Nov 22 2011

How to Make Money With Affiliate Posts Without Being Sleazy

Carlos Portocarrero

Sleazy guy taking money

Freelance writers are always looking to balance two things: writing something good and getting paid for it. It can be a tough line to straddle, but that’s always the goal.

Writing an affiliate post is the most direct way to provide value and get paid…as long as it’s done right.

What is an Affiliate Post?

An affiliate post is an article or blog post that includes links to products or services. If someone clicks on those links and buys a product or opens an account, the writer gets paid directly.

Are Affiliate Posts Sleazy?

Yes and no. What keeps an affiliate post from being sleazy? A few things:
  • It’s filled with useful information
  • It’s on a respected site
  • The author clearly calls out the links as affiliate links

If the links weren’t identified as affiliates, then it’s a little sketch. If the article lived on, didn’t identify the affiliate links as such, and had no useful information, then that would fall under the classification of sleazy.

That’s the main reason why there is some debate about affiliate posts. Can you really trust a person’s opinion when he/she is getting paid if people sign up?

There is one easy way to tell…and it’s also the secret to a successful affiliate post.

Is the Content Awesome?

That’s it—that’s the secret ingredient. If you didn’t know anything about travel-reward cards and you read the Wisebread post, you would come away with some great options and some serious knowledge.

The secret to a good affiliate post is to make it so good, so detailed, and so useful that people won’t mind clicking on your affiliate links. In fact, they’ll gladly click on them because you’ve given them so much useful information.

Want an example? Check out this post from Ramit on his favorite checking account. Even if you don’t know him, the post is packed with helpful information that you can use to make a decision. And he also identifies his link as affiliates.

Where do you Get Affiliate Links?

First you need to join any of the affiliate programs out there. The big ones are Linkshare (affiliate link), Commission Junction, and Google Affiliates. Amazon Associates pays you if you link to a product and someone winds up buying something (just make sure your state is still eligible).

Once you’ve joined, you need to find a product or service you want to write about. Ideally, you pick something you’re passionate or knowledgable about. But you can also pick something you don’t know anything about (as long as you’re willing to learn)—it doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you give readers valuable information. If you do that, your post has a good shot at succeeding.

The Checklist

Here is what you need to know in order to write a great affiliate post that will make you some money:
  • Join an affiliate program (again, the big ones are Linkshare (affiliate link), Commission Junction, Google Affiliates, and Amazon Associates.
  • Find a product or service you want to write about and become an expert on it.
  • Create a fantastic, useful article that helps readers learn more about that product or service.
  • Identify your links as affiliate links.
  • Publish it on a respected online site (could be your site or a guest post somewhere else).
  • Stay up on the comments to answer any additional questions readers might have.

If you’ve created something truly useful for readers, they will have no problem rewarding you buy clicking on your affiliate links if they want to sign up for a service or buy a product.

Image by CarbonNYC

Mar 21 2011

Week #2 of Earn1k…FAIL

Carlos Portocarrero

Kitty FailedAlmost two weeks ago I re-committed myself to Ramit’s Earn1k program and vowed to attack it with ferocity and intensity. I got off to a great start and then the tail end of the week was a disaster.

I was almost done with week 1 and I had a blog post ready to discuss a bunch of stuff I’d “learned.” But here we are, a week later, and I haven’t had any progress.

What happened?

Excuses are a Dime a Dozen

I got sick.

The baby got sick.

M got sick.

Work was busy.

You’ve heard all these before. Where I failed was in handling these setbacks. Instead of attacking the problems and finding a way around them, I just sat back in a daze and let them happen. Hence: no progress.

So here I am, at the start of week #3 and instead of starting with the material for week #3 I’m still on week #2. And yet I still think there are a couple of things to learn from here:

Shit Happens

Deal with it or fail.

Don’t Delay Defeat

I was going to try to just “make up” the week I lost by doubling up and faking my way through it. Instead, I’m writing a post that basically says I failed. The sooner I accept that I failed, the better off I’ll be moving forward.

Never Stop

It’s really easy to hit a roadblock like this and say “this course really wasn’t working for me anyway.” Then that one week turns into two and three and the next thing you know you’re grabbing a bag of chips to watch opening day instead of grabbing the laptop to get some work done.

That’s just the way it is.

But if you’re truly committed you have to own up to the failures and just keep plugging along.

Momentum  Matters

This is HUGE and it’s something Ramit actually goes into in the course. He calls it “quick wins” but the idea is the same: you need to build and maintain momentum to make it through large projects where you’re basically pushing yourself to get things done.

In short, the idea to set up smaller, easier goals to get you on your way. This week I lost totally broke up all the momentum I had when I wrote that post two weeks ago. The excitement, the focus, that youthful zeal—I lost it.

Now I have to start over again.

Off I go.

Image by styro

Mar 8 2011

Starting a New Freelance Business…Seriously This Time

Carlos Portocarrero

A lot of us do a lot of talking about how we want to start our own business.

But ultimately, that’s where it stops: with a lot of talk.

Last year I bought Ramit’s Earn1K program and got off to a blazing start—it was like I was back in college devouring my philosophy books (don’t ask). Then our pregnancy got further and further along, I got lazy, and my diligence trailed off.

Excuses are a dime a dozen.

Lucky for me, when you buy Earn1k from Ramit, he gives you free upgrades for life. Last month he opened it up again with a bunch of new content and I got re-energized at the thought of going through the program.

For real this time.

But there’s one key ingredient that was missing the first time around: accountability.

When you don’t have to do something and no one is holding you accountable, the odds are something will “come up” and you will fail.

The Plan

I’m going to jump back into Ramit’s program and this time I’m going to do it right:

  • If a lesson is supposed to take a week to process, I will take the entire week.
  • If there are exercises that look pointless to me, I will do them anyway.
  • If there are sheets he recommends I fill out, I will fill them out.
  • If Ramit says jump, I will ask how high.

In other words, I’m going to go by the book this time around. If I fail, it’ll be because I didn’t pick the right business or I’m just not smart enough. I’m smart enough to figure those last two out, but I want to minimize excuses and make full use of this program.

It wasn’t cheap and I want to get my money’s worth.


I won’t divulge the content in the course—that wouldn’t be cool. But I will talk about the different steps I’m taking to progress along to my goals. And goals are a big deal in Earn1K.

Right now I have a short-term goal of generating $1,000 in a month by July 7.

There are smaller goals along the way to keep me motivated, but that’s the one I’m tracking for now. It means that in the month previous (June 7 to July 7), I want to generate $1,000 of freelance income.

Current Revenue

Right now I do generate some alternative income, but it’s highly concentrated in one place:

That has to change as my income isn’t nearly as diversified as it should be.

Anything I make in this freelance endeavor will be accounted for separately and on its own.

Off We Go!

You are my accountability, so stay tuned for more goals and notes as I progress through Ramit’s Earn1k program and do what I can to start up a decent freelance business.

Jul 26 2010

The Importance of Failing Fast

Carlos Portocarrero

I’ve gotten some emails from readers asking to write a few words about Ramit’s Earn1k course so they can get my impressions of it. So today I’m covering one of the topics he emphasizes early on: failing fast.

Here’s how most of us expect to start making money on the side:

  1. Brainstorm ideas of what to do
  2. Create a list of 20 ideas
  3. After much harrowing thought, narrow down to five
  4. Think long and hard about which one of those five is “the one”
  5. Pick out the “winner” and don’t stop until you’ve succeeded
  6. Keep trying
  7. If you fail, try doing it a little differently
  8. Try again
  9. Keep Trying
  10. You can do it!

Ramit doesn’t roll like that. First of all, he won’t cheer you on like a self-help guru—he’ll tell it like it is and then leave it up to you to make it happen. If you are lazy or expect it to be easy, it’s your own damn fault.

Persistence is a great quality to have, but sometimes it isn’t the smartest. And when you’re starting a freelance business (or even a real business), it’s crucial not to overdo it on the persistence. Unless you are very clear on the type of life you want to lead (freelance interior designer) and aren’t willing to compromise, then you’re going to have to learn to fail fast.

That means making the following sequence happen as quickly and efficiently as you can, so you can repeat it over and over until you find something that works:

  1. Brainstorm ideas
  2. Choose one
  3. Test it
  4. If it fails, move on to the next one
  5. Repeat

First of all, that sequence is shorter. Second, it’s much more efficient that knocking your head against the wall until you start to see some progress. You’ll wind up exhausted, frustrated, and dumber than when you started. But it’s important to understand that the odds of our first idea being wildly successful are very small. How many times have you heard a successful entrepreneur tell a horror story about a colossal failure in their past? It happens to everyone—at least the successful ones.

Failure isn’t something you might bump into—it’s something you most definitely will crash and burn into. So you have to be ready to get out of the fire and start over instead of trying to salvage the burning wreckage.

This Is Not Easy

Part of this is that we’re programmed to want to seem persistent. Few of us actually are, but if we quit after encountering some difficulties that makes us feel like quitters. And in our society, quitters are synonymous with losers. And losers suck. And none of us want to suck. Unless that’s your freelance idea—sucking—in which case my advice is to fail fast so you can move on to the next one.

An Example

Say you want to get a new job. You’re an accountant and you want to be a newspaper writer because you’ve always liked writing, you read a magazine article that makes it seem like your dream job, and you’ve had your head in the sand for the past few years.

You could find a job with a paper, quit your old one, and live it up. Right? A few months later you realize you’ve made a big mistake: newspapers are dying, the pay is crap, you haven’t written anything since that story about the sock and the drawer in first grade, and you’re only eating pasta and butter for dinner these days on account of the shrinking bank account.

What do you do?

You could “try harder” and “get better” to see if that makes a difference (it won’t). You could keep at it for a few years to “get some experience,” falsely assuming that once you do you’ll be able to command a higher salary. You could sit down one day and say to yourself, “I don’t care about money—I just want to be happy. I’m going to keep at this and somehow make it work.”

Which is fine, but it’s not very smart. Here’s how you should’ve done it:

Find a freelance/part-time position at a newspaper. Or even an internship. You do it while you still have your accounting job. Do you like it? How does the pay project if you did it full time? Do it for a month or two and after that make an executive decision: keep trying or kill the experiment?

You kill it and move on to the next thing—now you’re failing but you’re failing smart. What then? You start your own blog. One of the articles you read during your experiment talked about how blogs were making a lot of newspapers irrelevant. So you start your own and you write as much as you can, learn, and try to get better. A few months later you ask yourself again: is this worth doing? is it helping me reach my goals? I would hope the answer would be “yes,” since blogging is awesome and can only help you out in the long run.

But if it doesn’t, you kill it and move on to the next thing.

What This Has to Do with Ramit’s Course

Failing fast one of the pillars of the Earn1k course. Without it, you wouldn’t get very far. Even Chris highlights how important this is in his Empire Building Kit.

The key is that you have to fail smart and you have to fail fast, which means you have to put your idea through a rigorous process that will leave no doubt in your mind when it comes time to move on to the next thing. The last thing you want to have is a bunch of regrets about the newspaper career you could’ve had.

So to sum it up: fail smart, fail fast, and move on to the next thing. If you do it right and you’re persistent you’ll eventually find a winner.

This post was included in the Carnival of Financial Planning and the Carnival of Money Stories.