I have to admit– the restaurants, hotel suites, and first class flights are nice. It’s even nicer to be able to tell folks about it, since you’re getting twice the benefit (enjoying plus telling). Is there anything wrong with wanting to enjoy the good life? Does that make me evil or greedy? Hey, you only live once.
And as for showing off, isn’t that part of the game? Just look at the food pictures that JohnChow.com takes or the lifestyles that other affiliates openly broadcast to the world. In fact, I think it’s a legitimate business expense. My business as an affiliate marketer and ability to broker deals is largely based on my reputation. Thus, when folks gossip about my lifestyle, I consider it to be free PR. And it’s better than paid advertising– it’s more believable. And why not take friends out to nice places? You’re building relationships, plus they’ll return the favor to you.
But now that I’ve created a “baller” reputation, I’ve had to strive hard to maintain it, even when I’m broke. The reason I fly first class now is that I’m afraid of someone seeing me fly coach. Yeah, the seat is bigger and the food is much better. But really, if someone who knows me happens to see me in coach, my reputation will be ruined. They will go and tell everyone. Plus, I’ll have less to talk about when I’m hanging around other affiliates that I’m trying to impress. I might even be made fun of or folks might not think that I’m a serious player in business. They’ll think that I’m just fronting.
The nice thing about affiliate marketing is that I can avoid discussion of what I actually do. Obviously, because of my lifestyle, I “must” be successful. But what offers am I running, how do I get that traffic, what’s my payout, do I actually have any true expertise– those questions will remain unanswered. Of course, I’m not going to tell you– that’s how I make money and I’m not about to broadcast my secrets to the world, you understand? If I was doing agency-level work, such as had clients, then you could look at the clients I have and evaluate my work and that of my “team”.
But I am a one-man promotional vehicle. My “team” consists of loose relationships with other affiliate marketers and some contract Indians I once hired on a job board. I actually have no operating or project management expertise. In fact, I don’t understand the basic differences between personal and corporate finance– I run them all under my personal bank account, which gets me into trouble with the IRS. But if you ask me, I will deny any problems. My ego and image is priority #1. Everyone else is boasting about their earnings that don’t exist, so this is just part of the game. And was with any game, you do whatever it takes to win. All is fair in love and war and affiliate marketing.
Maintaining my front is getting increasingly difficult. Bernard Madoff was able to keep it going for 4 years before being found out a couple weeks ago. Reed Slatkin, one of the other larger Ponzi frauds in history, was able to keep it going for 15 years. But what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Like they say– if you got it, flaunt it. Or as Mark Twain would say, “The secret to success is to be genuine– fake that, and you’ve got it made.”
People, this is the American dream. We know that Hollywood actors are just pretending and nobody has a problem with that. And nobody thinks twice about how most marketing is just thinly veiled lies about whether that attractive young lady will actually have sex with you holding that particular brand of beer, or whether a certain diet supplement will really make you attractive or increase/decrease a particular body part’s size. Hey– want to lose weight quickly, by the way?
There’s a sucker born every minute, so if it isn’t me selling you those items, it will be someone else. Caveat emptor (or “buyer beware” for those of you who don’t know Latin). If you’re dumb enough to fall for these marketing tricks, then you deserve to have your money taken from you. I don’t have time to discuss the difference between ethical and legal. I follow the Golden Rule– whoever has the gold, makes the rules. Did I mention–there’s money to be made! I’ll steal from you, too, if you’re dumb enough to be taken. And what do you call a dumb criminal? One that gets caught.
Do you know me? Is this you?
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How is this really different from sales/marketing or entrepreneurship in general? “fake it til you make it”, etc. I don’t think “I’m broke, I really need the money, you should buy this product from me” is an effective sales strategy for anyone. 🙂
Except I think in startup culture being “ostentatiously cheap” on some things is actually worth MORE than uniformly blowing money; e.g. having wooden doors for desks, but with 30″ monitors and aeron chairs. Money is speech, and how you spend it is what you are saying; it’s a lot easier to communicate if you have dynamic range vs. screaming at 11 all the time.
I haven’t really noticed you to spend money as much on purely “status conscious” things as even most people with similar absolute levels of success; you spend money in ways which have efficient “social return”, like picking up the check when a group is going out to eat, but you don’t seem to have wasteful personal habits like paying for expensive subscriptions you don’t use, empty houses, etc.
I’m curious which has the higher return: frequent/small vs. occasional/large favors. Or, predictable vs. unexpected, for either (obviously at some point frequent/small inherently becomes predictable, and at a long enough time scale, occasional things are unexpected at some level (for instance all the people who are surprised when they get an annual tax refund)
You really should get a corp, though — makes deducting things way easier, AND there’s really favorable dividend stuff for a while. You could just do an S-corp if you really intend to operate forever as a one man show; it’s still passthrough for profit but separate for accounting and deductions standpoint, so you can net everything out first.
Ryan, that is solid advice– thank you! You have a keen, almost cold, mechanical, analytical dissection of situations. “Ostentatiously cheap”– what a great phrase to describe how wealthy people flaunt their money by purposely looking broke as publicly as possible. Reminds me of Ross Perot in Dallas with his beat up old truck. We’d see him now and again on the SMU campus. But back to the start-up spending issue– when you evaluate expenses from a business standpoint, you can make seemingly irrational decisions. For example, staying in the hotel where the conference is being held, even though it’s double the price– because you want to network with folks there and not appear that you’re so cheap you’re staying at the Motel 6. We’re much bigger than a one man show, but operate under the radar, and will until we’re too big to be low key anymore.
Sometimes, Dennis – these Ego trips that people are on and fronts that people do are calculated maneuvers to further networking ability. Everybody likes ShoeMoney, because he is rich. If he was a broke blogger, nobody would read. Nobody would want to meet with him.
I’m flying coach to Vegas. I never fly First Class :).
Come on Dennis, tell me this is tongue in cheek and are not striving to become one of those blogging affiliate douche bags :).
The guys making the most money usually don’t say shit. They let their traffic/leads speak for itself..
The flashy ones are posers. They talk a big game then when you try to get them to do smething you 100 clicks.
Ironically you probably don’t even need to maintain this “front”. The affiliate marketing sites that I read, enjoy and respect don’t feature this side of things at all. Plenty of successful sites feel no need to boast.
I have never needed to myself, I let my content and information speak for itself and as long as I know my sites are doing well I go to sleep at night happy! To be honest it is no ones business what car I own or the size of my house. In fact, as a modest person, I spend very little money on myself preferring to save, invest and donate. Doesn’t make for a good photo though!
The sites that are “selling” a lifestyle turn me off very quickly. I am just not interest in such material and vacuous existences. It is a worry that this is something others aspire to!
I actually feel a bit sorry for those guys who insist on posting up pictures of themselves with some model paid to be at the party. It all seems a bit desperate. We’ve all been there and done that, but a gentleman never tells 🙂
Relax and be yourself :). Good luck!
Blogercise, thanks for the words of wisdom! I like the 10 step process that you have– solid advice for anyone starting out a blog. If I had something like that when I started, it would have helped me gain traffic faster! I’m at PR5 and Alexa 105,458 right now– want to be PR6 and Alexa 60k by early next year.