March 2020 Income Report - How I Made Money with Affiliate Marketing
This is my first written income report. I won't lie, income reports are kinda scary because you don't know who reads them and there are all kinds of people out there, but I wrote this for the good ones.
I remember when I first looked into affiliate marketing, I loved the concept, but I wanted to know what was possible.
Affiliate marketing is unlike other careers because as a nurse, doctor, or engineer, you can look on the Department of Labor website and get a roundabout number of approximate income you can expect.
With affiliate marketing, it's a fairly new career field, and the name isn't on formal government listings to state how much affiliate marketers earn. I think it would work out very similar to sales because it's commission-based and some earn high and others don't earn anything, but it's not there to see.
To make things worse, you have people that lie, leave out lots of information, or the anomaly stories that could lead you to believe something is possible that's actually quite rare.
Don't be Shy but Don't be Entitled Either
I've had several of my referrals shyly ask me "How much do you make?" and I don't mind sharing, but I want to squash the discomfort. I thought my video income reports would be more helpful, but maybe you guys like blog posts better?
My blog posts get much more traction than my video training. Do you guys like written text more than video? (leave the answer below because I want to know)
I make what I make, and I'm content with what it is right now and the potential (even though I'd love the number to go up--hahahaha). I'm not ashamed even though I know I've worked hard enough that I could've made alot more if I'd been doing something else.
I know it will add up soon and the incremental growth of a commission-based income will mean I'll pass what a job could give, and I'll have no cap.
Hopefully, my income report can play as one piece to the puzzle that can show what's possible for startup entrepreneurs who decide to monetize with affiliate marketing.
Questions I Used to Ask
I remember when I started, I wanted to know:
- Is this possible for a mom at home with no childcare?
- Is it possible for my site to still succeed with all of my personal issues going on?
- Will I be able to make this work?
- Am I doing what it takes?
- and the questions would go on
So, I totally relate when members inbox the same types of questions--that's why I'm sharing this income report.
For those reading, I don't share income reports to brag, but I want you to be confident that this is a real career choice that can be done despite:
- Skill level differences
- Or, beliefs
In this income report, I want to share my journey, so you can understand how I got to the income I'm at, what I could've done to get there faster (in my opinion), and how I plan to improve my results going forward.
Disclaimer: My story is unique. Everyone has their own predisposed skills, personal challenges, learning curves, and other things that impacts how quickly or slowly you progress in business. Your story will be unique too. Heck, maybe you'll be an anomaly that excels much faster than I have!
If you'd like to see more of a look at what's possible in the industry, I've compiled some statistics (including income growth stats) that can help with that here.
When I started at Wealthy Affiliate
I joined Wealthy Affiliate January 25, 2018. When I started, I was married with a 10-year old son and a 4-month old daughter. I was homeschooling, raising a newborn, and I was the primary caretaker for the kids. I didn't have childcare and my husband worked 12+ hour days in the construction business we started.
I was doing my affiliate marketing tasks around my personal life. While walking my daughter in her stroller, doing dishes, or cooking, I would be listening to Jay's webinars, doing research for a blog post, or honing my craft in some way. When my kids would go to sleep, I would stay up and hammer out as much content as I could: sometimes 1 post per day and sometimes up to 4 posts in a day.
I was working full-time (40 hours+ when I could) by laying my kids down at night at a good time, working during naps, and waking up early mornings, but there were many times when I had too many life distractions going on to fit in that type of time. My availability was very unpredictable because I had one child in and out of the hospital and parenting can just be unpredictable sometimes!
I don't know how I was doing it, but I was also doing freelance contracts: SEO, web design, and ghostwriting for people until December 2018. I think the lack of time pressed me to be more productive with what I had.
Intentional scarcity works.
After December 2018, my husband and I saw proof affiliate marketing would be the best option for me to make an income for our family because it didn't have the customer deadlines, and other things that were difficult to manage with my kids' situations at that time.
As time went on and I started earning more in my business and self-analyzing about how to make things work more comfortably for me and my kids, I decided to put my son into middle school, and my daughter into childcare. Since October 2019, I've had an empty house during the day (until COVID-19).
You can see many of my milestones in my WA blog, but to name a few:
- I made my first sale at a little over 1 month of joining WA
- I hit $1000/mo at 15 months
- 400,000 words written and 167 blog posts in my first 6 months
- I wrote nearly 600,000 words and wrote 250 posts in my first year
- I started making over $2k in Nov 2019 (and it's fluctuated a bit as you'll see)
You can get a birds' eye view of my first two years at WA here.
Some Things That I Wasted Time On
Looking back, I have no regrets, but I do have guesses about things I could have done to make my journey faster than it was. When I think about it, these are the things I think I could've done to get where I am (or past where I am faster):
1. I could've started with a focused and narrow niche
I've always been attracted to lifestyle sites and media personalities. People like Oprah, John Maxwell, Dave Ramsey, and others who speak on life and business in a way that uplifts people and makes them want to be the best version of themselves--that's who I want to be when I grow up. Hahahaha.
The whole "niche site" concept doesn't fit into where I want to go, but over time, ,I've learned that a lifestyle site or brand is really a huge compilation of several niche sites combined in one platform. The thing is, if I start them all at once, it will take me FOREVER to get anywhere.
As a result, I stopped writing about all things entrepreneurship, and started to focus more, build my expertise more, and go deep then scale out. I'm still working on that.
I won't lie, I have lots of interest areas, so it's easy for me to want to veer off, but I try to focus and be disciplined about going deep then scaling out.
2. I could've started with 1 site rather than 5
When I started here, I thought starting a website and running it was much easier than it is. As a result, I started a bunch of sites at once. Instead of making 1 logo, I made 5. Instead of making 1 About page, I made 5. Instead of doing keyword research for 1 site, I did it for 5.
I also did alot more work to plan, write, and promote those sites, but it wasn't a good use of my time if I wanted to get revenue fast. I could've been aiming all of my effort in one direction, and instead of having 4 about pages, I could've had 1 About page and 4 more blog posts than I do.
When you add up all of the effort I distributed across all of the sites, it's like taking a $50 grocery budget and trying to make 1 year's worth of meals. It's like I had one ingredient for one year's worth of meals but no complete dinner.
Maybe my analogies are bad. Hahahahaha. Hopefully you get what I mean.
3. I could've mastered one thing at a time rather than attack everything at once
When you go back to my WA blog, you'll see I did quite a few experiments in my first year. I'm happy I did. I wanted to know if I'd like Quora, so I tried it. I wanted to know if I'd like Pinterest, so I tried it. I wanted to know if I'd like ads, so I tried it.
I figured out that there's so much to do in this industry, but you can't master everything at once. This industry is bigger than learning kindergarten thru High School graduation.
Kyle and Carson have been in the industry for 15+ years, and they still say they're learning stuff!
We can learn:
- Content writing
- Web design
- Graphic design
- Sales, buyer psychology, and negotiation
- Video and presentation
- Social media marketing
- Public Relations
- a Trade (like accounting, bookkeeping, legal, etc.)
- Analytics and Data Interpretation
- and so many more skills that can drastically help in our businesses
...But, It takes time to develop them all. There's no drug or pill that makes up magically become master entrepreneurs or affiliate marketers. I wish we could just sniff all the skills in or something, but it doesn't happen that way. Hahahaha.
I learned that it's alot of things I like and things I can do and be good at, but to get the best results, I have to be narrow and focused rather than be a generalist.
As Dan Lok says, you build wealth by mastering a high-paying skill first. General Practitioners make good money, but Cardiologists make more because they specialize.
Affiliate marketing is a high-paying skill for those who specialize in it. The one who wants to freelance, do affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and everything at once (like I did) will have a harder time than the one who builds one income stream as big as it can go, then moves onto stack another one.
Grant Cardone says in order to build multiple streams of income, you build one stream then make it as big as it will go (get more traffic and sales, build your network, negotiate with employers, upsell current customers, raise prices, add on another relevant product or service, etc.), then when the first is as big as it can go, then add on another stream.
In online business, it works the same way. The "generalist" who tries to do everything at once or write about everything at once may make some money, but someone who says they specialize in makes more because their experience seems more relevant
Once you have a team, this can change a bit, but for a solopreneur, this is really important.
4. I could've started preparing to be an online entrepreneur earlier in life
I went to a performing arts school then joined the military straight out of high school. I think I had a decent amount of relevant experience that made it easier for me than for some. Either way, I had no idea I'd be starting an online business a few years back.
In theory, I could've started developing my skills earlier had I known when I was younger what I'd be doing now.
I've had some referrals that are very young and focused. It excites me that they're developing these skills so early. It makes me know we'll be living in a completely different world by the time I'm 80. Hahahaha.
Why My Obstacles Matter
I share my obstacles not for a pity party. Clearly, I'm proud of my journey. It's built alot of character, friends, and wisdom along the way even if I haven't hit 7-figures or become a trillionaire yet. Hahahaha.
I want to be honest with you that I've had challenges and you will too. You might be starting here without graduating high school or without as much experience as me. You may also be starting here with much more experience than me. It helps to be real about your journey, so you can shape accurate expectations.
How March Went for Me
March was crazy with all of the COVID-19 craziness. I usually would post my income reports in a video, but since my kids have been home, video has been a bit more challenging. Even with that, here's what I've been able to accomplish:
- I wrote more than 10,000 words
- I sent more than 8 emails out to my email list
- I responded to 100% of my blog comments, social media comments, and Youtube comments that I knew about (because sometimes they go to spam or somewhere and I don't know about them)
- I posted 11 blog posts
- I posted 12 Videos
- I responded to my referrals as quickly as I could and with the best answers I had
- I started on Pinterest by designing 10+ pins daily and repinning 25+ pins daily, and got my impressions up by 468%
Things I'm Working to Improve
I want to improve the quality of the content I create on each platform. The quality is high enough to make the income I have, but I want to continue to expand in the market, so I know I will need to improve the quality of what I write, the videos I create, and the graphics I make as well, so each piece I make is my practice.
The income that I earned in March is what I recieved in my hands in April.
The total came to $2268.73 from 7 different affiliate programs. Wealthy Affiliate is the most predictable and the largest income stream I have in my business at this point.
I know they will pay on the 1st consistently, so I am the most excited about them as a platform to help others and as an income stream.
Out of my April 1st income earned in March, I spent 100% because I do a zero-based budget.
1. I put 3% away for working capital or profit. I keep a separate checking account for working capital or profit and take that out first before paying myself or anything else.
I plan to use that for big purchases, hiring in the future, owner bonuses at some point, and so on. I know it's not much that I put aside this time, but it's something.
2. I paid myself 53% or $1194.16, then my income taxes came out of that.
3. I spent 18% or $412.37 on tools and equipment. I like to spend money on software and things that help me to:
- Do email marketing
- Convert more people onto my email list
- Understand the visitors that come to my website better
- Make it easier to complete the website management tasks I do
- Pay myself and track my income/expenses
- Seek legal advice (when needed)
- Give me good business advice
- Be more productive
- Or, help me hone my craft
At this point, I haven't hired, but that's why it's a good thing to put profit first and begin saving money for hiring later. I decided to invest in ads and more customer acquisition first rather than hiring writers right now. I'm not sure how that will work, but that's my interpretation of the training.
4. I spent $9.99 (less than 1%) on a virtual mailbox
5. I spent 9% on customer acquisition costs or ads.
I still have $370 that I haven't assigned to anything yet because I'm trying to decide between education costs or to bump up my ad budget since it's going pretty well in my opinion.
What do you think? Learn more or Get more customers? I like sales and potential sales, so I'm leaning more towards the advertising side.
My last 5 months' income looked like this:
Am I Happy with My Income Now?
No. Content, but not stopping here by a long shot. I still haven't achieved the goals I wrote when I came here: $100,000/yr. I actually want my revenue to be much higher than $100K because I have alot I want to do in the business world. I'm on route though.
- Could I do better? Yes.
- Could I make more? Yes.
- What's holding me back? The size of my network and my abiity to engage with those I come in contact with in a way that resonates--that's my opinion.
I'm happy with the method I use to make an income. I love affiliate marketing. I've thought alot about other revenue models (or even going back to freelancing since I made more from that), but I love what I'm doing.
I've thought about high ticket vs low ticket, and I've decided to focus on products with the highest lifetime customer value and those I feel most confident will help the end user--that means I miss out on some $1000+ commissions I see others getting, but I don't think they'll be worth it in the long-term and grand scheme.
It's a risk, but that's what you deal with in business.
Maybe in the future, I'll have some partnerships I feel alot of confidence about that make higher per sale comissions and it works out well for the customer, but that's not the case right now, and I love my current partners.
I plan to stack revenue models later once I've gotten my affiliate marketing income stream further than it is.
I feel that I need to simply continue, stay the course, and stay focused. I believe the editorial calendar I have will help me to rank for optimal keywords, drive targeted traffic, and get me more sales. I believe my advertising skills will get better and better and I'll drive targeted traffic like that.
And, I know that as my network grows and I help more people, I'll get more sales that way too. I avoid freebie-seekers like the plague and focus on people who see value in what I do enough that they'll be willing to pay, and I know that will pay off for me, my family, and my future.
Hopefully, this income report has been helpful for you. I hope it's shown you a different perspective and explained not just how much I made, but how I thought behind it, and possibly given you food for thought as well.
Best wishes in your business!
Hopefully April, May, and onward will be even better than this. I believe it will.