I enjoy blogging but I have been clear from day 1 that I am doing it as one way to earn an income.
I finally wised up to the trap of selling time for money since the only ways I could earn more were to:
- work more hours - but that's not good for me, my family or my clients as the more hours I work, the more tired I get and the more I lose my edge.
- charge more per hour - but that moves my costs beyond what many small business owners are willing to pay.
So I decided that I wanted to add two extra income streams:
- selling my own intellectual property through products - I am working on this but I keep giving stuff away for free on the blog.
- promoting great products from other people in return for a commission
This page is very much about the second item - recommending other people's programs.
You will have noticed that I pay a lot of attention to other top class business experts, usually investing my own money and time in the products and I feel that these can help other small business owners to start, grow and develop their businesses.
Many of the items I recommend are promoted as affiliate products and this means that I am paid a commission on any sales that come from my recommendation.
Personally I don't see this as any different than if I was a shop owner. I only want to promote stuff that I like and believe is good and as a shop owner has a profit for making the product available, then so do I.
Various programs are promoted under a product launch which effectively says "take a look at this good stuff for free and if you like it, think about buying the program when it comes out".
I like free and there is some great stuff offered which can help. So I share the news on my blogs.
As my reputation has grown on the Internet I have developed relationships that can mean I am given programs for free as people want me to take a look and promote it if I like it.
While these free products are a nice bonus - and sometimes a great bonus - the bigger cost is the time involved in working through the program and writing a considered review. The free product on its own is not enough of a reward to pay for the time.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the USA has issued new regulations (October 5th 2009) which are the first for 29 years and address the blogging community. The FTC require disclosure of material interest from bloggers including whether the recommendation will lead to income and whether the product has been given away for free.
While the blogging community is up in arms about this, I generally welcome the spirit of the rules.
While I know that affiliate marketing is commonplace - and it is unusual to see a recommendation that isn't remunerated - I accept that some people may not realise that the relationship is commercial and may be unduly influenced.How Payment & Free Products Affects My Opinion
I like to build a sense of trust and community with regular readers and my entire business philosophy is based on doing the right thing by customers by providing great value products supported by good customer service which encourages repeat business.
I have no intention of promoting any product, book or training program that I don't believe represents good value for money, whether paid or not.
Short term profit at the expense of the long term relationship doesn't make sense and when I review a product, I try to make clear the good and bad points and who it suits and who it doesn't suit.
If I am given a product for free to review, and I like it, then I promote it. If I don't like it then I won't promote it (why waste my time writing about something that is bad) unless it is likely to be extremely popular. If there is a massive promotional push behind something that I don't like and have looked at, then I will write a review to help protect my regular readers.
I hope that makes sense but if you have any questions about any particular item I have recommended, email me at email@example.com.How Buying A Product Through An Affiliate Program Affects You
First I should make it clear that an affiliate has no power over the price so one affiliate cannot offer the product at a higher or lower price than another. This is an area where affiliate marketing does differ from normal retail situations where the retailer has discretion over price.
In every program I have ever checked, there is no difference in price between paid through the affiliate program and the price paid directly. The affiliate scheme doesn't matter to you, it just determines whether the affiliate makes a profit (and receive a reward for the time taken to bring it to your attention and even buy/or review it) or whether more profit goes to the provider.
Affiliate products are in essence commodity products just like a CD or DVD and the only way to differentiate an offer is to offer extra bonus products.
In general I am against bonus laden affiliate promotions. At a time when the biggest problem is that most people don't finish the business book or course they have bought or never get around to taking action, it doesn't make sense to me to give more stuff away that is unconnected and may contradict or confuse. That is doing more harm than good and encourages the idea that you need to know more and more.
I wrote two important posts about this in my early blogging days in December 2007Are You A Business Advice Junkie?
These are well worth reading if you are thinking of investing in any kind of business advice and the first one is also worth a read if you have a natural sceptical mind and refuse to turn to advisers.