Agreed.

  • http://www.leanvertising.com/ Jason Brown

    Good stuff man.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks man, all true haha

  • xaini

    i am someone in flip flops and t-shirt with 7 digital month income..but your article won my heart..very well written

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      xaini, then you sound like my kind of guy

  • Zingali

    You just made some tasty wine by crushing those grapes of wisdom. Awesome.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks Zingali, my feet are purple with joy

  • Bob

    right now when people click through from your email list they see your post with a plug to sign up for your email list on top.

    Suggestion: I’ve heard that you can do well by switching the message depending on the referrer. Ie, already on list? Upsell.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks Bob i’ll check on that.

      • Bob

        And I meant to add, great post.

        Please keep going. & screw the trolls.

  • Lake

    Garbage writing. Half-hearted attempt at donning a veil of humility but the arrogance and circlejerk is seeping through every sentence. And of course people eat this shit up and just perpetuate the cycle of ego-driven blogging.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      +1 for use of the word “donning”

    • Pete

      -1 for the usage of “donning”.
      “Half-hearted attempt at concealed behind a thin veil of humility..” or “Half-hearted attempt hidden behind a thin veil of humility..” reads better IMHO.

      Ok copy. But, totally untrue about Malan, though!

      Keep up the good work, mate.

      • Pete

        * “Half-hearted attempt concealed behind a thin veil of humility..” [oops]

  • http://impulsandoideas.net/ Gastón

    Good advice, I have identified several points. Thank you!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Thanks Gaston. glad you can identify. see you out there – md

  • http://www.jguiss.com/ Julien

    Easy to say, hard to realize 🙂

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Not if you make it a priority 😉

  • Allan Throneberry

    Good stuff Malan! I have just started following your blog after all these years, and I can say you are a fountain of inspiration and knowledge.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Cool Allan, good to see ya

  • Petre Veluda

    Hey Malan. I have been following your blog for a while and here I am with my first comment. I heard about you from Charles NGO so we’ll probably meet on his blog as well.

    I heard all these before and I’m happy to find myself in a few of them. Hopefully I can improve those points, master them and also add more to my list.

    It is nice though to see 20 of the best advice out there in one blogpost so thanks for putting it all together. This is a great read for anyone starting out in anything, as you mentioned and also a boost of confidence for newbies.

    Keep it up!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks for finally commenting Petre, wasn’t that hard was it? haha great to meet you.

      the list is true, there are many more but it’s a pretty good primer. good luck on your journey.

      • Petre Veluda

        Nice to meet you too.

        Yeap, it’s true, the list can go on but for anyone venturing into freelance work, entrepreneurship, affiliate marketing, etc. I consider it mandatory to work daily with at least a few of the points mentioned above.

        Among others, right now I’m at number “6”. I have been from one traffic source to another but understood fast enough that I should stick with one.

        The thing you said about one campaign though sounds interesting. I was thinking to try it because there are so many angles you can take and the more you understand a demographic segment the more ideas you generate.. at least this is what I believe.

  • http://www.withjay.com/ Jay Palmer

    Remembering you are working for yourself is so important – I have to remind myself of that sometimes. No longer do days off = joy… Unless they are well deserved! The force is strong in this post

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Right working nights and weekends for yourself is much much different than if you’re on a salary and working like crazy for someone else.

  • http://www.fundyourdreamlife.com/ Simon Green

    I loved this. Thanks. You’ve got yourself a new subscriber. But I must say – it’s pretty tough to have the same work hours with a wife. I can only imagine what that would be like with kids one day…. Anyhow thanks and I’ll be back for more.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      hey Simon – yes the more things you have on your plate the harder it is to balance. but where there is a will… there is way.

  • Farouk

    Charles brought me here. There is a lot of fluff and B.S out there but you Mr have just got your self another subscriber 🙂 There is no better way to sum it up, every point hit home.
    Thanks Malan

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Great Farouk, glad to have you here.
      Malan

  • Daniel Nguyen

    Amazing post Malan. I got sent here via Charles Ngo. Are you currently also doing mobile marketing or focusing mainly on web?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Daniel – thank you. I am mainly on the web.

  • lukepeerfly

    Fantastic, again.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Thanks Luke, I’ve seen your site show up in my analytics. Not sure what you linked but thanks – md

  • http://drabdo.com/ Abdo Boussakka

    Thanks man, that’s inspiring 🙂

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks Abdo – hope it helps

  • Jay Kojo Blaq

    am in love with this…..wish i can have a personal chat with you on skype of facebook. what do you say to that?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      i get a lot of requests for this but haven’t figured out a way to do it yet without investing so all of my free time. maybe will setup something in the future.

  • Peter Szalay

    Just can’t stop reading it!And by the end I want more of it…!Thanks Malan

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      always more coming. 🙂

  • Ashraf Vania

    FANTASTIC post ….. as usual !!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks Ashraf, this one is about a year old, but it is all still 100% relevant.

  • Khoren

    Hi Malan great post as usual btw I have started reading 1/5 recommended books Daily Rituals,thanks.

  • Ken L

    Great stuff Malan. I’ve made a small checklist and added it to my notes for a regular reminder of the critical things.
    Re: #17 – I don’t recall reading if you ever had a mentor yourself, or did you have to manage entirely on your own?

    Thanks and TC.

  • Mac

    I have just noticed that the post itself was a year old. How lucky I have found your blog now, not in 5 years 😀 (from charlesngo)

    It does really look like a daily checklist for marketer, which I’m going to apply. Late, but thanks for posting!

  • Francisco

    Great blog, thank you Malan.
    I am not new to affiliate marketing (currently doing SEO), but I am to paid traffic.
    As I read this post I realized I have some money saved up, but not sure how much is necessary to start up and burn for the first campaigns. I know there are several campaign variables, and it’s hard to give an exact number
    What would you say is a reasonable sum of money to have prepared for a newbie? 5k? 10k?

    • Francisco

      Sorry for the question, I went thru other posts and Q&A sessions and I got the info.

  • York

    Man your a savage bro! Keep up the good work!

    -York

  • astr0

    Great post! Thanks a lot!

  • Kok

    Awesome thanks thanks!