Something like September, 2011. Spending Sunday night over at a family friend’s house, we decided to pop in a movie. The Social Network came up on OnDemand, and it piqued everyone’s interest. In short, this film literally had my jaw on the floor, speechless and completely enamored with how a website could not only generate so much money, but change society forever.
Some background. I was pretty into technology as a kid. I wouldn’t have classified myself as a full on nerd, I just liked computers and was interested in the latest, greatest processors, graphics cards and other miscellaneous tech products. Played way too much Call of Duty in middle school. Other than that, I was a pretty normal, active kid who played baseball, loved hanging out with friends and going to school everyday.
I used my coding skills to make my first real buck online. I had an account at Fiverr, a website where you sell services for $5 (you only actually get $4, they take a $1 cut), and I was offering something related to web coding. A lady named Maxine reached out and offered me money to build her a website, something like $500. I remember how excited I was to accept my first project; I accepted the deal and got to work.
It didn’t work out. I did about $130 worth of work until I realized that I didn’t have the programming knowledge to complete the project, so we amicably parted ways and she hired a different contractor. Her current website is beautiful, she runs a fashion company that infuses technology into design. Looks like she’s learned to code since I last talked with her as well.
In December of 2011, I somehow stumbled on an internet marketing forum with a massive user base, and made the decision to join.
A new member on this forum, I refrained from posting for a while, simply trying to read and learn as much about this seemingly cult-like community as I could before initially embarrassing myself by making a post.
The first thing I learned turned out to be the most important in motivating me over the past five years.
The internet is full of opportunity, it’s up to the individual to take advantage of it.
I was absolutely amazed. On this forum, you had an incredibly diverse user population, ranging from broke kids in Latvia to established marketing consultants living in Hollywood. Sounds ridiculous, right? I thought so too, but it’s true. That’s the beauty of the Internet, there are no restrictions for working with whoever you want, even people on the other side of the world.
This forum had a quasi marketplace where people could post products or services for sale. The only barrier of entry to this section was that you had to be a VIP member, meaning you had to have had your account for X amount of time, and then pay $97/year to maintain VIP status. This was a good thing, it weeded out the scammers and kept the place clean.
Launching a Service
On April 1, 2012 I launched my very first product, Micro Niche Deluxe. Without going into too much detail, a “micro niche” website is a site that is built for the sole purpose of making money through affiliate marketing, typically Google’s AdSense program. These sites revolved around a keyword, and were optimized for ranking high in the Google search for their keyword, so that they could amass the most traffic possible. I could write an entire post about how these sites functioned, so I’ll cut it there.
After having a forum moderator review my service for quality, my thread went live. I had packages ranging from $33 to $97 per site, with the more expensive sites being more detailed and having more unique content, which made them more valuable to potential advertisers.
I was instantly overwhelmed. Orders were piling in and I could barely keep up. On weekends I would stay up until 2AM, working basically all day to find new keywords and coordinate with the people that I worked with to get these sites done and out to the clients. It was a fantastic learning experience and I am so thankful for it, as it really propelled me into my future ventures. Those late nights were some of my fondest memories to date.
After roughly two months of consistent orders, my thread finally cooled off and I had room to breath. Over those two months, I made a few changes to the pricing, added a new package with a partner who did more targeted search engine optimization (SEO), and messed up a lot of orders as well. All good though.
This was the last experience I’ve had so far with anything related to selling websites or coding.
When Micro Niche Deluxe’s sales slowed down to a point where I was only getting an order every week or so, I decided to close sales. Keeping the thread live meant that I would have to continually monitor it and stay prepared for new orders, which at the time of closing wasn’t worth the effort. When all was said and done, I pocketed a pretty solid amount of cash from the business, and I was on cloud-9.
Oh, I forgot something. Sometime soon after joining this forum, a glitch in YouTube’s view counting algorithm was discovered, and an anonymous programmer released a tool called “MagicViews” free to everyone on the forum. It was a literal frenzy. EVERY forum member became a “YouTube View Professional” and started selling views to the who ever would pay them. Sad to say I was one of them. I thought it was actually pretty fun. I rented a Virtual Private Server from a friend and had it running 24/7, cranking out hundreds of thousands of views per day. Through a different friend, I was introduced to a marketing consultant who had various D-List celebrity clients who wanted to start a YouTube presence. I happily sent them these bot generated views. This went on for a few weeks, then YouTube patched the algorithm.
With Micro Niche Deluxe closed, the itch to start making money again came back and I knew I needed to find a new income stream. The forum started to become saturated with posts about something called “CPA” (cost per action) marketing, so I started reading and learning. You can read my post here if you want to learn exactly what CPA marketing is and how it works, but for now let’s just say it was a type of online advertising where you market other’s websites/products/brands and make a commission for every action that occurs. Not every page view, not every ad click, you were only paid if the user did something specific on the website. This can range from filling out a free form to whipping out a credit card and purchasing the “latest miracle pill to help you lose 100 pounds in a week”. Jokes aside, one of the most common CPA “offers”, or the websites/products that you can promote for a commission, are simply signups where a user only has to input their name and email, and you get paid for every submission. You know that free iPad website that you saw on Facebook where you put in your email? Yeah, that was an affiliate offer, and somebody just made $2 off your contact information.
Long story short, through a friend I met on the forum, I was introduced to a CPA network owner who was looking for a person to manage affiliates. His name was Nick, and Nick was the man. I interviewed for the job in August 2012 and I officially started on August 15. This would be the beginning of a more than 3 year long journey of craziness.
As I mentioned, Nick’s company was an affiliate network. Think of an affiliate network like Walmart. It takes a variety of different offers and puts them on display for people who want to promote than and make a commission, and then takes a cut for being the middle-man. It’s basically a business that brokers CPA offers, handling payments on both the advertiser and affiliate ends, and tracking all of the metrics that go into promoting these websites: conversion tracking, geographic targeting, and of course, financial records of how much money is generated broken down as minutely as you like. Read more about affiliate networks here.
Nick’s mother, Lisa, worked as our accountant and she was fantastic as well. She never missed a single payment to affiliates, and she was always quick to respond to any questions affiliates had. However, there were also three affiliate managers, but Nick fired all of them due to “overwhelming ineptitude”. Why Nick decided to replace three trained managers with 14 year old me, I don’t know. I was energetic and passionate, and I think he knew I could learn the trade fast.
I started out at $1,000/month and a 10% commission on the profits that my affiliates made. $1,000 wasn’t exactly a huge monthly salary, but it was the first time where I would have a steady paycheck not having to preoccupy myself with when the next sale would hit, so I thought it would be a good experience.
After showing me the basics of how to work the tracking system and introducing me to the affiliates I would be working with, Nick set me free to start attracting new business and increasing the revenue of our current affiliates.
I didn’t exactly excel at my job for the first 8 months. I was maybe bringing in about as much profit as I was getting paid, so Nick was breaking even on me. This led to me almost getting fired the next August because he was just fed up with mediocre performance. Hey, I would have been too, I was getting way to comfortable with my salary and had little motivation to work hard. Could this be the reason employees perform so poorly when working on a guaranteed salary? Of course it is, but that’s for another post.
My slacker ways would be forced to come to a halt. Out of the blue, Nick made some big changes to the company, all of which were genius and would give us the tools we needed to take our business to the next level. First, Nick switched our tracking platforms to the most efficient , while also most expensive, solution on the market, allowing us to keep more effective records of our traffic to maximize profits. Next, and this was the one that affected me the most, NO MORE SALARY for Chad. Nope, Nick cut me off.
“Listen bro, I got other sh*t to do and I don’t have time to run this business anymore, so here’s the deal. I’ll front all the money as usual, and you and I are now partners. You take 40% of the profits, I get 60%, and we pay my Mom a salary to keep doing the accounting work. Your turn to shine bro.” (He was from Long Island, bro was his favorite word).
I was ecstatic. I knew that my earning potential just shot through the roof, and I was excited to start making real money, getting sick of the small checks that plagued my doorstep every month. They were almost mocking me.
Fast forward two months after the big change, and things were starting to pick up. My commissions were increasing, and I was very happy with how the network was evolving. But, I knew there was room to grow. Nick had mentioned that one of his past partners was a really, really smart and crafty affiliate, and that I should reach out and see if he would be open to working with me. So I did, and damn was he right. This affiliate would go on to be our most successful partner, contributing to an uncomfortably large portion of our profits.
I was starting to see sums of my money show up on my computer screen that would literally give me goosebumps and a head rush. On bad days, it was good, and on good days, it was great. I was obviously still living at home with my parents, so having no expenses meant I could pocket every penny that I made, which I’m proud to say I did. I was cheap, but the frugality was worth it.
The next two years were much of the same. I will dedicate an entire post to how affiliate marketing has changed my worldview, but there were particular days in the summer of 2014 that really showed me the potential that the Internet had. My dad and I love to surf together, so we would leave the house at around 6AM. Money was made while I surfed. I didn’t even turn my computer on.
That is why I love passive income. After setting up the initial relationships, the affiliates handled the rest. The beauty of the CPA network business model is that the affiliates are self-motivated to work. They gotta eat to, so they need money, and money for them is money for you. It’s a never ending cycle of cash.
Over my time at this company, we experimented with just about every type of traffic source and offer that there was, but one shined as the most profitable. Dating. Everyone wants to meet someone, so online dating was a huge cash cow for us. I will talk about the dating sector of online marketing in another post, even touching on it here would be doing it a disservice.
This post is getting way too long. Long story short, sales at our company slowed a lot in 2015, so we decided to part ways, and I started my own business, with essentially the same model. It’s going well. I’ll write more about it later.
There are obviously a plethora of things I didn’t touch on in my story, but I feel that I was able to cover at least the more substantial events and turning points that have happened so far in my life-changing journey.
Who knows what the future holds, but right now, after being exposed to the things that I have been and seeing the potential that exists on the web, I highly doubt I’ll ever give this stuff up. It wouldn’t make sense. I kinda like it too, it’s interesting and forces you to see the world for how it actually is, but (wow I’ve said this a lot) that’s for another post.
I hope you enjoyed learning about my story.