With all the talk of "passive income", many moms and dads have bought into the idea that they can build a foundation for an online business and then sit back and watch the money roll in. I've been working online for over 8 years, and I can tell you that this is rarely the case. All online businesses need some kind of maintenance and regular care, and any money you make is proportionate to the effort you continue over the life of your business.
But there is one magical element of online marketing that continues to surprise me each and every day: affiliate sales. This strange beast is often NOT directly related to your talent, skill, or effort. In fact, a lot of the time, my earnings have been tied directly to freakish luck.
How I Woke Up to Find $1600 Earned Overnight from ONE Affiliate
Late in 2013, I was expecting our sixth (yes, you read that right) child. I was lamenting the typical financial woes of expanding: buying more diapers, taking time off of work, dealing with the aftermath of increasing grocery costs. But I was happy to take my mind off of all these new (again) mom worries by checking my affiliate accounts.
Like most online bloggers and marketers, I earn a meager wage from my affiliates. I get good traffic on posts that offer affiliate opportunities, but the competition for sites like Amazon are high. Just because you put an item in your cart upon visiting my page, doesn't mean you won't visit through someone else's affiliate link come time to buy. And so I often make no more than $20-50 a month from affiliate sales. They helped fill the gas tank, but nothing more.
This particular evening, I was depressed from feeling fat, not being able to sleep on my stomach (oh, how I missed it!), and having Braxton Hicks contractions. In kind of an automated mode, I checked Adsense, my Amazon affiliate portal, and then decided to check out my long abandoned Linkshare account (which I never seemed to earn anything from.) Lo and behold, my home page dashboard showed $1600+ pending in payouts.
Surely, this was a mistake. I had never seen that much money from affiliate sales in my whole LIFE, much less in a DAY. I quickly checked my reporting page to see that all of the purchases had been made from one retailer -- Walmart. I drilled down to product level to see over $300,000 in orders had been made, one after another, on one day. Surely this was a case of fraud? I held my breath and went to bed hoping it was for real.
As the next weeks progressed, I checked every day to see if these orders would remain in my account. As expected, a few items were returned, and my account balance dwindled by $20 here and there each day. When the end of the year came, however, my balance was well above $1600. I received my commission check just before the end of the year (in enough time to claim it on 2013's taxes.)
What would someone buy from Walmart valuing over $300,000 and not be some kind of crook? As it turns out, the purchases were largely of an institutional nature, and included lots of furniture, bedding, desks, automotive supplies, and even first aid kits. Whether they were building a bunker, furnishing a college dorm, or simply creating the environment for a camp or missions center, it was all purchased from Walmart, through an affiliate link I created for a brand of dehydrated soup mix I reviewed two years prior.
One $7.99 product link created $1600 worth of revenue for me -- overnight.
So, you see, affiliate isn't completely passive. I had to do that review and create the link. I have to check every 6 months to be sure my links are not broken, meet the terms of the affiliate program, and are compelling. But I think the little bit of effort I spend was worth it that day. I haven't had any big hits like that since, but you never know when it could happen to you!
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