Starting Out in Affiliate Marketing

Many of us have interesting stories to tell of how we ended up involved in the affiliate and online marketing space.

I just had a beyond interesting conversation with a well-known name in our little sphere and we spent a long time chatting about our backgrounds and what got us here.  I’ll post my story in the comments shortly.
How did you get here?

11 thoughts on “Starting Out in Affiliate Marketing”

  1. “How did you get here?”

    Short story is I had a friend that used to run a coupon site off a .edu address while he was at school. He was doing pretty good but it’s nothing he wanted to do for a living. The first coupon site I knew about was (doesn’t look like they’re putting much into it nowadays) that he told me about and what inspired him. At the time I was very busy with work, school, friends etc and shopping online was easy for me. I always wanted to have my own business so I gave it a try and quit my job when I was only making $200 a month at this. Within a year I was making more with affiliate marketing than the job I had just quit. And it’s been great since. Just reminds me I’m about to hit my 5 yr. anniversary next month of being free 🙂

  2. I don’t recall how I “discovered” the Amazon program back in 97 or so. I had a horrible one page site through my AOL account and put up some Amazon links.

    At the time, I was working at Ziff-Davis in circulation and terribly bored. I came across an ad for a job with a start-up that was selling medical books online.

    They were looking to emulate Amazon top to bottom, including the part about having an affiliate program.

    So I touted my vast experience as an Amazon affiliate (I’d seriously doubt I had earned any commission by that point) in my interview and I got the job. That was in November 97.

    People complain about a lack of guidance and resources for affiliate managers now? Yeah, right. Imagine what was there 10 years ago – absolutely nothing. No blogs, newsletters, conferences, forums, etc.

    None I could find, at least.

    So it was a matter of just sort of making up my own best practices and winging it. Somehow, it worked out.

    Wait, this isn’t a meme, is it?

  3. I love hearing these kind of stories 🙂

    I started out running a part time web development business when I was at uni and then went full time with that before stumbling into affiliate marketing in 2001

    A new online dating agency launched in the UK with a very similar name to one of my websites and their radio advertising was bringing in thousands of visitors a day to my site so I started looking into how I could make some money from that and discovered one of the UK networks and went from there.

  4. I’ll channel one of your heroes Shawn and say “No new memetics.” Of course, I’ll probably end up breaking my promise (as did King George I), but I’ll do my best.

    Anna and I were living in New Haven, CT and I had just gotten my Masters degree from Yale and was set on doing PhD work when Anna decided that she wanted to go to Medical School back home in South Carolina. So, we loaded up the car and returned home like two prodigals.

    Once we moved back to Columbia, I realized I didn’t have a job and ended up doing a “critical shortage” placement assignment in a rough public high school teaching 10th grade literature. Had a great time, but the contract was only for a year and then I was to move to another high school.

    So, I answered a “help wanted” internet ad for an online marketing company (SubscriberBASE) in Columbia and ended up persuading them to give me a crack at being a “Publications Specialist” with no business background and a master’s in Religion. I ended up getting thrown into the lions den of email marketing in the early part of this decade and saw some crazy things but learned more than I ever thought I could.

    I’m finally just now putting together the jigsaw puzzle that is my professional career, but I do think there is a great deal of interplay and overlap between religion, education, science and marketing. Somehow, I find a common nucleus which holds all of these aspects together and it makes some sense to me to be involved in each of those aspects.

  5. Good question with a complicated answer. Basically, I felt as if I’d done enough there and hit a glass ceiling on my own career and personal development. We had just created AdDrive and it was starting to really pick up at the time, so I wanted to go off and explore new directions in online and affiliate marketing. I still miss and keep in touch with those guys/gals and miss the great office environment we had during the growing stages!

    If you don’t work with them, I highly recommend.

  6. I had just left grad school studying Philosophy of Communication (yes, there’s a philosophy) and was working at a Horrible Job (lead tech on the midnight shift at a video duplication plant). My wife was doing websites for KB — this was 1998 btw — and they wanted someone who could build a quick banner ad click tracker in Perl. I had some CS classes but didn’t know Perl so I read the Perl for Dummies book over the weekend and then started working on the software in my spare time. It kept growing in functionality and could track actions as well, so KB decided to start selling it as The Affiliate Program, letting me handle some early sales calls and all the installs and support. I was able to quit the Horrible Job and have never looked back.

  7. Nice to read the story of some familiar faces.

    I started off selling my own books online and, because I didn’t have a wide range, starting looking to see if I could partner up with anybody else. This was 1997. I came across the affiliate program and set up several sites to promote them.

    Commissions were good in those days. paid 10% and paid up to 15% if my memory serves me right. Compare that to the 7% which whsmith pays now (who bought up and 5% paid by B&N (who bought up Had the commissions been what they are nowadays, I may not have entered affiliate marketing and ended up spending ten years of my life in this industry!

  8. I guess it was about 5-6 years ago now. I will try to keep the story short!

    I was the sole web developer for a telecoms company called One.Tel and had to jump into the role with two feet as I didn’t really know about web development. I managed to learn quite quickly and then started hearing a buzz about blogs. I started my blog and got to know people like Cal (Lead Developer of Flickr) & Tom (Plasticbag fame).

    Soon I heard about Affiliate Marketing and started adding some ads to my blog and buying a few domains. A while after I was promoted and ended up working with an agency running the companies affiliate program. The rest is history and few companies later i’m still a full time Affiliate Manager and run a couple of small affiliate sites to bring in a little extra cash. I’m also taking part in the Affiliate Competition that’s going on at the moment and hope to move away from the management and work on my sites full time – if I didn’t have a wife and two kids to support I would have managed to do it a long time ago!

  9. I ended up in affiliate marketing through a music industry connection. I had been promoting punk shows locally and booking and promoting some bands individually.

    A friend of mine was a webmaster for a software company in Seattle and got me an interview as a Guerilla Marketer to solicit inbound links

    He left shortly after I got the gig and jumped on at and brought me up to interview as the Affiliate Manager. We launched with Linkshare in 1998 and ran for about 18 months before dot-bombing. There are probably still folks out there that we never paid (sorry Nassim and Carolyn) Got to love a company who can burn $125 million in 18 months and not pay the only people who ever drove traffic and sales their way.

    After the dot – bomb, I consulted on my own for a while then bumped into the KowaBunga gang and the rest is history.

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