I have two cool announcements today. But before I get to that, I wanted to ask, have you ever worked for 6 months or longer on one project? Doing something incremental where you do just a little bit on it every day?
This is what I’ve been doing on a couple of projects since the start of the year and now some of it is finally coming to a head. Although, I know that this is just the start of the journey it’s a great feeling to finally ship.
In the past I’ve written eBooks and sold the odd affiliate product via this website and others. But those that know me will know that software is my true passion. And while I’ve written plenty of open source software (some of which you can find on this site under products) I’ve never released my own paid software, which has always been a dream of mine.
That was until now!
What is ThirstyAffiliates?
ThirstyAffiliates is a WordPress plugin I wrote for managing affiliate links and I’m super stoked to say that it’s my first premium WordPress plugin.
I know a lot of you reading this would have had some experience with affiliate programs in your online business. Most bloggers link to the odd book on Amazon, maybe even a WordPress theme.
ThirstyAffiliates helps you manage those affiliate links, which, as you’ll hear later can easily number in the 100’s if not 1000’s of links.
After some research into some of the other affiliate link cloaking and management plugins out there (and there are quite a few), I quickly realised that they all focused on using link cloaking as a method of deception first, and as a way of managing links second. This seriously had to change.
I wanted to put the focus on managing the affiliate links like the assets that they are. You shouldn’t have to re-setup your links every time you start another blog and you shouldn’t have to visit more than 1 place if your affiliate link program code changes.
That’s where ThirstyAffiliates comes in as an affiliate link manager.
Scratching my own itch
As with most programmers when they write their own software, they’re scratching one of their own itches. The itch I was writing ThirstyAffiliates for is, funnily enough, part of the second announcement I have today.
Back at the start of 2010, I had the grand idea of starting a computer hardware review website and making money by referring people to Amazon.
At the time I was sick of all these experts telling me how they can make money on autopilot selling other people’s products and I desperately wanted to try something and build it up as a successful site.
Looking at it now, it wasn’t the greatest of ideas – for one, “computer hardware reviews” is ridiculously broad. I mean, I like computers and I enjoyed researching and writing about the hardware because I was building a new computer at the time. But I’ll be the first one to admit, my interest in projects that are not interesting software problems tend to wane after a little while, so it’s not surprising that writing about the latest computer hardware started getting a little dry for me.
Also, managing all the affiliate links in the 100’s of posts it would take to make this site successful was just ridiculous. The links were non-descriptive so I couldn’t tell if I’d linked to the right thing and keeping track of what links I’d used where was getting ridiculous.
I needed to do two things:
- Outsource the writing (easy enough – find a writer, pay them to write the reviews); and
- Find a way to manage all the affiliate links so I could track everything (not as easy)
All the solutions on the market for affiliate link management seemed pretty half-baked and hacky and seemed to really focus on the link cloaking aspect, trying to be like a ninja and tricking people into clicking links by generating them via keywords all over my blog. That didn’t really sit well with me so it wasn’t really what I was after.
Initially, I just wanted a way to manage links in categories and an easy way to throw them into posts. This is where I found my concept for ThirstyAffiliates.
After the blog sat idle for about 6 months not really doing anything and only generating a couple of dollars a month (if anything at all), I found a writer and started it up again.
Today, it’s also a great pleasure to show you the site that came of that effort: Hardware With Byte.
Fix your Mindset
Once I switched my mindset from “I don’t want to write these stupid reviews… it’s so boring.. OMG!” to “How can I do this without having to spend any time on it?”, that’s where the magic started to happen.
I can’t remember where I read it, but someone wrote in a business book once that you should always treat your business ideas like a little experiment at first. That kind of sunk in.
My thoughts then became, what if I just use this website as an experiment ground, and if it ends up making a little money on the way, then all the more reason to keep doing it!
These days, it’s still just bringing in a small trickle – not much more than enough to pay for it’s own hosting and content writers. But more than that it’s giving me the opportunity to build great plugins like ThirstyAffiliates, test out new SEO strategies (some of which work great, some that fail abysmally and end in a Google slap), and it’s also giving me the opportunity to gain some experience managing writers and contractors.
Getting to the point
I guess the real point I’m trying to get across here is that you should never be afraid to experiment. You’ll never know where it leads you.
You might start a website, find an audience and before you know it you’re developing an iPhone app to help them with something completely unexpected.
Or like me, you could find yourself in need of something that has value for other people in the same situation. “Develop that plugin” was the greatest thought I’ve had all year and the months of work it’s taken bring it up to a standard that is ready for sale is really paying off now. The feeling you get when you make your first few sales is magical.
So, my friends, learn to expect the unexpected! And don’t forget to experiment, experiment, experiment.