I’m not going to lie; I really wanted to make good money online. I was going to add “through whatever means necessary”, but obviously that’s proven not to be quite true. I also realize that I’ve limited my online potential in many ways, mainly because I’m not ready for the consequences of taking certain actions.
Often when one thinks about how big they want to be online, most believe they want to make millions. That’s a laudable goal, but the truth is that most of us are set up to make a few hundred if we’re lucky; I was there for a short period of my life but those days are long gone. Continue reading →
I’m going to tell a truth up front; I want to make money off my blogging efforts. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make money, especially if you put a lot of time into it. I may not be blogging 24/7/365 because, after all, I do have a life and responsibilities, but I put enough time into it that it wouldn’t be depressing if I started making money off it (by the way, did you ever notice that little blurb just underneath the commenting policy before you leave a comment? lol).
With that said, I decided long ago that the first thing I wanted to establish with anyone who ever visited any of my websites or blogs or even my videos is that I could be trusted, and that I had ethics that would preclude me from doing anything I didn’t believe in or that gave me the impression that I couldn’t trust the people who might want to work with me. To that end, let’s start with a video:
What Helps You Trust Others https://youtu.be/SIW8wPqCcNA
As you can see, I’m not overly trusting of a lot of people. Of course I trust most of you who comment here (okay, no I don’t lol), but in general I like to make people earn my trust, just as I work at getting people to trust me.
In the early days of this blog, I used to add a product at the end of every blog post. That’s when I used to be with Commission Junction and I was new to affiliate marketing. I was probably familiar with 50% of the items I shared, but I definitely wasn’t familiar with the rest of it.
I was trying to appeal to the people who were coming to the blog, which means that sometimes I had things like shoes, dresses and baby items… none of which I’d ever use. It took me a couple of years to realize that wasn’t the way to go and I stopped doing that, only posting things I actually used or knew about (which is why I link to a lot of books). I also never made any money from any of those things, and I didn’t deserve to (the only thing I ever made money off was that Mailwasher Pro ad over there on the left; I still use that and yeah, you should too. BTW, this isn’t an affiliate link, but a link to the original article I wrote about the product).
Don’t I look ethical?
Over the years I’ve come up with my own ethics as it pertains to affiliate marketing and accepting sponsored posts (which I don’t do on this blog or my main business blog). I used to apply these standards to guest posting on my finance blog when I accepted them and, because so many people didn’t follow through on their agreements, became one of the reasons I stopped accepting them. It was way too much time upfront and on the back end that it just wasn’t worth all the effort anymore.
A phrase I hear all the time these days is “side hustle”, which basically means finding ways to make money off your blog via ads and such. Many of these folk are doing it the right way, but I also know there are folks who are doing things that they really don’t believe in because, to them, it’s all about the money; money trumps everything.
Man… if y’all knew how much money I’ve let slip by me over the years because there were things I just wasn’t going to do you might want to slap me across the face and say “get real”. Hey, if it violates my own ethics or standards I couldn’t live with myself. This isn’t a religious thing either, since I’m a non-believer in anything like that. It’s just my belief that there are way too many people willing to do literally anything for money, and I refuse to be one of those people.
Anyway, that’s me. I’m not going to ask anyone if they believe in being ethical for money or if they’re being ethical in making money because I don’t want to put anyone on blast. Instead, I decided I’m going to share some of my positions regarding my ethics, or “rules” if you will, that help me determine what’s good and not good to do.
1. If you really don’t believe in a product or service, don’t write about it.
It’s rare that I’ve written about products on this blog other than when I’ve talked about books. I did write on that Mailwasher Pro item and since I’m still using it all these years later I think I’ve proven that I really believe in it. The last product review I wrote about was concerning the Fitbit Flex, and I was as detailed as I could be about how I use it.
My friend Pete sometimes writes product reviews on his main blog, but one of the best he ever wrote was when he talked about buying solar panels for his home and all the research he put into it before deciding on who to go with. Check out this post and notice the quality of the information he give about solar panels in general and why he selected the people he did. This is the kind of quality one can give you if they’ve actually used a product or service, and he’s not even making any money off it.
If you want people to trust you, your words will come across better if you’ve actually seen what you recommend personally, rather than many of the researched reviews about products that, if you’re actually paying attention to the articles, you realize folks have never used.
2. If you accept guest or sponsored posts, have a policy and make sure people read it before you work with them.
Some of you know I’m not big on guest posting, and I don’t accept it on any of my blogs unless I ask someone to write one based on their expertise. With that said, I do accept sponsored posts on 3 of my blogs (although only one actually gets requests), but I have one rule that I stick with.
That rule is… people need to use my name in the email. It might sound petty but I’ll tell you why I have it.
I learned that my finance blog is on a lot of lists of sites that accept guest posts. I learned about it 4 or 5 years ago. This meant that, though I have an advertising policy on that blog that most people aren’t even seeing it.
I know this because most of the email I get is something like this:
My name is XXXXXX and I recently found your blog and wanted to reach out on behalf of some of my clients.
Specifically, we are interested in guest posts and sponsored posts. Is this something you offer?
If so, could you please send over more information.
My gripe is that the advertising policy is right on the main page of the blog, with the link just under the About link. It’s nice and bold, very easy to spot. That I’m always asked about guest posting or sponsored posts and what it entails when everything is written in the policy is irksome.
Babies know ethics 🙂
The advertising policy also tells people to write to Mitch at the blog’s email address. I do that because it’s a test. See, I’m big on responding to comments (along with 29 other things as it regards blogging), and if I accept a comment on this blog I’m going to respond to it (because unfortunately we know that some comments won’t pass muster).
Thus, I expect anyone who wants to have a sponsored post on my blog to respond to any comments those articles get. A good test to see if people will pay attention to the rules is to see if they’ve even made an effort to see if there’s an advertising policy (or guest posting policy) on a site before reaching out to the person. If they don’t, it’s easy for me to tell. After all, the rules are in the policy; it’s not like I’ve made it hard to follow.
3. If you accept banner ads, at least check out the advertisers first.
I not only accept banner ads, but I’ll accept sponsored links on posts that are more than 6 months old. That comes with two caveats though. The first is that the link has to have something to do with the article. The second is that I get to check out all links before I approve them.
I check out all links and websites. There are topics I won’t accept, so if they have blogs I check those out as well just to make sure we’re on the same page. If I’m going to link to it I want to make sure it’s trustworthy because my name is going to be associated with it. We also know the Big G is always looking at everything we do online, and even though I won’t go out of my way to please them or any other search engine, it’s stupid to intentionally antagonize anyone right?
4. Have established policies or procedures that you want others to follow and that you yourself follow.
I shared my advertising policy for my finance blog above. I haven’t added it to either of the other blogs that I would accept advertising for because I’ve yet to be asked. I have comment policies on 4 of my blogs where they’re easily seen (if not always paid attention to) just above the comment area.
I also have a way to show people when I’m linking to an affiliate product (a light blue line under the link) and this year I’ve started adding a disclaimer at the end of any article that has a link in it (I used to put a note pretty much anywhere in the post). That’s actually requested by search engines, although I’m not sure how they’d know there was a notice or not.
5. Let people know whether or not you’re providing the service
You might be trying to make money by providing services instead of products. In that case, I’m going to assume that you’re including it in your articles when you write on certain subjects or in your About page.
However, I’ve also known people who say they’re providing services, then turn around and give it to someone else to do. If you have employees that’s fair, but if you’re giving it to someone you don’t know via Fiverr or some other service, that’s disingenuous and sneaky, especially if you’re not telling people that’s what you’re going to do.
I see that often with people who contract with someone to provide articles, then pass it off to someone else and pay them way less than what they’ll be getting. That’s when quality starts to fall, and you’re going to be the one who takes the blame and gets the criticism.
Your ethics don’t have to be my ethics when it comes to making money. All I’m suggesting is that you think about your ethics when you’re ready to start trying to make money online. In person people are pretty forgiving; online, not so much. Be honest and real; that’s all I’m asking for.
Back in November I tackled the subject of making money in a post titled Are Your Views On Money Holding You Back. I pretty much made it clear that I tend to believe most people hold themselves back because they see rich people, or at least people they view as doing very well, as untrustworthy, and even though they want money themselves they don’t want to be seen in the same light by others.
by 401K via Flickr
Lately there’s been a lot of bashing against people who write these “make money” blogs. Yes, a lot of it is warranted, but not because they’re writing about making money.
The bashing comes because most of the people writing about it aren’t making any money at all. Some of those people might be making some money, but they’re not making a sustainable living wage. If you’re making $20 a month by blogging, you’re certainly not an authority on it. If you’re even making $1,000 a month, that’s actually pretty good but it doesn’t make you an authority on it.
Some years back, one of the topics I used to write about all the time were the affiliate marketing programs I was testing; I tested a lot. With each program I tested, I wrote about it, what I saw, and if I’d made any money off it and how much. Late last summer I started a series on all the programs I’ve tried and talked about the kind of money, or lack thereof, that I made. You can see an example of my talking about these affiliate programs here. In my mind it was the most honest way to talk about these things. I mentioned Commission Junction in that post, saying I love how many things they have and how it offers lots of options for advertising, yet also admitting that I’ve not made a lot of money in, what is now, 4 years.
Making money is NOT evil; how you make it might be. Those that pursue income by lying or being sneaky are evil. Well, that might be a bit strong but go with me here. When I was first learning about selling items online I purchased a book from a site called Rich Jerk. The book was actually pretty good, and its follow up, which was a series of extra chapters, weren’t bad at all either. They have an interesting schtick that I didn’t mind of being rude to customers; I thought it was pretty funny.
Then one day they sent a special link to show us how we could make some easy money online. It took us to a video where this guy showed us a way to make money using Craigslist. What he did was find an image of a cute dog on Google, and used it in an ad on a squeeze page. Then he posted something on Craigslist about the need to give his dog away to someone because he was moving and couldn’t take his dog with him. Within hours he’d had around 25 people send him email asking about the dog. What he did was reply to every person, telling them he’d found someone for his dog, and then talked about the training he did on his dog and sent them a link to his sales site. And he actually ended up making 7 sales from it, since his squeeze page was for a dog training manual.
Some call that effective marketing; I call it smarmy. It’s that kind of thing that keeps the hairs on the back of my neck raised high, wondering if certain things are scams or not. And that’s a horrible way to go around the internet thinking, but it’s also the safest way.
Please, go out and make money. I want everyone to live the life they want to live, which I hope is a happy life. Just do it honestly; trust me, if you don’t, you will eventually get called out on it, and then where will you be?
Here we are at the end of this particular journey. Just so you know, there have been other programs I’ve been a part of that have either gone away or just aren’t worth mentioning for one reason or another. There could have been another 6 I might have talked about if I wanted to go in a different direction, but I don’t. Anyway, here’s the recap links first before we move on: part one, part two, part three, part four and part five.
Paul Myers’ Talkbiz News is a internet marketing newsletter I’ve been reading for years. I love reading it, and some of his articles have really made an impact on my thinking, including tone that’s a part of the image on this post. Two years ago he came up with an affiliate program to market both his newsletter and many products he’s created, and I signed up immediately.
To date I’ve made no money on it, but that’s probably more my problem than his. I’ve talked about the newsletter often enough, but not talked about his products all that much. He’s been around for a good while, though, and he’s not one of those guys that just pounds you with newsletters if he doesn’t have something to say.
Being In Heaven is a motivational movie that talks about the Laws of Attraction in kind of a different way. I actually wrote a review about it earlier this year. Obviously I signed up for the program before buying the movie since it hadn’t been released yet, but I received one of the earliest copies. I’ve sold 2 movies through their affiliate program, one of those purchases being mine (that’s one of the beauties of being with affiliate programs; you’re allowed to buy from yourself and thus make money while you’re spending money), as I was running their banner ad on a sidebar of this blog for awhile. The best thing about them is there’s no minimum for receiving your payment; if you make a sale, you get paid for it the next money, and it’s a 40% commission.
The final affiliate program to talk about isn’t quite an affiliate program, but since you can potentially make money from it I’m counting it. I wrote a post in April about making your blog available for Kindle. If you look to the right you’ll see my little advertisement for it. If people subscribe to your blog you earn money. I wondered whether anyone would subscribe to read a blog through their Kindle, since I don’t have one, but signed up this blog and my business blog anyway. And someone has subscribed to my business blog, last month it seems, and thus I made a whopping 30 cents. That’s not much, but I felt honored that someone would think enough about any of my blogs to pay to read them. I got the idea from Allan Douglas, so I thank him for it and hope he’s made money from it as well.
And there you are, all the affiliate programs I’ve tried, reviewed, and have now put in one place. I may turn this into a page since it actually ends up being a series so others can see them all at once, although they can just read this post and follow all the links that way. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and even if you haven’t, I bet you’d still have to say you haven’t seen anyone else write something like this. 🙂
Man, how long will this go on? Until I’m done, that’s how long. 🙂 So let’s recap quickly by giving you the links to previous posts on the subject: part one, part two, part three and part four. Onward and upward to part five.
Mailwasher is an actual program I use on my computer and one that I think is very powerful protection. Basically what it does is lets you view all your email while still sitting on the server. You can eliminate spam at that point or any other email you don’t want to download, then only download email you know is safe and what you want. Sure, every once in awhile timing will let one come through, but it’s really rare.
They have an affiliate program and so date I’ve been credited with 3 sales worth around $19, with one of those sales coming this week. If you follow the link you’ll see that the ads look kind of funny, but it was proof that if you write about something you like that you have the opportunity to make money from it, even if it’s not a ton of money. I have to say that I believe Mailwasher is one of my most valuable programs.
Pokerstars is the site where I was playing all my online poker, and of course that means they also had an affiliate program. I never really got to advertise this one all that much because, of course, online poker is illegal here in the states, and even when I signed up for it the sucker was illegal, though many people played on the site. Then the government started shutting things down for American players and that was pretty much that. I made no money off it, as I don’t think I have a lot of people visiting this blog that play poker, and basically, until the government relents and let’s people play online again, for money, I don’t think I’ll have enough people from other countries signing up through me.
SEO Book is a website that offers tools to help figure out how to make your website work better, gives some internet marketing training and other good stuff. I run one of their SEO programs through my browser, and back when I wanted to learn about affiliate marketing I purchased their ebook, which was pretty good. They offer an affiliate program for selling some of their products and they give you $20 to sign up. And for each sale you make you earn $50; that’s not bad.
Unfortunately, I’ve never made a sale, and I have to admit that I haven’t really pushed it all that much. I did have the book up on a sidebar for awhile, then they went through some changes and shut down the program for a short while and I removed it and never put it back. One of these days I need to get it back up somewhere because I believe in what I saw and it’s possible it can be used to help others and make some money along the way.
I’m stopping here as I only have 3 more to go, and that leaves me one more post, although it may end up being the shortest of the series.