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Is The Dream A Fraud?

Posted by on Mar 13, 2009

A couple of nights ago, I got myself hooked by “cleavage” pimping the Jeff Paul Internet Millions again, something I talked about before when I was talking about my scam meter.

Okay, I’m admitting the cleavage drew me in initially; after all, it was almost 3AM. However, once you get watching, if you’re one of us folks whose already been online for a little while, you recognize the “big lie.” After all, we might believe that one in a million is making $30,000 plus a month with their website; maybe even one in every 100,000. But this guy’s got people who are saying that they not only make that much a month, some of them were saying they’re making that much a week.

Though we’re in a tough economy, the truth of the matter is that as the internet really started to grow, many people saw it as the dream they were looking for. I mean,who wouldn’t want to work 4 hours a day and make millions? And the internet is replete with buyers; why wouldn’t they but from me, right?

I, at least, can truthfully say that my initial foray onto the internet wasn’t for riches. It was for business, and advertising, and I had high hopes that it would help me launch my business to greater heights. But I never considered trying to make money online, for real, until 2006, when I purchased my Services and Stuff site. That it’s been less than what one might term “fruitful giving” isn’t the point; the point is that I bought into the dream. But I wonder if the dream is fraudulent.

Well, let’s think about this one for a minute. Last month I made more than $100 for the first time. If I could continue doing that I’d be making more than $1,000 a year online. Yeah, it’s chump change, but it’s something. Could I call it passive? Some of it is now, but I do go back and perform maintenance. I have to change ads because some of the advertisers end their relationships. I may average 4 hours a week maintaining my sites, but spend more time writing my blog posts and other articles to help drive traffic to my sites and blogs so that I have the opportunity to make more money online. No, I’d have to say there’s nothing passive about it.

Are marketplace sites still valid? I ask that because a few days ago, I had a guy share one with me that his friend said wasn’t generating any funds at all, and the guy had pinned his hopes on it. The site has no page rank, and no Alexa rank. It wasn’t optimized at all. Yet, I wondered, even if it were optimized would it serve his purpose. Do we, the buying public, like sites that look like templates, which means they look pretty much like what everyone else is doing, or do we want to see at least an attempt at doing something different, something that looks like a person rather than like a corporation? In general, would a site like this make you more apt to buy than a site like this? By the way, this second one is my wife’s site, so I warn now before you say anything negative about it. 🙂 Or, are we used to sites that look like template sites, but aren’t, like Zappos?

Now, here’s a guy who had a dream and made it happen. Shoes, shoes, and more shoes. I’ve bought shoes from him, and still do, because no one sells my favorite shoe in town anymore. Tony Hsieh hit the dream; then again, he had money already, having sold another company to Microsoft for over $260 million, so he could afford to wait and see if the dream took off. Yet, it was still creative, and I don’t begrudge anyone for being creative and figuring out that next step.

But, once again, it wasn’t done only working 4 hours a day, and it’s certainly not only 4 hours a day now. To his credit, Tony works right in the same area as his employees; no fancy office, no separate cubicle, right there next to the people taking the phone calls.

So, this proves that it can be done. But it’s going to take more than Jeff Paul or any specialty templates. It’s going to take more than just popping up Adsense or Chitika or any of the other affiliate programs we have (I have lots; just look around). It’s going to take time, it’s going to take dedication, and it’s going to take some thought energy and equity. Are we up to the challenge?


Laptops at Buy.com!

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10 Comments »

John Dilbeck:

Good evening, Mitch.

Thanks for bringing up this topic.

I have to admit that I have mixed feelings.

I’ve been earning 100% of my income for the last several years from affiliate marketing, and I’m forever grateful that this allowed me to stay home full-time and care for my elderly Mom for over six years.

Now that she’s gone, I have to look at online marketing from a different perspective.

For most of us, even the ones I consider to be successful at this, we could probably earn substantially more from other pursuits than we can from affiliate marketing.

(But, on the other hand, there are real perquisites to working at home, and money isn’t everything.)

I still believe that online marketing is a necessary part of any advertising and marketing strategy and it is getting even more important for local brick and mortar businesses as more and more people move to the Internet looking for what they want to purchase.

Yet, I have to face the fact that affiliate marketing is much more competitive than it was a few years ago and many of our competitors are lying.

I have not found this to be passive income, for the most part.

It is true that I do earn money for work I did months or years ago. One good example of this is all the designs I uploaded to my CafePress shop. I still earn monthly commission checks for the sales I make there, but they decline if I’m not actively marketing them.

I earn nice checks from several affiliate marketing programs, but I still spend lots of hours every week planning and implementing my strategies for promoting them, and those strategies have to change periodically.

There are several programs that used to pay me hundreds of dollars per month that earn nothing now.

The big lie is that anyone can put up a site or blog and post a few ads and earn a full-time income with practically no work.

At least, that’s what I think of when I hear the term, “big lie,” when used in this context.

I’ve worked hard for years, and my income took a dramatic downturn in September 2008. It is slowly starting to climb back up, but I’m still earning about 40% or so of what I was earning last summer.

As you may remember, I’m in the process of refocusing my efforts and I’m dropping quite a few programs that I no longer want to promote. There are various reasons for dropping a program, but the two main ones are: 1. I no longer believe the company offers outstanding products and services, and 2. I’m not making enough in commissions to make it worth the effort.

Money isn’t everything to me. Even if the money is good, I’ll drop a company if I no longer believe in their product and their support.

I’m in the process of dropping several of the templated marketplace sites I used to promote. The trouble is, when you’ve been doing this as long as I have, it can take more time to delete promotions than it did to start them.

“Is the dream a fraud?”

In large part, it may be.

A dedicated and creative person can earn a living with online marketing, but I’m not as enamored with affiliate marketing as I once was.

I’m looking forward to seeing other comments on this topic.

Act on your dream!

JD

March 13th, 2009 | 7:21 PM
Mitch:

You know, John, you’d be the one guy we could get some answers from, since you’ve actually been there. You might be someone who can truthfully answer the question about “the dream”, but you actually did when you talked about the competition that’s out here now.

Truthfully, I don’t think it’s all that easy to market Clickbank products because you can’t get past going to someone else’s squeeze pages first. I don’t think Commission Junction is as easy as I’d thought it was going to be initially, even though they have lots of good stuff. I’m not sure most of the affiliate programs we put up are all that good either as far as making money. What I do believe is that, if you create the right type of site, and add a product or two here and there, that you could possibly make a little chunk of change.

I also believe that some of these super affiliate marketers are the only ones who can create a program of some kind and make thousands of dollars at launch time, and it’s mainly because they know each other and work with each other and take a piece from each other. For comparison, I wonder if I created a product, then it was marketed by you, Sire, Dennis and possibly Yan, if it would come close to making the low end of the money we see most of these big time affiliate marketers make. No, I’m not believing it, but maybe I’m wrong on that one.

Does it mean we give up? Nope. Does it mean most of us are doing it right? Probably not. But do I really believe in the dream? The jury is still out on that one, but I haven’t stopped so maybe I do. I’m just not sure.

March 13th, 2009 | 8:53 PM
Boyz II Men:

Your mention of the super affiliates is something I’ve thought about for a while now. I feel like they have their elite network which collaborates together to essentially “keep the money in the family.”

So all of those top sites can sneeze and they’ll make money because they’ll quickly get the endorsements of one another.

March 14th, 2009 | 8:07 AM
Mitch:

Exactly. But the other side of the equation is that they all didn’t start at the top, so it means we may still have a chance, if one of us ever gets that lucky break.

March 14th, 2009 | 3:12 PM
Boyz II Men:

Mitch, you really did a great job here of identifying the elephant in the room. This is an issue that I’ve been dealing with a lot and I think John did a great job of hitting most of the points on the head.

The biggest factors that he mentioned that I agree with is that it might be possible, but it’s hardly passive income. Working on the web is draining and while you might be able to let a site sit on its own and make money, it’s going to lose value quickly and your paychecks will shrink. The other great point John made is the fact that you can still make money online, but you’re likely going to be selling yourself a lot shorter than what you COULD be making if you didn’t work online.

It’s these two ideas that have really made me shy away some from the dream of an internet empire covered in gold. I’ve noticed over time that most ventures I make fail miserably, and the worst part is, I can’t see any difference between the ones I launch that are successful, and the ones that fail completely.

I do agree though that I think some of the affiliate site boasts are a lie, as there would be a lot more press on it if all these people were making millions of dollars a year.

March 14th, 2009 | 8:04 AM
Mitch:

Hi Matt,

First, I’d like to, possibly, clarify something John said. He didn’t say give up on the dream; he basically said it’s more of a job, like any other, and that a living could be made. For instance, I have a friend who has over 100 websites. Each one earns at least $30 a month, some way more. That means he makes at least $30,000 a year from his websites. However, I know he’s making closer to $75,000 a year from the web. And when you think about it, most of them he’s put up, then he may check them once every 3 months just to make sure the links work. Some he may work more often, but that’s about it. His cost then is around $900 a year for the domain names and, maybe $10 a month for hosting. That’s not a bad investment, but of course it took a lot of time to put them all together. Still, what that income does for him, and it’s pretty passive income now, is allow him to pick and choose offline projects and jobs that he wants to do, rather than has to do, and he does have a very nice career with another company that actually allows him to spend most of his time online. Now, it’s something I’m kind of keeping in the back of my mind as my medical billing site, which made me $70 last month in Adsense money, is already over $50 this month with more than half a month to go. Imagine if I could tap into something like that some more times, eh?

Having said that, your website now it pretty neat, and if you figure out how to optimize it better and get some paid advertising, which I believe it deserves, you could be on your way. Your site is way more interesting than anything Perez Hilton could have ever put together, I’ll tell you that. 😀

March 14th, 2009 | 3:11 PM
Boyz II Men:

Haha thanks for the compliments Mitch!

Your description of your friend is something I’ve been weighing the option of a lot. If you can get a large quantity of sites that all do a small amount of earnings monthly, it adds up. I feel like it’s easier to get a site to 30$ a month than 300$, and so, it might be better to just get ten sites to the smaller level. Still, it is heartening to hear of his success and hopefully, we’ll be able to one day reach that point.

March 14th, 2009 | 8:16 PM
Mitch:

That would be nice, but to tell you the truth, I’m not sure I want to be in the position to have to manage quite that many sites, if you know what I mean. I had a friend of mine ask me today what product I’d created on my own for my medical billing site, and of course I haven’t created one yet. Something I need to think about, that’s for sure.

March 14th, 2009 | 9:09 PM
Mitch:

I think that’s pretty unfair and harsh, Dennis. The reality is that most people don’t make a living at internet marketing, and of that “most” probably at lest half never make a dime. People get sold a bill of goods across the board, and sometimes it sounds really good, but the downsides aren’t as well known. I’ve written in the past about being in this large room of internet dreamers who ponied up $2,400 to “own” 10 websites and to also pay a high monthly fee for maintenance, all because they believed it was going to be their new career. I don’t think that’s moaning; I think it’s a warning to most people that it’s not really going to happen the way they expect it will.

As for your last point, I disagree with that one also, but not totally. Obviously each person’s level of success will be different, but I truly believe that not everyone gets all the information they really need to even have a fair shot at it. I’ve also talked about that here on this blog, on how one never really knows who to trust, whose books or program to purchase, etc. The “dream” itself has nothing to do with whether people wake up or not; I don’t want anyone to ever give up on a dream like that. But there’s a dose of reality that many people don’t get until they’ve spent a lot of money on the wrong thing; I’m hoping to help people see that they have to be ready for down times, and a steep learning curve. That goes for me as well.

March 14th, 2009 | 5:11 PM
Mitch:

True Dennis, a little common sense does go a long way. But so many people see this thing about making money on the internet, and they just don’t know. And it sounds really good. This seminar I went to (my wife wanted to go) had all these people who talked how they were making all this big time money monthly, and to some that sounds really good. Luckily, I knew better, but many of them just don’t, because they really don’t know that much about the internet to begin with, which is the really scary part.

And, of course, it’s easy for us to say they should know more, but look at what’s happened with the stock market, with people who supposedly “know”; not always so simple, unfortunately.

March 14th, 2009 | 9:07 PM