I thought I'd do a warts and all recap of my journey so far with this website and share some of the mistakes and successes I have experienced as a newbie to the business of online marketing.
My hope is this will help you not make the same mistakes I have made thus far, and also to give you an honest insight into the process of building an online business empire that can provide the lifestyle you desire.
So what can you really expect? What is it really like to be an online entrepreneur when your just starting out?
Read on to find out what I have learned so far about making money online through affiliate marketing.
You need to learn fast
I have to confess I have built websites before on the Wix and Weebly platforms. These sites were for volunteer organisations I have been involved in - my local equestrian club, our local business & tourism association. The only business site I have ever built was for my own small boarding kennel business.
Building an affiliate marketing website to make a substantial income is a whole nother kettle of fish.
The sites I had built before I started this journey were simply to refer people who were already interested in what we did to somewhere for all the information. It wasn't important that they rank well on a Google search! Which was just as well because with my lack of knowledge none of those site would ever have appeared on the first page of Google, Bing or Yahoo.
They never would have because I simply didn't know what I didn't know! I knew nothing about search engine optimisation, alt text, meta titles and descriptions, choosing a niche market, the use of keywords and how to find them .... the list just goes on.
I quickly realised that there is a steep learning curve on how to build a functioning, modern, SEO friendly affiliate marketing site. I say steep because I wanted to really get motoring on this,
I wanted to learn it all now and get my site up and running in as little time as possible to speed up the process of earning.
And that can be done, but you need to be diligent in your studies so you are not doing the wrong things, which you will then need to go back and undo, or worse you won't even realise are wrong and it can prevent your site from becoming profitable.
You can find all the information you need to learn on the internet BUT how will you even know what to look for?
I have mentioned a few basic areas in the paragraph above that you would need to research and learn to make your business a winner, but there is so much more you need to know.
I realise that I have even now only grasped the basics, and that there is still so much to learn. It is quite exciting to learn a new skill and then put it into practice on your site to make it just that little bit better, maybe just a little more profitable.
I strongly recommend you find a platform that can teach you step by step the process of building an online business from start to finish. There are plenty out there.
If you are not building out your website the correct way you are leaving money on the table. It takes as long to write a blog that's not going to rank and it does to write one that will. I found by initially spending half my time learning and the other half putting into practice the lessons on my site that I came ahead in leaps and bounds.
So far I have really enjoyed the learning process and without great teachers and mentors I am sure I would have given up by now.
Find a great learning environment so you don't waste your time building a site which will never make money. If you are interested in the platform I am using you can check out my Ultimate How To Affiliate Marketing Guide which has all the details. There are other training platforms but I have found most of them are expensive and honestly just not as good as this one.
If you are going to try to learn on your own start with the master of SEO Brian Dean at Backlinko.
Find out the costs up front
Yes it will cost you to build an online business, but it doesn't need to be expensive.
I was quite naive when I started and I was just lucky that I came across Wealthy Affiliate before I fell into the hands of a scammer. I was desperate to start an online business and looking back now I realise I was an easy target that's for sure.
I have learnt a bit since then and hopefully the following tips can save you some heart ache and help you keep your budget intact.
Don't fall for platforms that say you can do it all for free. They are a business also and any reputable company will offer a service you are happy to pay for and they will tell you this upfront.
If something seems to good to be true it usually is. Cheap or free hosting is usually slow, offers no tech support and isn't mobile friendly. Your viewers will be turned off by this and will leave your site quickly - not what you want if you expect them to buy something.
If you are serious you need your site to load fast, to be mobile friendly and to be running 100% of the time. If your site is down due to some technical issue you will not be making money.
I was lucky enough to find a great platform that was upfront about the hosting costs, domain name purchasing and the membership costs to access all the teaching. There are plenty of shonky companies out there so do your homework before you leap in.
I pay less than $1 per day to have all my websites with a solid, reliable company who offer 24/7 technical support and all the training I need. Pretty cheap to build a business empire that will see me retiring from my day job!
Ask the hard questions up front so you know what the REAL costs are going to be. Make sure who ever you choose to host your site does not have any up-sells. This is where they get you in on the cheap and then once you have started, and put in all the blood, sweat and tears to get your site up and running, they then hit you up to spend thousands to be able to continue with it!
You need to know what all the costs are going to be right from the word go so you can budget to start your business.
You also need to be sure the website is yours. It is your business, you will be putting in the time and effort to grow it, and if you choose to leave that particular host you need to be sure you can take your website with you.
Don't leap in, do your homework on what ever platform you are considering. Send them an email asking about possible up-sells and moving your site if you choose to at a later date.
If the company is not easily accessible I would leave it also. To me this is a red flag, you need to be able to easily communicate with the company your in business with and get straight answers.
You have how many websites!
All my training said to just work on one website to start off with. To spend all my efforts on building out the one site until it is considered an authority site, and starts to make the sort of money I need.
One of the reasons for this is the sheer amount of blogs you need to produce to get your site to be considered an authority and also to keep it feeling fresh with new content.
If like me you are still working a full-time job you may struggle to find the time to write as often as you would like. When you add a second (or in my case even a third website) you are severely hampering your efforts to keep the blogs rolling for each site.
I have written over 90 blogs to date, but instead of this being 90 blogs on my one niche site which would have given it a real boost in authority, the 90 blogs are spread over three websites! Meaning none of the three have enough but they all have a start.
You can roll the dice and start a second or third website, but understand that you will be slowing your progress in the short term, perhaps for some bigger long term gain. If you want to see results fast to prove to yourself that affiliate marketing works, stick with one website.
The other factor when writing blogs is that it is important for your site to have new content regularly. If that means it's only once a week that's fine but try to make sure it is every week consistently. Not two this week and then nothing for three weeks. Keep your content fresh and new so your readers have some reason to come back.
The search engines also want to see new content, it affirms to them that your site is not a one hit wonder, and they will be more likely to rank you higher because they can see regular, relevant content.
I started my second website, this one ironically, because I felt I had something to offer those new to affiliate marketing. I wanted to produce blogs that were more personal, that provided the information I wanted to know when I first started out, and would give me a platform to develop my brand as a woman entrepreneur.
I was, and am very excited about the future of this site, and I enjoy writing for it immensely. But what that has meant is that my niche site is currently taking a backseat while I spend most of my time work on this site.
Not to matter, it just means double (or triple) the workload to get all three sites firing on all cylinders and making me the money I need to give up my day job. I am still confident that the first two will be more than enough to achieve that and that when both of them start firing I will be making twice the income, so it will be worth it in the end.
Stick to the one website until you have 100 blogs or your blogs are ranking on page 1 more often than not.
Don't underestimate the time it takes
My plan is to build my affiliate marketing empire until it pays enough to cover my full-time wage and then I will leave my job. I thought I was being realistic when I set myself 15 months to achieve this. I am finding that working full-time is putting a serious dent in the time I have to work on my online businesses.
If I could give up work tomorrow and spend all my time working on my websites I know they would produce the sort of income I want sooner. But like most of us, I have bills to pay and commitments, so this is not possible.
You need to consider how much time you have, or can make, to work on building your business. Affiliate marketing will provide you with passive income, but only after you get your sites to a point where they are getting plenty of traffic and making good regular sales.
This takes time.
Don't be sucked in by scammers that promise you large amounts of cash immediately and with little to no effort on your part. I just want you to be realistic and understand that if you make the effort now you will have a solid, reliable business that will make money while you sleep, when you go on holidays, when you need some extra time with your family - and if you do it right it will keep making money for you indefinitely.
Take my word for it, there are plenty of people making huge sums of money from one website. They are doing it and you can too.
Check out Doug Cunnington's video below to see just what can be achieved if you put in the time and effort and you know what your doing. Fantastic case study on how to grow a niche website from $100 to $15,000 per month in 12 months.
Be realistic about the time you have to spend building your business and set goals that motivate you. Write down your existing time commitments eg. job: 9 hours per day, family: 3 hours per day, volunteering: 1 hour per day, sleep: 8 hours per day TOTAL = 21 hours, that leaves you 3 hours free every day to work on your website.
You might sneak an hour or two out of your sleep time, that takes you up to 5 hours everyday to work on your business. You will be amazed at just how much you get done in 5 hours if you spend your time productively.
If you want to change your life badly enough you will find the time, otherwise you will simply find excuses.
Give yourself some credit
Affiliate marketing is for everyone. You don't need to be a techy whiz kid, I certainly am not, and you don't need to have a university degree in any particular field to be able to blog. Life experiences are what is valued in the blogging world.
Your readers want to feel connected to you, they want to trust you and know that you are being authentic with them. If you can do that you are on a winner and your business will not only shine but be profitable.
In my experience it is ordinary people who are making a living and more from blogging across all sort of topics. Any topic you can think of, and are passionate about, is a good topic for an affiliate marketing website.
I know people who are making money blogging about all sorts of topics. Probably the most obscure one I can think of is a site teaching people how to write a lesbian sci-fi novel.
They are making money and you can too.
Don't underestimate your talents or your ability to learn. My colleagues range from 17 year old students to 70 year old grandmas. They each have their own particular skills and areas of expertise. They are all new to affiliate marketing and are learning as they build their businesses, and yes they are making money.
We each have our own take on life, we are shaped by our experiences and you can bring your own authentic self to your blog. This is what makes your business different to anybody elses and what will set you apart from the crowd.
You don't need to be or do anything different, you already have what it takes to be successful in online marketing.
Just start! If you are serious about changing your income and your working life honestly do yourself a favour and get moving on your dream. You won't know if this is for you until you give it a try.
You can join me for free as a Starter Member. All you need is an email address, you don't put in your credit card, there is no risk and no obligation to stay.
You start building your site immediately, you can try out the training on offer, and you can make an informed decision as to whether online marketing is going to work for you.
If after a week you don't think it is then simply log off and find another way to increase your income. But if it is for you, then you have made a solid start to building your business and changing your life.
Check out my Guide below for an in depth review of what affiliate marketing is, and isn't, plus links to the platform I use and recommend.
My final thoughts
I absolutely love being the master of my destiny and building my online business. I love being able to help people, sharing my experiences and voice my opinions. My websites are my creations, I drive them and I am solely responsible for building them into a profitable empire.
I finally consider myself to be an entrepreneur and I am loving it.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I know I am on track to becoming my own boss real soon.
You do need to have some faith in the process because you may build out your site for 3 - 6 months without seeing any return on your time and you need to be OK with that so you can press on.
You need to have enough motivation and drive to keep your eye on the big picture and understand that your time will come, but if you quit you will never receive the rewards of your efforts.
Also you do need to be committed to building your business, and spend time working to grow your site and your education. No one else can do it for you, you need to step up to the plate, commit yourself to making this work, allocate the time and put in some effort.
It won't happen by magic.
I don't find it a chore, I enjoy writing the blogs for all my sites and sharing my thoughts and experiences with my readers. I never have enough time to do everything I want to do, and I look forward to working on my business every day.
Affiliate marketing is for everyone and anyone can make a career out of it.
I'd love to help answer any of your questions that might have come up as you read this blog. Pop them in the comment box below and we can have a chat.
Heidi, thank you for your post. It was so down-to-earth and realistic, I think, going into detail about the pitfalls and the pluses of online marketing.
Like you, I’ve got a day-job that does take up a lot of my attention so my build-out has been slow. Still, I have been steadily learning and I find I’m proud of what I have accomplished so far.
I do think you’re right — one website at a time is probably best when your time is limited. Putting all of your eggs in one basket means you get a nice collection of eggs….
Great analogy Netta I am of the opinion now that one website with great quality eggs is much better than slaving away at two or three.
As a newbie you also get to see the results you crave faster and it proves to you that affiliate marketing does work and that you just need to rinse and repeat to scale your website and start making even more money.
There will come a time I’m sure when you want to add a second and even third but as you say when time is limited it is more beneficial to work on the one and make it the best dang website ever. I have colleagues who still only have one website and are making a lot more out of it than just a full-time wage so it’s not like you need any more than one to be successful.
Best wishes to you on your journey.
I really like the way how you rephrase about the truth about affiliate marketing and online businesses. Not much people actually realise that building a profitable affiliate marketing site (online business) is just as hard as am offline business / brick and mortar business.
There’s a lot of hard work and effort we’ve got to “inject” in it initially. And we’re not gonna get rewarded for months and sometimes more than a year. I’ve heard so many stories and witness so many failures in offline / brick and mortar business. Most of the time is due to unrealistic expectations when a person starts a business.
They’ll often think that they’ve “magically” nailed it during the inception of the company(business) and without knowing that they’ve either failed to managed their initial capital / can’t get through the break even point for the business to start gaining traction and even profit from it.
Affiliate marketing and other equivalent online business model is really a “gift” for ordinary people who wanna achieve in unordinary amount of recurring income and even passive income when there’s proper training, guidance, mentoring and doing all the stuff “correctly”.
Given the small amount of capital that we’re putting into our websites as a “business cost”, the financial risk are really not that high. What we’re risking the most is really our time and our perseverance, determination towards succeeding. Success doesn’t come easy and our effort and hard work Will only be paid off once we’ve overcome all the hurdles I’ve mentioned.
Thanks for the brilliant post!
Hi Chris and thanks for your brilliant comment.
Most definitely compared to a bricks and mortar business affiliate marketing requires a very small capital outlay. I can’t believe that some people are still of the opinion that paying less than a $1 a day to create a long-term passive income business is to high a price to pay!
I certainly consider my online empire as a gift, it is a business all my own, which I run and have control of how much effort and how much reward I receive. I call the shots and it is very satisfying to be the master of my destiny.
This is something I could not hope to achieve in the offline world.
Thanks again and here’s to your ongoing success with your business.
I can totally relate. When I first started I knew next to nothing about affiliate marketing but now my site has evolved into sharing what I’ve learned so far, my failures and successes. But there’s still so much to learn! So, I continue on my journey and continue to build my site. If anything, I can truly say I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve put in too many hours to give up. Through it all, the first lessons I’ve learned is to apply consistency and determination.
Don’t you just love the learning Annette? It’s a fast paced and ever changing world we live in and keeping up to date with the changes can be tough if you don’t have a good support platform. I have thoroughly enjoyed my training I think mostly because you can put it into action straight away on your site and make progress.
As they say in the biz “it’s a marathon not a sprint”. Building out your site the right way takes a little longer to see results but it will be more robust and stand the test of time well into the future when we build it on solid foundations.
Thanks for your comment and best wishes in everything you do.
Awesome update! And I like the points you make. It seems like so many sites online are talking about how easy it’s going to be, only 20 minutes a day, you can work from the beach with the millions you’ll be making, and so few people take the time to be honest and say yeah, there’s a learning curve here. And it takes work.
Curious if you’ve ever read Robert Kiyosaki? The name of your website intrigues me.
I have not read Robert Kiyosaki, I am a little embarrassed to say I had to go and look him up on Google after reading your comment. But I had of course heard of the Rich Dad books I just never knew the authors name 🙂
I found a great quote of his while reading though I thought I’d share:
“If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.“
How true is that? And why I am training through WA. Why reinvent the wheel when it’s all laid out before you? No scams, no lies, all we need to do is follow the path that has been well trodden before us.
Thanks for your comment.
I started my affiliate marketing journey googling around and learning from the bits and pieces of information that I can get everywhere. In the end I came to realise that it is so hard to piece those information together because they just get you more confused than ever. It really pays to get a proper course that can guide you step-by-step by feeding you the right information that you can digest at that point of time. Wish I have found WA back then!
Hi Grace oh yes I feel very lucky to have found WA at the start of my online business building. You hear so many horror stories about people being scammed or putting in all the effort but with the wrong information and therefore never getting anywhere.
Affiliate marketing won’t make you wealthy overnight but for those who are prepared to put in the effort and build their business right there is definitely money to be made.
Some of my colleagues who have been in the industry for only a few short years are making vast sums of money now through their sites. If you are interested you can check out Jerry’s recent results with the Black Friday sales, it’s pretty inspirational, he made more than $7000 in one week!
Wishing you every success Grace on your affiliate journey.