One of the most irritating topics that people seem to want to talk about ad nauseum is how to make money online. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of reading horrible advice on this subject, and I’m even more sick and tired of responding to people’s questions about Google AdSense, which is quite literally the worst monetization service of all time for people who don’t have millions of pageviews per month. In other words, AdSense ain’t gonna work for you, cowboy.
To rectify this abominable confluence of bad info and terrible services, I’m going to clue you in on two sure-fire ways you can actually make real, spendable, negotiable cash from your Website. Not surprisingly, both methods of earning money involve actual products, and while not necessarily falling under the “easy” category, they both find their roots in the “no bullshit” category, which I happen to love.
Method One: Sell Your Own Product
It’s no coincidence that the best way to make money offline also happens to be the best way to make money online. Selling your own product and living by the objective economic laws of supply and demand is by far the best way to generate cash and to protect yourself from all the crap that goes on in the world.
Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably aware of the fact that the US stock market is currently tanking. However, if you own a business and sell your own product, this shouldn’t make any difference to you. After all, you’re selling a product that has a nice demand behind it; you support your customers; and you’re still making sales and forging your place in the market.
Best of all, selling a product online has tons of ancillary benefits:
- You’re insulated from Google to some degree, so “big brother” can kiss your sweet ass. You literally own a piece of the market, and your vertical will persist regardless of Google’s opinion or influence (or anyone else’s, for that matter).
- You get to build your business by developing your product and responding to the marketplace, and the Internet is the most feedback-oriented marketplace there is. Talk about a harmonious situation—I hear doves chirping and violins playing in the background when I even think about this.
- You don’t need to compromise your site – or your users – with ads. Even beautiful ads are ugly, and given the choice, I don’t think anyone who would choose to fill up the real estate on their Website with someone else’s crap when they could be using the same space to promote their own stuff. You want absolute control over every pixel of your site while still making money? You need to sell your own product, my friend.
Now, I realize that not everyone has their own product to sell, so from the perspective of ubiquitous application, this isn’t a great solution. Fortunately, this is where the second sure-fire moneymaking method picks up the slack.
Method Two: Affiliate Product Sales
If selling your own product is the best way to make money online, then it should come as no surprise that selling someone else’s product is the second best way to make money online. In nerdy marketing circles, this practice is known as affiliate sales, and there are tons of average Joes out there who are doing this and making sustainable incomes.
As for the people who are a little more clever than the average Joe?
They’re making a killing.
If you want to find success as an affiliate marketer, the “secret” is simply to pimp a product that you not only use, but also genuinely like. The more knowledgeable and transparent you are, the better you’ll do; but if you can only be one thing, be genuine.
There are countless affiliate programs available online, so which one should you promote? The short answer here is to promote as many programs as it makes sense to promote! For instance, as a Web developer, I routinely deal with a few merchants who also offer affiliate programs:
- aMember — payment and subscription software that I used to manage my customer database on DIYthemes, my WordPress theme marketplace
- vbSEO — a clever collection of PHP scripts that turns vBulletin forum software into an SEO powerhouse
- MidPhase and ANhosting — Shared server Web hosting for smaller sites
- VPS.net — Virtual private server for larger, more demanding sites that require extra perks like CDN and professional caching
Given the nature of my work, it makes perfect sense for me to promote these programs wherever appropriate. Now, I don’t really go nuts with these promos, but then again, I’m by no means a hardcore affiliate marketer. Despite this, 7% of my income in 2007 came from affiliate sales, so I’m living proof that even a half-assed effort in this area can produce a decent return.
How About a Hot New Affiliate Program?
If the dating game has taught me anything, it’s that hot and new are always fun, at least for a little while. Interestingly, the affiliate marketing industry exhibits a similar trend—new programs will get hot, generate tons of cash for those involved, and then slowly level off or die out depending on the quality of the product.
Today, I’m pleased to announce the new DIYthemes affiliate program, which I’ve opened in collaboration with Brian Clark of Copyblogger (and affiliate marketing) fame. Brian is literally the most genuine, transparent, and intelligent marketer I’ve ever met, so obviously, getting him on my team for this one was a no-brainer. He knows what it takes to be a successful affiliate, and I wouldn’t have bothered to open this program unless I knew I could help a lot of people kick ass.
We’re paying out 33% commissions, and based on initial sales and user testimonials from our flagship WordPress theme, this program is going to be hot.
So seriously, head on over to DIYthemes, sign up for the affiliate program, and replace that damn AdSense already. What have you got to lose, two dollars… this month?
See you on the site!